New to flying for work

Discussion in 'Newbies' started by merice107, Aug 22, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. merice107

    merice107 Silver Member

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    My neighbor and I were talking tonight and I was telling him about the Iceland Air Hawaii deal (he has family in Hawaii). Upon further explaining my new love for the points game, we got to talking about how he is now going to have to travel for work. I told him I would post on this AWESOME:) forum with some incredibly knowledgable people to see if anyone had some good tips and tricks to maximizing his situation for gaining the most miles.

    He is going to have to fly from Chicago to Orlando for a week each month. He has never played the miles game before. He does go to Hawaii to see his parents when possible. He does not get to charge the flights (or hotels) to a personal card because his company has a charge card they use for business expenses. He does not have any mile credit cards.

    Does anyone who has to fly a lot for work have some advice for him to maximize his situation for the most points? Am I forgetting any helpful details?
     
  2. anabolism
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    anabolism Gold Member

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    When you say "he is not going to have to travel for work" I assume you meant "now" rather than "not?"

    Obviously, flying the same airline and staying at the same hotel is a must.

    Which card does he use for corporate charges? Some allow points to be transferred to airline or hotel programs.

    Which fare classes will he be booking?
     
  3. misterbwong

    misterbwong Silver Member

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    Not an expert, but one thing he could look into is qualifying via segments instead of BIS miles since ORD-MIA isn't really a long flight. Not sure if he'd be willing/able to schedule some extra connections
     
  4. merice107

    merice107 Silver Member

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    Sorry about that. Fixed it.

    He said it's a Regions Bank Corporate Card and he will be flying coach.
     
  5. merice107

    merice107 Silver Member

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    What do you mean by this? I looked up and saw BIS is "butt in seat miles". Are you saying that it would be a longer distance flown and therefore more miles earned that way? Or would the fact that he flies two flights instead of one going to mean he gets more miles?
     
  6. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    Basically what he is saying is, to get Elite status doing connections is a faster way to get there instead of miles. 25 connectors vs 25,000 miles ... and ORD - MCO is not a lot of miles thus instead doing a direct flihgt, doing a few connectors will help your buddy get elite status faster.

    And also a few extra miles possibly ...
     
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  7. harvson3

    harvson3 Silver Member

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    Chicago to Orlando is 1005 miles, so if he visits once per month, he'll earn 2 x 1005 x 12 = 24,102 miles in a year, which is just short of silver elite status. Both United or American fly direct. However, if he connects in Atlanta or another airport, he'll earn 4 segments per trip, and get to silver elite status in less than eight months. (30 segments are required for silver elite status. I assume he doesn't want to go to out-of-the-way hubs and would prefer to spend time with his family; doing so will get him more miles but not more segments. The nearest hubs would be Miami, Atlanta, Charlotte, Washington-Dulles, Houston, and Dallas, in that order.) He'll also earn more miles, though ORD-ATL-MCO is only 1010 miles.

    Being silver isn't much, but it'll get him preferred seats, a free checked bag, and once-in-a-blue-moon upgrades to the pointy end of the plane. He'll also earn mile bonuses, both 500-mile minimums for shorter trips, and 25% more redeemable miles.

    If he wants to boost his miles for free flights to Hawaii, he's going to want to use a credit card for spending. Most sign-up bonuses are above 25K, the number of miles he'll earn from flying direct in a year. The cards can also get him free goodies like waived checked bag fees and priority boarding to make his trips less stressful.

    I agree with the above comments that his most important step is to sign up for all the domestic frequent flier programs and try to stick with one airline. I'll open up the following to the peanut gallery, as I don't know the answer: If he's constantly flying Delta, is it better to earn miles and status on Alaska or Delta?

    And if he's not interested in international redemptions or rarely flying in domestic first class, flying Southwest out of Midway might make his life easier. They have a Chase card, and it's 25 one-way flights or 35,000 points to become A-list. Their companion pass, which can be earned through credit card points, might also help him out in traveling with the family.

    Finally, given that all flights into Orlando are full of rambunctious kids and families excited for vacation, he should invest in good noise-cancelling headphones.
     
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  8. anabolism
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    anabolism Gold Member

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    Cheapest possible advance-purchase non-changeable, last-minute full-fare flexible, or something else?

    Purchasing more expensive fare types earn elite status faster (and for lower elites are much easier to upgrade to first class).
     
  9. anabolism
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    anabolism Gold Member

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    Also, is your friend willing to do a mileage run or two? Doing so would permit earning elite status quickly.
     
  10. Dreamworks

    Dreamworks Gold Member

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    If I were him, I'd fly US Air out of ORD. There will always be a connection, but he can also buy up to Silver for a few hundred bucks and enjoy status immediately. In addition, most of the people flying to MCO are leisure travelers meaning there should be more room for upgrades in first.
     
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  11. merice107

    merice107 Silver Member

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    He says whatever works best. So I'm assuming doing full fare would be the best option? That way he earns the most miles?

    What would be a good example of a mileage run? I'm new to this so I don't know what would make one a successful or worth while run.
     
  12. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    Most gov employees are required to purchase full fare refundable fares, so he should check. Those do earn more than deep discount (aka non refundable and no changes).

    Good luck with the MR. I Still haven't really figured one out as a pure MR.
    I did find a flight that took a detour that was about the same price so I guess one of the segments was a MR.
    Instead of doing a direct LAX-YVR Flight, I found a lax-den-YVR for only $15 more so we booked that.

    And next month instead of lax-dfe/ord-lga, I found lax-sfo-dfw-lga for $15 more so I did that.

    And I'm about to book an LAX-ORD-STL-ORD-LGA that is cheaper than LAX-ORD-LGA
     
  13. harvson3

    harvson3 Silver Member

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    I'm sorry, but "whatever works best" is vague. When people suggest buying full-fare coach, they're suggesting that his company pay more so that he can potentially get upgraded to first class and earn more miles for the chance at better upgrade possibilities and more miles to redeem to go to Hawaii or wherever he needs to go. However, that may not be a good use of his money or the company's money. We can't know what "works best" without knowing what his company will tolerate, or how he values sitting in domestic first.

    Upgrades to first when flying domestically are better than nothing, or sitting in coach, but over this route (which is only 2h30m direct), it's a bigger leather seat and some small packaged lunch, probably cold. Maybe he's taller or wider than the average American, and this bigger seat would be worth the extra money for him. Maybe he could stand to sit in coach for two short legs. We don't know. It's not a lie-flat seat or any of those silly champagne-and-caviar amenities that people might imagine (and write trip reports about).

    He could instead buy nonrefunable coach seats, buy on-board meals, and pay a little extra for preferred seating if he likes/needs more legroom. (Or he could just pack thigns to eat or eat at the airport.) The combination of those services might be cheaper than buying refundable full-fare tickets.

    If he's going down this path, there is no right answer. He needs to consider how he might value status or extra comforts, and whether acquiring them is worth spending a little extra in time or money.

    I'm going to politely disagree. Someone who doesn't play the mileage game and hasn't done his homework probably shouldn't be sent off to do a long mileage run or two right off the bat. Also, not everyone enjoys sitting on a plane for hours just to increase the likelihood of sitting on a slightly better seat on a plane for hours. ;) Flying from the middle of the country makes this even harder.

    I partially (but respectfully) disagree. The first part of your statement is true, if he values silver status and the meager benefits it brings over paying for ancillary services while he's non-elite (buying meals, checking a bag). If he connects through CLT, however, it's a less-than-90-minute flight to Orlando. Upgrades on that leg, personally, wouldn't mean much to me, and the service is probably not a full meal. I would bet that Chicago-Charlottte is heavier with elites than is CLT-MCO.

    In conclusion, OP, your neighbor should do some research on what he really values in flying, and the costs and benefits. But he should definitely stick with one airline and bring headphones/earplugs.
     
  14. desamo

    desamo Gold Member

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    As a Silver, going to disagree with the first, let's not forget about better award availability, lower fees, and Y-ups.

    Definitely agree with the second, though. Love my Bose.
     
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  15. 8MiHi

    8MiHi Silver Member

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    If he visits his relatives once a year, ORD-HNL is over 8000 miles. If he stays within his FF program he gets to 32k per year. Too bad we are towards the end of the year so qualifying won't happen this year.
    The Credit Card is a half step he can take immediately. If he flies United he may well find the Club card worth the money for the lounge access and the extra step up in boarding. At 24+ flights per year the lounge is very desirable even if you have to pay for it yourself. Especially at ORD and MCO.

    To someone going from a general member to Silver, it is a nice upgrade even now.
    So here's to achieving elite status in 2013.
     
  16. desamo

    desamo Gold Member

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    IMHO, the lounge fee is worth it just for the better bathrooms. :)
     
  17. BuckleandBoots

    BuckleandBoots Silver Member

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    Who does he normally fly to Hawaii?

    That may be the best way to decide which airline/route is important.
     
  18. Photonerd71

    Photonerd71 Silver Member

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    Once a month between ORD and MCO, better him than me. I foresee many delays in his future. T-storms in Florida and Chicago in the summer, toss in snow and ice up north. Plus the general volume delays at ORD and overall O'hare experience. I sure hope he is getting paid well for this. Now if the company was paying for up front seats and banking 3-4k miles per turn maybe, this just seems like torture with not even low level elite status as a reward. (unless you do some creative routing)
     
  19. 8MiHi

    8MiHi Silver Member

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    I agree. The potential weather delays are one of many reasons that lounge access would be very desirable.
     
  20. anabolism
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    anabolism Gold Member

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    Of course he needs to follow the policy of whoever is paying for the ticket. If that policy allows purchasing refundable/changeable tickets, those earn status quicker and more redeemable miles. For example, on AA, deep-discount coach earns 0.5 elite-qualifying points (EQP) per mile, regular discount coach earns 1 EQP per miles, and higher coach fares as well as business and first earn 1.5 EQP per mile. On AA, there are three separate counters: EQP, elite-qualifying miles (EQM), and segments. You get status as soon as any of them hit a threshold. See AA's Elite Status page for more info. Other airlines use different systems. IIRC, UA uses a single counter that gets incremented differently depending on the fare purchased.

    It used to be common for companies to prefer refundable/changeable tickets because they provide maximum flexibility when things change, but these days many companies buy non-changeable/non-refundable (which in the U.S. can be changed or cancelled despite the name, by paying a change fee) and eat the fees when things change.

    There are countless answers to this question, hence forums such as this one :). For some people, mileage runs (MRs) make no sense, but for others mileage or status runs can be a life saver. For some people, a MR is a great way to accumulate the redeemable miles needed for a specific trip, and for these people, the cost per mile might be the most important factor. For myself, requalifying for status is the most important, so I do status runs (but rarely "pure" SRs) as opposed to pure MRs. I estimate my business travel for the following year, figure out how many EQP and EQM that will get me, then plan personal trips to make up the rest. I try to accomplish this with vacation trips that book into fares that earn high EQP per mile, such as discount business (I fares) and around-the-world fares. In planning these trips, I try to go to fun places that I and my partner will enjoy, have pleasant flights, maximize the EQP or EQM that I'll earn, minimize the cost, and stay within our allotted vacation days. Trying to balance these five factors makes it difficult. Other people just book flights where they never leave the airport, just fly out and return, to earn the required miles or EQP/EQM. It all depends on what's important.


    I rarely do pure MR/SRs also. Your techniques make sense.


    Very true.

    For me, the benefits of maintaining EXP are enough that I'll spend my own time and money to do so.

    Not sure anyone suggested that the friend "be sent off to do a long mileage run or two right off the bat," but rather that the friend consider incorporating MRs/SRs.

    Did the OP, his friend, or the wisdom of this board settle on which airline and which status level the friend is shooting for? If so, I apologize for missing that.

    Yes, indeed.
     
  21. 8MiHi

    8MiHi Silver Member

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    United has a program called PassPlus that allows companies that spend >$25k /year to bestow perks on their employees including Premier levels and United Club passes. If your firm has this (or equivalent) ask for the designation and club passes. If they do not, maybe they should consider it.
     
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