Browsing Tag: Frequent Flier

Time to earn some miles on Delta. Image by Mal Muir.

Time to earn some miles on Delta. Image by Mal Muir.

In the first three parts (LEG 1 & LEG 2 and LEG 3) of my mileage run series I talked about what a mileage run is, why you would go on a mileage run and I also spoke about why I got into the mileage game.  What hasn’t been talked about yet is what it is like to actually go on a mileage run.

Mileage runs can be fun, they can be interesting, but one thing that is certain is that you will spend a lot of time in those airline seats.

I have already completed two mileage runs earlier this year;  one to Dallas (DFW) and another to Newark (EWR).  Even though both of the mileage runs were on Delta, one gave me quite a lot more points, as the Newark run was in First Class (thanks to a cheap K Up fare, but that is a story for another day).

The two different mileage runs I did.  To Dallas (in Red) and to Newark (in black)

The two different mileage runs I did. To Dallas (in Red) and to Newark (in black)

The Dallas run had me away from Seattle for just 1 night, with three flights each day going from Seattle to Salt Lake City to Minneapolis to Dallas on day one.  Day two had me flying Dallas to Memphis to Minneapolis to Seattle.  The Dallas run had me visiting three new airports (MEM, DFW & SLC), flying two new aircraft types (CRJ-900 and MD-90) but there were some very tight connections:  45-60 minutes at each airport.

I booked my tickets with the minimum time legally allowed, which probably was not so smart!  It made for some interesting times that weekend with me having to run from Gate F7 to C17 in Minneapolis (MSP) to make my flight to Dallas. I made the flight with 5 minutes to spare and covered the distance between gates (roughly ½ to ¾ of a mile) in about 6 minutes.  Making the flight meant I could enjoy some BBQ in Dallas before a good night’s sleep.

The First Class seat may make mileage running a little bit more comfortable - Photo: Mal Muir | AirlineReporter.com

The First Class seat may make mileage running a little bit more comfortable – Photo: Mal Muir | AirlineReporter.com

The Newark run though was much longer.  More time between flights and I had to position down to San Francisco.  With Seattle to San Francisco on United and my run from SFO to Atlanta to Newark, returning back to San Fran via Minneapolis, this run was definitely a lot more comfortable.  However the killer was the five hour layover in San Francisco on the way home.  It did give me plenty of time to relax in lounges, explore the airports but there were two very sleepless nights.

The lack of sleep, the long waits in the terminals, getting back to Seattle close to midnight after leaving Newark almost 18 hours prior was a challenge, but still all worth it for me. I was lucky enough to get First Class seats on these flights and was being fed and watered on each leg, but it still was quite a bit of time spend inside an airline cabin.

A common site for mileage runners.  The back of the seat in front of you. Get used to it!

A common site for mileage runners. The back of the seat in front of you. Get used to it! – Photo: Mal Muir | AirlineReporter.com

No matter what kind of run you do, you’re going to want to make sure you plan accordingly. You definitely don’t want to have a checked bag as then you can’t take a bump here or there to help out on the costs (none offered on my flights).  You need to stay hydrated and fed so snacks and plenty of water help (biscoffs from the lounges kept me going on the Dallas run).  The biggest thing is you need to stay entertained.

Staying hydrated and nourished on a flight means getting food however you can get it. A breakfast thanks to the Delta SkyClub

Staying hydrated and nourished on a flight means getting food however you can get it. A breakfast thanks to the Delta SkyClub

You can’t rely on airline provided entertainment, such as seat back TV or WiFi as most of the time it is not fitted or they might not work.  So a laptop/ipad with some videos is a good choice.  The things that I found worked perfectly were a good book/magazine, which never need charging.  Make sure to wear good comfy clothes as you’re going to spend long hours in them…  running shoes might help too!

Even though the mileage runs took two full weekends to complete, it gave me more than enough points to re-qualify for my status with Virgin Australia.  I earned more than I thought I would with the Dallas run and then earned more than half of my year’s worth of points on that one run to Newark.

Then I was able to do a mini mileage run during my recent trip to Australia (future stories coming soon), to get my four minimum segments and I am set for another 12 months.

I know putting this mileage run into words might make this sound, no so exciting, but try taking a look at my photos of this mileage run and telling me it was not a fun time!

This story written by…Malcolm Muir, Lead Correspondent.

Mal is an Australian Avgeek now living and working in Seattle. With a passion for aircraft photography, traveling and the fun that combining the two can bring. Insights into the aviation world with a bit of a perspective thanks to working in the travel industry.

@BigMalX | BigMal’s World | Photos

Yes I am a milage junkie, just a selection of my cards - Photo: Mal Muir | AirlineReporter.com

Yes I am a milage junkie, just a selection of my cards – Photo: Mal Muir.

The last two articles I wrote on mileage running barely scratch the surface of it all (see LEG 1 & LEG 2).  The “points game” and loyalty programs are a hobby of mine, but I am by no means an expert. I will continue share what I know:

My name is Mal and I am a mileage junkie.

There are a number of reasons why people get into the points game and I have mine.  I think the first real introduction to this world was using a website called Flyertalk.  Once I got started on the site, seeing what points could get me, well, I was hooked.  Reading other people’s reports of First Class seats, lounges, terminals, or benefits that came with elite status, it was all just too much,  I had to do it.

At the time, I lived in Australia.  Chasing points is not as lucrative there as it is in the US.  There are limited options for domestic travel (what I was doing the most), but I earned what I could.  When I first started, I decided I was going to be using my points towards “aspirational” rewards.  The high-end ones that most only dream of seeing.

Of course, everyone has a different idea of what is rewarding to them, but for me the epitome of that ideal would have been a First Class International flight.  There was one I had my eye on:  Qantas A380 First Class.

Qantas First Class Suite on its A380 - Photo: Qantas

Qantas First Class Suite on its A380 – Photo: Qantas

But the real change came for me after coming back from a round the world trip.  I had achieved Star Gold Status and I status matched over to Virgin Australia’s updated Velocity Program.  I was given gold status and it was all easy going from there.

The first trip I had, I got access to the Virgin Australia lounge before my flight, which was an oasis.  I could get a drink, a coffee or a snack and relax in peace and quiet.  I received priority check in, boarding and security.  It was all too much for me and there was no going back at this point.

When a promotion for double points came out, I did my first couple of mileage runs to keep my rewards coming.  Then I moved to the USA & just kept it up. I could use my Velocity status with Delta and Virgin America, getting benefits with both airlines.  I  have now almost finished my re-qualification to Velocity Gold for another year & the thing is.  It only took me two weekend runs to get my re-qualification & now I just want more. But where do I draw the line?

Delta Sky Club Access (like this one in Seattle) is just one of the little perks given to Velocity Gold members - Photo: Mal Muir | AirlineReporter.com

Delta Sky Club Access (like this one in Seattle) is just one of the little perks given to Velocity Gold members – Photo: Mal Muir | AirlineReporter.com

The mileage runs in the US were very different to the ones I had previously done back in Australia.  They were not as comfortable as you think with numerous flights in a day, tight connections (50 mins reduced to less than 15 in Minneapolis… in winter…), long days, early flights and lots of cramped seats.  Thankfully I always had those Delta lounges for an escape, but that’s not always possible.  There were times when I just wanted it to be all over & other times when I loved every second of it. But this is the life I choose and for me, it is worth it.

Now my total outlook on flights and flying has changed.  Not only do I look at price, but I look at the points earning, the route, facilities — so many other factors.  A mileage run flight might take me hours to book and work out.  A simple trip between two cities is NEVER that simple.

Points are definitely lucrative, if you know where to look (and there are plenty of blogs out there to help) and are willing to make a few sacrifices.  I have a few rewards in mind, lots of points to burn, the possibilities are endless.  But I do see Qantas First class in my future… and the ends do justify the means.

I will be concluding this series with one last LEG coming soon.

This story written by…Malcolm Muir, Lead Correspondent.

Mal is an Australian Avgeek now living and working in Seattle. With a passion for aircraft photography, traveling and the fun that combining the two can bring. Insights into the aviation world with a bit of a perspective thanks to working in the travel industry.

@BigMalX | BigMal’s World | Photos

Estonian Air Boeing 737-500.

Estonian Air Boeing 737-500.

Estonian Air recently announced that they will start to reward customers for not only flying, but also promoting their brand via social media. The small, regional airline, is the first in the world to reward their passengers for completing tasks, like sharing reviews on Facebook or Tweeting on deals and promotions.

My good friends over at SimpliFlying are working with the airline to show the world that this is the future of customer engagement. “Today 88% of frequent flyers use Facebook and they are twice as active as ordinary Facebook users,” Shashank Nigam, CEO of SimpliFlying stated. “Over 70% of them would like to be part of a social loyalty programme too. Estonian Air’s pioneering effort in this field will intensify a pool of advocates for engaging with the airline online. The lessons learned from this can potentially change the course of airline loyalty programmes globally.”

Points are earned through Estonian’s Facebook App called AirScore. You can easily see how many points you have earned and the rewards you can redeem. Social media allows airlines to connect with their customers in ways that no other method can. It makes sense for an airline to reward customers to helping to promote their brand.

“Estonia is a small market and in order to provide good connections at reasonable price for Estonians, the airline needs to also attract connecting traffic from outside Estonia. Social Media is one of the most effective ways to market and promote brands across the borders,” said Tero Taskila, the CEO of Estonian Air.

I think this is a great experiment and it will be interesting how it turns out. Do you think other airlines might participate in a reward system like this?

Image: Osdu

Recently I helped to celebrate Tom Stuker flying over 10million miles on United Airlines. That is quite a feat and is no way to be trivialized, but it turns out he is not officially the most traveled man in the world. That title, according to Guinness Book of World Records, is Fred Finn.

Over the years there have been quite a few interviews with Mr. Finn about his travels, but I wanted to ask some unique ones. He was willing to talk to me via email and here was our discussion:

Fred with Ukrainian International Airlines Irina.

Fred Finn with Ukrainian International Airlines Irina.

AirlineReporter.com (AR): What is your official number of miles flown now?
Fred Finn (FF): I am approaching 15,050,000 miles (24 million kilometres), it maybe a few thousands more or less as airline flight paths vary on routes but this total is as accurate as can be. In fact Richard Branson has invited me to fly with Virgin Galactic to collect a few more miles on my collection. I had wanted to fly with the PanAm space project but unfortunately PanAm became a  victim of the changing world of flying which has seen the demise of so many household names.

AR: What is your favorite aircraft to fly on?
FF: Well, firstly Concorde as it was a terrific experience to travel faster than a rifle bullet and drink Dom Perignon at the same time. You were able to ride on the very edge of space where you could see the earth circle, and arriving before you took off if flying west, all above any turbulence and with friendly crews and I spent a lot of time actually flying in the cockpit because that way they could let another passenger use my seat. Of course it was a beautiful aeroplane to see flying.

My other favourite aircraft would have to be Boeing. Most of my flights since 1958 have been with Boeing. I would estimate that apart from the 3 million miles on Concorde and maybe another million miles or so on Airbus and VC-10s the rest of my mileage (11 million and counting) has been with Boeing. I have to say that I always feel comfortable flying in Boeing products from the Boeing 707-120 (the fore runner of the Boeing 707-320 with much longer range), the Boeing 727 (one of the most successful airliner), the long range and comfortable 767, the baby Boeing 707 called the 737 200, 300, up to and including the 737 800 series,  then the beautiful and most comfortable  747. The 747SP the long range aircraft which I flew many times between New York’s JFK and Tokyo.

I flew the second flight of the 707 from Paris Only to New York with PanAm in October 1958, and also on their 747 from London Heathrow to JFK on the third or fourth flight in January 1970.

The 787 Dreamliner I will probably like as well, following its almost painful birth. It is an aircraft that looks so good and green. I think I have flown on most other types of aircraft  but I am a Boeing fan.

The original Concorde shaped baggage tag from first flight to Washington Dulles and back To London Heathrow May 24/25th 1976

The original Concorde shaped baggage tag from first flight to Washington Dulles and back To London Heathrow May 24/25th 1976

AR: What is your most memorable experience flying?
FF: Well I have been with a suspected bomb on board and suspected high jackings.  I was going to meet my wife for dinner and I didn’t show up until 2am and when I told her she said that was the best excuse she had ever heard until she saw it in the newspapers in the morning, perhaps that’s why she is my ex wife.

I have to rate my first flight on Concorde as memorable as one didn’t know what to really expect when going through the sound barrier.

I have also flown with the Royal Air Force Red Arrows Acrobatic Team in UK. I took on a later occasion with Richard Branson to also fly with the Red Arrows, and flew the last flight of the F4 Phantom. We also took along Ron Dennis  who owns  the McLaren Formula 1 racing team to experience real performance , he couldn’t believe that something with this performance could be out of date. David Gower, the former captain of the England Cricket team, was also with us.

AR: What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen/experienced in flight?
FF: On one flight from Dallas to Chicago on Braniff, which is noted for the best breakfast in the air, we had a guy who said he owned the airline and was going to instruct the pilot to Havana. He kept insisting and in the end he was subdues by the crew and met by two big guys with guns at O’Hare.

I went through the surge on Concorde, where there is an enormous bang  because although Concorde flies at twice the speed of sound the air has to enter the engine at the around 550mph, in order to do this the intake has baffles that slow the air from supersonic to regular speeds in 11ft. If one of the baffles fails, the air intake was too quick, resulting in a big bang. It was quite frightening  and the engine had to be shut down, even though there was no danger to anyone.

On another occasion I was going to take Concorde to Singapore via Bahrain, when at the last minute I had to wait a day. I phoned the captain whom I was going  to stay with in Singapore with and explained that I would join him the  next day in Bahrain.

A wheelchair passenger was wheeled in and sat in 10a behind 9a which is the seat I always sat in, if not in cockpit. In those days wheelchair passengers were not subjected to security searches as they are today. About half way through the flight she took out a knife and stabbed the guy who was sitting in my seat in the head, missing his brain by only 2mm. There for the grace of God I was not in that seat.

Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737.

Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737. Photo by Boguslaw Pyzik.

AR: What airline have you enjoyed flying the most?
FF: In its heyday I thought that PanAm was as good as it gets especially their dining room in the sky where there were four tables for two and four people and you reserved just like in a restaurant.

I have flown many miles with British Airways because of Concorde and the fact that the fly to most places from UK where I had lived. I also have to mention Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic which I helped to build at the invite from Richard Branson himself. At the time of launch for their upper class, it was the equivalent of most other carriers first class so it appealed to the bean counters who were paying business class fares  and to the passengers who got first class service with limousine door to door and masseuse on board as well.

But my most pleasant experience of all has been with Ukraine International Airlines. Smart Boeing aircraft, well serviced by their own maintenance section approved by Boeing and of course Ukrainian women are noted for their absolute beauty and fashionable uniforms. They have a genuine smile that they radiate. I have agreed to become a goodwill ambassador for the airline, they are the national carrier for the Euro2012 football where the final will be played in Kiev next year. So many people will have the chance to sample this friendly airline where friendship and the readiness to please starts at the top.

AR: Did you ever think you would fly over 15mil miles in your life?
FF: No, I didn’t even think about is as a goal. I don’t think about what the eventual mileage maybe as I am still flying around and enjoying every minute of it. Just the other day I caught a flight at 6:55am to Moscow for the day and came back in the evening at 10:35pm. It was a very long day but made pleasant by the wonderful ladies on Ukraine International Airlines

I have always enjoyed anything to do with aviation since my grandmother had me lifted in to a Mosquito fighter bomber just after WW2 and I guess the smell of the inside of this plane remained with me. I used to go on my bike to a former WW2 airfield in KENT UK where the battle of Britain was fought.

The last day Concorde BOAF was on display at its birthplace Filton Near Bristol UK 15 Oct 2010.

The last day Concorde BOAF was on display at its birthplace Filton Near Bristol UK 15 Oct 2010.

I eventually went to live in USA and am proud to be a citizen of the US. I worked for a company involving new patents and innovations which I had to license around the world. In 1974 I was invited by the chairman of Hasbro, Harold Hassenfeld, to come  and work for them to licence the manufacturing of their new products around  the world. At the time Harlond said if you think you have traveled up until now you ain’t seen nothing yet. I became a bit like a satellite circling the earth. My boss said he couldn’t understand my English, so he sent me back to UK to start this programme where I could be understood. From there over 500 trips to Nairobi, many trips to far east. While in Iran, I was held during the revolution for several days but eventually got out on the last flight which cause big cheers when we passed over Turkish border.

I eventually fulfilled my role and became involved within Richard Branson, Ethiopian airlines, and Kenya Airlines who all wanted to know what I would like to see on their flights (bigger pillows, in-flight amenity kits etc). All the airlines that I have been involved with is either 4 or 3 stat rated airline so I hope that my input has been useful.

Today, I spend a great deal of my time commuting to Komsomolsk Ukraine, a beautiful small town 4 hours  south of  Kiev. It is on the banks of the river Dnieper, one of the largest in Europe, with white sandy beaches, many islands to visit, fantastic locally grown produce,  and wow what stunning ladies where I am lucky enough to have found a beautiful Ukrainian lady for my wife. I guess I grew up in the garden of England and now live in the Garden of Europe.

AR: How does flying now compared to previous years?
FF: It has to be said that flying today has become mass transit. With more and more people able to fly and aircraft able to accommodate more and more people, like the Airbus A380 which can carry up to 800 people, personally it has become less glamorous. I don’t think that I would want to be landing in rush hour at any airport with busy customs and immigration and possibly be behind four of these mammoth planes. Airports are hard pressed to manage the load they have already, let alone a potential 3200 people at one time or maybe more.

Pan American Airways Boeing 377 Stratocruiser over San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, ca. 1947. Photo from the University of Washington.

Pan American Airways Boeing 377 Stratocruiser over San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, ca. 1947. Photo from the University of Washington.

In the days of the Boeing Stratocruiser, which I call the 747 of the propeller world, you could go downstairs and a bunk bed was pulled down, where you were tucked up for the flight across the pond. I believe that airlines on long haul flights in the last few years have begun to realize the need to sleep well with the introduction of sleeper seats in separate compartments and the privilege to eat in business and first when you are ready. In some cases you are able to eat before boarding and the go straight to bed with your airline supplied pajamas and slippers. Service in the premium classes has become about listening to what the consumer wants. This has become more widely popular since the advent of airline of the year awards and airline food that competes for premium passengers.

AR: Do you think an aircraft, like the Concorde, will return to the skies?
FF: I had a love affair with the Concorde from 25th May 1976 on the first  eastbound crossing from Washington to London until October 2003 when I appeared on Skye news commentating on the last four flights that day. Yes, it was a sad day for an aircraft that was probably taken out of the sky years before its time. I would love there to be another supersonic or hypersonic aircraft. I think the cost of building such a plane would be massive and what airlines could afford. Today big is beautiful and airlines want backsides in seats and want to find ways to fly the masses greener. I don’t feel in my life time it will be happening. My record of 718 flights on a supersonic airliner will stand for a few years to come.