When I moved to Philadelphia a few months ago, I began re-thinking my plans for airline loyalty. While I had been a long-time United flyer, being a United elite doesn’t make a whole lot of sense being based in Philly …unless I take a train to Newark every time! I don’t fly quite enough to qualify for top-tier statuses, but with a few mileage runs a year I usually make it. This is a guest post by Enoch, one of the Juicy Miles award booking team members.
I was eyeing the US Airways Trial Preferred Program, just as the two airlines announced that they were merging their frequent flyer programs in the second quarter of 2015. I knew the life of the Trial Preferred Program was limited, but I wasn’t ready to take the plunge. Around the same time, I found an unbelievable fare from The Frequent Miler that was essentially tailor-made for me. $74.60 roundtrip from Philadelphia (PHL) to Las Vegas (LAS).
Here’s why it was perfect:
- The availability was fantastic—there were a few weekend turns, and some Wednesday turns.
- The flight times were ideal. I would depart 5:50 pm from Philly, spend 2 hours in Las Vegas, and be back in Philadelphia by 6 am the next day.
- The Las Vegas is home to the first American Express Centurion Lounge in the U.S., and as a Platinum Card holder, I get free access, making those layovers in Vegas much less painful—enjoyable, even. I could take a shower, grab some dinner, and sleep on the way home.
- Since I am based in Philadelphia, I needed no positioning flights or long train rides. The direct flights would minimize potential problems.
- I had a US Airways voucher from a previous canceled flight that was expiring soon.
So on the same night, I signed up for the Trial Preferred Program and booked seven of these trips. SEVEN. I signed up for The Frequent Miler’s #30KToNowhere Challenge.
US Airways’ now-discontinued Trial Preferred program had three tiers: you would pay $200, $400, or $600 to get Silver, Gold, or Platinum status upfront for 90 days. Depending the number of miles you fly within those 90 days, you can achieve any of the four elite tiers US Airways offers. The only tier of interest to me was Chairman Preferred, since it will become American’s Executive Platinum come second quarter of 2015. To get this status, I had to fly 30,000 miles in 90 days.
Since all the Philadelphia-Las Vegas flights were in January and February, that translates into 30,000 miles of flying in less than a month for me. That’s a lot of flying…like qualify-for-HON-Circle a lot. So I splurged and paid $600 for the Platinum Trial in the hopes of getting better upgrade chances.
No fancy trip reports here, but I figure I would share some notes from the seven trips I took.
By the Numbers
- As a US Airways Platinum, my upgrade cleared on 10 of the 14 flights I took. PHL-LAS saw better success rate (6 out of 7) than the LAS-PHL redeye (4 out of 7)
- 30,464 total miles flown
- Number of delayed flight: ZERO
- Number of repeated flight attendant: 1
- Percentage of times the seat next to me was empty in Coach: eerily…100%
- Number of times a flight attendant took the empty seat next to me and took a nap: 1
The Line to the Lounge
My first flight took place the first week of January, when CES was going on in Las Vegas. However, it also seemed like that was the most popular flight for mileage runners. A typical scene: everyone in First Class (or Exit Row seats on flights I didn’t get upgraded on) would get up, grab their tiny backpack, head to the Centurion Lounge, line up, and present their LAS-PHL boarding passes.
The Recurring Gate Agent
I swear it was the same exact gate agent in Las Vegas who opened the doors when I deplaned from the PHL-LAS flight, and the same gate agent who boarded passenger from the LAS-PHL flights, every single time. She was perhaps the most professional gate agent I have seen though: she would thank everyone individually as she boarded them, with a sincere smile and a nod. She was so uniformly nice that I had no idea if she recognized me from all the flights I took.
What’s for Dinner?
Dinner was served on the PHL-LAS flight, and for all of January, the choices were the same. The interesting thing was each flight attendant decided to give it a different name. It didn’t taste like any of the descriptions the flight attendants slapped on, so who knew what it was. But here are the meals and their names, according to four different flight attendants:
“Chicken with Brown Sauce”
“Chicken Tikki Masala”
“If you somehow pressed the flight attendant call button, please press it again to reset it.”
– US Airways Flight Attendant (Note: NOT “if you press the call button accidentally.”)
“Since this is an overnight flight, we will keep cabin announcements to a minimum.” …halfway through the flight… “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN WE HAVE AN EXCLUSIVE OFFER FOR YOU! The US Airways Dividend Miles MasterCard…”
– US Airways Flight Attendant
“Did I see you yesterday? Oh no! Did you miss your flight?”
– Las Vegas Centurion Lounge waitress
“Long time no see! It’s been…almost 24 hours!”
– Las Vegas Centurion Lounge attendant
“I am giving you a sippy cup.”
– Las Vegas Centurion Lounge bartender, after I accidentally knocked a glass of coke off the table, shattering it, and then asked for a second one. It was just coke, I swear.
“If I see you again tomorrow, I am going to just take a picture and put it next to the computer screen.”
– PHL Admirals Club Agent
“Thank you for flying US Airways, we really appreciate your money. Sorry! Business. I mean business. But really, my wife, my kids, and my two dogs really appreciate your business.”
– US Airways Captain