Had genetics worked in my favor, I would have become a Major League Baseball pitcher. Fair ball? No, fare bucket. Clearly, sports weren’t my thing; memorizing United’s evening bank of departures from Stapleton (Denver) was of far greater interest. Some kids collect Pokémon cards, others collect 500-mile upgrade certificates. Only the essentials in my survival kit.
I learned from the best, my mother, an original road warrior and early master of mileage runs. We were marathoners—schleppers, really—but without the pain and sweat. I was hooked as soon as I held my first gold ticket jacket, printed “United First”.
I spent four years living in my favorite city in the world, New Orleans. I graduated from Tulane University in 2014 and moved to Chicago, mostly for better access to Star Alliance partner award tickets (SWISS Please!). I also spent two incredible summer breaks interning for Southwest Airlines in Dallas, and yes, I drank the LUV Juice. Think upgrades are stressful? Try non-revving out of Love Field on a Friday evening.
Flying quickly became my lifestyle, but never part of my job. Unlike many miles and points experts, 100% of my travel is for leisure. I learned to get creative with maximizing my “spend” when airlines introduced revenue requirements for elite status.
It’s a bit challenging to fly transcon products when you live in the middle of the country, but I was determined to try JetBlue Mint in 2017. I was returning to Chicago from a wedding in Las Vegas, so I added a sensible detour: Las Vegas to Los Angeles on Virgin America, Los Angeles to Boston on JetBlue Mint, and Boston to Chicago on United. Did I mention this was in one day?
I finally admitted that flying seemingly ridiculous routes makes perfect sense. Self-acceptance is the first step.
Just before the legacy carriers introduced basic economy (and ruined my life), I mastered the cheapest way to buy first class. One-way fares out of Chicago to cities like Denver, Boston, New York, etc. could often be found for $50; United would offer upgrades for as little as $109, booking into P class (discount first).
P class became my prerogative
I fly back home to Denver about once a month, and in June 2017, a routine flight almost became a travel nightmare. Severe thunderstorms across the Midwest canceled every flight that evening, so naturally, most passengers blamed United.
I was in line at the United Club waiting to be rebooked and tensions were high. The person in front of me was a classic DYKWIA who apparently thought United Club agents control the weather. He demanded a full refund, travel voucher, hotel, and said he and his company would NEVER fly United again. Groundbreaking.
My turn. There was one seat remaining in first on the 757-200 (lie-flat!) to Newark the following morning. I love a good detour, so I kindly asked if I could be rebooked through Newark and then to Chicago…with another stop. I also wanted to fly the Q200 before it retired, so I asked for a connection in Hartford. Kindness goes a long way in these situations, and it worked. Technically I should have only been allowed to rebook a seat in P class. That one seat to Newark was in F class, full-fare first that earned a whopping 4,800 Premier qualifying miles for just $59!
I’ll share similar stories in future posts, with a focus on earning PQMs on Star Alliances partners. Last year, I flew SWISS First and earned 22,500 PQMs; turned a $175 SAS flight into 4,200 PQMs; and flew Copa Business to South America for $500 and earned 5,000 PQMs. Lots more to come!
Landing at Point Me to the Plane
I’m thrilled to join the Point Me To The Plane Crew, and I know I have as much to learn as I do to share.
My vision for this website is to make Point Me To The Plane your first choice for all things travel-related, your direct flight if you will. Your digital hub for guru-level expertise without the wonk. Captivating visuals, not legroom shots; and miles and points strategies that are actually achievable. Wow-factor, not WOW fares to Iceland.
A site relevant and worthy of your time.
BoardingArea and I are about the same age. For more years than I can remember, BA blogs and forums like FlyerTalk have been my knowledge oasis. I want to continue my journey with Point Me To The Plane to stand out, engage, and inform.
With that, I would love to hear from existing readers: what can we do to make Point Me to the Plane your preferred hub? Feedback is my mantra, so please share your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks, and more to come!
My Happy Place