March 12, 2007
How to Secure a Flight...

Here's a handy How-To for any of my faithful readers who have ever wondered how best to book a flight using frequent flier miles.

How to Secure a Flight Using Frequent Flier Miles in Twenty-Seven Easy Steps

Step 1: fly so often on a given airline that you rack up a couple hundred thousand frequent flier miles. Or, get a credit card that rewards you with frequent flier miles, spend lots of money on it, and see where that gets you. Both methods are equally problematic.

Step 2: use the website of your airline-of-choice and pick "redeem miles". For the sake of this handy guide, I used American ("Come sit on the friendly tarmac with us.") Airlines, but I'm sure most airlines are equally problematic. Enter your Frequent Flier number and password. You do have these handy, don't you?

Step 3: Enter the desired dates of your trip out and back.

Step 4: The dates you have selected are not available for 25,000 miles. Nor are any other dates that could possibly work for you, and your travel plans are pretty flexible. So, select the "Anytime miles" level of 50,000 miles.

Step 5: Now the dates you desire are available. Select them and click continue.

Step 6: You see a list of available flights. Begin making your selections.

Step 7: Your phone rings. It is a client/customer/co-worker/family member. Answer it.

Step 8: Conclude your phone call. Resume making your flight selections. Click continue.

Step 9: You see a message that says, "Your session has timed out. Please start over again." Or words to that affect.

Step 10: Repeat steps 3 through 9.

Step 11: Twice.

Step 12: Repeat steps 3 through 6. When phone rings again, ignore it.

Step 13: After choosing your flight preferences, click Continue.

Step 14: One of the flights you chose six seconds ago is no longer available. Go back to choosing your dates, extra miles level, and select new flights. Click continue.

Step 15: Congratulations. You've selected a flight that hasn't overbooked yet. But you're being charged $110. Ten dollars is for converting your miles. The other hundred dollars is because you are booking a flight that takes place soon.

Step 16: Utter profanities. Then get out your credit card and enter payment information.

Step 17: Click OK, even though it isn't and you aren't.

Step 18: The evening before your flight, go back to the site to print up your boarding pass.

Step 19: Your flight information cannot be retrieved, but a message tells you to call customer service at their toll free number. Call.

Step 20: Navigate your way through their automated touchtone maze. Get hung up on by their system.

Step 21: Twice.

Step 22: Call again. After a few minutes, get through to a person. Tell them your story.

Step 23: The first flight in your trip has been cancelled. Because of bad weather? No. Because they don't have a full crew for that flight. But, hey, they can book you on a flight a few days later.

Step 24: Inform the helpful agent that a few days later is not going to work for you. Why she tries to find alternatives for your originally scheduled flight, ask: if nothing suitable can be found, and you have to arrange to fly a few weeks later (your next available opportunity), can you get your mileage back in the meantime and get reimbursed for the fees you paid to redeem your miles?

Step 25: According to the rules, you cannot get your fees back, even if the airline doesn't provide you with what you were paying for (which was, in essence, a ticket within a short time window). Ah, but that's okay, the friendly agent found you an alternative outbound flight (on a different airline).

Step 26: At the appointed time, go to the airport. Since you are not flying on the airline that lists you as a frequent flier, you are now once again eligible for random heavy-duty screening at the security line.

Step 27: Be randomly selected for heavy-duty screening at the security line. Try to act like you are not offended by the way the search is conducted, even though you know and everyone else knows that this kind of search is meaningless in the grand scheme of things, and wouldn't even prevent the kind of attacks that brought about this random heavy-duty screening in the first place.

Congratulations, you're now on your way. You have secured a flight using your frequent flier miles.

It may take you a few more or a few fewer steps than twenty-seven. After all, your mileage may vary.

Posted by on March 12, 2007 12:43 AM in the following Department(s): Tidbits


I think you've just about nailed it.

For extra fun, try this on international flights, where you can use the same number of miles that the airline SAYS they charge for first-class seats to get crappy coach seats on your third choice of dates.

Posted by: Amy Sisson on March 13, 2007 7:59 AM

For even more fun, try doing this in a foreign country, where they will also charge you a ridiculous amount of money for taxes and airport and fuel surcharges.

Posted by: Heather on March 14, 2007 4:12 PM

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