July 12, 2016
Some of you may have read Steven’s recent post where he explains why he booked a one-day trip to Singapore just for the status miles. Many would call him crazy - but I’m just envious! I would definitely have joined him if had enough vacation days left this year! (Just to note - I have lots of vacation days “left” in 2016 - but they are already allocated for other trips!)
Like Steven I’m aiming to retain my 1K status on United. I keep a spreadsheet of all of the status miles earned year-to-date and expected-to-earn for planned future flights. Including the remaining trips planned for 2016 (Vegas, Japan, Nashville, Japan (again), Vegas (again), Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, and Vancouver) I’ll be at 84,310 PQMs (Premier Qualifying Miles in United-talk). That’s over the 75K threshold needed for United Platinum status, but short of the 100K needed for 1K. < I should note that because we live outside the US we are not subject to the minimum spend amount to reach these status levels. If we were subject to that, we wouldn’t come close to getting this status - so fingers crossed that United doesn’t change the rules one day! >
On the hierarchy of needs, 1K status on United ranks pretty low. But both Steven and I have the similar mentality that part of our joy of travel is the gaming aspect of it. Sure, we love actually BEING on planes, and exploring different cities/countries, but collecting points and attaining/maintaining travel program status is also part of the hobby. Plus, by being 1K it makes upgrades easier to come by for all of our travels next year! (Unfortunately, we still aren’t top of the upgrade heap unless we become Global Services - but with the cheap seat-sale tickets we buy we will never get there. We are eternally jealous of you Mr. S! (you know who you are :-) )
So that said, I went online to try to figure out how to get the remaining 15,690 PQMs without needing to take any more vacation days. We are in Vegas over the August long weekend (it’s a Canadian thing), get back from the first Japan trip just before Labour Day, and get back from the second Japan trip on Canadian Thanksgiving, so booking something over a holiday won’t work. I needed to find a way to get those PQMs with a relatively inexpensive fare that I could do in a weekend.
Actually flying 15,690 miles would be pretty difficult under the Saturday to Sunday parameters. But I need 15,690 QUALIFYING miles, not actual butt-in-seat miles. United gives 2 times qualifying miles per mile booked and flown in business class. So my objective then became to find a far destination where United files reasonable business class fares from Toronto.
And that place exists: Honolulu!
So on a Saturday morning in September, I will be flying from YYZ-IAD-SFO-HNL (that’s Toronto to Washington DC to San Francisco to Honolulu for those of you who don’t speak Airport). I leave at 6am and land at 3:33pm HNL time (9:33pm Toronto time). This leg I purchased in business class (United actually calls it First, but who are they kidding!). United flies pretty junky planes to Honolulu so it’s certainly not flying there in luxury, but it’s flying there with double PQMs!!!
I stay in Honolulu for a total of 4 hours! I doubt I will leave the airport. I then get on a plane and fly from HNL to IAH (Houston), and then IAH to YYZ - arriving back home Sunday at 1:10pm. This leg I booked in economy, but I used an upgrade certificate (from being 1K *this* year) to waitlist for an upgrade to business, so fingers crossed on that.
All in all, booking the flight to Honolulu in business and back in economy will net me 15,831 PQMs. So I expect to *just* squeak by, ending the year at 100,141 PQMs. (I won’t tell you how long I spent with different permutations of flights to get here).
The cost of the ticket was $1023 Canadian (about $780 US at today’s rates).
I had some United credits to apply against that so my out of pocket was a little less, but I’m sure many might think I’m crazy to spend a grand to go ensure I keep my 1K status on United. If so, go read paragraph 3 again. I realize I am fortunate to have the discretionary income to spend on this. Some might use it to buy expensive watches (I’m talking to you, Mr. R!), while some might use it to buy blow. Me, I use it to spend a day and a half on a plane!
When I told one friend this plan (we’ll call him Mr. M) he asked me why I didn’t place more value on my time and was willing to spend a weekend on a plane. Again, back to paragraph 3. I actually *enjoy* that time on the plane! Even if I’m stuck in economy, so long as I have an exit row or a bulkhead (which I’m almost already guaranteed due to having the United status) I can enjoy the flying experience. Of course, being in front of the curtain is always better!!! And by doing this trip, it will increase the chances of being in front of the curtain in 2017!