2.5 Million miles = the perks and my problem – what points to choose?

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There is just about no way for this to come across not sounding arrogant, thus my choice of the photo above. And once again, before the comments roll in about donating my points, giving away points is a really dumb idea as I donate “cash” that is I use my FlexPerks card as I earn 3x or a net 6% back vs. dumping my miles to charity.

Back on point; when one has so many points what points does one choose for a trip? Well this post is what I do and not necessarily what you should do. This is my thinking and my issues and you can glean what you will and perhaps consider some of the info to make your booking choices.

The advantage of having so many points is when you want to go from A to B you can look at all the different airlines that will get you there (yes, not just Delta). Also, there are other choices and issues. Let me break them down.

If I book with Delta or Alaska points I can book coach seats and as a Diamond expect with a great deal of probability to upgrade from coach. So, this gives me the best choice for least points, but perhaps not the best routes or airports to transition through. However, in case of IROPS my best chance to get where I need to be when I need to be there. Also, to score the coveted low level I may have to overnight, losing a day of my life plus the cost of a hotel for more points or cash.

The other choices, AA, US Air & BA points all have their perks and problems. For example, the airports these serve could be a longer drive than SBN or South Bend, my home town airport. Or, to get the lowest point cost, I may have to drive to other airports. Or, since I have no chance for upgrade booking in biz may just be the best choice – I do have a ton of points after all.

Now I warned you this post will sound arrogant, but these are the things I think about. If I book with DL or DL partners I have a good shot at upgrades that could include food on the flights. I will be connecting via airports I spend a ton of time in. I could enjoy Skydecks, but the SkyPubs have yet to implement the promised “enhancements” let alone just what those will be one day. The REV MGT folks may decide the best bits we tested are way to much money. Yes, all these things go into my thinking about what airline to fly.

With other airlines, coach is just not an option I am willing to go with. I have enough points that I can book biz as long as the price is worth it, that is, finding low level biz. Plus, with some of these other choices it could mean a better airport with say a Centurion Lounge. Yes, since SkyPubs are just a shadow of the AMEX (or The Club lounges) it is a consideration for layovers as a lounge that can provide good FREE food and drinks (and even a spa) makes the choice of airline a big factor.

Oh, and then there is the even larger MQM factor. I took a peek at buying a ticket to fly from SBN to where I want to go (a small-ish airport btw) and the price, get this almost 3 months out, is over $1000 in coach. This for a domestic flight. You have got to be kidding me; to have to start on a 50 seat CRJ for that kind of money? Yeah, RIGHT Delta – not gonna happen EVER! But I do live in the best part of the USA as I have a bunch of airport choices if I am willing to drive a few hours. I found from GRR or Grand Rapids I could buy a coach Delta ticket for just under $400 so I could use my FlexPerks points and expect an upgrade and earn MQMs and RDMs.

Choices choices choices. Crazy to think that a simple trip can include so many options! But all of this does come into play. Do I go for earning points and a shot at an upgrade or do I pick better routes and lounges. So many #firstworldproblems to consider, but all important to me.

Lastly even my scarce hotel points do come into play. Now sure I can use Arrival+ points to pay for a hotel so that does not really cost me anything out of pocket. Then again, I can choose to use those point to say pay for a mileage run or another trip!

So what did I choose? I can, due to my status with Delta, pick the less than favorable flight choices with Delta and dump them if they don’t improve. I have done that as a fall back. I have booked with another airline the perfect flights and airports along the way. I have a hotel room on points, not at my favorite choice, but one near my target airport and at a good rate on points vs. paying for the room with say Arrival+ points.

I hope you can see, with a good “bank” of points, your choice is not just the free option, but the one that will make the trip the best or most lucrative along the way! – René

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  1. Not arrogant at all – just awesome! You have mastered your craft and now reap the rewards. Well done

  2. I say you should run a contest. Post your basic mileage amounts by program. Give us the airports you are willing to start at and give us some date ranges then let your readers come up with the most unique, most rewarding trips. Then you pick one and give them a prize. Needs to be something decent to make more people take the time for such a challenge. Most likely they will come up with some great ideas you would never think of. Mile/points junkies love that sort of thing 🙂

  3. Hey Rene,

    I have a question for you. My wife and I are going to Alaska for a week next summer, and are looking for the best way to get there from the DC area. I’m a GM, and ideally would like to have a day layover in Seattle to visit some friends on either the way there or back. I know things have been changing with the Alaska “alliance”, but ideally we’d fly DCA-SEA on Alaska and do the rest of the trip on Delta. Wondering if I have any shot at an upgrade on Alaska and in general if there’s any routing you know of here that would give us a good chance of an upgrade for a reasonable price, while still getting the MQMS.



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