Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The time I got paid to fly

We are flying to Hawaii over Thanksgiving. It's super expensive (even from the West coast). It's complicated, so let me try to break down what happened:

  • We tried a variety of "travel hacks" to use frequent flier miles, and it was impossible. So, we opted to use our frequent flier miles to cover four tickets to Portland for Christmas ($1200+ value). 
  • For the Hawaii flights, we used a companion fare (offer from having an airline affiliated credit card), and then paid cash for the other tickets. Total cost of the tickets after all of that was $1760.03.
  • I also used first class upgrades for the flight there. The upgrades are my reward for having airline status. (I achieve this status on my international work trips, and then use that to status match on my local, preferred domestic airline). I had 6 upgrades, and needed 8. Four people, x2 (the upgrades are only good for one leg of the trip). I wasn't super jazzed to put the kids in first class both ways, because, quite honestly, kids don't need to fly first class to Hawaii. That said, it's a giant waste to have first class upgrades & use them on a 90 minute flight (our typical travels). So, all of us in first class on the way there, and two of us in first class on the way home, with the remaining two travels on the upgrade list.
Of course, the airline changed the return flight a month or so ago. They actually really made it a terrible flight option - we have to fly back at midnight (the kids have school the next day) & they changed the airport. We have to fly back in on a flight that comes into an airport about an hour a way. Sucks, but what can you do. 

  • As a "apology" for those flight changes, the airline gave me $500 in credit for future flights, and also upgraded the other two people in our reservation to first class for the return flight home. Now, the difference in our transportation on our Uber back to the further airport will be about $50, so important to keep that in mind.
And, then on Monday, I got an email from the airline that they made YET ANOTHER change to the flight, consolidated & are using a smaller aircraft, which has less first class seats. And, they need four first class seats back on the return flight. Guess who now happens to have four first class seats? Yes, me. ;-) 

  • I called to find out what the offer would be, and we received a $2000 credit for future flights for dropping down to coach on the return flight. Which, as mentioned about the kids, is totally fine with us. The airport & arrival time on the return still suck. No changes there.
So, if that was complicated (because, I'm exhausted by all of this as well, and we haven't even flown yet), here's the breakdown.

Paid $1760.03 for 4 tickets to Hawaii (from San Francisco).
Upgraded 6 of the seats to first class for free, using complimentary upgrades.
Received $2500 in compensation for various flight changes.
Am left with 4 seats in first class (one way), and a net gain of $739.97. Now, if you also remove the $50 we'll need to cover in additional transportation cost, you're left with $689.97 in credit. 

It's a pretty great deal. :-) We are using hotel points to cover the majority of our hotel costs (5 nights of 7), and are paying around $1100 for the other two nights. Yes, Hawaii over Thanksgiving is super pricey! Next time, we'll plan it around another time of the year.

So, that's my frugal flight story for today. I hope they change the flight again, I've enjoyed racking up the rewards. ;-) I'll use the $2000 to offset future flights, as we travel a lot for family events, etc. How about you? Any big frugal wins to report? 


  1. Replies
    1. I just realized that the credits are four vouchers each for $500. I wish they were in smaller batches. You have to use it all at once, and we take local flights quite often. Oh well, I'll just have to think of somewhere more expensive to go. ;-)

  2. Holy cow, it pays to be flexible! The kids are young, let them go into school late :)

    1. We typically miss two days/year for travel/family stuff. I think that's totally okay - the school disagrees & sends me a truancy notice. ;-)

  3. Fantastic! Although the schedule changes are still the pits. I've never had my schedule changed, never received any goodies from an airline, so good for you.

    P.S. Had a heck of a time finding affordable flights home for the girls at Christmas, so can totally believe how crazy it is at Thanksgiving. One RT flight was charging more than double the miles needed for first class for a coach seat. No way! We finally found OK prices/schedule to HNL, and then used mileage to and from Lihue.

    1. It's crazy, right! I do not understand why they keep rebooking this flight, if it's the busiest time of the year. So annoyed to have to fly in & out of Oakland. It's really not convenient, and will be less so at midnight. ;-)

      Glad you found a good option for the girls at the holidays! I'm sure you face the reverse problem when getting the kids home at that time of the year - competing with all of the vacation travelers.

  4. The last time I searched for Hawaii flights out of SFO (a couple years ago?) I think I lost consciousness. That you came out ahead is amazing - though if you meant to fly from SFO and were switched to OAK, you have all my sympathies! I hate having to make an extra long trek to and from the airport. I was spoiled as a youngun before I lived up here, I was ten minutes from the local airport :)