When I could be sitting on a beach in Hawaii where I live? The easy answer is that if I was in Hawaii, I would be adding 2 miles to my car instead of 20,000 miles to my United account! All this for $390 each for my wife and I to travel to an exotic location and enjoy a little adventure. The other nice thing is meeting other frequent flyer friends here who jumped on the same deal. For those of you who know him, Beckoa, came here from Anchorage and got even more miles for $375. So how did this happen? Let me explain.
This is another lesson in basic frequent flying. The game involves collecting as many miles as you can, but the true masters can claim how many miles they receive for the cheapest price. The common metric is called cents per mile (cpm). There is not a set rule to this, but generally, it is the cost of the trip divided by the number of EQM that you receive. Some people quote cost/RDM, but most find this inconsistent since I receive 100% bonus on my RDM for being 1K on United, but you might not. The general standard to mark a good deal is 4 cpm or less for a flight. So this flight that I took calculates as $390.00/ 9,996 EQM = 3.9 cpm.
Do not get obsessed about this number. The value of the flight is dependent on your goal. If you are just doing a mileage run and not staying at any of the destinations, then you probably only want to accept a very cheap fare. If you are going someplace you like and turning it into a mini-vacation, then your standards don’t have to be as high. If I had found this HNL-SFO-IAH-BZE flight at 6 cpm, would I have still taken it? You bet – it is still a cheap fare to a great spot to enjoy a few days off. Bottom line is that you have to set your own standard.
Finding such deals is not easy. My method is to let others (who have more time than I do apparently) conduct searches and post them when they find a good deal. So I check Flyertalk’s Mileage Run Deals http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/mileage-run-deals-372/ every few days and see what great fares that others have found and see if they appeal to me. 9 times out of 10 there won’t be anything from my home city of HNL, but if you live near one of the airline hubs, your luck will probably be better. Just as well that there are few opportunities for me since I don’t have the time to do a dozen mileage runs a year like some people I know. I get most of my miles from work, but there are quite a few people that get 100,000 miles a year on their own dime!
Another way to check that can be defined to a specific destination is using www.farecompare.com. They had a specific tool for Flyertalk mileage runners, but I note that it is currently being revised. I am glad to see that as it could get frustrating with the farecompare tool saying there was a great deal, but then being unable to actually book the flight at the airline website. Check out the other useful tools they have and watch for that update at http://www.farecompare.com/products/?departure=anc&fares=Domestic&carrierFilter=CheapestFarePerCarrierMarket&filter=ALL&ppm=9999&savings=99999&distance=0&sortby=ppm&p=1#.
Lastly, if I know that I have a given trip to a certain destination coming up in the future, I’ll ping my favorite airline(s) every week to see if a good deal pops up. One rule to this is that if you find a good deal, be prepared to immediately grab it! Go back five minutes later and it might not be there. The airlines program each flight to sell a certain number of seats at price x, a number at price y, more at price z, etc. These are called fare buckets and when all of the seats at price x are gone, the computer automatically starts selling them at price y. So if you are seeing a great deal, you need to grab it before someone else in the world sees that cheap fare and grabs it first. I can’t tell you how many times that I have passed on a good fare thinking that I had time and watched the fare only go up from there until I finally had to pull the trigger at a much higher price. Just be fairly certain you can take that flight as you don’t want to get stuck with airline change fees. Unless, of course, you are an Alaskan Airlines Gold MVP (like me) who can change tickets without any change fees – one of the best elite perks out there!:)