Here is an impressive post from Albert. I wish my travel year was exciting as his. Amazing that he could display all his trips on one global picture!
Greetings, Fellow Travelers!
BLUF: In 2019, I flew 163,951 miles, traveled to three continents, on about eight different airlines, visiting almost 20 different countries. New countries/regions included Gibraltar, Iceland, Malta, and Mexico. This was the most miles I’ve traveled in a year.
Today’s ALL HANDS focuses on my 2019 travel.
Overall, 2019 was a big year for my professional and personal travel. For starters, we relocated after six years in Germany in July 2019, which changed the dynamic of my work travel. In Jan and Feb 2019, work took me on two roundtrips from Stuttgart to Washington, DC. I also had my one-way PCS flight in July 2019. These were all Delta codeshare flights (on KLM) booked into Y class economy fares making it easier to reach and maintain Delta Gold Medallion level for 2020—likely the last time I’ll be able to reach this milestone. It was good while it lasted.
Leaving the DoD for the VA, however, opened up brand new opportunities for domestic work travel. As a trip coordinator, I’m charged with managing trips around the U.S. for the VA leadership. I plan airline routes, hotel stays, and coordinate with VA organization in advance of the trips. Being based out of DC, IAD, as a United hub, is a key facilitator for my work travel. This coupled with some personal travel on United partners, I maintained United Premier Gold for 2020.
If you’ve read up on how United Mileage Plus is changing its earning methodology for status in 2020, you’ve concluded either 1) United is being so mean or 2) new rules, new game…I’m in! (I’m in the latter group.) However, as complicated as the new earning algorithms are, I am 100,000 “butt-in-seat” miles away from reaching United Airlines One Million Miler (1MM) status. I am aiming to close that gap significantly in 2020, so I’ll be flying United as much as possible.
United 1MM confers United Gold Premier status for life; plus, you can share that status with one other individual. Domestically, United Gold Premier offers free baggage, free access to Economy Plus seats, and Boarding Group 1. Internationally—this is the big one for me—United Gold Premier confers Star Alliance Gold, which means lounge access (while on an international itinerary) and priority check-in/security/boarding when on a Star Alliance carrier. Getting to share you Gold Premier status with one person is definitely a huge benefit of the United 1MM program—a benefit not offered by any other U.S. domestic airline.
Back to work travel. I traveled to Wyoming, South Dakota, California, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Kansas. Each trip was a mixture of airlines and seat configurations, but I managed to eek out the comfort I needed to make each trip worthwhile, whatever the airline. My advice is never be cheap about your own comfort especially on longer flights and (myself included) as you get older.
I’m looking forward to more work travel in 2020 as its both rewarding as I really enjoy my new job, and it keeps me working toward goals of earning redeemable miles and various airline status levels.
For personal travels, the first half of the year focused on visiting both some favorite European destinations before our PCS, and this included three “bucket list” ones: Gibraltar, Iceland, and Malta. Each offered a lot of great scenery and history, but Gibraltar had been a quirky item for me since I was a kid. A British Overseas Territory, Gibraltar is a small peninsula on the southern tip of Spain. The key feature for me is the airport’s runway. The single runway is crossed by the main road in and out of Gibraltar, so in between flights, both cars and pedestrians travel across the active runway. We enjoyed the stroll and took the required selfies with the runway and the giant Rock of Gibraltar as background. The day trip into Gibraltar was definitely a 2019 highlight.
As mentioned, I achieved both Delta and United mid-tier status thanks to mostly work (Delta) and to mostly leisure (United) travel. My other status achievement for 2019 was Alaska Airlines MVP Gold via all leisure travel. While Alaska Airlines has a relatively small network out of Washington, DC, the program really shines with its varied global partners.
I earned the requisite number of status qualifying miles by flying 50,000 miles on Alaska, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, and Singapore Airlines. Each program offers varied earning bonuses when booking premium cabins. In fact, the pride of Alaska’s Mileage Plan program is its bonuses for not just status qualifying miles but also for its redeemable miles. As an MVP Gold, I earn a 100% redeemable miles bonus on miles earned. For example, my Dec 2019 Singapore Airlines flight from DUS to SIN earned 6,456 redeemable miles. Since I booked a D fare Business Class flight, I earned a 100% mileage bonus. New total: 12,912. When I add my MVP Gold bonus (again, 100%), I earn an additional 6,456 miles. Final total: 19,368 redeemable miles. Earning almost 20,000 for a single flight—albeit long—makes me keep aiming for, as a minimum, MVP Gold.
To better illustrate how valuable Alaska miles are to me, on my most recent trip to Asia, I used 75,000 Alaska miles to book a one-way award ticket from TPE to NRT (Japan Airlines Business Class), took a 2 night stopover (requiring no additional miles), and followed-on with a Japan Airlines First Class flight to ORD. Considering most airlines require more miles for a 10+ hour business class flight, using 75,000 for almost 12 hours in the front of a 777-300ER in a First Class semi-private suite, it’s a no-brainer why I continue to earn miles on Alaska and its partners and burn miles on its partners. For 2020, I already have 70,000-mile Cathay Pacific First Class redemption booked for June. Very excited about that flight.
In between all the travels (for work and fun), I’ve tried to keep up with home life, family visits, and, of course, blogging. I’ve not been writing as fast or as much as I’ve wanted in the latter half of 2019, but I hope in 2020 to do better. An OCONUS to CONUS PCS and starting a new job has taken much more of my time than I expected.
Still, while finding the time to chronicle tips and trips require some old fashion time management, you can always follow all my travels with photos on Instagram, @albert_traveler
As they say, a picture is worth a 1000 words!
I’m very grateful to Glenn for allowing me to be part of the Military Frequent Flyer team!
Happy 2020! Let’s have some amazing travel adventures in the new year.
Albert Guerrero, USAF, Ret.
“Let’s Travel Farther, Together!”
Follow my travels on Instagram: @albert_traveler