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No Vacation Required Podcast

For fulfillment fanatics interested in traveling deliriously, living deliberately, and working virtually.

Why It Pays To Be Elite

NVR Guys

Travel is a big part of our life equation; you probably know that by now. Something we don’t talk about much is our need for finding the cheapest airfares possible. Since we’re up in the air pretty often, it’s important that we scout out the least expensive way to get from Point A to Point B. As a matter of fact, it’s not negotiable. We’ll do what’s needed to fulfill our low airfare mission.

Soon, we’ll be flying across the country. We're heading back to Washington DC to advocate for the world’s forgotten. Having done it before, it’s an opportunity we won’t miss even though DC can be a crazy-spendy city to visit.

Recently, our window for booking a decent airfare was coming to a close. Most of the fares were pretty high, but we found one for just over $100 / one way. We grabbed it – but not without great hesitation. Here’s why.

To get to DC – with this attractive airfare – we signed on to a lengthy stopover in Chicago, a change of planes AND a change of airlines.  As if that’s not rough enough, this killer deal doesn’t even put us into DCA (the most convenient airport); rather, it drops us in nearby Baltimore.

Why do this? Reread introduction and every post we do on how we manage to travel so much. It’s not glamorous, but it’s one way we (happily) maintain our NVR life. We can’t be throwing away precious money on more ideal flight schedules. As you know from this post, we won’t go as far as sleeping in airports, but there’s not a lot we won’t do.

But wait, there’s a twist.

We don’t answer calls that pop up as anonymous (dear caller id: we love you). So, when that happened a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t give it a second of attention. Until, that is, a message notification came through. What? That doesn’t usually happen on an anonymous call.

“Hi, this is American Airlines calling to let you know that there’s been a flight change associated with your upcoming travel to Baltimore. Please call us at your earliest convenience….”

Ugh. Was a bad situation going to become worse? A reluctantly made call to American revealed that they had cancelled the flight we were booked on for the second part of our journey, Chicago to Baltimore. We would have to get the itinerary shifted via Alaska Air – the booking airline (and the airline that would get us from Seattle to Chicago).

This is where it gets fun.

I can’t tell you how we dread having to make calls like this. Both of us absolutely hate having to call an airline; they’re typically so painfully unhelpful (and often unknowledgeable). We knew this call had to be made, though.

After initial introductory small talk…

Alaska: Hmm. This is tricky. Based on your fare code, we have to rebook using the same city pairs and the same airlines.

Me (in a state of sheer dread): Well, it was already a pretty rough itinerary, so whatever you could do to make it as easy as possible would be great.

Alaska: In order to meet the fare requirements, it looks like you’ll have to overnight in Chicago, and we’ll get you out to Baltimore early (voice trailing off...). Sir, hold on one moment.

Me (thinking *shit*): Sure, no problem.

long pause followed by phone ringing...

Alaska: Hi, Sir. This is Julie. Let me see if I can help you out today.

Me (thinking I had been transferred because of a tedious problem): I was telling the last agent, that we’re trying…

Alaska: No need to explain, sir. She told me exactly what the situation is. What would be ideal for you?

Me: Well, (laughing) we’d like to non-stop into DCA.

Alaska: That’s not a problem. Would you like the morning flight or the afternoon flight?

Me (after hyperventilating): Uh.. The morning flight would be great – thanks! What changed?

Alaska: As of your last flight, you earned enough miles for elite status. Now, can I put you two on the wait list for a complimentary upgrade to first class?

See, it pays to be elite.

Talking about that conversation, we were reminded of how – not too long ago – flying was easier. This is the kind of service that all airlines’ customers should receive. You know... friendly, helpful, customer-oriented. They don’t. Because of that, we’re going to do whatever we can to maintain our freshly minted elite status. We used to not care; now we do. With all the current fees and other barriers to comfortable low-cost air travel, there are simply too many benefits. Here are a few:

  • Being treated with some decency (imagine that)
  • Special phone line (read: good service)
  • No baggage fees
  • Priority check in / boarding
  • 150% mileage accrual
  • Benefits on partner airlines

This is also the motivation for the upcoming mileage run - not to mention the fact that we get to hit some destinations we’re really interested in.

Who knows, maybe we'll even get that bump up to first class. Fancy.

What's your take on the airlines?