Many reading this will think I’m crazy when I explain how this flight came to be, and that I voluntarily opted for a 9 hour layover in Seattle to go visit my sister in Denver. For aviation geeks, this probably sounds like the butt of a bad airline joke about Delta always taking you through Atlanta, but here’s how I got to this point: flight prices between Chicago and Denver were astronomical for the dates that I needed to go, then it dawned on me that I still had a $100 Credit on Alaska Airlines, an apology for rebooking me on another flight in the past, so I gave it a look. Lo and behold, I could save money over the competition, and give myself an awesome day exploring Seattle - one of my all time favorite cities! Plus there was the added perk of being able to surprise my sister with bagels from Seattle Bagel Company, and to have fish and chips and a Rainer for lunch at Pacific Inn Pub - one of my favorites!
As it turns out, good things do in fact come to those who go! As I was exploring the city, I received an email from Alaska that I’d been given a complimentary upgrade to First Class due to my MVP Status with the airline.
As I mentioned above, I utilized a $100 travel credit as a portion of this booking- which in turn made this far and above the cheapest option to get to Denver. I booked this flight directly on www.alaskaair.com, but Alaska also markets and sells its flights through online travel agencies. I selected a Main Cabin fare, knowing that I could select a Premium seat for free at Check-In with my MVP status. The grand total for my flight from Chicago to Seattle to Denver was $194, which again, was less than both United and Southwest were selling their nonstop flights for on this date. I booked with my American Express Platinum Card, for its 5x Points on Airfare earning, and banked 970 Membership Rewards Points, in addition to the 4,116 Alaska MileagePlan Miles that I earned - it should be noted that because I was given a complimentary upgrade, I did not receive a First Class earning multiplier.
In looking for a proper flight back from a hybrid New Year’s Eve and Conference speaking trip, I was immediately struck by how high rates were to fly back to Chicago on New Year’s Day. That’s when it dawned on me, this is a perfect opportunity to make use of the stockpile of points that I’d been collecting! When poking around investigating our options, we found that we could snag a First Class fare on Delta for just a smidge more than in the Main Cabin, and thus we landed a seat on our flight home!
Booking a flight on New Year’s Day is no small feat. Passenger demand is high, and so are rates - which is how we arrived at using points to book this flight. We booked our award flights through Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club by transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio. Each ticket came out to 22,500 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Miles - valued at $337, which we viewed as a steal since this was less than the cash rate in Main Cabin, and far lower than the four figure price that First Class was going for. I already had miles in my Virgin Atlantic account, so I only had to top it off with 14,000 Miles - meaning my flight really only cost $210! We completed the transaction through Virgin Atlantic, then migrated over to Delta’s site to select our seats.