I will be very honest with you guys, I am not a fan of Southwest, as opposed to Jeremy who is a diehard Southwest Fan. But after more than 5 years since my last experience on the LUV carrier, a great sale brought me back to give them another try. I was heading back to Florida for a few months again to skip the normally frigid winters of Chicago and spend more time with my family as I continued to work from home in Fort Lauderdale - one of Southwest’s main hubs.
Founded in 1967 by Herb Keller in Texas, Southwest was one of the pioneers of the low cost carrier concept. It has since grown from Dallas-Love Field to over 700 aircraft and 4,000 daily flights and one of the main domestic carriers in the US. Southwest famously operates an all Boeing 737 fleet which helps keep cost down and pilots trained across the whole fleet while also focusing on their famous LUV hospitality.
When booking any flight I always check my way through carriers not sold on third party platforms such as Google Flights, and while I find my fares that way, I always recommend purchasing directly with the carrier. This time I found that Southwest had a great deal on their ‘Wanna Get Away’ fares to Fort Lauderdale and decided to give it a shot. I booked directly on the Southwest website and after taxes and fees, my total came out to $45 one way. I netted a total of 90 points at 2x points per dollar spent on travel with my Chase Sapphire Preferred.
As part of a last minute trip to Wine Country with my, specifically to the Hyatt Regency Sonoma, we had the opportunity to to experience what travel would be like in the time of COVID. As it turned out, and was also expected, there was quite a bit about the act of flying that had changed from the past.
Personally, we selected Southwest for a number of reasons - the primary being that it is our preferred and most trusted carrier. Beyond that, we appreciated that they had committed to a reduction in capacity and clearly outlined their commitment to cleanliness.
Beyond the reasons stated above, we also selected Southwest because of price. Even at the last minute, we were able to snag our outbound flight for $79 and our return one for $149 on Southwest.com - the only place to book flights on Southwest.
I booked mine using cash and TravelBank Funds - I often watch flights after booking them to see if they drop, and if they do I modify them free of charge and get the difference in fare back to my Rapid Rewards Account. Because of this, I owed just $30 in cash for the outbound flight, so I booked using my American Express Platinum hoping it would be reimbursed from my travel credit - it was! So essentially, my outbound flight was free, but by using my American Express Platinum, I also earned 5x points per dollar on airfare or 895 Membership Rewards Points.
My mom booked her flight using the stockpile of Rapid Rewards Points that she’s Earned with her Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier VISA Card, meaning her flight cost just $5.60 in government fees each way. We both earned 1,276 Rapid Rewards Points by crediting these flights to our accounts.
Having grown up in south Florida near Fort Lauderdale International Airport (FLL), Spirit Airlines was a household name as they were, and continue to be, one of the largest operators out of my hometown hub. Thus, I have always had a soft spot for the infamous ultra low cost carrier and their now bright yellow jets.
Starting in 1964 as a trucking company, it wasn’t until 1992 that the then charter carrier became a scheduled passenger airline and started offering flights from Detroit to Atlantic City, two cities that still play a crucial part of the Spirit network. Originally operating as a low cost carrier, even offering business class known as SpiritPlus, it wasn’t until 2007 that we saw Spirit transition into the ultra low cost carrier that we know and either love or hate today. The changes came swiftly and led the way for what other airlines of all price ranges could offer, charge for, or get away with. In 2010 they became the first US carrier to charge for carry-ons, which has become a norm with many carriers now. Other changes from ‘The Big Front Seat’ larger seats, charging for printed tickets, and more became the norm and their most argued upon aspects. However I am a strong believer that if you do your research and travel with the bare necessities, they are a great carrier to use for cheap flights around the US, or ‘Bare Fare’ as they have coined it.
For me this trip was very last minute, I had been wanting to go home during the pandemic to spend time with my family I don’t see often; however, with a pandemic it can be a double edged sword for all involved. As things were calming down and I was still working from home I decided to go for it and booked my flight 3 days prior to departure. Booking on Spirit is quite simple, and their fares appear on most 3rd party search engines making it easy to compare with other carriers on the same route. After checking a few sites Spirit was by far the cheapest carrier and had a convenient schedule for me. I booked directly on the Spirit website, and after many ads for add-ons and confirming I wouldn’t need a carry-on, seat selection, rental car, or hotel, my total came out to $107.09 roundtrip. I netted a total of 216 points at 2x points per dollar spent on travel with my Chase Sapphire Preferred. With Spirit it is crucial to do your check-in as fast as possible 24 hours prior to departure to get a good boarding zone and seat placement if you did not pay for such prior.
I booked this flight as a part of a longer trip that brought me to Toronto for a conference, a quick one night layover in New York, and ultimately to St. Lucia! Being that I was flying right around the new year, rates between Toronto and New York were astronomically high for such a short flight, especially given that I wanted to fly into JFK for the TWA Hotel and my morning flight in jetBlue Mint. I could’ve otherwise opted for cheaper fares into Newark or LaGuardia, including routes on Porter Airlines, but I decided to err towards convenience once factoring in the cost of transferring airports.
Given how high the rates were on my preferred flights, I decided to take a look at purchasing with points. I first checked Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club, a transfer partner for my Chase Sapphire Reserve and a great source for booking Delta flights with points, and while the flight was available, it commanded 40,000 miles - far too rich for me. Instead, I opted to book through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal - you get a 1.5x bonus by booking here - where I was able to snag this flight for 12,771 points. In addition, flights booked through the portal are eligible to earn miles with the airline, so I credited my Virgin Atlantic Flying Club account where I earned 349 miles.
Porter the - friendly, quirky & lovable - Canadian carrier with a raccoon as its mascot who flies solely a fleet of Bombardier Q400 Dash8s! Depending on where you live, you've probably never heard of them, but as Canada's third largest carrier they offer a relatively extensive domestic network as well as service to the US cities of: Chicago-Midway, Myrtle Beach, New York-Newark, Washington-Dulles & Boston.
What's with raccoon, you ask? He's a delightful nod to Porter's home base of Toronto - who at a time was overrun with raccoons, but being too polite and caring to eradicate them alternative methods of control were found. Since then, the raccoon has been an unofficial calling card for the city. In my mind, he's a brilliant marketing play with a lot of personality and a great differentiation for a different type of carrier.
We booked this flight directly with the airline at www.flyporter.com , selecting the standard fare to include a carry on bag, but not a seat assignment. Final cost came to $120.73 charged to my American Express Platinum Card earning 600 points thanks to the 5x points earned when booking directly with the airline.
I found myself needing to go to Los Angeles at the last minute for a business trip. Given that I was traveling on the company dime, I had to book through our client’s preferred carrier - American Airlines. I’ve had several negative experiences with American on this route and was interested to see how it would go this time. In this piece, I’ve written about both legs of the journey - a tale of two flights, if you will - as there were stark contrasts.
Given this was a business trip, we booked our flights utilizing our company’s corporate travel agent, and then selected our seats as usual on American’s website. I credited these flights to my British Airways account, as I do all American flights as British Airways is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards.
When headed to the Lone Star State, why not fly with the product of it - Southwest Airlines? From Chicago, Southwest operates exclusively out of Chicago Midway, the city’s secondary airport, and while not nearly as large as O’Hare International it has enough traffic to have earned the moniker “the busiest square mile in the world.”
As with all Southwest flights, we booked directly with the airline on www.southwest.com - Southwest is not bookable through any online travel agents and will typically not show up in travel search engines such as Google Flights. Given this was a family trip, we booked utilizing my parents' stash of Rapid Rewards Points that they had accrued through the opening of a new Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier VISA Card - long a contender for my wallet as well.
When I was falling in love with aviation as a kid, I first saw Cathay Pacific on an episode of The Amazing Race, and knew I had to fly them to Hong Kong. Cathay Pacific began service in 1946 from its home base of Hong Kong International, now serving 79 destinations worldwide and is a founding member of the OneWorld alliance.
We booked this flight through Expedia using the Bank of America Travel Rewards Card, selecting an Economy fare which included seat selection, a carry-on, and two checked bags. The total came to $606.03, earning 909 Travel Rewards Points at 1.5x points per dollar. In addition, since this flight was booked through Expedia, we also netted 242 Expedia Points. We strategically used this purchase to count towards the $1,000 minimum spend to achieve a 25,000 point sign-up bonus from Bank of America.
Many of you will look at this post, and likely ask: where the hell is Quincy, and why was Jeremy there??
To answer the first part, Quincy is a city of about 40,000 people known as “Gem City” and is situated on the western edge of Illinois along the Mississippi River. It was built as a thriving transportation hub for not only rail, but also as a major launching point for riverboats. Today, it is home to many historic sites including an incredibly quaint downtown with some excellent midwestern architecture. As an answer for the second part, the city served as an awesome backdrop for our quarterly Board of Directors Meeting of AIA Illinois - where we met in the Governor John Wood Mansion. As an aside, get out and explore Illinois! This role has led me to nearly every corner of the state, and let me tell you, there is some great stuff out there!
Quincy Regional Airport serves a large catchment area of the western edge of the state through the Essential Air Services act - of which United was the contract holder at the time of this flight. They flew twice daily with a Bombardier CRJ-200, a smaller version of what I flew on Delta from Toronto to New York. This route provides vital connection of passengers to Chicago - O’Hare International Airport and beyond. As you'll find later in this piece, Quincy's airport is an architectural gem as well!