In 2017, Alaska introduced Premium Class aboard it’s Boeing 737 Fleet. The product promised early boarding, 4” of extra legroom, elevated snacks and complimentary alcoholic beverages. In addition, Mileage Plan Elites would be eligible for free upgrades - others can purchase these seats at an additional cost. After its acquisition of Virgin America, these same standards migrated over to the Airbus Fleet - some of whom are retrofit, while others are simply a rebrand of what was once Main Cabin Select.
We booked this flight as part of a longer three leg journey from Chicago to Portland, Portland to Los Angeles, and Los Angeles back to Chicago as a means of maximizing the value of the annual Companion Pass that’s a perk of my Alaska Airlines VISA Card. As such, the combined total of our two tickets, including the Companion Pass, was $576.99 - coming to a total of $288.49 per person, or $96.16 per flight - a great value in my book! To maximize Alaska Mileage Plan Miles, which are some of the most valuable in the industry, we booked using my Alaska Airlines VISA card netting three miles per dollar and a total of 1,731 miles. In addition, this leg of the journey earned 1,745 base miles and 873 MVP bonus miles for a total of 2,618 miles.
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.
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.
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!