Believe it or not… customer service is still functioning, as are frequent flier miles. Jon and I are headed to London and Sweden and have saved up a ridiculous number of American Airlines frequent flier miles to make the journey to our friends’ wedding this summer. According to this previous blog entry, I had overstrategized the grand plan where we would get to London on 60K miles per person but not to Sweden, but we would fly Ryanair (for .01 euro cents! plus taxes) from local London airport to airport an hour outside Stockholm, then take a train to Gottenburg for the wedding. On the return trip, we would fly from an airport an hour outside Gottenburg on Ryanair back to London, then catch the 1.5 hour bus that travels among London’s airports to Heathrow, and catch our flight back to Dulles. Yeesh.
The key to using frequent flier miles is to get flights booked as early as possible, so you can use the minimum amount of vacation days (five) sandwiched between two weekends to make it a 9-day trip (this is all assuming I have a job by August). So our first strategy was to minimize vacation time taken. Of course, as the layoff and other issues crept up, we put the purchasing on hold for a while, and lost the seats returning from London unless we forked over another 60K miles each or stayed in London until late September. I started all over searching online trying to find flights with frequent flier to Europe, plugging in every hub that American flew to. Could we fly in and out of Frankfurt? Zurich? Even those were completely booked. Turns out I could get us as close as Moscow on the dates we wanted, even though I stopped going to Russian class, but then it would cost nearly $800 just to get from Moscow to Stockholm on some random Russian airline, which would render the whole point of using miles useless. Or, we could switch our dates to arrive into London the day of the wedding at 6:30am, hope that we are on time, jump onto a 9:30am flight to Stockholm, then get a train to Gottenburg and get dressed in the cab on the way to the wedding.
Surprisingly, Jon is extremely patient when it comes to making phone calls, whereas I have developed a weird twitch whenever the phone rings for me. After chatting with American Airlines for a while, very friendly, very patiently, he managed to score us not only the flight to London on the date we wanted, he also got us flights TO STOCKHOLM ON THE SAME FREQUENT FLIER MILES through a partnership with British Airways. On the return, we would fly from Stockholm to Helsinki to JFK on the date we requested, then on a shuttle flight back to Washington National. We could even take the metro back home. The booking gives us a leisurely four days to enjoy London and a week to drive around Sweden, plus attend the wedding.
When Jon came to meet me in Paris, he managed to book a several-legged trip on just 40,000 miles (American Airlines, too) which took him from Los Angeles to Paris, then Paris to JFK for Christmas with my family for a few days, then back to L.A. I, not realizing you could book a trip in such a way, had purchased a round-trip from JFK to Paris and back, then a separate trip from LA to JFK and back. Apparently, and I would suspect other airlines may do the same, you can use the same miles to travel around the different hubs of the world as long as you return to the same origin. So go fly somewhere fun before frequent flier miles become obsolete, like free checked luggage and peanuts.