Harper’s Other Dad and I met while on winter vacation. We were staying at the same guest house in Key West. Since then we have continued to vacation around that same time each year. For years, we planned the trips around the anniversary of that first meeting; January 31st, but recently we’ve pushed it back to Valentine’s Day. The weather is warmer in many destinations and it is a little farther from the holidays. Last year we went to Puerto Vallarta for the first time. We liked it so we’re going back. We vacation with another couple; friends we met more than a decade ago on one of these winter trips. The 2014 trip will be the second week of February.
Puerto Vallarta is an attractive vacation spot for many reasons, not least because it is quite affordable; much more so than Key West. The one exception to this, however, is airfare. Plane tickets from PHX to PVR can be pricey. When I checked online earlier in the week, the cheapest round-trip non-stop flights were $1107 per person. Gulp! I could get a cheaper fare if I wanted to change planes in Denver. That didn’t seem desirable to me, Denver being 900 miles in the opposite direction and all. Not to worry, Frequent Flyer miles to the rescue. We’ve accumulated a decent-sized cache of miles with an airline whose hub is in Phoenix so I started to shop. If nothing else, I hoped I could get one of the tickets with miles so I’d only have to buy one. That’s when the Freq. program started to get a little freaky.
On the dates we wanted to travel, I could get one round-trip Coach ticket for 55,250 miles but if I wanted two Coach tickets they were 75000 miles EACH. Huh? O.K., so maybe I was buying the last ticket available at a lower price so the next one might be more expensive, but in what other marketplace does adding a second item make the first item more expensive? So I bought one Coach ticket for 55250 miles; plus $88. Frequent Flyer tickets are not actually free. They cost more than $100 but the price was discounted by $35 because I used the airline’s credit card to pay.
After completing the first transaction, I logged back in to buy a second Coach ticket. As expected, this time the price was 75000 miles for a Coach ticket…. or…. wait for it…. 55000 miles for First Class. WTF? Not only was First Class cheaper than Coach (?) but it cost 250 miles less that the, cheaper, Coach seat I’d bought less than 5 minutes before. Now I am kicking myself for not having shopped for First Class tickets in the first place. Maybe I could have gotten two First Class tickets for 55000 miles each rather than two Coach tickets at 75000 each. I didn’t think to ask that question. Silly uninformed consumer; it never occurred to me that First Class would be less than Coach. Oh well, one of us will sit in First Class on the way down while the other clings to the overhead wrist strap among the goats and chickens. We’ll reverse the seat assignments on the way home. It’s all good. It’s vacation.
I did not have enough miles for the second ticket but not to worry; there are options; many options. Miles can be “shared”, “bought” or “gifted”. I’ll forgo the discussion about ‘gift’ being a noun, not a verb, and try to stay on
rant topic. Harper’s Other Dad had 11000 miles. He could “share” them with me for $110 or “gift” (cough) them to me for $385. Were the gift option selected, I would get a 50% bonus so I would actually receive 16500 miles. The mileage bonus does not apply to “shared” miles. After paying the $110 dollars to get the shared miles, I was still a few short so I bought enough miles to make up the difference. Then I bought the First Class ticket for 55000; plus $88 dollars.
In the end, we used 110250 Frequent Flyer miles, about 9000 more than we actually had, and spent $531 for one Coach ticket and one First Class ticket to Mexico. I am not unhappy with that price. It is less than I thought we’d pay and less than we are spending to go to Detroit for Christmas. I just wish I could find the logic in the process so I would not have had to spend so much time getting it done. Oh well, come February we will be sipping our $.80 Coronas overlooking the Pacific, or sipping our $.80 Pacificos gazing at the corona (I’m flexible) and trying to decide how many is ‘too many’ times to eat Chile en Nagada in one week.
Life is good.