Friday, November 9, 2012

Booking habits for Domestic/International flights

There was a thought provoking (at least to me) MilePoint thread yesterday asking people what "fare class" they normally book.  I hadn't really given it much thought, knowing only that I typically book discounted economy seats which qualify for 100% Premier Qualifying Points and the bonus (currently %25) percent on miles.

This did prompt me to take a closer look at what I have booked for future trips (I'm pretty much ticketed for all travel through June 2013 right now since I've decided to stay with United and I know my goal {gold status again}) and some interesting patterns emerged:

I book economy L, a lot. - For those of you unaware, here's the United Fare Class Chart which reveals what those pesky letters on your booking mean.  L is, surprisingly, the 12th level of coach for UA.  What this means is that I get a pretty good price, but my booking has a LOT of restrictions on it.  this is OK because I typically don't make changes to my itinerary and am certain of my destination before I book.

Most of my purchases fall between the 10th level of economy, and the 13th. I think I've only booked in the "G" tier (the lowest tier), once or twice in four years of travelling.  I'm not surprised by this because, long ago, the wife and I came to an agreement regarding how much time/effort we decided we would spend hunting and searching for "the lowest possible price" out there.  We decided, after much debate, that we wanted a low price but that paying the rock-bottom lowest took more effort than we were willing to expend. This year my $$/mile rate is going to be somewhere around $.09/PQP and next year it's going to drop to $.08/PQP due to some deals that I found to Asia.

What your goal is, will be important. One of the big problems that I have with some of the bigger travel bloggers is their assumption that everyone must value everything the same as them or they're stupid.  For them, it's mostly about garnering massive miles and spending time on so-called "aspirational trips" which involve much time spent in First Class lounges and taking pictures of hotel rooms.  Not all are like that however, Mommy Points is one that often focuses on the destination and not the journey (although she's starting to move into "please click my referral links!" mode often, and Seth, from The Wandering Aramean is pretty good. (Read his blog, but be wary when engaging the guy in conversation, he's irascible at best) and Stephan Seagraves trip reports are outstanding, but he's a hobby blogger so he's not going to update as frequently as the pro or semi-pro guys.

All that said what's important are your travel goals.  For the wife and I, we set a budget, and a target status level we want to attain (Gold Premier for example) and then we try to figure out how we can fit the places we want to visit into that matrix.  We try to avoid pure mileage runs, preferring to visit places we want to see, your mileage may vary on that point.  For other people it's important to travel in comfort, so they focus on BusinessFirst or First Class.  I will say this, had I the budget I would travel in all BusinessFirst and First. Sadly, I don't have rich Uncle and my poker game is not up to snuff to win the World Series Main Event so I'm flying coach.

Maximize your miles, to a point: I book everything on a United card, for some people who have issues with credit this is not possible.  If you can swing it however paying with an airline card, and then immediately paying off the balance, is a great way to go.  I don't make suggestions on which card to use, nor do I receive kick-backs from them if you click on my referral link.  Because of this I don't have any referral links, nor do I expect to have any in the foreseeable future.

In the years since my first International flight (2008 to London and then Paris via the Eurostar) I've found my life and world view unimaginably enhanced. The wife and I watch movies and television shows based in foreign countries and we're still awe-struck that "we've been there, in person, and saw that".  I've got hundreds of memories and thousands of pictures, and I plan to add to each catalogue for as long as I can.  Maybe we'll see you out on the road someday.  If so, let me know what class you booked.  I will probably learn something from how you did it.

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