I admit up front that I am just a lowly Gold on American Airlines these days (since I am not flying all the time like I used to).  Everyone knows that AA Gold privileges are just marginally better than those enjoyed by the odd turnip farmer who has never flown in his life and turns up at the airport to hop a ride to DC to lobby his Congressman to continue farm subsidies for turnips.  So, right off the bat I will say that I don’t expect much anymore, certainly not the privileges I used to enjoy as an Executive Platinum when AA was really AA and not US Airways cloaked in the once-proud American Airlines brand.

Nonetheless, when I spend $1156 plus change to take my 11 year old daughter to San Francisco from Raleigh (RDU) on a father-daughter trip over her Spring Break, I expect things to run pretty smoothly.  After this build-up, you’ve probably guessed that they didn’t.

Well, at least we did get there and back in one piece. And we didn’t lose our luggage because we had only two small carry-on pieces.

Things started well enough.  To my great surprise my daughter and I were both upgraded (using AA’s expensive upgrade points, of course) from RDU to ORD, our connection airport.  It was an early morning flight on Sunday, and I guess most Executive Platinums in the Triangle area had sense and were still sleeping.  I was pleased to have two seats up front and to enjoy breakfast en route to O’Hare.

Turned out AA was just teasing me before the big letdown.  The next three segments were all in coach and not any fun.

The misery began with a six hour layover that Sunday morning at O’Hare.  When I booked our flights months before, AA had a timely mid-morning ORD/SFO connection with an mid-afternoon arrival, allowing plenty of time to get to our hotel and then relax with friends who had offered to pick us up and invited us to dinner in Pacific Heights.  However, AA dropped the mid-morning flight from its schedule, leaving an early afternoon flight as the sole option.  It was a long six hours in the Admirals Club.

Of course, one less flight option to San Francisco meant much higher demand, so there were no upgrades on that flight to SFO for the likes of me.  I resigned myself to sit in coach, and we trudged tiredly to our gate after the mind-numbing six hour wait.

Once we boarded, I discovered that we had bad seats to boot.  AA charges Golds now for Main Cabin Extra seats, but I had managed to get row 10, first row on the 737-800 behind MCE, which I thought would be comfortable.  Trouble was, AA’s website didn’t indicate that there is no window in that row on the left side (737-823 series aircraft). It felt like being locked in a closet, very claustrophobic. My daughter had been looking forward to seeing Chicago on takeoff and San Francisco on landing, but that wasn’t to be.

Once again, I resigned myself to the five hour flight locked in a closet and waited for boarding to complete. At least the closet lights were on, I thought, which was better than being in the dark.

When finally the plane was buttoned up, the pilot announced that our aircraft was being taken out of service due to a maintenance problem. He asked us to sit quietly (my daughter and I locked in the closet of row 10) while AA tried to find a replacement airplane.  I called and told our friends in SFO to forget about picking us up or having dinner.

After about an hour, American did find a replacement airplane but would not say when we might get to San Francisco.  Still we sat on the plane, a nightmare for my daughter and me. We were already terribly exhausted.

Finally our captain announced a gate where a replacement 737-800 would soon be landing, and they let us off to march down the concourse.  So after suffering a six hour layover at ORD because AA eliminated their mid-morning connection and what would be a two hour delay because American can’t keep their aircraft operational, we had a five hour claustrophobic flight locked in a damn closet to look forward to.  The cherry on top was that we would have no one to pick us up when we arrived as originally planned. It would cost me $80 to get a car into the city.

We waited for the replacement plane to land and unload its passengers, baggage, and crew.  Finally we re-boarded, and I wasn’t surprised to find that row 10 on the new plane, also a 737-800, had no window, just like the broken airplane.  Still locked in a closet, I thought.  I had tried to get different seat assignments when we were waiting between planes, but was told nothing was available, period.  Bummer.

Once underway (finally), the captain (same cockpit crew) announced that we had significant tailwinds and would make up about 30 minutes, so we reached SFO a mere 100 minutes or so late.  En route, the very nice cabin crew took pity on my daughter and gave her a choice of free goodies.  It didn’t make up for the long delays or the claustrophobia, but it was a kind gesture just the same.

Coming home, I checked and found the same 737-800 aircraft type assigned to our SFO/ORD and ORD/RDU flights.  Since I had grabbed the same seats in row 10 on all four segments not knowing row 10 lacked a window on the left side, I tried in vain to change to a different row.  Unavailable, I was told.  Once at the SFO Admirals Club, I asked again.  Just before we left the club for our gate, an agent brought me two seats in different rows, but I knew I could swap to keep my daughter and me seated together.  (Of course I had asked about upgrades, but was told we were numbers 23 and 24 on the upgrade list for the flight and that just one seat up front was available.)

I had noticed on the flight out that the seats in coach were the modern “slim-line” design and that they seemed very uncomfortable.  I also noticed that because every one of those very skinny seats had a big LCD screen built into the seatback, AA had been forced to place the electronics boxes which controlled the flatscreens on the floor, thereby taking up valuable and scarce underseat storage and leg room.

In fact there are two electronics boxes per row per side so that only the center seats in each row have the usual width and depth of storage and leg room space under the seats.  Thus seats A, C, D, and F in each row are considerably narrower under those seats.  That means AA has robbed two-thirds of its coach seats of underseat space.  Good thing we had so little carry-on luggage and were allowed to board in the “Priority” group because it’s now impossible to stow anything other than a small bag under those seats.  I could hardly even get my feet and legs under the seat, so large was the electronics box.

We were very glad to have been able to move back a row, though, because at least we had windows on both sides.  I noticed once again that the left side seats ABC in row 10 had obscured views.  My daughter and I endured five hours in the air to Chicago in the cramped space of row 11, during which time my back began to ache from the uncomfortable slim-line seats.  Even my 11 year old daughter complained about the seat’s discomfort.

At O’Hare we had a three hour wait this time (again because of schedule change which had occurred since I bought the tickets), and the ORD/RDU flight was due in at midnight rather than 9:00 PM as originally planned. Our final leg was a carbon copy of the previous two: uncomfortable skinny seats on 737-800 airplanes with no underseat legroom and in the locked closet of row 10.

We landed, bleary-eyed and aching and feeling like prisoners held in solitary, a minute before midnight.  My wife had offered to pick us, bless her soul, but arrived at midnight to find us stranded on the tarmac with no ramp agent to guide us in.  AA had insufficient RDU ground staff to handle all the late arrivals just ahead of us.  The final insult was to sit there with the terminal so tantalizingly in sight for another 20 minutes before reaching the gate.  When the door finally opened, I was never so glad to get off an airplane.

In retrospect, it felt like the drip, drip, drip of Chinese water torture: the accumulation of many small pains that summed into misery.  I cannot fault the AA flight attendants for any of the problems.  At least on the four flights to and from San Francisco, FAs were universally upbeat, helpful, and kind–light years better than the dragon ladies on United flights. That said, the overall experience was bad.

It was especially disappointing after flying more than a million miles on American Airlines (well, actually many more than that, but a million since they started counting, anyway) over four decades.  Perhaps if I had paid less for our passage I would be less critical.  For almost $1200, though, I did not judge the experience as either comfortable or approximating value for money.

As an AA Million Miler, I enjoy lifetime AA Gold status, but I have a friend who didn’t make it to a million miles and, like me, does not fly as much as he used to (he’s an ex-consultant).  He grew up in London, but lives here in Raleigh, where he owns a solar business, and travels several times a year RDU/LHR via AA173/174, the nonstop flights that connect Raleigh to London, to visit his family.

American has offered him Gold elite privileges for a year for $649, and he asked me if it’s worth it.  He views snagging a more comfy seat in the Main Cabin Extra section of economy on AA’s 767 nonstops to and from London as the primary benefit of Gold status, a privilege that was gratis when MCE seating was first introduced.

Good question, I thought.  After doing some research and thinking about it, here’s what I told him:

“I checked the AA website. Normally, RDU/LHR in Main Cabin Extra is an additional $130 one way, so being Gold gets you a 50% discount, which is a $65 savings one way, or $130 round trip savings per trip. At that rate you’d break even at 5 RDU/LHR round trips (650 ÷ 5 = 130). 

“But of course as Gold you get other perks, like a free checked bag and somewhat earlier boarding in addition to the 50% discount on MCE seating in advance (and it’s complimentary for Golds within 24 hours of the flight if any MCE seats are left then).  You also receive a 25% mileage bonus if that’s important to you.  Lastly, and not easily quantified, American Airlines Gold status and higher elite levels usually give you preferential treatment though the elite desks when unexpected disruptions occur.”

To recap, measuring the value of paying for Gold status at AA will differ by individual travel patterns, distances, and frequencies, but for Raleigh-London, at least, it’s a wash after five round trips.  For those who want to dig into this question a bit more, comparison charts for all three AA elite levels can be found here.

 

 

As a boy growing up in the 1950s on the edge of a small eastern North Carolina town, I had immense freedom to explore the world of nature around me.  Of course it was a different era, one of innocence compared to now, but even still, my parents were tolerant and permissive of my desire to dive into the real world and discover it for myself.  Wild animals, plants, birds, and insects were abundant then in bucolic eastern North Carolina.  Untamed fields and woods were within easy biking and walking distance for an energetic boy like me.

Not that I had to venture far afield from our house to encounter wildlife.  It was then common to come across large Snapping Turtles, along with other turtles and many varieties of snakes, lizards, frogs, and toads, in our back yard.  Birds of many species were prevalent, too, and lots of mammals.  It was paradise for a boy who loved nature and the outdoors.

My parents never knew what wildlife to expect in the house: snakes, frogs, toads, lizards, turtles, birds, Flying Squirrels, insects of all types.  I knew to keep poisonous snakes outside and to be careful handling them.  My brother and I once kept a Copperhead in a 55-gallon drum for a week or so, and it was like watching coiled lightning as it sprung over halfway up the sides of the barrel trying to strike us.  We came to understand it would never tame, and we soon released it back into the wild, albeit a good ways away from where we lived.

Every type of creature fascinated me.  I spent many long hours studying insects in books and in the fields and woods nearby.  I loved hunting and fishing as much for the experience of being in the real world as for any fish or game I bagged.  Though I didn’t realize it at the time, my love of nature and some of the expertise I gathered about it as a youth would stay with me for a lifetime.

When I grew to manhood those experiences became dormant memories.  My livelihood from consulting was derived across the globe in many different countries, but almost always in dense urban areas where nature had been eradicated or at least severely minimized.  I missed the natural world and often felt I needed to be be back in touch with it.

In 1991 a consulting gig in Johannesburg led me to Africa for the first time.  Less than a month after I arrived in South Africa, I found the Kruger National Park (see here).  After that I went back to the Kruger–or to similar wildlife national parks in Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Botswana–almost every weekend and holiday until the consulting project concluded.  I have returned to these wilderness areas in southern Africa, and especially to the Kruger, again and again in the intervening 24 years.    My family and I just returned on January 1 from another two weeks cruising around this marvelous territory.

kruger_national_park_map

Why do I endure flying in coach tens of thousands of miles so often?  I have written before about returning to the Kruger (see this post from May, 2014), but I could never, until now, completely understand just what was drawing my soul to it.  On this most recent journey, it finally hit me:  Because the Kruger is magic to me!  I never come back without a significant replenishment to my spirit.  Experiencing it there is more real and true to me than the urban activities I engage in here in Raleigh every day in the interest of advancing civilization.  Oddly, traveling many thousands of miles to spend time in the Kruger National Park is, for me, like a time warp back to my childhood enjoying the simple pleasures and wonders of nature of eastern North Carolina in the 1950s. God bless the South Africans for preserving that significant piece of wilderness for now and future generations.  Like I said, magic.

 

 

My December 17-31 trip to and from South Africa brings me a total of ten flights since 2011 in Delta’s coach cabin on their longest nonstop flight, Atlanta to Johannesburg and back again.  Though experts may arm-wrestle over the actual distance, Delta posts SkyMiles credit for this pair of flights, DL200 and DL201, at 8,433 statute miles each way, and I don’t argue with them.  It’s a good 16 hours, give or take, each way, and can be even longer with severe headwinds.  Nonstop, mind you.

I’ve posted at length about how to survive, and even enjoy, this pair of ultra-long distance flights here, and I won’t repeat myself except to say my flying experiences on DL200 and DL201 last month were good and almost carbon copies of all the previous ones.  Bravo to Delta for managing the tough experience on coach passengers so well.  The flights in sardine class were as painless as one could hope for.

What dawned me on me during the long December flights was that I have never seen an empty seat on any of the ten flights in either the Economy or Business Elite cabin.  I’ve flown in February, March, April, August, and December, and every seat has been full on every airplane.  Never one to be shy about asking for an upgrade, I inquired politely but firmly each time I flew to be whisked up to the Business Elite cabin on the basis of my five million miles and Platinum status.  Delta personnel were invariably polite about declining, and more than once they have confided to me that upgrades never happen on flights 200 and 201 because Business Elite is always sold out.

Thinking maybe that Delta upgraded a few full fare coach Diamonds or Platinums ahead of a discounted coach fare-paying customer like me, I was astonished to hear time and again from fellow travelers in the Economy Comfort cabin that their Diamond status and full fare Economy tickets failed to get them booted up front.  Several told me that they regularly make the flights (every month or two) back and forth, always paying full fare coach, and have never been upgraded.  I’ve had similar conversations with well-heeled Delta customers sitting with me in Economy Comfort to and from JNB on every flight.

Apparently even full-fare Business Elite travelers can have trouble booking a sharp-end seat.  An American mining engineer who is a regular on the two flights every 45-60 days, and who always flies in Business Elite because his company pays for it, told me that he sometimes has to hunt for an available seat even weeks in advance because business class isn’t available on his preferred dates.

Nor have I ever been able to identify a nonrev Delta employee riding up front.  Excepting the odd award travel flyer, there are apparently fare-paying butts in every Business Elite seat on Delta 200 and 201 every day of the year. You can see the difference in space and comfort between Business Elite and the Economy Comfort section of coach immediately behind Business in these two photos:

20141217_202922-Best 20141217_202901-Best

The remarkable phenomenon of consistently full airplanes across this vast distance made me contemplate what profit Delta must be enjoying from this one pair of flights.  I Googled the flights every which way to see if I could find a clue and came up dry.  Except for an Atlanta Constitution article extolling the flights’ nonstop distances and my own earlier blog posts, there seems to be nothing on the profit margin contributions of these paired flights to and from Jo’burg.

I even went to my SkyMiles account to test what mileage would be required for award seats in Business ATL/JNB.  Using the new Delta tiers, the minimum and maximum miles required (one way) among the five levels are 80,000 miles and 175,000 miles, respectively, from the USA to South Africa.  Thus the round trip minimum is 160,000 miles, and the max round trip takes a bite of 350,000 miles.  Testing a range of future dates I was unable to find award seats for less than 255,000 miles round trip, and the majority were higher, up to 350,000 miles.  I found none at 160,000 miles, the theoretical minimum round trip, but I assume the 255,000 was 80,000 one way and 175,000 the other.  Assuming award seat availability is based on revenue capacity limits established for each flight, this indicates that ATL/JNB Business Elite seats must be selling pretty briskly.

In the absence of hard data I cannot draw any definitive conclusions, but if these flights are not Delta’s most profitable, then I feel certain at least that the CFO smiles every time he contemplates the torrent of revenue that DL200 and DL201 must be contributing to Delta’s bottom line.

As an enthusiastic fan of Southern Africa and especially of the Kruger National Park in South Africa, which I have visited countless times since 1991, it never occurred to me that I should be worried about the Ebola crisis in West Africa spreading that far away (over 3,500 miles) any more than I should be worried about the botched Ebola case in Dallas, which is only 1,000 miles away from me in Raleigh, or the Maryland Ebola case, just 300 miles distant.

Naturally I continue to watch the Ebola situation to be prudent, but not out of fear of traveling to South Africa or any other country in Southern Africa. My family and I will be flying once again to Johannesburg in December for an extended stay in the Kruger National Park, and the Ebola outbreak is simply not a factor.

Apparently, however, many uninformed tourists have panicked and cancelled their trips.  Reports are that tourism in East Africa (Kenya and Tanzania) and Southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Namibia) is off by 40-50%.  The Daily Telegraph in England recently published this article about the phenomenon, accompanied by a map illustrating how distant the Ebola cases are to the tourist destinations in Africa:

We are eagerly anticipating our trip next month to South Africa.  The Kruger is always fun, the perfect place to take the family.  It is also easy to get to, easy to use (it’s a self-drive safari), and relatively inexpensive compared to safaris in Botswana.  As I reported some months ago, camping safaris in Botswana now run up to $500 per person per day or more.  Or at least they were that high before the Ebola hysteria set in, and the prices will again be that expensive once Ebola is under control. I read that airfares to East Africa and South Africa have dropped, too, as bookings have been cancelled.  If you ever dreamed of seeing African wildlife at bargain prices, now may be the time.

My wife and I didn’t let having children get in the way of traveling like we have always done all over the globe.  For instance, we thought nothing of taking our son, now 16, to England in his first year while a babe in arms.  He did fine, and he’s been all over the world with us since before he could talk or walk.  Later, when our daughter (now 11) came along, she joined us for every trip, too.

When my two kids turned three years old, I had to start buying a separate ticket for them, of course, and it was then that I registered them in Delta’s SkyMiles program and American’s AAdvantage programs.  (I also signed them up in the Northwest FF program, but those miles became SkyMiles when Delta and NWA merged.)  No sense paying for their seats and not accumulating miles in the frequent flyer programs, I reasoned.  Pretty soon their accounts were brimming with miles, but I never tried to use them.

We still take a lot of trips by air here in the USA and abroad.  Recently, though, my family has flown more on Delta than AA, and suddenly that’s caused a problem.  I noticed a few months ago that my kids AAdvantage miles will expire if not used by 6-30-15.  Or we can reset the clock by flying somewhere with them on American.  Since reasonable airfares have gone the way of the dodo, I decided instead to use their AAdvantage miles for trips with my wife and me before June of next year.

To do that I had to first get into their accounts.  I have their AAdvantage numbers, but I had to guess at the passwords I had set up for them.  I guessed right about our daughter’s, but struck out with my son’s, and so jumped through AA’s hoops for resetting his password.  I received a message saying that a temporary password had been emailed to me.  Except that it never came.  So I phoned American, and they told me that no email had ever been entered into my son’s account.  Then how come, I asked, AA sent me the email saying a temporary password was on the way? A puzzle, to be sure, they said.  I couldn’t get into my son’s account to add an email address without a password, but the only way I could add an email address was to get a temporary password that would be sent to me via the nonexistent email address.  A Catch-22, or even Kafkaesque!

Luckily the web expert at AA I spoke with believed me (after a lot of questions, to which I had the right answers), and she sent a temporary password to me which worked.  So now I was able to get into both kids’ AAdvantage accounts, and I was soon busy making reservations on their behalf on the same flight itineraries that my wife and I would soon make.

Of course the AA rez system calculated that my kids are 16 and 11, and when the time came for me to have the frequent flyer award travel tickets issued in each of their names, the system stopped me, saying they were each too young to fly on their own and would have to fly with adults.  There is nowhere in the online AA.com system to explain that they were indeed flying with adults: their parents!  That’s because our tickets and their tickets are on different PNR records and thus not associated with each other.  Another Catch-22.

Frustrated but undeterred, I phoned AA back and explained my conundrum.  The first agent I spoke with said he would be glad to associate the records, but I’d have to pay the ticketing fee (one fee for each of the four tickets) for using a real person to get the job done, even though the root cause is the flaw in their software.  Yet another Catch-22.  I declined his offer to enrich AA more, already perturbed that, as a Gold, I have to pay now for Main Cabin Extra seats.  Why should I pay for their logic errors?

I asked the nice AA rez agent if, instead, I could make the award seat reservations from my children’s accounts in my name and my wife’s name to avoid that problem.  Sure, I was told, as long as each of the children has a valid credit card in their name to pay for the nominal fees.  After all, you can’t pay in cash these days.  One more Catch-22.

My daughter has no credit card at age 11, and even though I recently acquired an American Express Platinum Card for my sixteen year old son, I realized that my plan would revert to the same problem when I tried to use my own miles, or my wife’s miles, to make reservations for our kids.  That is, the system would still prohibit those tickets being issued because it appears they are flying unaccompanied, regardless of the mileage source to pay for the free seats.  I sighed, comprehending the same Catch-22 as above, but turned on its head.

Defeated, I decided to take the coward’s way out and simply buy four tickets to where we are going, using AA.com, and thus reset the expiration date on everyone’s AAdvantage mileage.  It was the easiest way to stop wasting time, though it was disconcerting not to be able to use my kids’ mileage.  I guess we will have to keep resetting AA’s mileage expiration clock by periodically flying on American until our kids each turn 18 and can cash the miles in on their own.

[Footnote:  I have since learned from another AA agent I had to phone about a different matter that some agents will waive the ticketing fees to resolve the unassociated PNR numbers described above.  She was unsure, though, whether that’s AA policy or simply reservation agent courtesy discretion at work.]

Recently I decided to take a closer look at the incessant entreaties and come-ons from Delta and American Express for the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Amex credit card.  As an American Express cardholder since 1976 with a regular Platinum Card in my wallet, I didn’t really think I could use a second Amex account.  But what the heck, I thought, I’ll do the analysis and see if it’s worth keeping the card for a year to earn the bonus miles.  Delta’s new restrictions on the transfer of Membership Miles prompted me in part to think about it, even though I won’t be subject to the 2015 cap (250,000 miles, but will it shrink in ensuing years?).

Frequent flyer games you can play

Thus, after reading through the materials and making some calculations, I indeed accepted Delta’s offer for a Platinum Delta SkyMiles American Express Credit Card.  I liked the idea of 45,000 bonus miles after the first $1000 in purchases within the first three months, and double SkyMiles for Delta purchases, and a $100 one-time statement credit, for reasons that will become clear.

After receiving the new SkyMiles card, I made plans for next summer for a double-whammy trip to the states of Washington and Montana: to Washington to take our kids to see where my wife and I were married twenty years ago at Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park, and to Montana to make our annual trek to the beautiful Beartooth Mountains Wilderness Area to visit my wife’s parents.  I booked us on Delta all the way  I had already checked Kayak.com and several other air travel websites before deciding to get the Platinum SkyMiles Amex card.  All those sites were showing around $830 round trip for Raleigh-Seattle-Billings-Raleigh on every airline that flies to those cities.

I also checked SkyMiles seats, and awards were available for the lowest possible mileage, but that was 80,000 miles per ticket.  Despite being a Five Million Miler with Delta, I did not currently have 320,000 SkyMiles on account.  Doing the numbers, at the cheapest “free” seat category, the miles are worth $0.01 each.  At higher award seat categories, they are worth a good deal less than a penny a mile. $831 divided by 80,000 miles is indeed one cent per mile, so the frequent flyer seats would have been a relative bargain had I enough to qualify.

As it was, I charged all four tickets (for my wife, me, and our two kids) to the new SkyMiles Platinum American Express credit card, which will yield me 45,000 bonus Skymiles plus another 6,446 Skymiles because purchases on Delta count as two miles for every one dollar charged ($3223 X 2).  When we fly next summer, we will also earn another good chunk of miles, 6,274 SkyMiles per ticket, for a grand total of 76,542 SkyMiles for the four of us, all of which we can cash in later.  That took a little of the sting out of the annual fee for the new Amex card.  Here are the total frequent flyer mileages (SkyMiles) to be earned based on our itinerary:

RDU/LAX – 2237

LAX/SEA – 951

SEA/SLC – 690

SLC/BIL – 387

BIL/MSP – 746

MSP/ATL – 907

ATL/RDU – 356

TOTAL – 6,274 SkyMiles per ticket x 4 people flying = 25,096

GRAND TOTAL – $3,223 for four tickets x 2 SkyMiles credit per dollar charged = 6,446 + 45,000 bonus SkyMiles + 25,096 SkyMiles for actual miles flown = 76,542 miles

Not bad for the annual Skymiles Amex fee of $195–no, check that, for $95 after my $100 statement credit for getting the card.

Delta affirms that miles are worth a penny each

This exercise also made me rethink how Delta values each SkyMile these days.  Almost fifteen years ago I came up with a business plan which I called IDEALMILES.COM (a play on the words “I deal miles”) that would allow frequent flyers to sell their miles, or to buy frequent flyer awards based on miles, through an airline-sanctioned online clearing house.  Without going into a lot of detail, the scheme would have allowed airlines to harvest at least a penny a mile by acting as the intermediary.  I first pitched the idea to Delta.  Here is one slide in a presentation I put together in 2000:

IDEALMILES

It was too controversial at the time, and no airline expressed sufficient interest for the business to take off.  Airline CFOs were struggling with how to value the billions of miles carried on their books.  The following year’s effect of 9/11 on the commercial aviation industry put IDEALMILES to rest once and for all.

When I was hawking my scheme to airline execs, they were coy about the retail value they placed on each mile, so I was intrigued to find that Delta’s website now allows the use of up to 55,000 Skymiles per ticket to be used to pay for part of airfares, and that those miles are valued at a penny per mile (55,000 miles discounts an airfare by $550).  You can see how that works in this screenshot:

Delta mileage screenprint

So it looks like I had it right in 2000 when I offered Delta one cent per mile.  It just took awhile for them to do it their way.

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