My first international flight, which was also my first flight ever, cost $899 one way. It was scheduled to go from Buffalo to New York City to Manama to Melbourne. A snowstorm in Buffalo derailed that plan, so I ended up on a flight from Buffalo to Washington, DC to London to Singapore to Melbourne. This was back in the day when airlines took care of their passengers when things like this happened, no travel insurance needed, so my unexpected 14 hour layover in London came complete with a free stay in the Radisson Edwardian for the day, lunch, dinner, and transportation to and from the airport. Then I ended up in bulkhead seat (back in the day when you didn’t have to pay extra for those) on a double decker Quantas plane all the way from London to Melbourne. Not a bad outcome for a highly price conscious 19 year old.
I never played the airline mileage game until a few years ago, which was really a waste considering how much travel I did and how many miles I could have earned. I always looked for the cheapest flight possible. The best deal I scored was round trip on Air Transat from Toronto to Frankfurt, Germany for $425, all fees included, back in 2001 just before the TSA ruined airline travel for all of us. Sometimes I got lucky and landed deals on luxury Asian airlines, like Cathay Pacific from Melbourne to Bombay, with a free three day layover in Hong Kong. If you’ve never flown an Asian airline, you have to try it. Our first class is their economy. And I got an amazing package holiday deal to Iceland when Iceland Air opened direct flights from Denver to Reykjavik.
But I had miserable experiences as well. I won’t even talk about the terrifying experiences I had flying on the decrepit Soviet era tin cans still operated by Siberian Airlines and Aeroflot while seated next to fat, slovenly drunkards. I suppose those were just essential parts of the Russian cultural experience. But I will mention my flight home from India when Delta flew me into JFK from Bombay but then expected me to transfer myself to La Guardia to catch my flight to Buffalo. I had booked a single ticket from Bombay to Buffalo and hadn’t even noticed the airport difference when I bought the ticket. I certainly wouldn’t have bought it if I had noticed. I was a dirt poor college student and wasn’t going to spend $50 on a taxi. I threw a large enough and long enough fit that the airline sent a town car to transport me free of charge. When the same thing happened to me in Chicago on my way to South Korea, my indignant hysterics weren’t as persuasive, and I ended up paying the taxi fare myself, but somehow I landed myself in first class for the Chicago to San Francisco leg. And when our plane left late out of Chicago, I was escorted through a special section of the airport in San Francisco, bypassing security, to my flight to Seoul, which was held just for me. I’m not sure if that was related to my very temporary status as a first class passenger.
Now I do play the mileage game and am fairly loyal to United, although I will churn credit cards to get the initial bonus miles and some free flights on other airlines (except Delta). But considering how little international travel I do now and how most American airlines are really dumpy and make you pay for everything, being in a loyalty program is worthwhile. Free bags, club access, priority boarding, seat upgrades. Yeah, it’s pretty nice being a bit older and less penny pinching.
What else are people writing in the A to Z Blog Challenge? Check out today’s featured blog, sponsored by the letter D: Directing My Dreams. I love India and this A-Z Challenge is featuring beautiful destinations in India, many of which I’ve been fortunate enough to visit but others that are still on my list.