Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Bump: Earning Miles and Money VDB Style

Booking a mileage run SMF-LAX-SEA-PDX-SEA-LAX-SMF would definitely fall under the category of "what the **** was I thinking?". If that routing wasn't bad enough, the trip I had planned was to be flown all on regional jets except for SEA-PDX-SEA portion which was serviced by the even less-spacious EMB-120 Brasilia. Luckily, I got out of it, well, part of it at least.

My Tuesday started early, with SMF-LAX on a CRJ-700. If you have to fly on an CRJ, the -700 is the way to go. There is a small first class, which I didn't get upgraded to, as well as E+ seating, which I did get to enjoy, and it turned out that no one was next to me, so even better. LAX-SEA was on another CRJ-700, which blows my mind considering they are both pretty big cities both with a lot of United customers. That upgrade was hopeless. I was like 15 on the list for a first class cabin of 6 seats, but luckily, the guy next to me for the relatively short 2 hour flight was nice and had decided to shower that day, so we got along just fine.

This was my first time to SEA since I was a kid, and I have to say for my second- first impression, I wasn't too excited about the N gate area where United is. About all I can say it has going for it is a nice view of the runways. My short layover there gave me just enough time for a joyride on the north loop train before boarding for Portland.

SEA-PDX was one of the most fun flights of my life! I'm not kidding. I just recently found out about what happens when you try to take a picture of a propeller with an iPhone, and with iPhone handy, I managed to keep myself very entertained for the short half hour flight. It also turned out Portland has a nice airport, actually a REALLY nice airport. I don't know why I thought it wouldn't considering I'd never even been there, but it's always nice when things turn out to be a pleasant surprise like that. I had about 3 hours to kill there so I visited the Rogue Ales Publish House and tried their Dead Guy Ale- not bad.

PDX-SEA was delayed, as United Express flights often are. After waiting for about 45 minutes in the dirty basement that is gate E6, it occurred to me that I was only halfway through my day and I would essentially be backtracking my way home from here on out. My buzz was wearing off and I was ready to go home now. My mood improved slightly after a nice little catnap stretched out in exit row 9 of the Brasilia and then when I got back to Seattle, it turned out the flight to LA was oversold. I think I volunteered before the gate agent finished making the announcement. What? You want to pay me $250 to take a direct flight home to Sacramento, not on a regional jet, and get there 2 hours early? ...OK! I gladly got bumped.

The gate agent printed out my voucher, $250 e-cert, had me sign some paperwork, and I made my way over to Alaska Airlines to redeem my little piece of paper for a ticket home on a 737. I also gave them my Mileage Plan number.

Normally getting bumped or VDB (Voluntary Denied Boarding) is no fun. They pay you because normally allowing yourself to get kicked off your flight is somewhat of an inconvenience. I did it earlier in the year out of Houston and had to wait 3 hours for the next flight home. I got $300 out of it, so I guess of you think of it as getting paid $100 an hour to sit in an airport, it's not bad, but it was after an overnight mileage run, I was tired, and it was really boring there.

This time my bump experience couldn't have been better. I enjoyed the nice view of the sunset as I watched planes take off and land. The Seattle airport redeemed itself by offering some of the best plane spotting around. As Alaska's hub, it's a great place to catch some of their special liveries; I spotted at least a half dozen of them there, in addition to some impressive international heavies. I also got to catch some of the presidential debate. Things were just getting heated when I left. I've already voted (absentee), didn't really care at this point, and luckily had the excuse of a plane to catch to avoid watching the end of it.

Alaska Airlines Genie/ Make A Wish N707AS at SEA

After another nice nap and a very pleasant flight with Alaska (they're a nice airline), I arrived home at SMF's new terminal B, another first for me, wrapping up my little adventure up north, and an altogether fun day. I also got time to read the free Lonely Planet chapter I downloaded about Rarotonga on the Cook Islands, and now I really want to go there. It'll be a nice use of my United miles to take partner airline Air New Zealand down there someday!

Sacramento's New Terminal B

So for those of you wondering about the miles, because after all this was a mileage run...I lost about 1500 (1454 actually) by not taking United home, but I'm going to try and contact Mileage Plus and ask for my "miles as ticketed". I figure the worst that can happen is they say no, in which case I'm still good to make Platinum for the year. If I do go forward with my plan to make 1K, 1500 is not a huge amount to make up. I'm still waiting to see if 606 miles show up in my Alaska Mileage Plan account for SEA-SMF. Normally $250 for a VDB isn't that great, but there were a lot of other people who wanted it, and it turned out I was greatly convenienced by the turn of events. Plus, I only paid a $200 e-cert for the trip to begin with. I came away with 2454 United miles at a $50 profit.

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