Sep 19, 2013

Mileage Run Report: Back-To-Back Red-Eye and Returns at 2CPM

This article was jointly written by Sean Meehan of Freak Went Flying and Ben Hughes of Flight Leverage and appears jointly.

How can we resist 2.0 CPM?

When a $58 one-way fare from Las Vegas to Boston comes up, it’s really hard to pass up, even if doing so creates a brutally tiresome mileage run. Back in April when this fare was active, I convinced Sean to book two consecutive runs with me on this fare: a red-eye departing Las Vegas, returning back just in time to catch another red-eye. I’m always up for some extreme flying, and in this case the double red-eye-and-returns yielded 2.0 CPM. With about 48 hours hopping airports, our routing was:

LAS-IAH-BOS-EWR-IAH-LAS-EWR-BOS-IAH-LAS

My goal flying this was to earn over 11,300 EQM towards US Airways Chairman’s Preferred status (having already hit United 1K earlier this year), leaving me an interesting position: I’d have to leave my UA frequent flyer number on the reservation as long as possible - to clear upgrades as a 1K - then subsequently switch it to US Airways and then check in. When doing that, my seats are effectively fixed, since Star Golds on United don’t even have access to choose an Economy Plus seat. In the process of flying at 2.0 CPM, I’m effectively buying redeemable miles at 1 cent per mile with my elite bonus.

Kicking it off at San Diego Airport

Mr. Pickles

We went through security in the new terminal and took a look around the new Sunset Cove area from the Green Build - San Diego’s newest section of Terminal 2 is a sight to behold! While walking towards our Spirit Airlines flight, I hear my name called: it’s Mr. Pickles!

Mr. Pickles guested us into the new United Club, which I was particularly happy about because I had only visited the new Delta Sky Club, not the new United Club. After a nice chat with Mr. Pickles, we said our goodbyes and marched over to the Spirit Airlines gate in the oldest part of Terminal 2.

Spirit Airlines Positioning Flight SAN-LAS

We were among the last to board. Naturally, we hadn’t paid for a carry-on bag and were both a bit nervous about our backpacks, but ran into no problems at the gate. I had pre-purchased the “Really Big Seat” 1A and Ben, intent on not paying a dime over the base fare, was assigned 29F. The flight was on time and smooth. I had taken this flight before to position for a LAS-based mileage run last year, and only after we took off did I remember the truly odd route this flight takes: going up the coast to LA and then flying over to Las Vegas.

Spirit Seat 1A Sean with Tram

LAS Airport Centurion Lounge

I had purchased my Spirit Airlines flight on my American Express Premier Rewards Gold card, and last week American Express emailed me with an invitation to the uber-luxury Centurion Lounge in LAS. Once we got to the airport, we put on our collared shirts and walked in not knowing what to expect. The lounge check-in lady was very nice and let me bring in a guest without charging us. I’m not sure she knew we’d be there nearly 8 hours!

This lounge is fantastic. We promptly took two sofa chair/beds, similar to what I would expect in a old-school shrink’s office. These were right by the window and we had a great view of a lightning storm complete with a rainbow.

We then ate dinner at the buffet, which features fantastic beef short-ribs and some great deserts. Everyone in the lounge was very friendly.

Ben took a nap as I watched the San Diego Chargers completely choke a game they were winning 28-7 only to lose 31-28 on a last second field goal. Way to go Houston (coincidently our next destination)!

Before leaving we each took a shower, which was much better than in a typical US lounge, and I was stoked to find L’Occitane products.

Running into Amol at IAH

Our flight for Houston departed on time at 12:30am on September 11th. It’s technically a red-eye but it was only 2.5 hours. Needless to say we were both a little dazed upon deplaning in IAH. Thanks to Twitter we knew that Amol from PointsToPointB was on his way into IAH as well, and we were at his gate when he deplaned.

First Flight Amol

The three of us had a funny walk through the airport, all dazed and tired. We goofed around in the echo chamber, then finally pulled some seats together near our gate for a make-shift lounge. It didn’t take long before we were talking about using the Virgin Atlantic lounge in Hong Kong when departing on EVA Air, and other assorted aspirational flight tips. It is always a treat to hang with the “big brains” in this game like Amol and Pickles!

IAH-BOS-EWR-IAH

Ben Exhausted

After a pleasant flight IAH-BOS, our first problem popped up in Boston: our flight to EWR was in IRROPS on an ATC delay. A call to the United Premier Line took care of us, putting us on a nonstop BOS-IAH. Unfortunately for me, it meant rocking a middle seat in Economy Plus. Ben was exhausted and immediately fell asleep.

IAH-LAS

This flight was great. We were both upgraded, sitting together, and we both watched The Hangover Part III. Unfortunately there was not a meal on this flight though we were both hungry. Upon arrival in Las Vegas, we were both a bit weary. Ben went off to find a sandwich and I marched over to the Club at LAS, a Priority Pass lounge. I snacked on granola bars, hummus and pita chips. I do take a small amount of pride in not spending money when I am mileage running.

September 11th’s Second Red-eye: LAS-EWR, then EWR-BOS

Fellow Mileage Runner

We were not upgraded on this four and a half hour redeye flight. But I guess it didn’t matter that much as we both slept nearly the entire flight from sheer exhaustion. It’s interesting to note that this was technically our second red-eye on September 11th departing Las Vegas - we had left the same morning at 12:33am enroute to IAH.

An interesting thing happened before boarding. I noticed the older gentleman seated in front of us on the previous flight IAH-LAS was also boarding this flight, and he had a FlyerTalk luggage tag! We spoke with him a bit, and sure enough he was mileage running too, doing the MSY-IAH-BOS-IAH-LAS-IAH-BOS-IAH-MSY routing that Ben was going to do the next week.

We had the same airplane and same seats for the EWR-BOS flight. It was nice to talk to our fellow mileage-runner in the gate area before the flight.

Finally Leaving an Airport, in Boston

Upon arrival we went over the Admirals Club to get our second shower of the trip. Ben held a conference call from the lounge before we eventually left and took the Silver Line free bus to South Station. We explored Boston Commons a bit, had lunch at Boston Commons Coffee Company, took Ben to CVS for his first ever Vanilla Reload purchase, then walked around downtown before settling down at a park for some rest and conversation. Finally, we walked back through downtown to South Street Station and took the SL1 bus back to the airport for $2.50.

Admirals Club Shower Boston Airport Boston Commons CVS Vanilla Reloads

BOS-IAH-LAS

We sat in Economy Plus on the second flight with the middle seat empty on BOS-IAH, and were upgraded on IAH-LAS (upgrades to and from Las Vegas outside conferences are virtually a slam dunk). We were surprisingly alert and felt great during these flights. The shower at BOS and various intervals of sleep certainly helped. On the IAH-LAS flight, the entire Economy Plus section was empty - an eerie sight!

Las Vegas

Trip Done

At 10PM Wednesday we finally landed in Vegas after ten flights covering 11,300 miles, leaving an airport only once to explore Boston. While the first red-eye was pretty brutal, overall we held up well. Having lounge access so many places (two with showers) certainly helped. Flying with a friend always makes the journey more interesting, and getting to meet up with some other travelers was awesome. Sean and I had a blast on our 48 hour brutal mileage run, and I’d do it again in an instant!

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