Getting paid to fly


There is nothing quite as exhilarating as flying for free. Sure, cashing in points for an awesome reward itinerary is nice, but a ticket that turns out to be profitable is really something of a holy grail. Oh, and it is even better when done in the pointy end of the plane.

Yesterday morning I got the coveted email informing me of my upgrade on my Continental flight from Newark to San Francisco. Yes, upgrades on the transcon routes are apparently hard to come by but there it was, right in my inbox. New seat: 4A. That probably would have made my $168 fare worth it, but my good fortune was just beginning.

Standing in the gate area just prior to boarding I heard the gate agent explaining to a couple that they didn’t have seat assignments because the plane was oversold. No announcements on the PA (I’m pretty sure they are supposed to do that) but my ears started tingling when I heard that discussion. I quickly found myself next in line to speak with the agent regarding the situation. My travel plans are a bit flexible, so long as I don’t miss my flight on Saturday. Oh, and I really don’t want to lose the upgrade.

IMGP4059About 20 minutes later I’m called back up to the counter. They can get me on the flight an hour later (that is actually only 25 minutes later thanks to a delay) and I can keep my seat up front. Oh, and there will be a voucher involved. Given how little I paid for the flight I’m essentially guaranteed that this one is a freebie since the vouchers generally are quite nice. Still, there was some uncertainty as I didn’t negotiate a specific amount prior to agreeing to the bump. Yeah, that may have been a mistake, but anything is better than nothing and I really didn’t care too much. When the supervisor showed up to issue my voucher my flexibility was paid back and then some: a $400 travel credit is happily stowed in my pocket right now. That’s roughly double what I was expecting to come away with but, as I explained to the agent, they usually take care of me so I’m not worried. Apparently that line worked tonight.

The flight itself has been quite nice for a few reasons. First, a Continental transcon up front is a nice experience. Three course meal with a lobster appetizer, a main course (I had the short ribs) and an ice cream sundae for dessert. Not too shabby. Yes, I switched from a LiveTV equipped plane to one that isn’t but I’m mostly working on the flight anyways so no big deal.

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The second reason the flight is so nice is the entertainment being offered by the guy across the aisle. According to my seat-mate there was a bit of an incident on the previous flight when the guy had to gate check his bag. Screaming at flight attendants ensued. Bad form, though I didn’t actually witness that part. What I did get to witness was him freaking out over a meal option – he wanted something low-fat – and then following that up with a request for a second meal and then a quite well stocked ice cream sundae. The plaid shorts, black socks pulled up mid-calf and black dress shoes look isn’t doing him any favors either.

In short, he’s a douche bag. But at least he’s entertaining. At least the flight attendants are taking it well, as he’s not been particularly nice to them at all.

Finally, I started chatting with my seat mate about flying, upgrades, frequent flyer points and other similar topics. We got to chatting about the Frequent Traveler Awards and the Star Mega Do event. He mentioned that he recently read something about those crazy guys who flew all over Europe just for fun and a few miles. Yes, he was talking about me. First time I’ve had a complete stranger relate a story about me back to me. Quite the experience.

Oh, and I asked the agent at the counter to forward a message to my next station via TELEX as I am entitled to under the policies that Continental has for voluntarily taking a bump. A friend of mine in San Francisco is expecting me in the baggage claim area on my original flight. Hopefully she gets the message that I’m going to be an hour or so late. If they man age to deliver that message I’ll consider tonight an unmitigated success. Even if that part falls through I’d say that tonight was quite positive.

Update: Made it to the hotel a full 90 minutes before I would have if I stayed on the original flight. It had to divert to Omaha for fuel. I win big.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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