Understanding a positioning flight & spending your FlexPerks points

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Last week there was a good price on a trip from Miami to Brazil. Sure you would have to get a VISA to go to Brazil, but it could be a fun vacation for around $350 in air cost! Yesterday I posted on FlyerTalk one from JFK to Alaska for under $400. This May, I will be flying a lot for liesure, business and one mileage run from Phoenix Arizona. Clearly PHX is a long way from South Bend Indiana. So, I will have to fly to my starting city.

One of the biggest gripes and questions I get about mileage runs is how do I get to wherever to make the run? So many ask “why are there NEVER any good runs in Atlanta or Detroit or Minneapolis”? Where you live just does not matter! Why? Because you can save for this different ways to make it work at a cheap price.

When I do a mileage run I go big. If you are going to position to a starting point, you need to make that cost worth it. My May trip I will fly for two days on the run. I will add a day on the front and end to get there and back. The run will net me almost 10,000 MQM’s for $280.00. 2.8 CPM is cheap when Delta sells 10,000 MQM’s each year for $1000.

One of my biggest problems is flying from South Bend (SBN) to anywhere in the USA almost always costs me almost $400+. It stinks but that is the way it is. Many times Chicago airports are 1/2 price but once you add gas and parking, South Bend is almost the same. If I have to pay $400 to fly to PHX, I can earn 4,000 MQM’s but at a price of 10 CPM. Ugg. If I add this to the run price then my total goes to $680 for 14,000 MQM or almost 5 CPM. Not horrible, but still.

If I can use Skymiles, as I had shown you HERE, it will cost me almost nothing to get to the starting point but I will lose out on 25,000 Skymiles in cost and will not earn anything getting there. If I had some bump vouchers, then letting Delta pay for the positioning flight is simple. I did not have that. So I booked Skymiles. But I want more; I want to earn for the positioning flight. So I decided to spend 20,000 FlexPerks points and just purchased a ticket. FlexPerks are nice as, including TAX etc., up to $400 is 100% covered for the points. The key is the point cost is the same for $200 or $300 or $400. Go to $401 and the price bumps up to 30,000 points. So you must be SMART.

Another way you can be smart is to use the Delta “fare class” to “upspend” to the next point if you are short of $400 to help your upgrade chances. Say what? Paying for a higher fare class can improve your chance for an upgrade. L, U, and T are the lowest. They are the ones most fly. K is one fare class UP from LUT. What I did for my positioning flight was pick “T” on the way out and “K” on the way back. Why? My outbound is on a 757 with a TON of 1st class seats. But my return is on a a320 with only 3 rows of 1st class (so not only do you have to be fare class smart but look at the type of aircraft for the route for MAX upgrades :-) )

So, the K fare will improve my upgrade chance and since I am spending the points anyway I will push as close as I can and not go over $400 in cost (K class both ways pushed it to $419 so I could not go K both ways). You will not see the fare class choices online with US BANK so you will have to call FlexPerks to get booking help to do this. But, you can check FIRST at Delta.com to find the best routes and fare class choices and then just feed them what you want.

One of the things I just LOVE about FlexPerks points is you can transfer them freely to ANYONE with a FlexPerks account! So, you can move points around however you need to get a booking done. here is how simple it is to do this:

So using FlexPerks, or another type of currency like Ultimate Rewards points from Chase or even Venture points will let you get to your start city. You are spending other peoples’ money and still earning points.

With FlexPerks, you can book online or call in (same price so I always call as talked about above) and you will be given a Delta confirmation or PNR. You can have them add your Skymiles/Medallion number and once the ticket is issued you will be able to change your seats and see it at “My Delta”. Medallions will see you are eligible for upgrades and can pick exit and GM+ Economy Comfort seats as usual domestically (PM+ for international flights as you know).

To sum this up, I will spend 20,000 FlexPerks points that I got free for getting a FlexPerks card and spending $2500 on it. I will spend $280 of my own money for the run and I will net out 14,000 MQM and 28,000 Skymiles for my little 4 day trip. Not all bad! – René
 

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18 comments

  1. Rene,

    I won’t argue with your strategy, you have far more experience with this game than I. I am offended, however, by your characterization of the value of flexperks. You seem to have forgotten the economic maxim “There is no such thing as a free lunch”!

    I mean, of course, that your analysis fails to recognize the true cost of a repositioning flight. You should be using what economists refer to as “opportunity cost”. Opportunity cost is the value of whatever you forgo to use your miles in the way you described.

    Thus, flexperks points used from someone else’s account or from a cc sign up bonus are not “free”. You could use those same points in a different way. The true cost of using them for repositioning is the value of whatever you are not using them for (but could have).

    For example, what if you could trade those flexperks for a romantic evening with, Ryan Gosling or Brad Pitt (or whoever floats your boat), and this was a lifelong fantasy? Would you call the alternate use of those flexperks to fly to Chicago “free”? I think not!!! :)

    Please, when flying through Chicago, try not to offend the brilliant denizens therein, those brilliant economists of the University of Chicago Department of Economics :)

    Thanks

  2. @Milton – oh the never ending argument of what a point is worth. My flexperks points are free. Why? I did not have to spend my money just the points they gave me for getting the card (with no 1st year fee). My Skymiles have value, so if I spend them, I could assign a “cost” value. To me, to not make my head hurt, and because I have so many points, unless I spend my own money, it is free. This simple math worth for ME! – Rene

  3. @Rene

    I understand your thinking but the concept of opportunity cost is much more fundamental than the “never ending argument of what a point is worth”.

    I was really referring to a general category of thinking which leads to much mischief in the world, with respect to, say, freedom, life vs. death….

    Probably not the forum… :)

  4. @Milton – correct – I more focus on #firstworldproblems like my status, my upgrade, my drink order, my lounge access, the best 1st class seat, my … oh you see the point. ;-)

  5. Re what I like about Delta… I’ve flown primarily Delta since my very first domestic airline flight in 1977. For me Delta does so many things right — and most of all it’s their people and overall corporate culture. Sure, there are some rough spots along the way, but I could get a little edgy myself on my 4th cross country leg in one day! The company seems to convey a sense of genuine interest in customer service … regardless of the sometimes tech glitches or systems that don’t make sense. Having dealt with so many companies who have lost this sense of customer service, it’s refreshing and always appreciated.

  6. I’m in Cincinnati so Delta was the best choice for many years. Lots of nonstops, most of which are now gone. I like Delta because skymiles don’t expire.

  7. Hi René, I’m wondering about this experience of a friend of mine using Amex points to buy a ticket on Amex website on DL. He is DM, and for that flight, he didn’t even get on the upgrade list. Apparently, if you purchase outside delta.com eg using UR/MR/flex perks , there is something in your PNR that says do not upgrade. Have you heard of this? This hasn’t happened to me yet, but I’m wary of buying a delta ticket outside delta.com.

  8. I was pleasantly surprised when purchasing a Delta flight using Flex points and happened to have medallion status due to having gotten a Delta credit card that I was bumped to first class for all four segments of my trip. (I actually thought they had messed up my reservations when I received email notices a day before my flight informing me of the wonderful, VERY SURPRISING news since I did not know at the time that this was Delta policy :)

  9. @Zz – IMO that would be a bad choice but yes you can do that. Or, even just get a statement credit as well. It really all just boils down to your goals. Mine is to make Diamond Medallion, for as little as possible, out of my own pocket.

  10. I’m in Phoenix from the end of March to the 10th of April. Any good mileage runs? Going to be working the first 2 days and then after that it’s “free-time” :D i.e. Mileage run time :D!

  11. Interesting — I tried to book a K fare LAX-JFK roundtrip that was $598 for 30K Flexperks so that I could use a SWU but the telephone rep said she could only book the cheapest fare (a T/U split fare). I guess I got a bad rep.

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