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Official Website of Comedy Writer and Television Producer Michael James Nelson

Do You Know How To Play the Ariline Miles Game? A look into the airline miles game and how to successfully play it

Don’t Hate the Flyer

There’s a game being played. It’s being played all around you, both on the ground and high in the air. For some, it can be a risky game; an end goal so aggressively pursued it leads to debt. For others, they’ve mastered play with a tight grip on the rules, awarded comfort and an imbue of luxury as they traverse the globe. No doubt you’ve heard of this game. But if you want to play, you need to know the rules. If you don’t want to play, you at least need to know why. So, get comfy my coach-dwelling friend, and allow me to slide open the first-class curtain like a freakin’ magician to reveal the secrets of this tricky little game. Oh, and don’t mind the jerk seated in 1A with his smelly feet up on the wall. You know, the business traveler who acts like he owns the airplane? Yes, he’s way too comfortable because he’s mastered the miles game, earning the highest status, but let his obnoxious, royal behavior be a cautionary tale. As Ryan Holiday would say, “Ego is the Enemy.”

 

 

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You'll be seated in the cargo hold on your next commercial flight if you don't read the rest of this article.

A Cautionary Tale

Let me begin with a story… One time I was scheduled to fly from Los Angeles (LAX) to New York (JFK) for work. I, being the Delta Diva I am, told the travel coordinator that I had to fly Delta. It’s the airline I fly for many reasons, too many to list here. Shortly thereafter, some co-workers heard about my request and decided to come to my office and initiate what is commonly referred to in comedy circles as a “roast.” After sitting back and listening to their weak, undeveloped jokes, I calmly explained how flying with one airline and earning status can lead to very enjoyable benefits. When they laughed and attempted to continue with what is also known in comedy circles as “sh*t material,” they were promptly kicked out of my office and denied entry for the remainder of the day.

 

A week later, one of the most wonderful sequences of events took place at the airport’s entrance. We exchanged hellos and pleasantries and then reached that moment where everyone looked around to locate the appropriate check-in counter. As it turned out, they were also booked on Delta, so we headed that way only to find a very long line. My coworkers got in line, dropped their bags on the floor, and exhaled as they processed the very long wait ahead of them. But not I. Thanks to my airline status, I was able to use the Priority Lane, which was wide open. Oh, the look on their faces as I giggled down that red carpet, like I was Trey Parker and Matt Stone on LSD at the Oscars, for an immediate and swift check-in was priceless. By the time they reached the counter, I had already checked in, flew through priority security, and was deep inside the terminal. I was almost in a different time zone at that point. They realized this truth after texting me their lunch plans at the terminal Ruby Tuesdays; as soon as they got through security. But I was already in the Sky Lounge enjoying free food and free drinks, stretching my legs, reading The Economist even though I know nothing about economics. It’s a feeling. “Enjoy that overpriced Jalapeno Bacon Queso Burger! See ya at the gate, suckers! (Flipping page) Oh, an article on Denmark’s robust mortgage market. I think I will…”

 

The big airline loyalty dagger to their chests came later when I caught up to them at the gate. We were all supposed to sit next to each other on the flight, but that discussion was interrupted when my name was called over the public address system. I sauntered over to the counter, with a hint for what was to come, and learned that my seat had been upgraded to first class. “Thank you for your loyalty, Mr. Nelson,” she said while handing me my new ticket. “Oh, thank you so much, Katherine. It’s my pleasure,” I replied, totally channeling Ryan Reynolds. I returned to the group and reported the breaking news. My coworkers couldn’t believe it. One of them asked, “How the hell did that happen?” I then re-packaged my early speech on airline loyalty as more of a TED Talk this go-around, fueled by their sudden willingness to learn. I also utilized a device known in comedy circles as a “call-back” which was used with angry precision. 

 

I wished my coworkers luck, especially with finding overhead space for their bags, and headed down the jetway to my beautiful first-class pod. It was an amazing cross-country flight, filled with good food, great wine, fantastic movies on a big screen, exceptional service, and a wonderful nap in a seat that flattened into a bed. That evening, my coworkers would not speak to me when we landed in New York. I was not invited to TGI Fridays that night. 

 

 

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Ha! I fed "luxurious 1st class seat" into an AI image generator and this popped out.

Here’s the Deal or No Deal

If you travel a ton, shame on you if you’re not flying with one airline (or one airline alliance). And double-shame on you if you fly the same airline but don’t have a free account with them. Don’t miss out on that. Now, if you don’t travel that much, you’re still going to want to open an account and collect those miles. TRUST ME! And if you travel internationally, even if you don’t travel that much, it is a MUST! One time I took some international flights – this was before I took the red pill – and didn’t know to open an account with the airline and collect the miles. That was a very lengthy trip worth thousands of miles that could have gotten me a free domestic flight. All these years later, just the thought of letting those miles dissolve into the ether makes me want to commit Hari-Kiri. Yes, I’m ashamed of my failure because I now know what was truly lost. Here’s why…

 

If you’ve never experienced a trip to the airport with airline status, then all of this seems silly to you. But once you experience that level of service and care, especially at an enormous airport packed with people who seem to haven’t traveled since the early 90s, you’ll get it. Once you’ve been upgraded to Delta One because of your status and an employee finds you in the Sky Lounge and escorts you to the gate, immediately whisking you down the jetway to board the plane first, and later a flight attendant comes to your seat to thank you for your service like you fought in the Middle East – you will never want to experience anything less ever again. 

 

Now, there’s another angle to all of this: airline credit cards. You’ve seen them. You know them. A friend at dinner smacked one down on the bar as if they were going to scream, “You shall not pass!” Airline credit cards can definitely up your miles game, but I wouldn’t recommend them unless you fly a lot or you’re in a comfortable financial position to pay the annual fee. The upper-tier cards have a very high annual fee, but they can get you lounge access, free checked bags, companion tickets, an upgrade waitlist bump, along with plenty more benefits. If you travel often, those benefits may be worth it. 

 

Then there’s the mileage run. This is when someone takes a round trip flight just to collect the miles so they can maintain their airline status. Some people see this activity as absolutely nuts and grounds for being admitted into an insane asylum. They make a strong point, but again, once you get a taste of what life is like being “pampered” by an airline, doing whatever it takes to maintain that status is worth it. And if you love to fly, then it’s just another activity doing what you love. I have a friend (I really do!) who travels a ton for work and covets that airline status, so one time they flew all the way to Japan and back just to keep that status. Yes. This happened. They used the day of travel to get a bunch of work done and catch up on sleep. When they got to Japan, they grabbed some good food during the layover, took some photos, and then it was rinse-and-repeat on the flight back to the States. And yes, they’re single. 

 

The Final Leg of Our Journey

With all of this being said, you do need to travel quite a bit to reach notable airline status. However, it never hurts to open an account to collect miles or even get that welcome bonus from a credit card. But again, if you don’t travel a lot, then, well, you don’t need to do any of this and at least you learned something new today. Right? Or maybe you’re reading this on a mileage run. If so, let’s hope there’s a dating app out there called Mileage Mates.

 

A power couple travels together in luxury first class seats, thanks to AI image generator

 

I can hear some of you saying, “But this is exactly what they want you to do! You’re playing into their hands! The house always wins!” Well, I hope you hear me saying back to you, in a very respectful manner but with an edge of smartassery, that I do realize you can’t beat them at their own game. BUT if you know how to work the miles-math, then you can benefit from the game. Like any game, there are winners and losers. So, learn the rules, equip yourself, and then have fun playing what can be a very rewarding game. And when it comes to those coworkers I spoke of earlier, they now get it and text me now and again with great experiences they’ve had with their airline status, now that they know the game. To them I say, you’re welcome.

 

For more information, there are so many great blogs that will softly hold your hand and walk you through all the nitty gritty. It’s a whole scene, man. There are so many side-quests to this game. I could have gotten into all of that here, but then I would have posted a never-ending packet and I’m already exhausted just from writing this post. Best to leave it to the experts. I always turn to my favorite blogs on this matter: Eye of the Flyer and The Points Guy. Enjoy!

 

Luxurious first class seat
Since you read this entire article, the above will be your seat on the next commercial flight you take. Congrats!
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