First Class for 5: Gambling on Frequent Miler’s 2023 Team Challenge

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Do you often read about the luxury travels of bloggers and think “That’s nice, but it’s not possible to do that with an entire family!”? This week, Greg and I decided to bet the Frequent Miler team’s reputation as points and miles wizards on our ability to create an amazing trip for not one or two people, but for all five of us. We kicked that idea off by booking this week’s amazing ANA First Class deal so that all five Frequent Miler team members could enjoy ANA’s famed “The Suite” at the same time, taking 5 of the 8 seats in the first class cabin on a single flight. But it wasn’t easy and didn’t come without significant gamble along the way. On this week’s show, Greg and I talk about making the decision, the mad dash to make it happen, a couple of missteps along the way, and a rogue agent’s $12,000 gamble on our $60,000 booking (you’ll get it when you listen).

Elsewhere on the blog this week, we talk about hacks to save a lot of miles on your next award booking, Bilt’s killer new integration with Point.me, Greg’s incredible adventure Down Under, and a lot more. Watch, listen, or read on for more from this week at Frequent Miler.


00:00 Introduction
01:18 Mattress running the numbers: Bilt Rent Day Promo: 100% transfer bonus to Hawaiian Miles
05:45 Mattress running the numbers: Marriott promo for double elite night credits
09:36 Noteworthy news this week Bilt integration with Point.me
12:22 30 Million+ Amex points for readers
17:08 Awards we booked this week, AKA…
17:24 Main Event: First Class for 5. Gambling on Frequent Miler’s 2023 challenge.
59:19 Question of the Week: Will Delta protect your booking if you’re traveling on two separate tickets booked via Virgin Atlantic?

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This week on the Frequent Miler blog…

Award space comes back with a vengeance

ANA 777-300ER First Class The Suite. Image courtesy of ANA’s website.

This week’s podcast is really abut the amazing ANA First Class space that became available (See: ANA First Class wide open, up to 5 seats in The Suite!, but know that most of the availability is gone and it is not very likely that we’ll see this kind of space again in the future. Still, understanding what happened would be worthwhile in the long-shot odds that it happens yet again). But that wasn’t the only notable infusion of award space this week as we also reported 4+ business class award seats on Singapore Airlines to/from Frankfurt in November / December and 35K Business Class to Europe for a family: New York to Lisbon. I don’t know whether these things mark the beginning of the “return to normalcy” for award space, but we can certainly hope they do!

Hidden city ticketing can save you an absurd amount of miles (with some key caveats)

When you just can’t find the right price on the award you want, it might be worth looking at the price of that award to different cities. While “hidden city ticketing” (also known as “skiplagging”) is a known process for spending less on paid tickets, the rise of more revenue-based frequent flyer programs has implications that include opportunities to save — and sometimes save big – on award tickets. How big? Maybe six figures per passenger.

Award booking hacks for saving miles

While hidden city ticketing is one technique to potentially save miles when booking your award ticket, it isn’t the only game in town. There are a number of great ways to “hack” award bookings to save more miles. This post lays out each of the many techniques we use regularly to save on award travel.

Why the focus on business and first class redemptions? (on Nick’s mind)

Of course, when we talk about “saving” on award travel, we are most often talking about ways to reduce the price of flying in business or first class. Why are bloggers so focused on sweet spots in premium cabins when the clear majority of customers are flying in economy class? The short story for me is that many economy class redemptions don’t always yield very good value and even when they do, the gap between a business class award and an economy class award can sometime be a lot smaller than one would expect.

The ultimate $190 point collector’s wallet

If you’re looking to narrow the gap between where your point collection is now and where you want it to be, you might consider some of the cards we each put in our theoretical wallets when challenged to come up with the best point-collecting combinations for less than $250 in annual fees. That was the topic of last weekend’s podcast, but this week Greg wrote out our picks and rationale for those who may prefer to take it all in via written word.

30 Million+ Membership Rewards: Points Earned By Frequent Miler Insiders On Referral Threads In 1 Year

Celebration concert

If you’d like to take in some extra points to get you closer to that next award, you might want to check your Amex account for the ability to refer to the Platinum 150K or Gold 90K offers. Stephen writes this week about how Frequent Miler Insiders Facebook group members have collectively earned more than 30,000,000 points by sharing with us their direct special-offer links (which we then publish on our Best Offers page). Note several key things: first, we only take direct links to the 150K / 90K offer (so you’ll need to log in to your American Express account and if it says within your bank login that your friend will receive 150K / 90K, that’s the targeted direct link to this offer….links generated from other cards do not pull up the same increased offer every time) and the only place to share your link is in the dedicated Frequent Miler Insiders thread as a reply to my first comment as per the thread instructions. Feel free to join the group and leave your link in the appropriate place if you have one of these two targeted referral offers.

Bilt adds free Point.me integration for award searches with partners!

In what can only be described as an awesome value-add, the (free-to-join) Bilt Rewards app now has an integration with Point.me that allows Bilt members (again, it’s free to join!) access to award searches across Bilt’s 12 airline partner programs. This is a valuable tool that I use almost daily; getting access for free is probably reason enough to join and engage with Bilt. Keep in mind that the tool is slow — the Bilt version isn’t showing any results until the tool completely finishes a search (which takes just over two minutes), but the time savings over searching each program individually can quickly add up.

Greg’s New Zealand trip, tips, and recommendations

Greg recently spent a couple of weeks in New Zealand. His trip looked amazing, which is clearly reflected in this step-by-step review he wrote that gives us insight into the places he went and things he did. I especially loved his starring system, which gives the reader an easy way to refer back in the future and remember how much Greg liked any particular place or activity. There is a lot to take in here, but be forewarned that it’s probably going to make you really want to visit New Zealand.

Cost of CLEAR is going up for United and Delta members

CLEAR kiosks airport

If you currently have a CLEAR membership for two people that you’ve been covering with a single Amex Platinum or Green card, you’ll want to take notice that the cost is going up for those with the United or Delta discounts and the annual reimbursement on a single qualifying Amex card will not cover the cost for two members starting at next renewal after 2/1/23. You can of course sign up individually if you have two cards offering CLEAR reimbursements, but I wanted to include this post in week in review so that you know to do so if you’ll be affected.

Marriott’s Surprisingly Good New Promo: Earn 1k Bonus Points Per Night + Double Elite Nights

Marriott Promotion Earn 1,000 bonus points + double elite nights

This week’s deal of the week (apart from that ANA first class availability!) is Marriott’s latest promotion: register now to earn 1,000 bonus points per night and double elite credit from February 7 to April 23rd. As we mention on this week’s Frequent Miler on the Air, the chance for double elite night credits is enough to make both Greg and I shift some stays from Hyatt to Marriott. Whether or not you intend to chase Marriott elite status this year, it’s worth registering so you position yourself to take advantage of this if you happen to end up with a qualifying stay.


That’s it for this week at Frequent Miler. Keep your eye on our month-ending last chance deals to make sure you don’t miss anything scheduled to end this week.

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aggiemd

Normally I love your podcast-I anticipate it weekly and listen to it when I walk my lab mix, so it’s a reward for slogging through the hourlong chore and making it to the weekend. Sadly, today was like listening to two bros dissect their championship softball game (*not in a good way). Normally, when Nick goes on his Southwest/Vacasa/Turkish->Hawaii spiel, I can tune out and watch paint try/floss/clean my refrigerator, but this just went on too long. I understand you’re excited but the overlapping hyped up discourse didn’t work for me. Congrats on scoring seats and having a new challenge to plan (I’m guessing, I couldn’t make it through to hear the final score, it was just too painful and I left in the top of the fourth inning or so).

himnim

Listened to the podcast today and had to drop a comment because I have experience with the middle name thing – I flew HND-LAX in The Room in December (close-in availability ~3 weeks out) and can confirm ANA does seem to have some sort of issue with middle names, but maybe not really? I checked in online and all was fine, then we went to the desk at HND to check bags and get paper boarding passes. The agent told me that she could not allow me to check my bags as the ticket did not have my middle name (P2 does not have a middle name and was fine). The agent told me I would have to contact Air Canada to get the middle name added, but their phone support was not available at that time. She also imposed a 30 minute time limit on us (not sure why). We checked bags under P2s name (after repeatedly confirming to the desk agent that P2 would make the flight even if I could not) and then sat down to think of our options.

I tried adding my middle name on my reservation on ANA’s website and it saved successfully (confirmed on multiple devices), but the resultant QR code still didn’t have my middle name. Since my online check-in was fine and I had a QR code boarding pass, I tried the self service check-in kiosk and was able to enter my information (or scan my QR code, I forget which) and the paper boarding pass printed out. We decided to take the risk and went through security without returning to the desk. Security let us through, then the ANA lounge let us in, and finally the boarding agent didn’t say anything about my missing middle name on the boarding pass.

Seems there must be some training or rule about middle names but it is not enforced consistently. In any case, sounds like you all got it figured out, but just wanted to drop my anecdote in case it helps anybody in the future. P2 is adamant that I have to put my middle name on every ticket now, she definitely developed a stress ulcer during those 20-30 minutes

[…] the event you listened to this morning’s podcast and browse the headline above, you already know what this publish goes to be about. Nevertheless, […]

Mayukita

Hello folks at Frequent Miler! This episode was so enetertaining! I am so happy to hear that you all can go to Japan in First Class ANA! I am learning to use miles through your pod cast and little by little learning the Way. I used United miles in domestic ANA flight between Haneda- Kochi last year in Oct, was about 5.5k and I thought it was a good deal. I hope you explor small cities besides Tokyo when you get there. I am looking forward to hear your experiences in Japan. April -May is great time to go weather wise. ENJOY!!

Mayukita

I fund information that name on the ticket MUST match your pass port name when fring internationaly in ANA website in japanese. https://www.ana.co.jp/ja/jp/guide/reservation/international/typing/
But I could not find same info in English site.
I have used Japanese travel agency in US when traveling U.S. to Japan in A.A. JAL UNITED ANA DELTA and they are always keen on makig sure your name on the ticket matches exactly to your pass port. I am guessing that Japanese culture/ protocol usually has to follow any sort of official rules so they are just enforcing the rule.

Mayukita

Hi Nick! I did find english page about this name requirment.
https://www.ana.co.jp/en/jp/guide/reservation/international/typing/
I googled and search some information about name mistake in Japan and most airline requires you to rebook with correct name other wise you can not fly internationally out of Japan. Domestic flight in Japan seems more relaxed about name. They also recomends if your name does not match to your passport even with one letter please contact ANA customer service prior to the flight to correct. I read a few case that airline can correct the name if you call with small fee and also at the check in counter in some cases.
personally if I had middle name I will make sure to put that on my ticket if that is the way on your passport. But it is also all depands on check in agent’s discretion too. They may not deny you if you don’t have middle name on ticket. Maybe next time I am in Japan, I will ask friendly ANA agent about this 😉

Bill

For my NRT-SFO 1st booking, the Virgin Atlantic rep spelled my wife’s last name wrong. Called in to deal with it after listening to the episode this morning and VS is basically telling me they’ll waive the cancelation fee (wow, thanks) but otherwise to go pound sand. I even waited on hold while they listened to the recording of my original phone booking and admitted I spelled it correctly to the rep. Obviously the 1st space is long gone at this point.

Mostly posting just to vent, but if anyone at FM or other readers have any bright ideas I’d love to hear.

Bill

Thanks for the reply Nick. The error is two vowels transposed in the name.

To add insult to injury, this is part of our honeymoon and thus wasn’t a gamble I was willing to take. The VS phone rep said my only recourse was to email their customer care. I explained the situation to them hoping for…I’m not even sure what exactly at this point. It’s extremely frustrating that this partnership exists but it really seems to be a left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing situation.

Last edited 7 months ago by Bill
AlexL

That is great to be in the frequent miler team. ANA first class suit. Wow.
I feel the excitement through the podcast. When the VA canceled Nick’s ticket to rebook, I was like “Nooooo.” Carrie’s recording is funny and Stephen is the winner-someone booked ANA first class for him while he was sleeping.

Sam

@Greg/Nick- I have a ton of Alaska Miles and I believe one of the best uses is on JAL. I keep trying to book US to Mumbai on JAL via Alaska Miles but nothing pops up. Do I need to do a Multi City search or is there a trick that I am missing here to do searches on Alaska site for this particular booking? Any help help is greatly appreciated. Thanks

Lukas

JAL F pops up regularly two weeks before departure date. Keep checking.

Sco

I’m curious if Nick would have legally changed his middle name to Alexandra if that was the only way to get to fly the ticket.

Dan

It’s a nice trip for 4 adults, but kids that are in school can’t just travel whenever. That is far more challenging.

Sam

@Greg- Did you book a roundtrip on ANA First Class? Thanks

Greg The Frequent Miler

One way from Tokyo to SFO. Now the fun is to find 5 biz or first class seats to Asia!

Sam

Thanks. We were reverse. One way booked for 4 SFO to Tokyo but now need to figure out the return!

LarryInNYC

I guess that can be the actual challenge — best itinerary to arrive in Tokyo or something. Otherwise, with all of you in The Suite all I can imagine is a contest to see who can consume the most caviar or something, kind of like the Coney Island hot dog competition.