Posts Tagged ‘Southwest Airlines’

Travel Whoredom: Part 2 Expanding Horizons

In my last post, I wrote small primer on flying frequently.  My flying is primarily with Southwest Airlines and it’s been an a new evolution in flying to consider flying an airline other than my favorite.  I have come to the evolution in flying because I would like to eventually fly to other parts of the world.  I would love to visit Hong Kong again.  Now that a friend is relocating there for a new chapter of life, it would be sweet to see him again there.  There are still many places in the United States to which I would love to visit and see.  But this is a big world, and many more places are here to see!

Since Southwest only flies within the United States, I have noticed that my city options are a little limited with the airline.  My flying horizons expand in light of Southwest’s limited reach.  Thus I’ve  turned to the offerings of the so called “legacy” airlines.

Legacy airlines, like United, Continental, Delta, and American are called that because they’ve been around since the early days of aviation.  They have a different business model than the “Low Cost Carriers” like Southwest Airlines.  Whereas Southwest Airlines was built from the ground up on efficiency, the legacy airlines have had to morph into leaner and meaner machines to keep competing and make a profit.  The upper hand legacy carriers have against Southwest is its’ networks.  They simply fly to more places.

Airline networks get complex with another layer.  They come in the form of alliances and codeshares.  There are three worldwide alliances: Star Alliance, SkyTeam, and One World.  Star In the US, each alliance is anchored by United, Delta, and American, respectively.  Each alliance has it’s strengths and weaknesses.  Bottom line, they get you from point A to point B all while earning the frequent flier miles.

Since I am from and still live in California, my origin point in my flying is here on the West Coast.  The dominant legacy airline here is United.  With two major hubs in the state (San Francisco and Los Angeles), United and it’s partners can take you pretty much anywhere with 2 connections.  My aspirations to travel to Asia and Australia further help with looking at the Star Alliance as the preferred network.

United Airlines itself has a substantial presence across the Pacific.  Add the Star Alliance partners of Singapore Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Air China, Thai Airways, Shanghai Airlines, and Asiana Airlines, and this is quite the coverage!  Singapore, Japan, China, Thailand, Korea and many points in between are reached.  How could one NOT choose this alliance?!  (Yes, there are arguments against…)

Thus, my shift in focusing all my spending and flying on Southwest has shifted to thinking about flying and earning points to Star Alliance carriers.  My previous post discussing earning points with a credit card and flying on a single carrier is slowly changing.  Instead of exclusively checking Southwest for my flying needs, I have begun to look at the Star Alliance carriers of United and Continental.  (US Airways is also in the Star Alliance, but I am choosing not to patronize them because this company is based in Arizona.  Arizona has immigration laws which I don’t agree…but I digress.)

An interesting twist in the Airline world is happening.  United and Continental have agreed to merge into one large airline.  So, the earned miles that I have done on both carriers will soon come together into one.  (Eventually!)  Some upcoming domestic trips will be on these legacy carriers, and I look forward to experiencing the good and bad they offer.  It’s a joy and privilege to have choices and enjoy air travel.  Cheers to more amazing flying!

Travel Whoredom Part 1: Frequent Flying

Frequently travelling has it’s pluses and minuses.  I love to travel as it’s a way to see those I love and be present in a way that no Skype call, text, or Facebook message can provide.  Of course it takes time, and it does take money.  But those finite resources are well spent with people.

Companies reward frequent travelers with programs and incentives.  We can “get back” a little bit of what is spent.  Thus, I have become a whore of some ways to many programs.  Not only am I a member of certain programs, but I have taken membership to another level by maximizing the benefits for every dollar spent.  (There are many more levels to go as I have seen!)

Flying has been a reality since the parental units decided to move to Las Vegas.  It’s funny to think that much travel in and out of that city connotes bachelor parties, hangovers, losing life savings, and straight up debauchery, yet a lot of my time is just to hangout with good ol mom & dad.  They’ve started a vacation home business anyway (inquire within if you’re looking for a place to stay!).  I don’t really ever want to drive the 10 hours to/from Vegas any more from Northern California.  It’s just grueling.  Flying is simply much more enjoyable.  I have had the pleasure of getting to know Southwest Airlines as a wonderful service.  Southwest Airlines has built up its low fare brand very nicely in California.

First of course, one has to fly frequently!  Thankfully, Southwest has been there to fly where I needed to go, and at a low low price.  The short hops from Northern California to Las Vegas or Southern California makes it easy to build up reward points.  Flying only once or twice a year doesn’t build up the reward points.  Actual flying does.  To build up the supply of points, you can supplement earning in a variety of methods.

Secondly, the Southwest branded credit card pays off nicely.  This card adds to the reward earning power.  Yes there is an annual fee.  But it is worth it since that cost is far less than the price for a round trip ticket to anywhere Southwest flies.  Simply put, consolidating all spending onto one card earns enough points to keep earning these travel awards.

Lastly, due diligence reaps dividends.  Keeping an ear to the ground for deals, tips, and tricks of the trade works.  Knowing the benefits and limitations of the rewards programs was a must.  I was made aware of travel forums like FlyerTalk.com is a treasure trove of information.  Tapping into the experiences of many other travelers is a wealth of knowledge to inform and has helped me make decisions.

Maximizing benefits for every dollar spent is a game.  I’ve had many hours of enjoyment trying to get the best deal.  It’s spending money wisely!  Plus, I attribute my deal-mongering to the influences of my parents.  Thankfully, lessons learned from them enable me to keep my relationship going strong with them.  I get to see them despite the physical distance.  The advent of frequent flyer programs is another tool in my pocket to keep relationships up.