I Lived on Airplanes for 72 Hours This Weekend — And Survived
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I love to fly, but I’m not sure I’d ever willingly take on this itinerary. Join TPG intern Kevin Song on his insane 72-hour mileage run marathon, including four Atlantic crossings, two transcons and a round-trip to Honolulu.
“Sir, how long were you out of the country for?” It’s a question I got twice this weekend at Dublin’s US Customs and Border Protection pre-clearance facility. The answer was, both times, “about 15 minutes.” After the inevitable confused look, and before the agent would sigh at an American citizen without an apparent strong grasp on English comprehension, I explained: “I just arrived from New York, and am transiting back to New York.”
Both times, the answer back was a simple two word phrase, “But why?”
Why indeed? Last weekend, I sat on planes for almost a full 72 hours. Between Friday afternoon and Monday afternoon, I took 8 long-haul flights to four cities, flew 22,778 miles, amassed five of American’s heritage amenity kits — and never exited an airport. All for the sole purpose of earning miles.
As I shared my plans with friends before the trip, they all thought I was crazy. And to be fair, I might just be. Here’s my itinerary from this weekend: I started off at New York’s JFK airport, flew to Dublin, New York, Los Angeles, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York, Dublin and finally back to New York.
Over the next few days, I’ll be sharing more on how I booked the flights, the miles that I earned and the value that I’ll get out of those miles. For now, I’ll quickly go over some details of my trip.
I booked this trip as two separate fares: New York to Dublin round-trip, to take advantage of the ongoing AARP discount on tickets booked through British Airways, and Dublin to Honolulu round-trip, to take advantage of really great fares from Dublin.
The goal? To maximize the miles I’d earn to save up for some incredible award redemptions, such as to Asia in Cathay Pacific’s comfy first class, or aboard Etihad’s A380 in The Apartment, as TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig recently did.
Plus, I figured I might need a bit of a boost to get to the 100,000 elite-qualifying points threshold to renew my Executive Platinum status for next year and get those eight coveted systemwide upgrades.
Nothing comes for free, though — these flights were definitely pricey. I spent $1,992 to get from Dublin to Honolulu, and another $1,616 to get to Dublin from New York. Expensive? Yes. But, for me, it was worth it.
All of my flights were on American’s planes, with the Dublin and Honolulu flights on aging Boeing 757s and the New York-Los Angeles flights on the stylish, new A321T.
Thankfully, I had booked the trip almost entirely in business class (save for the first leg), so it wasn’t quite as bad as sitting in a cramped economy seat for 72 hours. Along the way, I was able to get some work done (despite only the JFK-LAX flight offering Wi-Fi), catch up on some TV shows and books and see some stunning views descending into Honolulu.
The Dublin flights had American’s aging, angle-flat 757 configuration and weren’t very impressive at all. Likewise, the Honolulu legs had domestically configured first-class recliner seats — again, not too comfortable. The transcontinental flights are where the airline shined, though — it’s still no international business class, but at least I got a flat bed to sleep on, and a sparkling-clean plane.
On the Ground
Equally important to the planes on my trip were the airports I chose to stop at. Most were domestic with decent lounges that offered showers. Simultaneously, my Dublin legs were on the same physical plane, so despite being international with immigration concerns, it was pretty much impossible to miss my connection and be stranded in Dublin. Even better, building in an international destination afforded me access to American’s Flagship Lounges at JFK and LAX, which, while they can’t compare to an international first class lounge overseas, are still a huge step up from Admirals Clubs.
When living on planes and in airports for 72 hours straight, the ground experience is incredibly important. The short respite of ground-level air pressure and humidity were incredibly welcome after each flight, and having the ability to escape from the craziness of the airport in a comfortable lounge was a blessing.
What I Learned
Over the next few days, I’ll continue to share some of my experiences and what I learned from the trip — including what to look for if you want to do a crazy mileage run yourself.
It’s certainly not for everyone, but if you’re looking to rack up the miles faster to get to an award, or you’re shooting for elite status, it can be worth it!