Want to know more about the Faces of FlyerTalk?
Paul A (CDKing) is originally from the Pacific Northwest, but now resides in the Boston area. He’s a loyal Alaska Airlines flyer that gets to enjoy benefits from Alaska, Delta, and American due to the partnerships that Alaska has with both airlines. He’s earned over 1,000,000 frequent flyer miles … without a single credit card. Paul doesn’t travel for business, and has figured out how to make this all possible with great leisure fares and his personal travel.
Paul, we’re glad to have you as a part of the “Faces of FlyerTalk”.
When did you find FlyerTalk and how did you find it?
I was living on the west coast and met a wonderful woman online who happened to live in Boston. I had flown a few times before and always wanted to go to Boston as it was the longest domestic route I could find. She convinced me to fly to see her. I was searching for information on carry-on limits and FlyerTalk happen to be near the top of the results page and the advice was very helpful. I joined at that time but only visited the site a few times. We really hit it off, so i ended up flying back and forth several times to see her. I spent a lot of time in the US Air forum to keep up on how things work. By the end of the year I finally hit silver status and I have been hooked since.
Do you consider yourself an infrequent, fairly regular, or miles and points addicted reader?
I am a point’s addicted reader. I started out fairly small with 25K In my first year. As soon as I moved to Boston, I decided to keep up my travels back to Oregon to see my friends. I wasn’t too thrilled about flying US Airways as their prices were way up and schedules not as compatible going the opposite direction. I found out on FlyerTalk that Alaska Airlines would match my status. The rest was history. I jumped up to 70-80K a year after the switch. Now I’m doing about 125K to 150K a year all leisure.
How often are you on FlyerTalk, and what forums do you typically visit?
I would say I pretty much live on FlyerTalk now. I check the Mileage run deals at least a dozen times a day. Mileage run deals and mistake fares are an excellent way to get a lot of miles for very little cost. I spend a lot of time in the Alaska Airlines forum, which has been my primary carrier for the last three years. I’ve recently switched a majority of my travel to United so I visit to keep up with what’s going on with the merger. Another favorite of mine is Community Buzz. That’s what FlyerTalk is really about, meeting likeminded people. There’s so many forums on FlyerTalk, there pretty much something for everyone.
Do you travel for business, leisure, or both?
I have only been on one business trip in my life. I’m kind of jealous of those that have someone else pay their travel bill. What I don’t envy is business travelers spend most of their time meeting with clients and not much sightseeing, if any. It’s great traveling for fun.
What credit cards are you carrying in your wallet right now, and which ones do you recommend to friends?
I do not carry any credit cards. I did not respect my credit when I was younger so it’s pretty much impossible to get approved. I do have an Alaska Airlines debit card which used to earn me 1000 miles on each ticket purchase. Unfortunately with the changes in banking law it does not earn me what it used to.
What’s the single most successful thing you’ve done to acquire points and miles?
I’ve been lucky by visiting the mileage run deals forum at the right times. I’ve flown cross country several times for only $60 round trip. Expedia Deal in December of 2010 was great. It was a $300 off a package with airfare and hotel but a minimum spend was not programmed. I went to Las Vegas for a weekend for only $45. I was also very lucky and I had booked several $220 roundtrip transcon’s and Alaska Air ended up offering double RDM on the route. With the elite bonus I was earning triple RDM and cleared every upgrade making it a very good run.
How many miles / points have you accumulated in the past year? In your lifetime?
With Alaska Airlines and partners, I’ve earned just shy of 900K redeemable miles in the last 3.5 years. I’m currently on the trip that brings me to 250K butt in seat miles on Alaska metal. Including the miles earned in various program I’m at around 1.25 million redeemable miles lifetime.
Do you use a tracking program to keep track of your miles / points? Which one?
I’ve tried AwardWallet which I think is very good. I’ve been trying to increase my knowledge of MS Excel for work so I’ve decided to use that to track my miles. I like the fact it’s easier to manipulate the data to better keep track of my progress to the next elite level or any other details I’m looking for.
How does your spouse / partner / family / friends feel about this hobby?
My girlfriend is very supportive of my hobby. At first she thought I was completely crazy, well until she enjoyed a few upgrades. When I made my first miles redemption and she saw the cash price would have been $15K USD, and then she truly saw the light. On the other hand my friends and co-workers think I’m nuts. I was surprised when my newest co-worker said she thinks it’s the coolest thing.
What’s your most memorable trip?
My most memorable trip was to OZ Fest DO in Darwin Australia. It was also my first ever international trip. I decided to make a splash into ultra long-haul travel. I decided that I wanted to try out Cathay Pacific first class which I had heard was the best. The closest departure city to me with availability was Toronto. The destination I wanted was also not served by my airline choice. What I did was booked to the closest city to my final destination turning this into a multi-city “trip of a lifetime”. I flew Boston – Toronto – Hong Kong – Bali – Darwin and back. Since my miles trip only allowed a stop-over in Hong Kong, buying positioning flights allowed me to make my own stop overs. I ended up getting a nice two night preview of each city I transited along with my week in Australia. I experienced five new airlines, four new plane types and finally tried out international first and International business class cabins.
What suggestions can you give to rookies and newbies on FlyerTalk?
I would suggest browsing all the different forums that make up the site. There are a lot of topics covered from miles to food to the latest travel gadgets. I encourage all visitors to read the FAQS as they can help summarize many questions they may have. I strongly suggest new members check out Community Buzz and find a DO to attend to meet others with same interests.
Are there any particular fellow FlyerTalk members whose advice you follow?
I don’t follow anyone in particular. Everyone has good advice to give. I like to follow Seat 2A’s trip reports as it inspires me to fly even more.
What’s the one thing you’d like to see change on FlyerTalk?
Sometimes I wish people were nicer to each other when they have disagreements. Moderators are good about taking down personal attacks. I don’t think I’d change anything else.
Have you attended or are you planning on attending any FlyerTalk related events?
I try to attend at least one or two major DO’s every year. My first DO was a Mileage Run 101 Seminar in 2009 put on by Viajero Joven. I learned a lot about finding cheap fares which started off my obsession with miles. I also have attended two DO’s in Alaska and I’m looking forward to going to a third one up there in June 2012. OZ Fest is another great DO, I always needed an excuse to go to Australia and had an excellent time last year. Another one of my favorites is the Chicago Seminar DO’s put on by Ingy. Even if you know all there is to know there’s always the chance to network as many of the big names on FlyerTalk show up.
Paul, thanks again for sharing your story with us all. I’m looking forward to hearing about your future trips and for the opportunity to meet in person in Chicago this October at the Chicago Seminars. We’ll be changing your FlyerTalk membership to the Premium Service, sending you a pair of luggage tags, and exclusive FlyerTalk lapel pin. In addition your avatar will now show you, as one of the Faces of FlyerTalk for years to come.
Below are some pictures that Paul shared with us:
Deal of the Day
For today’s Deal of the Day AutoSlash is donating a $50 Hertz Gift Certificate for the best overall travel deal submitted. A great mileage run, mistake fare, partner promo, new card sign-up offer, or the special twist you figured out on a deal today. Add it to the comments section of this post (make sure to include your first name, last inital, and home airport) or this afternoon’s Deal of the Day post to be eligible to win.