Mount Sutro: An Electronic Periodical

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The City by the Bay

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Photo Credit: Marc Malonzo IV — Golden Gate Bridge and Fort Point, Marine Drive, San Francisco, California, 26 January 2009 Not discounting all the wonderful travels I have experienced over the past several years, I am very excited to be returning to San Francisco just shy of one decade since my last visit in June 1999 shortly after high school graduation. I will be in town staying in the Mission District from Wednesday, 20 May through Thursday, 28 May 2009. For those who may be interested in meeting for lunch or something, please contact me so we can arrange it. I started looking into the possibility of going this year with the thought of using collected frequent flyer points to keep costs down and vacationing over a holiday to take advantage of the free day off work. In addition, I wanted two-segment (one layover) flights through Memphis International Airport if possible. In mid-January, I formed a plan that met these criteria and on the twenty-second decided to book my travel. According to the Northwest Airlines website, I could purchase additional WorldPerks reward points to increase my balance from 19,754 to 25,000, the amount necessary for a domestic roundtrip flight. Sold in increments of 1,000, I spent $201.03 for 6,000 points, much less than the nearly $500 the tickets alone cost. Continuing to the booking page, I discovered that I still did not have enough points to purchase the tickets. Puzzled and worried I had just made a critical mistake, I re-read the award travel chart detailing how many points it costs to travel to domestic and international destinations. Changed since my last visit to the site, the chart shows most US domestic flights now require 40,000 points for roundtrip travel. I dialed the number for Northwest customer service and waited for an agent, sipping on a freshly mixed cocktail and determined to find a solution. After explaining the situation to the agent and learning the reward travel redemption policies just changed on 15 January 2009, I was presented with three alternatives to my original plan, each with pros and cons of their own.     a.   Leave one day later and have two layovers; return on desired date and flights.     b.   Leave one day earlier on desired flights; return one day later and have two layovers.     c.   Go with my original plan, but use 12,500 points and an additional $250. The third plan was unacceptable since I was not willing to pay more after already purchasing the 6,000 points. The first plan was undesirable for the delayed departure and extra layover. Left with one plan, I told the agent to proceed with booking the second itinerary. I was informed there would be a $20 fee for booking via telephone, perfectly acceptable considering my need for the agent's services was self-induced. The real fee for my oversight will be paid on the day I return home. My flight departs San Francisco International at 0630 PDT, a mere thirty-nine minutes after sunrise, bound for Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. From there I will fly to the one airport I specifically tried to avoid, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, to catch a CRJ-900 back to Tallahassee Regional. It will be a long day but I live close to the airport, so as long as everything runs on time I should be in my bed by 2200 EDT. In the next weeks and months, I will have the chance to prepare a basic agenda, highlighting places I want to go and things I want to photograph. With any luck, the reward travel snafu will be the sole glitch on this trip. I had a dream the other night where I got to San Francisco and realized I had forgotten my camera, of all things. I think after neglecting to bring my battery charger to Japan there is no chance of that happening, but it still amuses me to know my subconscious mind is pondering the trip too.
Related Article → The Remote Experience
Photo Credit: Marc Malonzo IV

Two Comment Bubbles two Comments

  • Jeff

    Good for you; I used to be a airline-mileage hoarder, then after circumstances changed to where I wasn't flying/earning as much anymore, I figured these miles aren't doing me much good sitting (and periodically depreciating) in the "bank," so I've been redeeming them on trips when it's been advantageous.

    Random travel tip: one thing that has changed since your last San Francisco visit is that BART now goes to SFO. If you don't have a ride, it's definitely the cheapest alternative to/from the airport, and if you are headed somewhere on a BART line (like the Mission), it's not too bad a schlep with luggage.

  • David July

    I am glad I used the points when I did because it now costs so many more to get a flight.

    Fortunately, I will be picked up by car at SFO, though I have always considered BART my backup option. It will only cost $5.30 to get me within blocks of my destination.

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