Bulk Fares on @Delta, @United, and @American

Earlier this week Enoch of PointMeToThePlane shared the results of an experiment where he used the Citi ThankYou points portal to pay for part of an American Airlines ticket. While not something unusual at first glance, Enoch pointed out that the earning was based on the distance flown instead of the amount spent. Interestingly enough, the qualifying spend was also based on the distance flown. The reason for this is that the ticket is a special fare.

American is by no means unique in offering special fares. In fact, United and Delta also have these fares. The frustrating thing is that it isn’t always clear what kind of fare you are buying, particularly with Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), because the fare type is different from the fare code. Bulk fares like this will still have the same letters you are used to seeing when purchasing tickets directly from the airline.

Julian over at FrequentMiler expanded on this information in the blog’s Devil’s Advocate column. You can see charts for the fares discussed on each airline’s website. These charts are also below, and each is accompanied by a link to the exception fare page for the respective airline.

American Airlines Exception Fares
American Airlines Exception Fares


United Airlines Exception Fares
United Airlines Exception Fares


Delta Airlines Exception Fares
Delta Airlines Exception Fares

While this might seem appealing, especially to earn more miles on cheap fares, be very careful with these bookings. As you might notice with the links above, the spend earning rate is sometimes 0% of the miles flown (as with United for non premium fares).

Another dangerous thing is that when you book using an OTA, you might wind up buying a ‘basic’ fare. Rene at RenesPoints detailed his experience comparing the prices at OTAs with what is offered from the airline, you sometimes don’t receive any warning in your booking. Like Citi, Chase allows you to spend their rewards points to buy tickets through their online portal. Rene pointed out that when booking this way, you don’t receive any warning that the ticket you are buying is Basic Economy.

Current Flight Deals

There are quite a few flight deals available right now – both for domestic and international travel. I’ve listed some of the big ones out below – keep in mind that some of these sales expire quickly!

JetBlue is offering many one-way flights starting at $39! The full list of terms and conditions are available at the JetBlue website.

British Airways is offering triple Avios earned on all flights, which can be quite generous when combined with the AARP discount. Keep in mind that earning is based on fare class and distance flown.

Delta, American Airlines, and United Airlines all have excellent deals from various US airports to Europe. If you have any flights coming up on one of these airlines, it would definitely be a good idea to check out if you can get a lower price.

Virgin Atlantic is offering a 30% discount for Economy and Premium Economy tickets! This makes for affordable flights, though be warned that these award tickets do come with some hefty fuel surcharges (in the £200 range for Economy, and £400 for Premium Economy).

Finally, American Express has released some new offers, one of which is a $200 discount on Delta purchases of $1000 or more! Remember that you can open a new tab for each AmEx card you have, allowing you to get the same offer multiple times – one of my favorite tricks.

Sacramento Flight and LAX Plane Spotting

To maintain my status with Delta, I like to plan creative routes when traveling. For my trip to Sacramento this week, I opted to fly from Raleigh to Atlanta, Atlanta to Los Angeles, and Los Angeles to Sacramento (instead of to Salt Lake, and from there directly, for example… or directly from Atlanta… or many other options).

737-900 First Class

My first flight of the day was on one of Delta’s 737-900s. Though the seats are quite comfortable, and the in-flight entertainment console is crisp, the air-flow in the cabin is horrendous. Older 757s and even 717s have much more directed air pressure, allowing you to remain cooler. Extremely important when you’re in the South!

First Class on a 737-900
First Class on a 737-900
737-900 In-Flight Entertainment
737-900 In-Flight Entertainment
Outlets, outlets everywhere!
Outlets, outlets everywhere!

757-200 Thrust Reversal

My second flight, the longest leg, was on a 757-200. Unfortunately I didn’t get upgraded on this leg (I didn’t really expect to, since I was flying out of Atlanta). The nice thing about this was my seat was immediately in front of the engine. This allowed me to capture the thrust-reversal upon landing in LAX!

All 757-200s use one of two engines (one of which has two variants):

According to the Delta Museum, and using FlightRadar24 to cross-check the tail-number based on flight number, I confirmed that my 757-200 was using the PW2037.

Now for some background on thrust reversal! The purpose of thrust reversal is to take some of the engine’s thrust and direct it forward instead of backwards. This allows for shorter landing distances, less wear on brakes, and make for an all around safer flying experience. If you listen after landing, you will hear a loud woosh – that is the thrust reversal process. The Wikipedia article above identifies three types of thrust reversal mechanisms available for jet engines:

  • Target
  • Clam-shell
  • Cold Stream

Purdue released a very helpful visual guide to differentiate between the three, as well as an explanation of where the thrust actually goes! Since the PW2000 series is a high by-pass engine, the cold stream type is what we would expect, and as you can see it is indeed what is happening:

At the gate in ATL
Thrust Reversal!

Arizona Meteor Crater

And now, a brief reprieve from AvGeekery. 😉 Very brief.

En route to Los Angeles, we crossed just south of the Barringer Crater! You can see it up and to the left of the engine intake, below.

Barringer Meteor Crater
Barringer Meteor Crater

Plane Spotting!

Upon Arrival at LAX, I made my way to the SkyClub in the middle of Terminal 5. From one of the seats along the window, I was able to see planes arrive and depart. Given LAX’s traffic, I got to see quite a few wide-bodies, as well as one of Alaska’s 737-900ERs! Lucky, on his blog “One Mile at a Time”, has a very nice guide on differentiating between different variants of wide-body aircraft. Simply put, it largely comes down to the number of wheels, engines, or doors they have. 😉

I tried to find the right version of their seat map on SeatGuru, and have provided links to those, as well. If you find something amiss, please let me know!

Boeing 737-900ER
Airbus A340-300
Boeing 777-200ER
Boeing 777-300ER
Boeing 777-200LR
Airbus A380

After an hour and a half, because the inbound flight was a little late in arriving, I was on my way to Sacramento. It’s not a true visit to LAX without catching a glimpse of the Theme Building!

LAX Theme Building

American Airlines: Gold Status Offer

The Offer

A couple of days ago, I received an offer from American Airlines to enjoy Gold Elite Status through December 16th of this year. If I acquire 7,000 Elite Qualifying Miles in that time, I keep my status through January 2018! The icing on the cake is that this offer comes with 10, 500-mile upgrade certificates!

I love surprises!
I love surprises!

The Plan

I’m not 100% sure I’ll be able to take full advantage of this offer, but I signed up to be safe. I have a few routes that I’m throwing around in my head, but it comes down to if I can maintain Diamond status with only my work flights. I value maintaining Diamond substantially higher, since it allows me to confer Gold to my girlfriend for when she has to fly alone.

The Perks

Though Gold is the lowest level of status you can earn with American Airlines, the 40% mileage bonus and complimentary preferred seats are a nice touch. Main Cabin Extra seats are only available at the time of check-in, so it’s not terribly likely, but still a nice perk to have. Though my credit card allows a free checked bag as well as Group 1 boarding, Gold will offer quicker boarding when I’m traveling as well as another checked bag.

All in all, it isn’t a bad status to have! Since Delta requires 140 segments to maintain Diamond medallion, and American Airlines only requires 120 to maintain Executive Platinum, it is a tempting nudge to switch. The main detractor is the timing of flights for American when I leave Raleigh (to reach connecting cities), and the frequency of cancellations for the same. Delta’s operational record is what keeps me coming back for more, truth be told. In fact, the COO of American Airlines commended Delta for their record last year!

As I mentioned, though, if I need my Thanksgiving flights to maintain Diamond with Delta, American will be out of luck. Oh well!