How 12,150 Cups Of Chocolate Pudding Turned Into A Million Frequent Flyer Miles

Guy Who Turned Pudding Into a Lifetime of Free Air Travel Is Still Flying

While you may try to rack up frequent flyer miles from travel, airline-branded credit cards or online shopping, have you ever thought about pudding? One clever traveler turned a Healthy Choice promotion into enough miles to fly the world multiple times.

In 1999, Civil Engineer David Phillips noticed a promotion from Healthy Choice offering 500 American Airlines miles for every 10 product bar codes sent in, with a double bonus for sending them in the first month. Phillips figured out that the promotion would extend to all of their products, and searched his area supermarkets for the best deal. He started with 90-cent cans of soup, and then found a better deal: individual packages of chocolate pudding for 25 cents apiece. He bought every one available, spending a total of $3,140. This gave him 12,150 puddings worth over 1.2 million airline miles.

The story gets sweeter when you hear how he collected the bar codes for redemption. He started by putting his family to work, but they were soon (literally) sick of peeling the pudding lids and eating the stuff. He offered them up to Salvation Army for free, in return for the bar codes. For this, he was also able to get an $800 charitable tax deduction, bringing his investment down to around $2200. Netting over a million miles also gives him lifetime gold elite status on American, giving him an extra boost for accruing miles. His story inspired a similar plot in the movie “Punch Drunk Love.” Phillips continues to take advantage of frequent flyer promotions and deals, and now has over 4 million miles in his accounts.

Everything You Need To Know About Flying With An Infant Turning 2


flying with infant turning two

After flying with an infant to over a dozen countries and on nearly 50 flights in her 20 months, I figured I pretty much have baby travel down to a science, as much as you can call it “science” when dealing with a person who is often unpredictable and doesn’t respond to reason. While each flight gets more challenging, I’m relishing this travel time before she has opinions on where to go and what to do, and while our baggage allowance has grown, our travel style hasn’t changed much since having a baby. As her second birthday looms in July, I’m preparing for the biggest change to our travel style: having to pay full fare for her tickets as she “graduates” from infant fare. The FAA requires that all children over the age of 2 secure full fare and sit in their own seat, while babies under 2 can fly free domestically and at a fraction of the adult fare (usually 10%) internationally if they sit in a parent’s lap. So what happens if you take a trip to celebrate your child’s second birthday and they turn 2 before your return? Do you have to buy a ticket for the whole trip, just the return, or try to sneak under the wire (don’t do that)? We asked airlines for their policy on flying with a baby turning 2.

Note: These policies ONLY apply for the situation of flying with an infant under 24 months one-way and over 24 months on the return. Unless otherwise noted, a child age 2 or over for all legs of the trip will pay regular fare.Air New Zealand – Flying with the Kiwi carrier over a birthday will mean you will need to purchase a child fare (where available) for the entire journey, 75-80% of adult fare for economy tickets. Air New Zealand offers a variety of kid activities and meals, and we think the Skycouch option is perfect for young families.

American Airlines – Here’s one policy we hope new partner US Airways will honor: children turning 2 on their trip will get a free ride home with American Airlines. You will generally pay taxes and/or a portion of the adult fare for international trips, call reservations for details.

British Airways – One of the few airlines that make their policies clear on the website (they also tell you what to do when you are booking for a child who isn’t yet born!), British Airways will offer a free return for a child turning 2. More reasons to fly British: discounted child fares, families board early, you can “pool” all of your frequent flier miles on a household account, and special meals, entertainment and activity packs (ages 3 and up) are available on board for children.

Cathay Pacific – If your baby turns 2 in Hong Kong or another Cathay destination, you’ll pay a discounted child’s fare for the return only. Note that some flights might require a provided safety seat instead of your own car seat, but all flights provide infant and child meals, and “Junior VIPs” age three-six get a special activity pack.

DeltaDelta (along with partners Air France and KLM) requires you to purchase a ticket for the entire trip if your infant will turn 2 at any time before return. The good news is that on certain international routes, discounted children’s fares may be available, call reservations for details.

JetBlue – I’ve found JetBlue to be one of the most baby-friendly airlines, thanks to the free first checked bag, liberal stroller gate-check policy and early boarding for families with young children. Of course, the live TV and snacks don’t hurt either (my daughter likes the animal crackers, while I get the blue potato chips). Kids celebrating a second birthday before flying home on JetBlue will pay a one-way fare. You can book the one-way online, but should call reservations to make sure the reservation is linked to the whole family.

Lufthansa – A child fare (about 75% of adult fare) is applicable for the entire trip. The German airline is especially kid-friendly: the main website has a lot of useful information about flying with children, including how to pass time at the airport and ideas for games to play on board, and a special JetFriends kid’s club website for children and teens. On the plane, they provide baby food, snacks, and toys, a chef-designed children’s menu and special amenity kits in premium class. A nice additional extra for a parent traveling alone with a kid: Lufthansa has a family guide service to help navigate the airports in Frankfurt and Munich.

Qantas – For flights to and around down under, the child’s age at departure is used to calculate the fare, so the infant fare is honored on the return. Qantas offers meals for all young passengers, limited baby supplies and entertainment and kits on board for kids over three. On the website, kids can also download some fun activities and learn about planes.

Singapore Airlines – Good news for families flying on one of the world’s best airlines: if your child turns 2 during the journey, Singapore will provide a seat without charge. Once they graduate from infant fare, they pay 75% of adult fare. Singapore also offers a limited selection of “baby amenities,” such as diapers and bottles, and children flying on business class or higher tickets can choose from special kids’ meals.

United – A United rep declined to clarify their policy for this specific case, only emphasizing that any child 2 or older is required to purchase a seat. Assume you will pay at least one-way full-fare.

Virgin Atlantic – Virgin charges an infant fare for the whole journey, but the new 2-year-old will have their own special seat on the return. One of the world’s coolest airlines is also pretty cool for the small set, with free backpacks full of diversions (on flights from the UK), dedicated entertainment and meals.

With all the airlines above, Junior can start accruing frequent flier miles when he turns 2. Hoping to book the whole trip with miles? In general, you’ll spend the same number of miles for your child as your own seat, while lap infants traveling on miles will pay taxes and/or a fraction of the full-adult fare (this can get pretty pricey if you are flying in premium class).

Now where to plan that birthday trip?

For tips on getting through the actual flights, check out our guides to flying with a baby, winter and holiday travel with a baby, traveling abroad, and more in the Knocked Up Abroad series.

[Photo credit: Instagram KnockedUpAbroad/Meg Nesterov]

Virgin America And Singapore Airlines Launch Mileage Partnership – Star Alliance Next?

Passengers on the scrappy airline startup Virgin America were introduced to a new benefit last week: an expanded partnership with Singapore Airlines. Now, in addition to the assorted codeshare agreements currently in place, fliers on each airline can accrue miles from the partner carrier. So the 2000 Elevate points earned on Virgin America from Chicago to Los Angeles can now turn into 11,000 miles earned from Chicago to Los Angeles to Singapore. Conversely, passengers in Singapore’s KrisFlyer program can also earn miles on Virgin America’s domestic routes.

Shared mileage accrual also means that passengers in each frequent flier program will be able to redeem miles on partner carriers, so all of those domestic trips on Virgin America can now translate to international trips on Singapore.

Virgin America’s partnership with Singapore is a great step towards bringing in business from partner carriers, and one wonders whether this is the first step towards working larger networks. One of the biggest detractors to flying on the carrier has always been the lack of mileage partners in the United States, and if the airline were part of the Star, Oneworld or even Skyteam network, a huge market of business travelers would shift their business over. Since Singapore is part of the Star Alliance network, it may be a natural next step for Virgin America to partner with United Airlines, the biggest domestic Star carrier.

Were that the case, however, it might make sense for all of the Virgin carriers (i.e., Virgin Atlantic, V Australia, etc.) to join a global network, and since Virgin Atlantic just partnered up with Delta Air Lines (Skyteam), it seems that the brands are in conflict. Perhaps the cost of joining an alliance is just too high.

[Photo Credit: Virgin America]

Save With Frequent Flier Miles Using The Right Tools, Attitude

frequent flyer milesAccumulating frequent flier miles seems to be the easy part of the deal. We fly. We get miles. They add up. However, when we look a bit closer we find there are rules, and that all miles are not equal. Once we get tens of thousands of miles on a given airline or alliance, however, the focus shifts to using them. And that’s when life as a frequent flier can get difficult.

A good first step is to decide if you even want to play the mileage game or not. Frequent travelers, for business or pleasure, may have an easier time of deciding while those who rarely fly anywhere might think there’s no real point to it. Experts disagree.

Some do say frequent flier mileage programs are a scam. Consumer expert Christopher Elliott recently advised, “Remove all the frequent flier cards from your pocket. Grab a pair of scissors, cut the plastic into tiny little pieces and toss it in the trash,” reports John DiScala on his JohnnyJet website.

“I couldn’t disagree more,” replies DiScala who travels over 150,000 miles a year on about 30 different airlines. “In fact, I say do the opposite. Travelers should sign up to as many reward programs as possible because it’s basically free money if you play the game right.”Following that advice, or just falling into having loyalty accounts on a number of airlines, passengers find that figuring out which program to use for any given flight can be a chore. A new tool can help.

Milez.biz
is a cross program comparison and calculation tool that can calculate redemption between any two destinations for over 70 different programs.

In reply to our story questioning “How Frequent Fliers Might Be Affected By Airline Merger,” Philipp Gysling of Milez.biz writes, “for people wondering how the value of their miles may change post-merger, they can compare them now to see if they should try to cash some in.”

Entering any two destinations along with a choice of frequent flier programs produces quick results starting with the lowest rate for award flights found in the selected system. You can also transfer rates and calculate the number of points needed to convert and transfer from a hotel or credit card program.

An info button brings some extra information about the program in question and a click on “Login” links directly to the frequent flier program’s login page. Not a member? No problem, clicking “Apply” links to the frequent flier program’s application page.

“Check Rates” links to the frequent flier programs own calculator or rates tables.

Better yet, if the frequent flier program being viewed is distance based and a connection is necessary, the calculator will finds the best connection, then calculates the flight distance through that connection.

Need additional incentive to invest a little time in knowing about frequent flier programs?

“I’ve taken hundreds of flights all around the world thanks to using my frequent flier miles,” says DiScala, “including treating my parents first class to Europe on multiple occasions.”

Airline Offers Space Flight to Frequent Flyer Winner


[Photo credit – Flickr user Slices of Light]

How Frequent Fliers Might Be Affected By Airline Merger

frequent flyerSpeculation seems to be running rampant about potential losses to frequent flier accounts via the merger of American Airlines with US Airways. A new study recently analyzed American Airlines AAdvantage program and US Airways Dividend Miles program and found several pros and cons, many depending on which airline’s existing program is adopted for both.

Comparing programs, TravelNerd looked at some possible scenarios and came up with some interesting “what if?” results. Not all are bad either. US Airways members would come out ahead, for example, if the combined airline sticks with American’s meal program, enjoying meals on three-hour flights.

That’s good news. Not-so-good news: increased baggage fees could be a result as well. If the American Airlines program is adopted for both airlines, US Airways passengers will have to pay $25 more for three or more bags, and $10-$25 more for overweight bags

Thinking the new alliance means less countries, TravelNerd says US Airways will say goodbye to Star Alliance and join Oneworld, so Dividend Miles members will lose access to 44 countries.On the other hand, I am a member of both loyalty programs and received emails from each saying not to worry and that everything will stay the same. TravelNerd cries foul.

“Airlines are aware that mergers make consumers nervous and will send newsletters to members to ensure that their miles and status are safe,” Amy Lee TraveNerd Senior analyst told me via email. “This is true there are usually no changes in the short term.”

But Lee believes that change is coming and once the merger is complete and has passed government regulations, the streamlining will begin.

“One way they plan to do this is to bring Dividend Miles members into their AAdvantage program,” notes Lee. “In the American Airlines Merger Investor Presentation, they wrote, “US Airways members join AAdvantage, the first and best developed loyalty program in the world.” This implies that they plan to maintain one loyalty program – presumably AAdvantage since American Airlines brand will be taking the helm of this merger.”

Travelnerd points to the United-Continental merger as an example, noting that merger was announced in May 2010 but frequent flier accounts were not linked until March 2012.

More bad news from the study is the notion that more members equals less upgrades. TravelNerd predicts that with a combined total of over 101 million members, frequent fliers will have a tough time upgrading their seats.

Our first thought: Why? Are they going to sell off a bunch of planes? We’ve heard nothing of decreased capacity.

“Regarding upgraded seats, you’re right there are going to be the same number of seats available,” replies Lee. “However, Dividend Miles members currently enjoy many upgrades due to their smaller frequent flier program (30 million members). Once the merger finalizes, the AAdvantage members (71 million members) will make it harder for the Dividend Miles members to enjoy as many upgrades as they currently do because of the increased number of frequent fliers.”

Admittedly, much of what we have here is speculation. But if Merger History 101 tells us anything it’s that change is inevitable. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

For a closer look at the merger from an unbiased source, we turn to public broadcasting and their sobering view on the topic:




[Photo Credit- Flickr user the queen of subtle]