Dean Clough

July 10, 2024

Portico Darwin: My Solution To Devalued Frequent Flier Miles



<3 Minute Read

Welcome to Wednesday and some outrage.  It's real, pissed-off outrage, but with a happy ending, or at least a useful suggestion.  

But first, a warning:  Those who find complaints from overly pampered old white men distasteful might want to put this down and pick up a book instead.  And this glass of whine will only make sense for some, as it is location- and trip-specific.  Lastly, the thinly-veiled travel bragging I'm in reality doing with this post may make some nauseous. 

Today, I'm unloading on the airlines and their Bogus frequent flier programs.  Specifically, how a reasonable amount of miles used to enable access to business class, even internationally. 

There is more detail forthcoming in my wildly captivating series Maybe It Was Destiny, but for now, let's just say I know that from my own experience.  Heck, the amount of miles required was so reasonable that Julie knows it, too. 

Flying from San Francisco to anywhere in Europe, even nonstop, is a 12 hour ordeal at a minimum.  And introduce a change of planes - often there is no choice, given our destination - and you can be talking 24 hours door-to-door.

And who wants to be in coach for that?  We didn't and didn't have to for over 15 years, thanks to frequent flier miles.

But that's over now.  The 150,000 Oneworld miles we have are not enough even for steerage (let alone business class) to Newark (forget about London, Paris, or Amsterdam).  So it's coach for us now, even on blowouts to Europe.

But please dry your tears, because I've pieced together a solution of sorts, one that's affordable, and, dare I say, relaxing.  The foundation of the concept?  Drumroll, please. 

It is The Airport Hotel.  Coming from or going to SFO, we stay at a nice hotel, on a given airport's grounds - that's key.   

The concept begins with making the long-haul flight segment as bearable as possible.  So we take a nonstop, in aisle seats, in the despised coach cabin, to or from any gateway airport that allows an easy and short flight to our final destination.  And as a bonus, going direct also greatly lessens the chance of any baggage cock-ups.   

Please, oh please, Portico, won't you illustrate this with an exciting trip story, from the past or present?

If I must.

On the last day of August this year, we depart for Italy for nearly 3 weeks.  Our first destination is Lake Garda, which is an hour's car ride from Verona, a medium-sized (and Killer, for the record) city in northern Italy.  Its airport (VRN) is an approximately 2 hour flight from a number of European flight gateways.

Like the one in Frankfurt, Germany.

So we are flying overnight there on 8/31, arriving the next day around noon.  But instead of dragging ourselves to another flight, only to arrive at our destination completely jetlagged and worthless, we are heading to the Frankfurt Airport Hilton, and checking in for the night. 

Now you're talking:  maybe we'll shower and take a quick nap.  Or a quick swim or steam in the spa.  No doubt someone will enjoy a Weissβier in the lobby bar, and/or order room service.  Maybe we'll binge-watch The Bear in hotel robes in bed. 

Think of it:  for $200 (vs. thousands for business class) or so for the room, we've turned 24 hours of suck into a tolerable 12 hour nonstop flight, with the rest being borderline fun and as I said, relaxing.

The next morning, we'll have a leisurely breakfast, and then stroll into the airport.  With a full 24 hours now of acclimation, the jetlag will mostly be gone, and we'll be ready for the "real" vacation to start.  That will happen in just a couple of hours, here, poolside, at one of our favorite hotels in the world, Hotel Val di Sogno, on the aforementioned Lake Garda.

Note this works going both ways.  After a legendary sailing vacation in 2019 with Byron Browne IV and Louise Lederhosen (a trip itself worthy of a retrospective), we flew from Split, Croatia to Paris (CDG).  And stayed put, here, in the lovely Pullman Paris Roissy CDG.  They make a fine Campari and Orange at this bar - trust me.

The nonstop flight home to SFO the next day was a breeze:  After all, we were already at the airport.

And we did the same thing on our last trip to Italy, in 2022, staying at the surprisingly swank Munich Airport Hilton, after flying in from Innsbruck, the final stop on our "real" vacation.  From there it was MUC - SFO and it was as easy-peasy as it can be in economy class.

What's next?  Well, both Hunter Deuce and I have been eyeing this for a long time, although it's probably more viable for someone visiting the US.  This is the TWA Hotel at JFK, which opened in 2019 after a years-long renovation of the former TWA terminal there, originally designed by the famed architect Eero Saarinen.  

I guess we better move to Europe so we can try it out?


Thank you for reading this newsletter.  


How about music that's as pretentious as today's post? 

Here, on his very first play on KLUF (I'm sure he's beaming), is Moby and his pleasant experiment of an album, Hotel:  Ambient.

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