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How to Fly First Class through Life  
By Dian Thomas

Once on a Delta airplane, I read an announcement in the in-flight magazine. The airline was beginning a new frequent flier program. There were three categories — silver, gold, and platinum. The announcement stated that if a traveler accumulated 100,000 miles in a year the next year they would be placed in Delta’s platinum program. When they purchased a ticket they would be upgraded to first class at no extra cost.

It was only September and I thought to myself, “I’ll bet I could fly first class all next year.” So when I returned home, I contacted Delta and found that I had accumulated 60,000 frequent flier miles. So my challenge was, how could I get 40,000 more miles in the next four months?

Living in Salt Lake City, I looked at either going to New York or Hawaii. I decided that Hawaii would be much more exciting and would help me reach my goal faster. Immediately I called the airline and asked them what it would cost to travel from Salt Lake City to Honolulu. They informed me the flight would be around $1,000.

Knowing the price would be different if I flew from a different city, I asked the reservation agent, “What would it cost me to fly from Los Angeles to Honolulu?” She replied, “We have a sale for the next two months for only $202.” I immediately said, “I’ll take three tickets.”

I was delighted to know that my round trip ticket from Salt Lake to LA was only $200. What a savings. The surprising fact was that I would be flying on exactly the same plane as I would had I paid the $1,000 ticket out of Salt Lake. With each flight, I would acquire 10,000 additional frequent flier miles, which jumped me to 90,000.

Next I had to figure out how to come up with the last 10,000 miles. Back then, any flight you took would credit your frequent flier program with 1,000 miles, so I calculated where I could travel the shortest distance. I knew that you could fly from Honolulu to Maui, which was only a 20-minute flight. So I decided to stay a week on my final Hawaii trip. In addition you also got another 1,000 miles every time you rented a car. That did not count toward the 100,000 miles, but it did give me extra miles in my frequent flier program.

Now it gets exciting. Every afternoon at 3:30, I left my friend’s house, where I had been staying, and drove to the airport, where I would check in my rental car. I would board the big jet that just got in from the mainland and fly to Maui. As soon as I arrived, I headed for the rental agency. I only had an hour and a half to rent a car, drive to a fast food restaurant to eat my dinner, return the car, and rush to the gate to board the plane for my trip back to Honolulu.

Every night the flight attendants looked at me with a strange expression, because I had just flown over with them. I would smile and say, “Just came over for a quick dinner.” When I got back to Honolulu, I would go back to the rental agency, pick up another car, and then return to my friend’s house.

This Maui adventure lasted about six hours each day. But I found myself enjoying the peanuts, and the flight attendants and the people who would entertain me on the way. I repeated this process every night for a week, and every night when I returned to Honolulu, the same man would be there to assist me with my new rental. One night, he said, “You are the richest lady I know.”

It wasn’t long before I hit my 100,000 miles. For the next year, I flew first class on dozens of flights. It was all worth it.

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