Goodbye to Nonrev Travel (A Sabbatical)

My daughter the pilot is going on leave until the end of the year.  During this time, our flight benefits will be suspended until she goes back to work.  I am trying to convince myself that this will simplify life and at the same time, urge me to be more focused in my travel.  I try to remember all the bad things about nonrev travel.

One of the Many Issues with Nonrev Travel
One of the Many Issues with Nonrev Travel

I’ve Had Many Wonderful and Horrible Nonrev Travel Experiences

I’ve had flight benefits for about 20 years now.  They are at once a blessing and a curse.  It is very difficult to pay money or use hard-earned points to get an airline ticket when there is a GOOD CHANCE you can fly the same itinerary for FREE (or almost free when you have to pay taxes on an international flight.) Once you are on the plane, it is the best thing in the world–you are flying for free!  Waiting to get on however, is a very nerve-wracking experience.  You sit at the gate while everyone else boards the plane, and you usually don’t know if you’ll be boarding too until about 10 minutes before the doors close.  But getting a seat on a departing flight leaves you with a thorny dilemma.

You may not get home when your trip is over.  If you are lucky enough to get a seat to your destination, there is no guarantee you will get a seat on a return flight.  Throughout your vacation, there is always the nagging thought at the back of your mind–will I be able to get a seat on a return flight?   There have been many times that I’ve booked last-minute tickets on points so that I could get home to go back to work.  There are few things more inconvenient than clearing immigration in a foreign country and then not being able to get on the plane, and having to find a hotel at 1:00 am.

If you have to be somewhere like a wedding, or you’re going on a cruise, you just cannot fly standby (although I did fly standby to an October cruise–the price was so cheap it wouldn’t have been a disaster if I missed the boat.)  I’ve seen flights that were wide-open at midnight before I left become oversold during the early morning hours.  A canceled flight guarantees that you won’t get on at all that day, and perhaps the next.  But when you have flexibility and the stars align, flying nonrev can be wonderful.

There are some routes that have availability most of the time, and don’t have a lot of passengers with status.  So not only do I fly for free, I fly first class.  Since I have been doing this for so long, I have a better idea of which flights are more likely to have open seats, and I try to fly these.  I also have Plans B, C, and D if things don’t work out.   I have gotten award tickets on another airline, but after clearing security, found out that there are seats in first class on the same itinerary on my airline.  I’m out the points anyway whether I fly or not, but I’ve just upgraded myself!

When you fly nonrev, you don’t know until the very day you leave  if you even have a good chance of obtaining a seat , so you are able to take many small trips at the last-minute.  You can drop everything,  fly somewhere,  stay two nights, and fly back home.  The more that I write, the more I realize how much I’m going to miss my benefits!

I’m going crazy right now gorging on flights.  I found out about a month ago that the flight benefits were ending later on this month.  I’ve already made two trips, and I’m thinking about a third.  I can’t even begin to think about planning trips with paid flights or points right now.

Losing my Nonrev Travel Benefits is Like Losing Manufacturing Spending Opportunities

This last year has just been horrible for those of us who did manufactured spending to amass airline miles.  One-by-one almost all the methods have been axed.  I’ve had to change paradigms about earning and burning miles and points.  I don’t “waste” points on flying first class, and I think carefully before I redeem miles, knowing that it is harder to replace them.  In a way, losing the ability to MS has freed up a lot of time. I don’t make spreadsheets and plan trips to WalMart and grocery stores like I used to, and I don’t constantly thing about building miles balances.

Losing my nonrev benefits will also change the way I think about travel.  Since I will be paying for travel, either with cash or miles and points, I will be more focused in my travel planning.  I will probably take fewer but longer trips, and these trips will be well-planned to save time and money.  I will still travel, it just will be different.

I feel the same way about losing my benefits as I do when I am starting a new diet.  I will miss the fudge and the chocolate-chip cookies, but I hope I will feel better in the long run.



Leave a Reply