Posted by Ric Garrido

The George Clooney movie “Up in the Air” about a frequent business traveler feeling the love from American Airlines and Hilton HHonors will be released December 2009.  Hilton HHonors has launched a dedicated sweepstakes website to accompany the movie release with a chance for HHonors members to win a grand prize of one million HHonors points, HHonors Diamond status for a year, and a trip to Paris for two with a stay at the Hilton Arc de Triomphe. 

The sweepstakes is divided into 10 weekly prizes and the Grand Prize. Contestants need to make a booking for a Hilton Hotel during the contest week to be eligible for the weekly prize. Hilton Hotels is the only Hilton brand eligible for the sweepstakes, so forget about those Hampton Inn, Doubletree, and Homewood Suites bookings. Only one entry per week will be counted.

The sweepstakes began November 3 and this is Prize Week #2 from November 10-November 16. The prize for week 2 is a private screening for the movie with up to 200 of your friends.

What counts for the weekly sweepstakes entry is the date you book the hotel stay – not the date of the hotel stay. Make a reservation today at a participating Hilton Hotel for a stay in February 2010 and you will be entered into this week’s contestant pool.

Here is the hiltonupintheair.com link to the weekly prizes.

Week 1, Nov 3-9: Movie Premiere and two-night stay at Beverly Hilton, roundtrip airfare for two and ground transportation.

Week 2, Nov 10-16: Private screening of movie with 200 friends

Week 3, Nov 17-23: 150,000 Hilton HHonors points and Gold VIP membership for one year.

Week 4, Nov 24-30: 3 nights in Presidential Suite, Hilton St. Louis Ballpark, air travel by American Airlines, $150 dining certificate

Week 5, Dec 1-7: Hilton Serenity Collection bed and bedding

Week 6, Dec 8-14: 200,000 Hilton HHonors points and Gold VIP membership for one year.

Week 7, Dec 15-21: 3 nights at Hilton Hawaiian Village and 3 nights at Hilton Waikoloa and air travel for two

Week 8, Dec 22-28: TravelPro luggage set and Hilton in-room amenities – robe, ice bucket, coffee maker, alarm clock.

Week 9, Dec 29-Jan 4: 250,000 points Hilton HHonors and Gold VIP membership for one year.

Week 10, Jan 5-11: Two nights at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort, air travel for two, $150 dining credit

Grand Prize: 1,000,000 HHonors points, Diamond VIP membership for one year and trip to Paris.

The hiltonupintheair.com website has a trailer and photos from the movie. I am looking forward to seeing the movie next year.

Another section on the hiltonupintheair.com website is called “Our Stories” where hotel managers discuss some of the frequent guests who stayed at their hotels.

 

Ric Garrido’s “Hilton Up in the Air” story or “How I became a poverty jet set HHonors millionaire.”

In the summer of 1999 I found FlyerTalk and I learned about the opportunities to play the frequent flyer loyalty game for some incredible travel bargains. There was a promotion from September through December 1999 for flights with the oneworld alliance airlines including American Airlines, British Airways, Canadian Airlines, Iberia, Cathay Pacific, Finnair.

100,000 bonus miles were earned for flying one segment on 5 different oneworld airlines. Fly 4 airlines earned 50,000 miles. Fly 3 airlines earned 25,000 miles. The strategy I learned from FlyerTalk was not to submit any frequent flyer number in the passenger record, keep the tickets and boarding passes from each flight, and then submit the different boarding passes to different frequent flyer programs for retroactive credit and multiple promotion bonuses.

For example, I flew Cathay Pacific from Manchester, UK to Amsterdam and back. One boarding pass for the outbound flight went to British Airways and the other boarding pass for the inbound flight went to American Airlines. I was able to use different flight segments from one roundtrip ticket to qualify for multiple bonuses. This was playing by the rules of the promotion since each frequent flyer program registered miles for a unique flight segment. There was no double dipping on flight segment credit.

Ultimately my wife and I ended up with a 300,000 miles in bonuses with British Airways and American Airlines. I actually missed out on 100,000 bonus miles due to my ignorance of booking fare codes and the purchase of a fare code with Cathay Pacific that was not eligible for earning miles with American AAdvantage. (In 2002 after a few years of FlyerTalk training I completed a mileage run for the Star Alliance 5th anniversary promotion for 55,555 miles. The promo also required 5 airline members. I purchased five 4-segment airline tickets with United, Air Canada, Lufthansa, Austrian, and bmi to earn 55,555 miles with four programs: ANA, Mexican, United, and Lufthansa.)

Our first mileage run in 1999 was done over two teacher holidays during the November Thanksgiving break and the December/New Year’s  break. We traveled San Francisco-Reno-Las Vegas- Los Angeles-Vancouver-San Francisco on American Airlines and Canadian Airlines (acquired by Air Canada in 2000). We flew London-Manchester (British Airways), Manchester-Amsterdam (Cathay Pacific), and Amsterdam-Barcelona (Iberia) in December.

The airfare was a drain on our bank accounts and the cost of hotels in Europe looked formidable until I realized an opportunity available through Hilton HHonors.

Hilton HHonors allows frequent flyer miles from some programs to be exchanged into HHonors points. I exchanged 50,000 TWA miles in 1999 into 100,000 Hilton HHonors points which allowed us to stay at the Barcelona Hilton and Rotterdam Hilton for 7 free nights. (Amsterdam Hilton was unavailable.)

The LatinPass promotion was announced a week after we returned home from Amsterdam. LatinPass was another Hilton HHonors airline miles to HHonors points exchange program participant. In the spring of 2000 I flew around Central America, the Caribbean, and South America on 10 LatinPass airline qualifying flights, partner flights with KLM and National Airlines (defunct Las Vegas start-up), completed some hotel stays with Radisson, Holiday Inn, and Marriott, and a 5-day car rental.

In summer 2000 I received 1,014,000 miles in my LatinPass frequent flier account. Over the next two  years I exchanged 660,000 LatinPass miles into 1,320,000 HHonors points before LatinPass and Hilton HHonors ended their partnership.

Hilton HHonors 6-night VIP awards were 100,000 points until June 2003. My favorite redemption was a 6-night stay at the Amsterdam Hilton for 100,000 points. When I returned home I saw I had earned over 40,000 points for the award stay. I don’t think I paid more than $50 upon checkout at the end of the award stay. Basically, I stayed 6 nights at the Amsterdam Hilton for 10,000 points per night.

Hilton Amsterdam

Hilton Amsterdam

3 Responses

  1. Has the broader use of the internet killed such killer promos? Or have loyalty programs wised up?

    Most of the high-returns tips on the net these days seem to evolve around scamming the US taxpayer by ordering massive amounts of coins and dragging them (back) to a bank.

  2. The last big frequent flyer bonus I participated in was the winter 2004 United Airlines 4x miles.

    The promotions since then seem to be double miles (3x miles for top elites) or double elite miles.

    I got into this loyalty program writing due to the great airline promotions I saw between 1999 and 2004.

    1999 Healthy Choice pudding deal 100 airline miles for 25 cents. I earned about 120,000 miles for $450. Pudding Guy pulled in 1.25 million miles for around $3,200.

    oneworld 100,000 mile bonus (I earned 300,000 miles for $2,000. If I had more knowledge at the time I could have easily pulled in 800,000 miles for the same price.)

    2000 LatinPass 1,000,000 mile bonus (about $3,000 for the tickets and $1,000 for travel costs)

    2001 $300 all-in Singapore-San Francisco had me flying the Pacific multiple times earning 3x miles. My first year as United 1K.

    2002 Star Alliance 55,555 promo (earned about 450,000 miles for $800 all-in due to $1,200 in vouchers from Lufthansa flight bumps in 2001)

    2003 SARS led to $300 all-in fares US-Singapore
    Starwood Hotels 50,000 Asia-Pacific bonus for stays in 5 Starwood brands (earned 110,000 Starpoints for about $1,800 while staying in suites most of the two weeks in Australia.)

    Alaska Airlines 100,000 miles for flying 35 segments. (I did this for $800 and earned about 140,000 miles and cashed in 100K for First Class British Airways SFO-London)

    2004 United Airlines 5x miles for a Premier Executive or 1K (I earned about 120,000 miles for $1,000 on just 3 flights)

    2009 is the best year for airline and hotel promotions since 2004 in my opinion. Low airfares and double miles promotions can add up to several hundred thousand miles at reasonably low cost. I couldn’t fly much this year, but I tried to take advantage of the hotel promotions.

    Playing the airline promotions is fun but expensive. I like the hotel loyalty game better for being able to control costs. And the hotel promotions have been lucrative over the past year.

    Until loyalty programs go to a strictly revenue based model there will always be some promotions that provide the consumer travel dollar leverage.

    I think airline programs learned from the LatinPass case study and try to avoid giving too much incentive. FlyerTalk helped push LatinPass into 500 million+ miles in liability in a short time and the program spent the next couple of years trying to offload that burden.

  3. I remember reading about Pudding Guy and the Latin Pass deal in the regular media. And it’s not that I wasn’t on the internet at the time, I just didn’t frequent Flyertalk and other travel-related sites (and thus missed out).

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