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Justin is: freelance | single

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Extended Flight Math

10 September

Math Challenge: Fly between San Francisco and Tokyo, considering three varaibles - cash, flown miles, timing.

I want to be in Tokyo between Oct 1 and November 12, and November 30 and December 20. And December 20 and the rest of next year.
I want to achieve 100,000 flown miles by December 31. I currently have 74000 miles planned without any Tokyo travel. San Francisco to Tokyo one way is 5000 miles, direct. I need 26,000 more miles; I want to achieve this for under $2000.

I'm doing math between San Francisco and Tokyo. $577.72 if I fly between October 1-30 (under 30 days trip qualifies for their internet-deals). I can fly direct, which is pleasant. But if I fly through Los Angeles, I get 600 more miles. But wait! If I put Oakland in as my starting destination, I receive potential routing through Chicago or even Washington DC, which ups my flown miles from 5000 to 8000! Round trip, that's 6000 more miles. But it costs $1000.

If I'd done a better job in McCutcheon's class I might be able to draw a matrix of flown miles, goal miles and money. It looks something like this:

$578 is 10000 miles
$1000 is 16000 miles

Obviously the $422 difference between the fares doesn't justify the additional 3000 miles, on a straight math basis. But if I can take one $1000 flight instead of two at $578 that starts to make sense.

I need 26,000 miles. Maybe I can combine these two scenarios. So that's $1600 for 26,000 miles. But if I bought three $578 tickets, I would end up with 30,000 miles. This is where the purely human convenience of making two flights, not three, would weigh in. My first trip to Tokyo, I'd like to stay for six weeks. But if I do, all my airfares shoot up by at least 50%. So that's an incentive to travel for shorter bursts. Then I think about my life - leaving Tokyo on October 30th, coming back on November 1st, coming back twelve days later, and it all starts to seem very silly. I'm willingly manipulated by aribtrary airline designations for saturday stays, month-long visits, morning versus afternoon flights, because I want to manipulate the arbitrary airline system of class and priviledge.

I worry that I don't understand what I'm doing here. This is a combination of waste and vanity. But for the next year I will be stationed in Tokyo, and occasionally visiting the United States. So being a priviledged flyer will be advantageous for those long hauls. I'm so close to earning enough miles, I would feel stupid to miss it - downright wasteful in its own right. Still I think about the bulk of the people I know: they actually stay in the same city for a few weeks, even months at a time, and they seem happy about it! I think what I need to find is a community of rabid, addicted travellers like myself. I think it's business class on United International, where all the upgrading fools like me sit and talk about life in the air. In a few months, ask me how I feel about the overall spiritual quality of those conversations.

The worst thing about it is that I really want to go to Japan, and stay there. But between a few family and friendly holidays that I cherish, and this mileage ratscrew, I'm making myself a target for angry dieties.

The final analysis, I fly three trips; for $379 more than what I would normally spend I will make 1k and maybe I will be miserable. And if I die before I can use my miles - I must remember to put them in my will.


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