Garuda Indonesia ran a promotion literally for one day where First and Business Class awards were 90% off. A flight from Amsterdam/London to Jakarta would be 19,000 miles in First Class. This was the lowest price I have ever seen for any business or first class ticket publicly available, by a huge margin.
However, this promotion was extremely difficult, with lots of people calling it trash.
The promotion required you not only to have the most obscure airline miles with only one potential transfer opportunity available even to Americans (and none to Canadians unless you have an ITIN/SSN), but also it required going in-person to a Garuda ticketing office in Asia (or potentially Amsterdam).
On top of that, you need to have acted within a few hours of the deal going live. Even before they pulled the promotion, miles aficionados had already snapped up all available seats that afternoon of the day the deal broke.
I Stayed in Vancouver.
Even though Garuda listed Vancouver as one of their locations with a ticket office, in reality its probably been closed for a while. So how did I manage to ticket without leaving my desk AND having any Garuda Miles?
This was because I found out talking to the HK office that only the account holder needed to ticket in person – all that was required on my part was a scan of my passport if the miles weren’t in my account. I have miles/points friends in Hong Kong and Singapore, so my mind started spinning because I realized it might be possible to pull it off.
I would not have partaken in the deal if I had to fly to Asia.
The answer to the million dollar question is that I had a friend who had Garuda miles. He graciously gave me some. He also lives in Singapore, an actual ticket office where you could issue awards in-person. So for me, all I needed to get the deal was to call a few times and message my friends.
That’s just with this deal. I could tell you so many equivalent stories where it was gracious friends who helped me, and that there would have been no way I could have pulled the deal off without them. I am incredibly lucky and thankful to have them.
The point of this post isn’t to brag about how I can do things that most people can’t, but that I wanted to point out several key ingredients into becoming an expert points enthusiast. I know the headline was very click-baity, but I really wanted you to read this.
- If anything sounds like the deal of the year – get in quickly even if you don’t want it. You never know if you’ll end up needing it, and in most cases, the worst case scenario is that you will end up with nothing, with no loss. With deals where there is risk, calculate the expected value and do it if it makes sense for you. I was planning to do another ticket with a friend, but by the time I called for that there were no more seats left. While I waitlisted the segment, it never cleared after they quickly pulled the promotion. I didn’t act fast enough in that situation.
- Connections are key. The only way for you to generate the level of trust required to grab these deals are meeting other miles aficionados in person. This is why going to events like PointsU are so important. Meetups are good, but only at conferences will you make 100 new connections in one day, many of whom are going to know more than you are. I know for some people large conference are intimidating – they certainly are for me – but suck it up and network your butt off. People are mostly friendly.
The average miles/points person who wants to become an advanced travel hacker, but doesn’t follow these two key principles will never be able to get deals like these.
I can’t stress the second item enough. Just for example, earlier I mentioned that this deal was the cheapest First Class tickets per segment that I have ever publicly seen. There have been instances where First Class tickets were only 17,500 miles per segment, but you wouldn’t even have known if your network was not strong enough. Long-Haul business class tickets on Qatar Airlines for $180 and 0 miles that lasted several months (and now that, ladies and gentlemen, is the deal of the decade). It was never publicized explicitly.
Anyways, I’m extremely excited to fly Garuda First Class next year. My Christmas present did arrive late, but it was well worth the wait! To my friend JN, thank you so much again! I simply can’t thank you enough for how you helped me here.