The Cranky Flier, an aviation blog, will celebrate its 10-year anniversary on Monday, and to commemorate the milestone, founder Brett Snyder wanted to do something special. But he didn't know what to do.
In June, Snyder, a Long Beach resident, received an email from Southwest Airlines with details about a promotion: fly five round-trips or 10 one-way flights within California before Oct. 31 and get a companion pass — a pass that would allow him to bring a second passenger with him for almost no additional cost— through the end of 2017.
That's when it clicked in Snyder's head. Why not try and get a companion pass?
"I already had two flights planned on Southwest that I was going to take anyway, so I knew I needed eight one-way flights to qualify before October," he said. "I looked at it and I thought to myself, 'How much would this cost and could I get enough benefit from it?'"
He initially thought about traveling between Long Beach Airport and Oakland International Airport to accomplish the feat. At $39 a fare, it would be the cheapest way to get the job done, but Snyder said that option was boring.
So to spice things up, he wondered if it was possible to go on eight flights without going to the same airport in one day. Snyder and his colleagues looked into and found that Aug. 9 was the best day to make the anniversary trip.
Ranging between about $59 and $64 per fare, Snyder's trip cost him a total of about $500, or what he calls a bargain for a companion pass.
Snyder's itinerary consisted of him traveling to nine different airports that Tuesday. He would leave his house at 6 a.m. to catch his 7 a.m. flight out of Long Beach to Oakland. From there, he would fly to LA/Ontario International Airport, Sacramento International Airport, John Wayne Airport, Mineta San Jose International Airport, Hollywood Burbank Airport, San Francisco International Airport and end the day at Los Angeles International Airport.
He said he did not ask for any discounts from Southwest to accomplish the feat and that the prices were those published on the airline's website. However, Snyder did contact the airline as he was finishing up his plans just to ask if they could make sure the flights ran on time so that he could make all his connections.
According to Snyder, Southwest decided to take things a step further.
"[Southwest] told their station managers at the nine airports that I was visiting that I was coming," he said. "And apparently, this became some sort of competition between the different cities."
When he arrived at Long Beach Airport, the Southwest employees gave him a free cinnamon roll from a local bakery. The freebies snowballed from there.
Snyder brought only his cellphone, a tablet, a laptop and battery chargers to document the trip. However, he ended up with a plethora of gifts from each airport he went to. He received baseball caps, notebooks, bags and even a bottle of champagne.
It didn't stop there.
Being the 10th anniversary, LA/Ontario presented Snyder with a plaque made out of aluminum congratulating him on his blog's milestone. In Burbank, he was taken aback by their gifts: two tickets to Universal Studios, tickets for the Warner Bros. Studio Tour and a night at the Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport.
"It turned into this huge swagfest," he said, laughing. He added that he is most likely going to give away most of the gifts he received.
Rather than material goods, the Southwest employees at SFO performed a congratulatory chant for Snyder. When he landed at LAX, the airport employees made a makeshift finish line, including some finish line tape, for him to cross as he exited the gate.
Southwest Airlines could not be reached for comment.
Snyder said there were not too many issues during the trip. There was a mandatory 21/2-hour layover in Oakland and some connections that only gave him 20 minutes to get to the next gate, but there were no delays that derailed the trip.
Touching down at LAX at 11:29 p.m. on Tuesday, Snyder accomplished something many people have not thought to do.
Snyder said his accomplishment would be close to impossible to achieve with any other airline and in any other region.
"The reason that this worked in California is because there's so many secondary airports with service between Northern and Southern California," he said. "It's a pretty unique opportunity to be able to not touch the same airport twice."
Snyder said it should take a few days for Southwest to award him his companion pass, but since he has no plans to travel anywhere soon, he will accept it when it comes.
He might plan a trip to Tucson to visit his family and a trip to Indiana to visit his wife's family, but Snyder is already thinking about convincing his wife to take a more tropical vacation.
"Southwest just started LAX down to Costa Rica and it's got me thinking, 'That's a cheap way to do that. Let's go! Half price for the two of us,'" Snyder said.
Anthony Clark Carpio, firstname.lastname@example.org