TEARS FOR TIERS

The race is on.

Amazon Alexa has just informed me that there are 83 days to December 31st. I have 720 Tier Points on Virgin Atlantic; I need 1,000 if I am to maintain my Gold status and keep the benefits of no change fees, extra Air Miles, and numerous other benefits I will never need, much less use.

I’m stressed. Last year, I went to Boston on Delta Airlines for dinner to garner the extra 80 points I needed. Delta is now a partner of Virgin, so it pays to travel internally to clock up the points (internal travel in the US is relatively cheap) and then use them on a transcontinental flight.

Feel free to stop reading now. Air Miles are my obsession and, specifically on Virgin Atlantic, Tier Points.

So, I’ve been to Vancouver (160 Tier Points) and Toronto (140 Tier Points) recently, just to boost my chances of staying Gold (and I really hate Canada – that’ll give you an indication of my desperation). Now, let me explain the discrepancy: I know you’re all on the edge of your seats about this.

There are different categories on Delta. Class ‘A’ gets me 20 points, class ‘P’ gets me 40. But is it worth paying the extra for ‘P’?

I also break my journey because that then classes as two flights. So, for example, breaking my journey to and from Vancouver was 40 x 4, whereas one of my Toronto journeys (also with a break) was an ‘A’ (keep up, people!) and three ‘P’.

If you book early enough, you can get 160 Tier Points for under $1000, whereas trying to clock them up on Virgin Atlantic will cost you over £3k to get 200.

Yes, those calculations are based on First/Upper – not because I can afford it but because I am very savvy with collecting Air Miles (I also need to have a bed on a long flight because of my ongoing rib and back problems, by the way). I have friends who travel in Economy who pay more than I do. I buy miles in the sale, and, until MBNA scrapped the Virgin Miles programme, I put everything on my credit card. Alas, that scheme has ended and I am now almost destitute of miles.

I know. Third World problems, right?

I’m heading back to the UK for my 60th birthday celebrations, but Christmas will have to be in the US. Virgin’s stupid new scheme re-sets my Tier points to zero on December 31st, and the Heathrow taxes (irrespective of what class you fly) are ludicrously expensive compared to internal airports).

Now my dilemma is how I get up to 1,000 Tier Points in 83 days. I have two flights booked to and from LA (out of New York) that will take me to 880 (‘P’ category, breaking journey at Minneapolis on the way out and Atlanta on the way back – still with me?); but I’m still left with a shortfall. Boston is by far the cheapest and closest, but even in ‘P’, that will get me only 80 as there are no breaks on the short flight.

This is now occupying my every waking hour. Las Vegas is always a good option because, out of LA, it’s cheap as chips on Delta, and only a 45 minute flight; in fact, I could do it three times in one day and still be home for dinner.

The Christmas sale of Air Miles will soon be upon us and I will hungrily purchase everything I can in order to fly to and from the UK relatively cheaply. But it’s these damn Tier Points that keep proving the problem. What I really need is Lifetime Gold Membership, but I need to fly another 823,199 miles to get that, or to have another seven years as a Gold Card member.

Gosh, my life is complicated.

The fabulous team in Swansea who chat to me nearly every day of life are like my closest friends; in fact, I speak to them more often than I do members of my own family. I’m thinking of inviting them all to New York for Christmas dinner.

Yesterday, I got Rob, who remembered having spoken to me before. He told me that when I come through on another line, he tells them that I’m lovely. I am. I specially like chatting to them after midnight Eastern Time, when they have more time to listen to me pontificate on my latest scheme for banking miles.

I also have to say that the Virgin Atlantic crews are the best of any airline I have ever flown with. They really cannot do enough for you, and if the plane went down, I’d be dying very happy (nevertheless, praying it doesn’t).

It’s only the website and Customer Service that let Virgin down and, since they installed their new system nearly two years ago, I’ve seriously considered switching to another airline/rewards programme.

But I’m hooked now. Tier Points are my drug of choice, and I would have to spend at least three months in Air Miles Rehab to wean me off the scheme. My only hope is that Sir Richard Branson might read this and, for the sake of my health, give me a Lifetime Gold Membership as a result of the acres of free publicity I continue to give him and his airline.

What a lovely 60th birthday present that would be for me, Sir.

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