Greetings! Last year at a frequent flyer travel conference, in front of 500 people, a blogger revealed something that I had known for years. He admonished the audience that by staying in the room everyone was agreeing they would keep the information confidential. Well, not exactly. I crossed my fingers so I guess it did not apply to me. I did not sign an agreement to his terms, and besides the room was so crowded I probably could not get out of the room before he disclosed his so called “secret”. I would not have been allowed to disclose these types of schemes on First2Board, but I received an email last week from F2B’s management telling me that I have been released from all editorial conditions on content when writing on this blog.
That right. you heard me. I and the other F2B bloggers can now write about everything; Vanilla, churning, and the down rite dirty side for points and miles travel. Yay! Yes George it is true!
Some people would call this a scheme, and in all fairness I have not used this method myself. It involves getting a supposedly very cheap hotel room in a major city nearby an airport.
What happens typically when your flight is cancelled or you miss your connection is that the airline will reschedule you on the next available flight. Hotel and meals are at your own expense. Those in top tier levels of the frequent flyer programs often times will get hotel and meals complimentary until their tickets are rescheduled.
But what happens if you are a Mileage Plus general member? You get nothing. But in certain cities the baggage claim office will give you a distressed traveler certificate that allows you to book a discounted hotel room at your own expense.
The airports where the United Airlines baggage claim offices give out these certificates are as follows:
- Fort Lauderdale
- Los Angeles
- New York
- St. Louis
- San Francisco
- Washington D.C.
I would suggest asking for some whenever you transit these cities. This is what the front and back of the certificate looks like:
The audience was told how you don’t really have to be a distressed traveler to walk up to baggage claim and ask for the certificate, but they only work for a same day bookings. If you arrive on an early enough flight you can check for a hotel room using one of these certificates and if you get a better deal you could easily cancel your reservation at your original al hotel. Lets look as what the savings would have been on Sunday night in Los Angeles. First log into the APA Global website at www.APAGLOBAL.COM and use certificate code: JSTRK, the code never changes on any certificate. If you dont have computer access you can call their toll free line at 800-556-2359.
The available discount rooms show as follows:
But lets look at what they would charge if I went directly to the properties corporate website and booked the room, they have distressed discounted Embassy Suites at $96 and the Hilton website shows lowest available rate at $129. This represents a savings of $33.
Next up is Radisson hotel with a distressed traveler price of $99 with the lowest available website price of $109. This represents a savings of only $10.
Next up are the Marriott LAX Airport at distressed price of $88 and the Renaissance Hotel LAX at distressed price of $91. Full retail price on the Marriott site is $119 for either property. A savings of $31 and $28.
Finally the Holiday Inn LAX Airport has a distressed traveler price of $89 and the hotel’s website shows a lowest available price of $139 a savings of $50.
As a matter of full disclosure, I need to tell you that you most likely will be able to get even better rates using other travel websites such as hotels.com, or expedia.com; you will not usually be offered your elite loyalty program benefits on these rates. Also you usually will not earn stay credit as these are unpublished rates. I find that this “secret” was hyped up as being something that only those in the know knew about. There may be some golden eggs in certain locations. Play around with the site.
You also will generally be able to book only one night at a time. If you need a second night then you need to book the next night on the next day as a “new” distressed traveler. It was mentioned at the meeting that some people use this method when they are only overnighting in a town or need a hotel when flying out early in the morning. Seth mentioned that at IAD and LAX airports he has been able to find these pink certificates laying on the counter in baggage claim offices. Free for the taking.
I have three in my travel wallet just in case I ever need them for last minute arrangements. For me I would more likely us some SPG Starwood points at the Sheraton Gateway or FourPoints Hotel before using one of these certificates. The certificates have no value and no expiration date.
Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV).
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