Some of the things I do are a little weird when compared to other frequent travelers. For example, I find a ton of value in elite status just from the free checked baggage benefit.
I know lots of people say never to check a bag. I often don’t, just to save time. But I do check bags often enough to stand out and have only twice had a problem when they arrived late on the next flight. Usually I’m checking presents or clothes or whatever it is Megan and I are moving between our apartment and our parents’ homes. It’s cheaper than paying FedEx to ship a 50-lb box, and it arrives faster.
Many carriers allow their middle and top-tier elites to check two or three bags for up to nine people in the itinerary, and sometimes that 50-lb limit is extended to 70 lbs. I never thought I would come close to that. Until yesterday.
My parents recently moved to Sonoma County but have worked in tasting rooms on the weekends for long before that. This entitles them to an industry discount of 30-40% off, better than you’ll find for most wine clubs and definitely better than you’d find on the shelf in your local store. Megan and I flew down to taste some wine and see what kind of deal we could get for our wedding reception. Not only did we circumvent retail prices in Washington, but we shipped the whole lot home for $80 — the cost of six padding shipping boxes, a tip to the skycap, and two luggage carts upon arrival at Sea-Tac.
What would this normally cost if we had no status? United charges $25 for the first bag, and $35 for the second. The third bag is a whopping $100. Instead of $320 for six boxes, we paid zero. On top of these we each had one carry on bag, one personal item, and one take-out meal for the ride. Unless we had a stroller or maybe seven additional passengers on the itinerary, I don’t see how we could have carried any more on the plane for free.
I completely maximized my elite luggage benefit!
A case of wine only weighs about 30-40 lbs, so we weren’t in danger of paying for additional weight. However, my elite benefit does include bags or boxes of up to 70 lbs. Without status, and had we decided to slip in some lead bars along with the wine and gone over, we would have paid an additional $100 per box between 50 and 70 lbs (even more moolah if you go over 70 lbs). I once shipped a box of books this way for free.
Was it worth it to fly down just to buy some wine at a discount? Our flights did not cost much more than it would have to call the winery and have them ship it. Plus we got to taste the wines in person and see my parents. Neither wine we purchased was on our radar until we arrived. And while Washington wine isn’t bad, one of our selections was actually bottled in my hometown of Cupertino, so that will add a nice touch to the party.