Brazil Madness: Introduction

Marginal value is a really, really, really sore subject for me after this trip.

Let me explain.

Back in August Delta published some ~$900 business class fares between Sao Paulo and New York. As it turns out they were meant to be economy class fares, though they stuck around for a short while. I hadn’t flown Delta’s new BusinessElite product yet, and it seemed like a good fare to rack up some Alaska miles.


Since moving to Seattle I’ve been going for status with Alaska, and since they’re partners with Delta you can earn elite qualifying miles for all Delta travel. Since I was going for MVP Gold 75K status with Alaska, which requires 90,000 flown miles on Alaska and their partners, I had a lot of flying to do.

The idea started off innocently enough — I’d book one of these. That way I’d earn some Alaska miles and could try a new product. But this fare was from Sao Paulo and not to Sao Paulo, so positioning was required.

Now I actually didn’t mind positioning to Sao Paulo either, since it’s one of only two international destinations to which American flies their new 777-300ERs featuring their new fully flat business class, and fares were quite reasonable as well.


But here’s the thing about flights that require positioning — if you’ve already paid for the positioning flights, you might as well book more than one of the actual “mistake fare” mileage runs. So I booked three of them on Delta, almost back to back, plus the American positioning flight. And to make sure I wouldn’t go crazy a friend agreed to join me.

In the end, the routing looked as follows:

11/21 AS470 Seattle to Los Angeles 6:50AM – 9:25AM
11/21 AA4 Los Angeles to New York 12:00PM – 8:35PM
11/21 AA951 New York to Sao Paulo 10:20PM – 10:55AM (+1 day)
11/23 DL48 Sao Paulo to Detroit 10:55PM – 6:50AM (+1 day)
11/24 DL1893 Detroit to Atlanta 8:40AM – 10:49AM
11/24 DL2408 Atlanta to New York 12:30PM – 2:44PM
11/24 DL2917 New York to Detroit 4:04PM – 6:28PM
11/24 DL47 Detroit to Sao Paulo 8:00PM – 9:45AM (+1 day)
11/25 DL48 Sao Paulo to Detroit 10:55PM – 6:50AM (+1 day)
11/26 DL1893 Detroit to Atlanta 8:40AM – 10:49AM
11/26 DL1986 Atlanta to New York 11:45AM – 1:58PM
11/27 DL471 New York to Sao Paulo 8:01PM – 9:05AM (+1 day)
11/28 DL48 Sao Paulo to Detroit 10:55PM – 6:50AM (+1 day)
11/29 DL1175 Detroit to Atlanta 10:00AM – 11:59AM
11/29 DL2086 Atlanta to New York 12:45PM – 2:59PM
11/30 DL781 New York to Atlanta 1:00PM – 3:38PM
11/30 DL1166 Atlanta to Detroit 4:35PM – 6:34PM
11/30 DL47 Detroit to Sao Paulo 8:00PM – 9:45AM (+1 day)
12/01 AA950 Sao Paulo to New York 11:05PM – 6:05AM (+1 day)
12/02 AA1 New York to Los Angeles 9:00AM – 12:25PM
12/02 AS467 Los Angeles to Seattle 8:35PM – 11:19PM


I know the map doesn’t look that crazy, though that’s simply because so many of the routes are being flown over and over. 😉

We did have one night in Sao Paulo after our first outbound on American, so we booked the Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo. Revenue rates were over $400 per night though this is only a Category 3 Gold Passport property, making it 12,000 points per night. That seemed like a better value than paying, so we redeemed points.


Then for the three “day” layovers in Sao Paulo we booked the Hotel Caesar Park Sao Paulo Airport, which is an Accor property managed by Pullman.


Now, given that we flew the same routes over and over I’ll only be reviewing one flight from each “route.” For example, we flew Sao Paulo to Detroit three times, so I’ll write a single review and hit on the minor differences between the flights in that review. Hope that makes sense, since I have lots more travel to report on.

After booking I didn’t give the trip much thought for a couple of months, until about a week before departure when I looked at my itinerary and asked myself what I was thinking. Of course it’s a totally nutty trip and no matter how many miles are earned it’s not worth flying for 10+ days nonstop to earn them.

But hey, if nothing else hopefully you guys can learn from my mistakes, whether they involve waltzing around Singapore Airport in pajamasforgetting to shower on Emirates, or something crazy like this!

Filed Under: American, Delta
  1. @Rob
    (Sarcasm font) Yeah, I hate how US taxpayers are always funding small (and large) businesses everywhere by reducing their taxes for spending money on their business. Businesses are the real takers!

    On a serious note, I think many people are jealous that Lucky is able to do this as his career in this 21st century internet world. I assume your comment is probably based largely on envy. Good for you Lucky! The rest of us are cheering you on.

  2. This is where your CPM or any other terminology regarding value gets tossed. I think I value my life way more than you do so I don’t care what the cost vs miles benefits would amount to on a trip like this. I love and appreciate your reviews but this one makes me question your thinking. There is no status or reward worth giving away this much of my life.

  3. I recently flew on a DL 767 with the business elite seats pictured above (I flew in Y, but walked through the J cabin on my way back), and I just remember thinking how small and cramped those seats felt, despite being lie-flat, after walking through the cabin. The week before I flew on LH’s new business class, and at the time I thought those even felt a little tight–but nothing compared to what I imagine the DL J seat on those 767’s must feel like!

    I have no idea how you did six ~10 hour flights in those things…more power to you!!

  4. OMIGOD, that’s like a dream come true for me!! So jealous!! Looking at your itinerary gave me tingles! 😛

  5. Congratulations, now you have the elite status you coveted. After accounting for the ginormous amount of time squandered (measured in weeks), energy wasted (Paul Bunyan-sized carbon footprint) and untold dollars spent (on air, transfers, hotels, etc.), you now have a better chance of an upgrade on your next Alaska flight from SEA to LAX, and perhaps a fancier 0.5oz package of nuts. Ahh, the good life!

    This truly is the pinnacle of idiocy.

  6. You are totally insane!!!!!! 🙂 BTW, Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo is probably one of the most expensive Category 3 Hyatt out there. Sao Paulo has one of the worst cost/benefits for hotels. You get so so hotels for the prices of a palace.

  7. Can’t believe you found a friend to join you on this mileage run from hell. The DL biz seat isn’t even that nice. Brasil is a beautiful country. Sad that you didn’t see much of it, other than an airport hotel. With all the miles you have already, you should reconsider how many paid BIS miles you really need each year to keep your blog going, and then start enjoying destinations more.

  8. Completely agree Matt. And know he wants to move from Seattle, so not sure why he would care about Alaska status.
    H should focus more on running a successful business. I had friends contact him for an award booking and he never responded to their inquiry.

  9. If do this again – we all forget the pain with time- take a break down on Florianopolis. A little piece of Heaven on the shores of the South Atlantic

  10. Wouldn’t it have been cheaper and easier simply to buy First on Alaska when you need it rather than to do all this? Are you going to actually fly Alaska that much?

  11. Interesting to read all the hate posts on this thread. Wow. Since Lucky views his airline seat as his office, it’s no different than any of us spending overtime at work – which I did a significant amount of leading up to the end of the year.

    Regarding the carbon footprint, this trip came in on the carbon footprint calculator at just over 60% of my own footprint for the same miles traveled in my car.

  12. I’m not sure why so many people are so antagonistic to this on the grounds that it’s “wasted” time. It may be crazy, it may be odd, but the experience of doing such an odd thing could be totally worthwhile, firstly, and also given ben’s flexibility and the nature of his job, how is this remotely not relevant?

    Hell, it sounds crazy and if probably not spend the money, but the amount of reading alone I could get done without distraction seems to be quite appealing.

  13. Hehe, just read some of the comments. This is quite the extreme version of a mileage run, encouraged by having a business that is mixed with a passion. For some it makes total sense for others it is crazy. Hat’s off to Ben for following his passion, for there lies hapiness in life (albeit punctuated by moments of doubt).

  14. That was a bloody foolish thing to waste your time on. All for what? Being served $15 meals and $0.50 Diet Coke’s in cramped seats while watching movies on a small screen?

    I would understand it slightly if you actually spent some time at your destinations, but flying back and forth for no real purpose really shows that you either have mental health issues, or that you are running away from something…

  15. For those people posting about Ben wasting 10 days of his life & similar comments, given the average US male can expect to live for 76 years, according to Wikipedia, 10 days isn’t much to ‘lose’. He could make up the time in less than a year by skipping an hour’s sleep each night. I think the negative comments are largely driven by envy for the totality of Ben’s lifestyle.

  16. @ Brian – That’s not good. If you’d like to email me with your friends’ name I’d be happy to look into their request. We did have an issue with messages getting trapped in spam folders last year, but we do try to respond to everything.

  17. Only in America!!! (said it with my thick Italian accent)

    That’s a crazy itinerary, like it or not it’s
    Ben’s job after all, the guy that made the point of working extra-hours was spot on
    Ben, how does your body responded to that amount of travel? Do you exercise (ie go to the gym) a lot before and after such a combination of flights? I knew a guy who used to be an “tech-evangelist” for a giant US corporation and used to travel 10 out of 12 months a year in mostly Y class (as per his company’s policy). While flying he totally cut off on any alcohol and turned vegetarian as he could not cope with it.

  18. @ JetAway — In retrospect, yes. 😉

    That being said, I did want to review Delta BusinessElite so don’t regret booking one of them, it’s the two “extras” that I’m not sure about.

  19. @ Giovanni — To be honest it has kind of become the “norm” for me, so there’s not a whole lot I had to change. I did exercise every day during the trip during layovers, which I think I needed to maintain sanity due to how much sitting I was doing.

    But I’m also the type of person that can sleep either two hours or 14 hours a night, so it really didn’t bother me otherwise.

  20. @ Lamonster — Yes, I actually have a separate post coming on that shortly, since I’ll be visiting it again this week.

  21. @ Dave — I didn’t have to do laundry. I just wore pajamas on the flight, so my clothes were always “fresh” while on the ground.

  22. Folks, before you get negative, realize this is his job. Now, he literally just worked for 10 days straight, which is not ideal – but it’s his career. People read his blog for the trip reports, and the crazy ones like this might even drive a little bit more traffic.

    @Ben – If you can describe the experience in just one word, what would that be?

  23. Just wait until the Carbon Police get on your case and come for you.

    They’re already lecturing people on how evil they are to fly anyplace even if you might have a damn good reason to go somewhere. They’re going to really love your mileage run story.

    Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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