What would you do with a million frequent flyer miles? Let's see... You could cash them in for 40 free domestic round-trips, for starters. Or 20 international flights. Or 33 round-trip upgrades from coach to first-class on domestic flights.
If redeeming miles for capacity-controlled seats is too much of a hassle, use them for four first-class round-trips to Europe, with no blackout dates or capacity restrictions.
Whatever your travel aspirations, a million miles would go a long way toward meeting them.
But unless you're a business traveler, or a small business owner earning miles on the company credit card, a million miles simply isn't a realistic goal. There is, however, a way to become a mileage millionaire without the traditional expenditure of time, energy, and money: win them.
Over the years, I've seen the occasional sweepstakes boasting a grand prize of a million miles. And in these early days of 2009, there are two such sweepstakes on offer, one from American, the other from Delta.
Would-be travelers can enter American's "Imagine The Miles Giveaway" sweepstakes either by booking a flight on AA.com, or by filling out an online form, without making a purchase. Deadline: March 5.
Remember that in the U.S., sweepstakes entries must be available with no purchase required. That's to distinguish them from lotteries, which are subject to more rigorous federal oversight. So while the sweepstakes may be worded in such a way as to suggest that a purchase is required to enter, there's almost certainly a clause buried in the terms and conditions that explains how to participate without buying anything.
In addition to a million-mile grand prize, Delta's "Million Mile" sweepstakes features 160 runner-up prizes of 25,000 miles each. Customers receive one sweepstakes entry each time they print out a Delta boarding pass with destinations highlights and copy the entry code to the online sweepstakes form. But it's also possible to enter by mail, with no purchase required. Entries must be received by February 28.
As always with such prizes, there are tax implications for the winners. Strangely, American lists the Approximate Retail Value of its prize at $25,000, while Delta values its million miles at just $20,000.
After the prizes have been described and the entry procedures enumerated, the question that will remain for many concerns their chances of actually winning. I can only quote the verbiage found in most sweepstakes terms and conditions: "Odds of winning depend on number of entries." For frequent flyers accustomed to redeeming miles for limited award seats that will sound very familiar, if not particularly reassuring.