Free Domestic Flight For $250 Spend At Rite Aid

Travis is my first new contributor to the blog, who will be posting a couple of times per week. The idea behind adding guest contributors is to add different perspectives to the blog. Travis has a unique approach towards travel, given that he travels almost exclusively with his wife and young children, which is in stark contrast to my travels, which are usually alone.


Rite Aid has a new promotion for the month of February called Fab-uary. It’s almost identical to the Rite Aid Happy You Year promotion from January, except now you can earn a free domestic flight, free cruise, or free 7-day resort stay for spending $250 on participating products. (No Hyatt nights this time.) The list of participating products are also very similar.

I guess now you can get the free flight to go with your free hotel stay.  

In this post, I’ll discuss how Fab-uary works and offer some strategies for maximizing the value you receive from it.

fabuary

Happy You Year Update

Before we talk about how fabulous the Fab-uary promotion might be, let’s recap Happy You Year. Past performance may not be a guarantee of future success, but it’s still the best indicator of what we should expect.

Rite Aid ran the Happy You Year promotion in January. You could earn a free 2-night Hyatt hotel stay (or 1-week at a resort) after spending $250 on participating products. I originally speculated that this was being run by TLC Marketing which was the fulfillment company for an ill-fated similar Dockers / JC Penney promotion back in 2008. That one did not go particularly well for consumers, ending in a class action lawsuit. I feared this one would follow a similar trajectory and in a separate post I offered some predictions for how it would play out.

It turned out that I was more or less right about who was running the promotion — this time it’s TRCo Marketing, a sister company of TLC. Both have the same CEO.

But I’m thrilled to say that TRCo seems to be running a respectable operation this time.

riteaidpromo

By most accounts, people are getting what they were promised, and getting it in a mostly reasonable time frame. I only recently mailed my redemption form so I don’t have first hand experience with the booking process yet. I suggest reading the comments from the two Happy You Year posts to see how it is working for other readers. Some have reported that they already have the Hyatt stay certificates in hand.

This could give us confidence that Fab-uary is also going to go smoothly.

How Fab-uary Works

This promotion generally uses the same convoluted process as Happy You Year. I’m going to focus on the free flight reward, as I have never been on a cruise and know next to nothing about that industry. Here’s a summary of the process.

  1. Buy $250 worth of participating products between February 1 and February 28, 2015
  2. Create a redemption account
  3. Enter reward codes by March 29, 2015
  4. Select reward
  5. Download registration form, complete, submit via mail
  6. Within 10 days or so, receive booking code and link to on-line booking form
  7. Complete booking form
  8. Within 8 days of submission of booking form, receive email with flight availability
  9. Confirm flight choice within 2 business days of receipt of [8]

On the booking form, you list 3 preferred dates, 3 preferred departure locations, and 3 preferred participating destinations. 

In other words, you have to flexible and like Priceline, you don’t get to pick your airline. While they specifically refer to participating destinations, there is no qualifier on the departure locations.

I’m assuming that means you can depart from anywhere.

Participating Products

Based on a quick glance, the Fab-uary list of participating products looks very similar to the Happy You Year list of participating products. So if you’ve already blown through your pile of Anti-Monkey Butt Powder, fear not, as you now have the opportunity to restock.

Anti Monkey Butt Powder
Anti Monkey Butt Powder

Can I Fly With My Family?

Yes, but you’ll have to buy them a ticket, either from TRCo (possibly with an inflated booking fee) or directly from the airline after your free ticket is booked. From the T&C’s:

Only one member of any group travelling together may redeem a flight ticket. Additional passengers may be booked and will pay the applicable standard airfares. Taxes and any other fees are not included.

I said I wasn’t going to discuss the cruise reward, but it is interesting that the cruise is based on double-occupancy.

Minimum of two (2) passengers required to receive and redeem the Reward. Only one passenger will be covered under this Reward. The cost for the additional passenger is not included in this Reward.

So it seems that it’s more of a Buy One Get One, rather than free cruise. It’s not a question of whether you can travel with your friends and family — in this case you must. This seems like false advertising.

Will I Earn Miles? Can I Upgrade?

I see no mention of whether or not these flights will earn miles. In 2008, the terms and conditions specifically stated that you would not earn miles, but I believe everyone did anyway. My guess is that these are regular revenue tickets, and will earn miles according to the fare class in which they are booked.

That also means you should be eligible for preferred seating, complimentary upgrades, free checked bags, or any other status-based benefits.

What If I Need To Change / Cancel?

The terms and conditions state that the tickets are non-refundable.

Tickets are only valid for the flight selected at the time of booking. When Customer has selected the flight and the Reward availability has been confirmed by Promoter, the flight selection is final and cannot be changed.

That said, I would bet that once TRCo has booked the ticket, you can then deal directly with the airline and would be subject to the usual change fees.

Are There Any Fees?

Probably. The T&C specifically state that you are responsible for taxes and fees.

This complimentary Domestic Roundtrip Flight (“Reward”) entitles the bearer to one (1) economy class roundtrip flight (excluding applicable taxes and fees) to a participating U.S. (excluding U.S. territories) destination (participating destinations provided within these terms).Are There Any Fees?

Where Can I Go?

There are 49 destination cities from which to choose. The list is quite…. eclectic. One of them stands out more than the rest. A few others are just odd in that they are thinly served, or don’t have commercial service at all.

Little Rock, ARJacksonville, FLCincinnati, KYIslip, Long Island, NY
(Only served by American and Southwest)
Dallas, TX
Phoenix, AZMiami, FLDetroit, MIPlattsburgh, NY
(Only served by Allegiant Air and Spirit to Florida)
Houston, TX
Los Angeles, CAOrlando, FLMinneapolis, MNCleveland, OHSalt Lake City, UT
Oakland, CATampa/St. Petersburg, FLBranson, MO
(Only served by public charters.)
Oklahoma City, OKVirginia Beach, VA
(Private airport used by Military Aviation Museum)
Sacramento, CASarasota, FL St. Louis, MOPuerto Rico, PR
(Wait, I thought US Territories were excluded per the T&C?)
Seattle, WA
San Diego, CAWest Palm Beach, FL Charlotte, NCCharleston, SCSpokane, WA
Denver, CO Atlanta, GAAtlantic City, NJ
(Only served by Spirit.)
Greenville, SCMilwaukee, WI
Hartford, CT Honolulu, HILas Vegas, NVMyrtle Beach, SCHuntington, WV
(Only served by American)
Fort Lauderdale, FLDes Moines, IABuffalo, NYMemphis, TNWashington DC/Baltimore
Fort Myers, FLChicago, ILNew York, NYNashville, TN

Virginia Beach Airport

Is This For Real?

Well, as I’ve written about before, a very similar promotion run by essentially the same company back in 2008 was very frustrating for many customers. That said, most eventually received compensation, either in the form of the promised flight or from the class action settlement.

If the previous Happy You Year promotion is any indication, TRCo has turned over a new leaf and actually seems to be delivering what they promised.

There are some lines in the T&C’s that cause me to pause, however.

This Reward is subject to promotional availability and the availability of any Reward is subject to change without notice. All Rewards are available on a first come, first serve basis. The Released Parties cannot be held responsible for flights that have sold out or no longer offer economy class tickets. Reward excludes public holidays and may be subject to restricted availability over peak periods.

Reward available while Reward supplies last.

This would seem to give TRCo an out if the promotion becomes oversubscribed, though I think they would face significant backlash if they tried something like that. Then again, I would have thought the same thing back in 2008.

Comparison To Dockers / JC Penney In 2008

This promotion looks very similar to the free flight version of the Dockers / JC Penney promotion from 2008. Back then, you had to choose from 8 destination cities — now we get 49. Back then you had to depart from one of the origination cities — now there does not appear to be any restrictions on point of origin.

2008 Strategy

My strategy in 2008 was to request expensive city pairs in the hopes of getting a high value ticket which I could then cancel to obtain a credit directly with the airline such that I could use it for anything I wanted. I also wanted to ensure that I would be booked on one of the legacy carriers such that I could use the credit to chase status.

The obvious origination choices were Honolulu and Anchorage. Honolulu was problematic, however, in that ATA was often the cheapest to the islands, and I definitely did not want a credit with ATA. So I requested Anchorage to Boston for a variety of expensive summer dates.

TLC eventually booked me a ticket from Anchorage to Boston on Continental.  I then called Continental directly to cancel the ticket. After paying a $115 change fee to Continental, I had a credit of about $600 that I could use for anything.

From looking at my notes, I spent $100 on the TLC ticketing fee, $115 change fee, and $125 on Dockers stuff to acquire the voucher. That’s a $340 outlay.  In return I received a $600 credit on Continental and some pants. Assuming I needed the pants (which I did), that was a $385 return.

2015 Strategy

The simple strategy is to just request a flight from your home airport to a destination that you want to visit. That will certainly work, and you should get good value from it.

A more aggressive strategy would be to again request a flight between expensive city pairs on expensive dates. However, as I posted above, the language of the T&C’s seem to give TRCo room to wiggle out of expensive tickets this time, so it might not work. But even if they refuse to book the flights you request, I would expect you to get to select alternatives. In other words, there will almost certainly be some back and forth.

Another strategy is request flights between city pairs that are only served by one carrier. For example, if you want to generate a credit with American, requesting a flight to Huntington, WV, would seem to accomplish that since only American serves that airport. Likewise, if you request Atlantic City, NJ, you can be assured that you’ll be flying on Spirit, since United discontinued service from Houston.

Keep in mind that change fees are now around $200 for most carriers, almost double what they were in 2008. That could significantly limit the viability of such a book-and-cancel strategy.

Bottom Line

This has the potential to be a lucrative promotion. I estimated the value of the 2-night Hyatt stay certificates available during Happy You Year to be about $380. I would expect it to be possible to obtain at least that much value out of the free flight under the right circumstances. But it’s also more restrictive, at least compared to Hyatt stay certificates which are a known commodity backed by a reputable company.

I was very skeptical about Happy You Year, but given that it seems to generally be going well, I want to believe that Fab-uary could also be good promotion.

To be honest though, I’m still a little skeptical.

Do you plan to do the Fab-uary promotion at Rite Aid?  If you participated in Happy You Year, are you satisfied with the way it is being run such that you would sign up for Fab-uary?

Comments

  1. A few questions

    1) Can someone redeem this multiple times (i.e. could I spend $500 and get two flights)?

    2) Do the flights have to be taken within the time frame or can I book for any time.

    I’m thinking about buying a year’s worth of razors and such and booking my holiday flights to Atlanta via this promotion.

  2. Huntington WV is served by US Airways and Allegiant with no American Airlines service! Selecting a flight out of Huntington would almost certainly result in a flight with Allegiant.

  3. Wait a second. You say you paid a $100 ticketing fee?

    Are these free tickets going to cost +$100 in ticketing fees?

    Thanks

  4. Angus — Yeah, US Airways / AA, pretty much the same.

    And the odds of getting an Allegiant flight when you request Huntington WV are actually really low. Allegiant has a really small network, so just request to originate from a city they don’t serve (but AA does) and you should end up on AA.

  5. Anthony — Terms limit it to one per household or booking group. So technically, you cannot do that.

    However, you and your friend / family member could do the deal separately and then request the same flights. There’s just nothing requiring TRCo from honoring that request, i.e. they could give you your second or third choice.

    While it would be great value to get an expensive holiday flight out of this deal, I wouldn’t necessarily expect that to happen. I would certainly request those flights, but be prepared to do something else with the free ticket if they say they don’t have availability then.

    I generally advise folks not to have their heart set on a specific redemption when they do a deal like this. There’s just too many variables.

  6. Sean — yes, I did say that. And my notes show that in 2008, I paid a few cents shy of $100 in ticketing fees on the $600 ticket. I just can’t remember what that covered. It might have been airport taxes and the like, or it could have also had a service fee from TLC. I’m sorry that I don’t recall.

  7. just sent my redemption form via priority mail – will see how it goes in 10-14 days…..Huntington, WV….lol

  8. What happens if you return the Rite Aid products within the 30 day time period after you submit your codes? Anyone have experience from the Hyatt offer last month?

  9. >Reward valid in the United States only (excludes U.S. territories and possessions).

    The REWARD is valid only in the US, as in: the person claiming the free flight must officially reside in the 50 states. There is nothing in the terms that say you can’t then travel to Puerto Rico.

    If there are Rite Aids in Puerto Rico, then shoppers of the Commonwealth are out of luck.

  10. Now they seem to have removed Honolulu from their T&C. Can someone suggest a city pair that will likely generate high fare?

  11. David — Wow, that is unbelievable. Just when I say that TLC / TRCo has done a generally good job of honoring the Happy You Year promotion, they pull something like this.

    You should be able to search city pairs / dates to find expensive tickets. Thinly – served airport to thinly – served airport can often be expensive.

  12. Has anyone purchased the $250 worth of products and tried to redeem for the ticket? Qualifying products are pricier than I normally pay and since Hawaii is no longer an option it would be good to know if there will be $100 in taxes and fees before outlaying the money.

  13. What is really unbelievable is that you people are trying to buy and return the stuff or get the ticket and cancel it. I knew many churners have no ethical or moral boundaries, but this is lower than even I would’ve expected.

  14. I could see how returning the stuff would be considered unethical (I don’t disagree with you there), but why is canceling the ticket in your view? Once RiteAid and/or this company heading up the promotion pays for the ticket, are they going to be somehow damaged financially if you cancel the flight? If I bought you a flight you didn’t want and you canceled it, I guess my feelings might be hurt, but if you’re happier with the $500 why should I be? And why would we assume a private company has feelings?

    Anyway, assuming they issue a ticket, is there anything that could prevent someone from canceling it within 24 hours. If not, is there anything from preventing that money from going to the ticket holder and just going back to the purchaser?

    Anyone who did this?

  15. Eric — Obviously, I agree with you. TRCo makes the rules; all we can do is try to maximize the opportunity.

    Now let’s discuss the ethics of changing the T&C’s after the promotion is already underway. 😉

  16. As for canceling a ticket, which I may or may not want to do, any reason to think I wouldn’t get a credit with that airline if I did?

  17. Eric — I would probably not try canceling within 24 hours. My experience with those types of cancellations is that it generates a refund to the original form of payment. Which would presumably go back to TRCo — you’ll never see it.

    If you cancel after 24 hours, I would expect that you’ll end up with a credit from the airline. Now in the case of UA, you may have to *pay* the cancellation fee, and then you get the full amount later as a credit. (In contrast to not paying anything out of pocket now, but getting the value of the flight *less* the cancellation fee later.)

  18. I got my e-ticket receipt today for a June trip Maui-Jacksonville FL round trip ticket. I’ll hope for a schedule change to get full value voucher (ticket is $1065 paid by TRCo credit card); if not I’ll be happy with $865 value about May 15th-May 30th…….

  19. How long did it take them to contact you? I sent in my form (the online one I received from them) 8 business days ago (12 days ago) and still haven’t heard back.

  20. @Eric – I happened to be on the phone with the “concierge” about my Hyatt certificates (not yet mailed) and I said “this is my 8th day – can you work on this” and she said yes.

  21. I just called and they said they are having a higher than normal volume so once they get my form entered into the system that I should be contacted them……….. ugh

  22. I received an email saying I needed to submit my booking form, but they still haven’t provided me with a booking code??? Where am I suppose to get that! Called customer service, the girl had no idea what I was even talking about. Said she would have someone call me back tomorrow. Its been 4 days now…sigh. I knew this was too good to be true!

  23. OK – had schedule change of over 60 minutes – so I requested and have been sent a voucher for the entire value of the ticket – $1065. That is exactly what I was hoping for…..!

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