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California grad student commutes from LA to Berkeley via plane to save on rent

By NICK GARCIA Published Jul 04, 2023 3:03 pm Updated Jul 05, 2023 10:30 am

A graduate student from the University of California reportedly finished his 10-month civil engineering program by commuting via plane from Los Angeles to Berkeley instead of renting.

Multiple local outlets, including USA Today, cited a viral Reddit post titled “I survived living in LA and commuting to Cal by plane over the past academic year to save on rent, AMA" last May 15.

According to user "greateranglia," who asked local media to be identified as Bill, he wanted to avoid expensive rent around campus and in the San Francisco Bay Area in general. He then had this "crazy idea" to commute to school by plane, as he's living in Los Angeles "comfortably."

"I knew I would go back to LA after graduation because I want to go back to my previous employer once I graduate," he said, adding that he loves flying and have a lot of frequent flyer miles and points from his credit card as part of his sign-up bonus and flyover in the past few years.

Writing on the pilot forum FlyerTalk, Bill noted that student housing near Berkeley was worth at least $1,600 (P88,000) per month, utilities excluded. He'd also be required to stay for 12 months vis-a-vis his 10-month program that doesn't require going on-site every day.

Bill said he only had to attend classes thrice a week, though sometimes had to fly five times a week if there are events or meetings.

He purchased his plane tickets months ahead, and just canceled the night before when his schedule changed. Since Bill enjoys elite status with airlines Alaska and Southwest, he had access to same-day flight changes and can book the day's cheapest flight and call the airline to change to a flight with a better schedule.

Since his classes start at 8 a.m., Bill said he'd wake up at 3:30 a.m. to catch a 5:30 a.m. flight. Sometimes, he'd opt  for the last flight if he needed to stay late for a project.

After finishing his program, Bill on his Reddit post said he spent a total of $5,592.66 (P308,000) on his commute, including parking and in-flight WiFi.

He said he flew a total of 238 flights and spent 52 days commuting.

“This is probably one of the craziest (things) I've done in my life," he said, "and I'm so glad I made it through, without missing ANY classes, that itself is a miracle."