Originally created 06/28/01

University administrator wins 1 million air miles



ATHENS, Ga. - An administrator in the University of Georgia's College of Education will be going to Spain soon - and Russia, Italy and quite a few other places after winning a Delta Air Lines promotional contest.

The prize Tony Stringer won: a cool million frequent-flier miles. Not bad, considering Mr. Stringer didn't even know he was entered in a contest.

"I was quite shocked," Mr. Stringer said. "I didn't know the contest existed."

In fact, the 37-year-old Athens native almost threw away the first letter he got, thinking it was just another piece of junk mail.

Fortunately, he had second thoughts, plucked it out of a trash can and realized it was in fact from a company certifying the identities of contest winners.

Mr. Stringer later figured out how he won. He's addicted to traveling in Europe, and because European airfare can add up in a hurry, he's always looking for bargain fares. Because he often flies with Atlanta-based Delta, he signed up for a Delta e-mail program that notifies recipients of last-minute fare reductions and other special deals.

People on the list were automatically entered in the contest, which commemorates the 20th anniversary of Delta's frequent-flier program.

It actually won't mean a lot more travel for Mr. Stringer, who has gone to Italy, Belgium, France and several other countries during the course of 14 trips to Europe. Most recently, he traveled to Prague in April.

The main advantage to his prize is that he will now be able to plan his trips better - flying at bargain fares usually means deciding on a destination only a week or so in advance - and the flights won't be just bargain-fared, but free.

Through July, Delta will announce 20 grand-prize winners, each one getting a million miles, with several redemption options.

Mr. Stringer could have chosen 40 round-trip economy tickets in the continental United States and Alaska; 28 trips to Central America; 20 economy or 12 business trips to Europe; or seven economy or four business class flights around the world.

Mr. Stringer chose the 20-trip European economy option - he'll get more trips that way.

"Really, I just love to travel," he said.

His next trip probably will be to Spain, a country he hasn't visited yet, Mr. Stringer said.

After that, he might visit the former Soviet Union or go back to Italy, one of his favorite countries.

But he's going to wait until late summer or fall. Right now is not the best time to go to Europe - too crowded with tourists, he said - and the summer is one of the busiest times of the year for his job as the College of Education's certification official.

"I'm happy," Mr. Stringer said. "Now I need to win some hotel packages."