02 Feb Do you always use miles to book travel?
I get this question a lot and for the most part, using miles to book airfare allows me to travel in premium classes for a fraction of the cost of booking an economy ticket. For example, the $10,000 one way, suites class ticket I booked on Singapore Airlines for 74,375 KristFlyer miles and less than $200. Considering that same one-way flight in economy is over $1,000, why wouldn’t I use miles?
Booking flights with miles certainly allows me to stretch my travel budget much further, but it’s not always the best option for me. I watch fare sales and deals as well, and it sometimes makes more sense for me to pay for flights.
Last November, my family and I had a trip to Europe planned over the Thanksgiving Holiday to see the Christmas markets. I’ve roped my parents and husband into the points and miles game as well, so we have quite a bucket of miles between us all! That year, my mom and I had both qualified for the British Airways “Travel Together” companion ticket which allows you to book a BOGO award in any cabin. Anyone can earn one of these by spending $30,000 in a calendar year on their Chase British Airways Visa. This is a card I’ve long held onto as I’ve had a lot of success using the “Travel Together” benefit, like on my honeymoon!
With four people, and two “Travel Together” tickets, we booked round trip business class awards flying into Prague and departing from Vienna for 208,000 Avois and about $4000 in taxes. British Airways has notoriously high fuel surcharges on award bookings, so they don’t make sense for everyone. For us, there is a direct flight to London’s Gatwick airport from Tampa, which cuts down significantly on travel time, making the extra cost worth it and these tickets “retail” for $3500 – $4000 a piece, so we were still getting value for the use of our miles!
Fast forward to mid-October, and British Airways was having a fare sale for travel over the Thanksgiving Holiday. Business class flights were priced at just over $2000 round trip. Additionally, British Airways offers a discount of $400 on business class flights to AARP members. Luckily, anyone can join AARP for less than $20 a year! Of course we can’t forget that the BA Chase Visa was allowing for another 10% off flights on BA metal.
I’m starting to feel like an infomercial, but wait, there’s more! By flying out of BWI and into TPA, we were able to use miles to further discount the tickets and wound up with our four tickets for a cost of 60,000 miles and about $4500.
I know what you’re thinking, was it really worth all of that hassle, and an additional $500, to save 148,000 Avios?
At the time, yes. Because these were revenue tickets, and not award flights, they also EARNED miles. OneWorld had a special running whereby passengers would receive 25,000 bonus miles for a round trip to Europe in Business or First class. Between the four of us we would earn 100,000 bonus miles on top of the roughly 48,000 miles for flying.
All in all, we wound up with nearly 125,000 miles to American and 37,000 back to Avios for an out-of-pocket cost of an additional $500. Considering I then put those 125,000 AA miles towards two one way First Class tickets ORD-NRT on JAL, tickets that routinely sell for $15,000 a piece, it made sense for us to change from an award booking to a cash booking.
Route: BWI-LHR-PRG, BUD-LGW-TPA
Trip: Prague, Vienna and Budapest, and an overnight in London
Costs: Net 23,000 Avios and $4,500 for 4 round-trip BA Business class tickets