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Hooray, What A Redemption! But is it?
With a ton of preparation, advance planning, flexibility, and by booking a year in advance, I ended up with the home run of mileage awards. I’m flying a family of four to Australia in business class for the December holidays and New Year’s Eve. Amazing, right? Or is it? You get caught up when you see saver award space and you grab it, that in the end, some times you miss the bigger picture.
So, to start, I nabbed four business class tickets to Sydney on Air Canada from YVR just as Aeroplan opened its schedule. Great. 360,000 miles. But, there’s no way I can wait for these same seats to show up using lifemiles or united, because I have about 10 minutes to grab them before someone else does — or even just grabs one, because I need all 4. So, that means I have to pay Aeroplan’s fairly outrageous carrier charges, of about $1,700 total. And, of course, nothing domestic, so I need to position. It’s looking like about $1,100 to position — but happily there are standard award flights on AA, and I can use 40,000 avios, plus $23. The other problem, though, is that I’m on split tickets with a connection in Canada. I can’t risk a misconnect, so I need to go out the night before. Tack on $220 for a hotel. At least I get to spend a fun day in Vancouver.
Ok, now, coming home. Ok, four seats in J on Korean from SYD to ICN. Not my ideal date, but one day away. So, put that on hold, now I need to get from ICN to USA. Amazingly, I nab 4 to SFO with a decent connection. Great, so now I’m home. For “only” 390,000 miles, plus $500. And, actually, I’m really only almost home. Another positioning flight, again using avios. 30,000 plus $23. And a longer connection than I’d like.
So, total cost, including the hotel, 820,000 miles and $2466. I had some Aeroplan and Korean to start with, but not nearly enough, so I used up a good chunk of Amex and Chase to make this happen — about 400,000 total. I’m actually happy to have burned the last of my Aeroplan, though. But, anyway, that’s 400,000 flexible points, 420,000 other points, and nearly $2500 out of pocket. Even valuing the points and miles conservatively, that’s at least $15,000 in value to me — though my acquisition costs of the points was pretty good, making frequent use of transfer bonuses and of course earning miles at much better than 1:1. Still, that’s a fair amount of money. And even then, I’m positioning with less than ideal connections, and having to route one way through Asia.
I could have bought four premium economy tickets on ideal travel days, routing efficiently through AKL, for about $12,500. And I would have earned 60,000 Amex on that purchase and earned miles for the flights. Heck, even anytime business awards with direct flights from USA to SYD using United miles would have been “only” 1.6 million miles plus about $120 total.
I’m not complaining. I couldn’t pay cash and do this trip in J. It would have been economy. This is why I’m in the points game, and I had to bust my butt to make this work. Still, at some point, you do have to ask, what’s it all about? Shrinking domestic availability for connections. Less than desirable routings. Silly surcharges. For solo travelers who can book last minute adventures on Cathy, this is still an amazing hobby. But when even the top-of-the-chart home run “saver” awards leave you shaking your head and thinking, “holy crap does it add up,” it does put in perspective how dramatically this hobby has changed in just a few years.
Thanks for sharing! Completely understand your frustration and love how you were able to explain it all.
Personally, I always feel that at the end of the day, the best redemption is one that you’re happy with. Sounds like even with all that headache, you’re still okay with what you booked? I hope so!
With the connection in ICN, are you able to get out and explore the city? Sounds like you booked two separate tickets, so don’t have to worry about stopovers or anything like that?
Just one ticket coming home through ICN. I just searched in pieces. Sorry, didn’t explain it very well. I think I’m happy, yeah. I was really happy when I first saw the awards pop up, but then when I tallied it up it was, well, a lot!
The YVR-SYD flight will be the longest nonstop flight I’ve ever done by three hours, and this is a big trip, so I will be grateful for being in J. I couldn’t have done it for cash other than in economy, and that probably would have knocked us for a loop for a couple of days, so when you book school holidays you have to make every day count.
A big frustration with miles and points these days though is the crappy domestic saver availability. It is a real hidden cost, especially for multiple tickets. It’s also just a hassle, because of no interlining on most split tickets. It used to be that getting from, say, LAX to YVR was the easy part of a transpacific booking, but now you can’t even find one seat on the domestic leg. The 70,000 avios just to position really stinks. Maybe aeroplan will open some seats and I can pay a change fee to add them to get all one ticket, and get my avios refunded.
Couldn’t agree more! The cost of positioning with cash or miles is becoming crazy, especially when you have 4 people like you do.
Well on the bright side… you’re in for a treat on that ultra long haul in biz!
Ikar… not sure if it’s too late to change or if this helps. But, worth looking at!
[QUOTE=”rickyw, post: 51475, member: 1436″]Ikar… not sure if it’s too late to change or if this helps. But, worth looking at!
Thanks. I saw that. I think I’ll stick with what I have, though if Qantas opens the return flights that would be better than routing through Asia. So far, though, I think the blogs are only saying that USA-AUS is available, not return.
There are always trade-offs when traveling over peak dates. Sure, there are theoretically better redemptions to Australia, but for four people over New Year’s — sometimes that’s just what it costs.
Thanks for posting this! I liked how detailed you were in terms of how many points were used & the out of pocket charges.
Great post! I feel your pain as I am a family of five often trying to find space home to Australia or Nz. I got the heads up a couple of weeks ago from view from the wing about Cathay space opening up to 7 seats in j to Hk and beyond. Got on and booked semi useful dates in mid December to akl in business for 5 of us. Bought Alaska miles for the first time. Call center fabulous and fees about $200! 28 hours v 22ish through west coast but worth it!
Nothing was available near Christmas unfort.
Now have to begin the task of finding a way home!
We sometimes pay for jetstar one way syd Honolulu. Stop there for a day or two then United economy awards direct to Chicago.