There’s a dangerous battle of marginal value going on for us mileage nuts, and I’m facing a situation that’s the perfect example.
A couple of days ago I made a post entitled “The toughest 7,500 AAdvantage miles I never spent.” I’m going to Seattle soon, and I’ve decided to return from Seattle to Tampa via Vancouver and New York. I’ve booked Seattle to Vancouver using 4,500 British Airways Avios for travel on Alaska, and then redeemed 25,000 American AAdvantage miles for business class on Cathay Pacific from Vancouver to New York, with a connection to Tampa on American. While at the end of the day I prefer to use miles for longhaul travel, I consider this to be a good value since it allows me to try Cathay Pacific’s new fully flat business class product on a shorter flight from Vancouver to New York.
But while I consider it to be a good use of miles, there’s most definitely a better use of miles. American allows free stopovers at the transoceanic gateways on award tickets. For example, for 50,000 AAdvantage miles I could book business class from Vancouver to New York to anywhere in Europe, with a stopover in New York for as long as I wanted. In other words I’d simply have to book a separate ticket from New York to Tampa (which would cost me just 7,500 British Airways Avios), but then I’d basically have a one-way business class ticket to use from New York to Europe in the future. Given that it’s a premium of only 25,000 miles, it seems like a no brainer to me.
But then it kind of got me thinking further, which can be a dangerous thing. For this trip I’ll be in Seattle for a couple of days, and then have to be in San Francisco three days later. I know, that’s poorly planned on my part, though it’s not something I can change at this point. So I could fly from Seattle to Tampa, spend a couple of days at home, and then book a rather expensive one-way ticket from Tampa back to San Francisco, where my upgrade likely wouldn’t clear as it’s during a very busy travel period.
The other limitation here is that it looks like I’ll be moving towards the end of next month, so there won’t be any international travel for me for a while then. I’m hoping to take a quick trip to Asia on China Southern’s brand new Airbus 380 sometime in October, but other than that I’ll be “grounded.”
So that got me thinking, if I have three days between Seattle and San Francisco, why not take a quick trip to Europe, spend a night in a fun city, and try out some new airlines? My mileage strategy is always to avoid having more than enough miles for two international first class tickets to anywhere in an account, since miles are always subject to devaluation. Some people think of miles as a retirement fund, and I just don’t think that’s smart since they’re constantly being devalued and you’re not earning any interest. I have more American miles than I’d ideally like to (not that having too many miles is really a problem), because I’m sure there will be a mileage devaluation sometime in the next year.
So instead of “saving” that one-way ticket from New York to Europe, which may be of limited value if I live on the west coast since I still have to position myself, I thought about just going all the way to Europe.
I was thinking of doing first class on the outbound, flying Cathay Pacific first class from Vancouver to New York. That would allow me to review what is hands down the most “luxurious” domestic flight there is. Then I’d fly British Airways first class from New York to London, and then connect onwards to somewhere else in Europe. I’ve never flown British Airways first class so I could review their new first class, the New York JFK Concorde Room, the London Heathrow Arrivals Lounge, the London Heathrow Concorde Room, and the London Heathrow Cabanas/Elemis Spa. While there are fuel surcharges, they’re not too bad, at just under $300 for the one-way. At 62,500 miles it hardly seems like that much of a waste when I’d otherwise spend 25,000 miles for the one-way domestic flight, and given that I’d have to book a one-way from Tampa to San Francisco.
Then on the return I was looking at burning 50,000 American AAdvantage miles for business class on some OneWorld airline, with the hopes of tacking on a one-way to Hawaii in Hawaiian Airlines first class for a future date (the challenge is finding a transatlantic OneWorld airline that publishes a fare to Hawaii, has business class award space, and flies to a Hawaiian Airlines gateway city).
Anyway, I need to decide on this today, so what do you guys think? Have I utterly gone off the deep end? Would you find the review interesting? Should I just go home instead? I realize it’s not the best use of miles and I realize spending a day in Europe is hardly “maximizing” miles, though on the other hand I won’t have the chance to travel a whole lot in the coming couple of months and I’m in the fortunate position to have reviewing airlines be at least part of my job so it doesn’t seem totally outlandish to me…
Would love to hear what you guys think, even if it’s just “do it” or “you’re nuts.”
Update: To simplify this a bit further, options are:
a) 4,500 British Airways Avios for Seattle to Vancouver, 50,000 American AAdvantage miles for business class Vancouver to New York to Europe (with the New York to Europe portion saved for a future date), and 7,500 British Airways Avios for coach from New York to Tampa. I’d also have to purchase a ticket from Tampa to San Francisco.
b) 62,500 American AAdvantage miles for Seattle to Vancouver to New York to Europe in Cathay Pacific and British Airways first class, and then 50,000 American AAdvantage miles for business class from Europe back to San Francisco (likely on Iberia or Air Berlin), with a flight from the west coast to Hawaii in Hawaiian Airlines first class saved for future use.