Lately we’ve seen more first & business class fare sales than ever before, as the airlines largely narrow the gap between discounted premium fares and economy fares. The idea is that the airlines would rather get some incremental revenue for premium seats, rather than simply upgrading passengers into those seats.
I’ve found myself paying for business class more often than before, given how minimal the fare differences often are. For example, last Thanksgiving I booked paid business class tickets to London for ~$1,270 roundtrip, which is tough to argue with.
In addition to sporadic fare sales, there are some markets out of which airlines consistently publish discounted premium fares. This includes cities like Cairo, Egypt, and Colombo, Sri Lanka.
While I’ve always found these to be tempting, starting in the second half of this year I’ll find them even more tempting than ever before.
Sometime in the second half of the year American AAdvantage will go revenue based, meaning American redeemable miles will be accrued based on how much your ticket costs rather than how many miles you fly. That’s bad news if you’re someone who likes a good deal, regardless of whether you usually pay for economy or business class (I’m generalizing here — of course there are exceptions).
The one exception to keep in mind is that if you fly an airline’s partners, you’ll still accrue miles based on the distance flown rather than the revenue. Now, we’ll likely see some airlines’ AAdvantage earnings charts adjusted once the program goes revenue based, especially for economy fares. In other words, you’ll likely earn fewer miles with Alaska and British Airways for travel on American.
But this will likely still leave some fantastic opportunities to book cheap business class tickets on other airlines and credit to American AAdvantage, since those earnings rates are unlikely to be cut.
For example, Qatar Airways consistently has excellent business class fares in select markets, which are great flights to credit to American AAdvantage. This is especially true of flights to the US from elsewhere (sadly not the other way around).
To give a few totally random examples, a roundtrip ticket from Cape Town to New York on Qatar Airways costs ~$2,350:
A roundtrip ticket from Colombo to Chicago on Qatar Airways costs ~$2,000:
A roundtrip ticket from Casablanca to New York costs ~$1,800:
There are all just random examples I pulled up right now, as I’ve seen significantly cheaper fares in the past (like a ~$1,300 roundtrip Cairo to Miami ticket).
These paid business class fares accrue 150% elite qualifying miles and 125% redeemable miles.
To crunch the numbers on that, an Executive Platinum member flying a roundtrip ticket between Casablanca and New York would accrue:
- ~30,750 elite qualifying miles
- 46,126 redeemable miles
As a point of comparison, the base fare on the ticket is ~$1,700, meaning if this ticket were for travel on American, you’d earn ~18,000 redeemable miles as an Executive Platinum member (11x miles per dollar). That shows you just how much you come out ahead by booking cheap premium fares on partner airlines.
On top of that keep in mind that Qatar is now flying Airbus A350s on select routes to the US, which feature Qatar’s fantastic reverse herringbone business class product. This is a huge improvement over the 777s they otherwise fly to the US. So another reason to book these fares now is that you can actually fly an exceptional business class product to the US, rather than just their mediocre 777s.
Nowadays there are some fantastic paid business class fares out there. On a limited time basis we sometimes see these for travel originating in the US, while we consistently see them for travel originating in other markets. Many of them are also available as one-way fares, for roughly half the cost of a roundtrip), if you want to use them as return tickets from somewhere else to the US.
As American AAdvantage goes revenue based, these fares can be used to earn even more redeemable miles than you’d earn if you were flying American directly.
So I plan on using some of these fares in the future, as I really want to visit South Africa and Morocco. At a minimum I’ll be booking a one-way business class fare when returning out of those cities, as it represents a better value than redeeming miles.