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When first class costs the same as coach – a holiday booking story

by on Sat November 26, 2011 • No Comment

This Thanksgiving, I had to change plans last minute, and book a brand new ticket to get home.

With airfares running $1,000+ for the destination I wanted (West Coast / New York) — miles were the answer. I found good availability on United / Continental, using their easy booking tool, which displays a calendar of dates with availability, and includes most partner airlines in its search as well.

However, what I found was while a coach ticket was going for 50,000 miles (there wasn’t availability at the low 25,000 mile ‘saver’ level) , I could get a business class ticket for 50,000 miles as well, and first class for 75,000.

Interesting, and great to get business class for the price of coach, but…being a point nut…I went one step further.

There is a loophole in US Airways’ award chart (they are Star Alliance partners with United, so you can use US Airways miles to book on United) that lets you book a domestic first class trip (a step up from business on the route I was flying) for only 50k miles (this would cost 75k miles using United/Continental miles).

I was sitting on a bunch of US Airways miles having applied for the US Airways MasterCard and received its 40,000 mile bonus. So, I called them up and booked the ticket using those miles.

So, I got a 75,000 mile ticket for 50,000 miles. And got to travel on the peak days of the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and Monday after.

And got to use First class, which entitled me to a lie flat seat for the long 6 hour plus journey, access to an exclusive lounge just for first class (no business class passengers), an ultra elite security lane just for 3 class first class passengers, and an upgraded meal with more attentive service than business class.

Not bad for a last minute change. And if I was traveling with someone else, there were 2 seats available for booking.

The key here — often times premium cabins have more availability at the low ‘saver’ levels, particularly close to departure dates, so you may find enjoying a nicer ride is the same or lower cost than booking in coach with miles. This is especially true of international flights and long distance U.S. flights.


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