Okay, so when I say “clients” I really mean my parents, but they benefitted from my award booking services nonetheless. When I told them I was going to start consulting, they asked if they could be my first clients, how could I say no? I like the idea of detailing here what I’m able to book for various clients because I think it helps people to understand just how far their everyday spending can go and what I am able to achieve for them, let me know if it’s helpful in the comments below.
Bottom line: my parents got 2 business class tickets from JFK to Paris for $188 that cost $15,350 in the real world. Here’s how I did it:
What I had to work with:
AAdvantage points: 80K
Capital one 160K
They needed to fly from New England (BDL, NYC, BOS) to Paris on 7/16. The hard date is important because that makes things pretty difficult. They are departing on a cruise from Paris so they had very limited flexibility on their dates, and the key to using miles is flexibility since some award programs (cough: AAdvantage) tend to be stingy on availability.
Nevertheless, I was determined to get my parents to Paris in business class. I had to be honest with them, their points balance wasn’t the best to get 2 people to Europe in peak season (July) for free, and they were willing to pay one paid ticket if they could get one award. There were a few options I was thinking of.
One, I could hopefully use 57,500 AA points for a one way Business SAAver award and they had availability on an Openskies direct flight into ORY from Newark. Unfortunately, a paid ticket on that same flight was over $7K, so that was not an option. There were a few connecting flights through London, but those were all partner awards on British airways, and still carried hefty fees of $480 for each ticket, and we’re in the business of saving money here.
So my biggest problems were American award availability for the dates they needed, but also availability on their points balances.
Second, I started looking at their capital one points balance. I could, in theory, book an award flight with American based on availability then use Capital one points to book on the same flight if I could get a business class ticket for under $1,600. I like to use Skyscanner to check flights, although google flights is pretty good too. I limited the search to Oneworld partners (to use AA points) and as you can see, paid rates were not going to be an option here.
Sure, I could have used Air Berlin, but this is my parent’s first experience in an international premium cabin, and I wanted to try and make it as special as possible. Side note, I did give my business class ticket to my Mom on Aer Lingus on our trip to Dublin for my graduation from Trinity. As much as I love Aer Lingus, it’s business class product is still not on par with other carriers such as American’s newest long haul and the Middle Eastern airlines (Emirates, Etihad).
So back to the drawing board. By now I hope I’ve demonstrated how it’s not always sunshine and champagne in the points game, this stuff is hard work! I was starting to lose hope, it was looking like my parents were going to be crammed in economy for 8 hours when, serendipitously, I receive an e-mail from American Airlines that they were running a special on purchasing miles with a 10% discount. This immediately got my wheels turning. There was availability for two business saaver award tickets routing through Heathrow. In total, it would cost my parents 115K miles, so they were only really 35K miles short. With the promotion, I could buy 28K miles plus a 7K mile bonus that got me to the needed 35K for $830. Even at just that cash outlay, to get two business class tickets is pretty amazing, considering most people pay that for a round trip economy ticket. So I went ahead and purchased those miles on their behalf using their Capital One card, more on that later.
So now with the required points of 115K, I went back to American and found two Business SAAver awards from JFK to CDG on British Airways with a 2-hour layover in London. Do I think British Airways is the best International Business class product out there, no, I don’t. But, that was my first experience when I went to South Africa for work, and it really impressed me, so I knew it would impress my parents. I would have preferred American’s transcontinental because I flew it on our honeymoon, but in the points and miles game it’s all about striking that delicate balance between availability, cost, and convenience, and this worked just fine for that.
So with the required miles in hand, I went ahead and booked their flights on American, paying a whopping $959 in taxes (thanks British Airways!). As I’ve said before, British Airways charges a ridiculous amount of taxes on their flights coming into London, so if you can avoid it, do so at all costs. Luckily, my parents had the benefit of a large stash of Capital One points that would help them out here. With Captial One Venture points, they’re worth $.01, so their 160K points were worth roughly $1600 in award credit. Having booked their purchased AA Miles, along with paying the taxes for their flight both on the Capital One card, in total they charged $1,788. With their $1,600 in points, on their next statement, they’ll be able to credit those off, leaving their effective cash purchase at only $188! If they had purchased this flight directly from American Airlines, it would have cost them $15,350, that gives them a total value per point of 11.7 cents ((15350-1788)/115000). That’s a ridiculous value, especially considering The Points Guy values AA Miles at 1.7 cents!
So to recap, my parents actual, real world cost for 2 business class tickets from JFK to Paris was $188, that’s all the money they’ll spend on these flights. The people sitting next to them will have spent $15,350! They’ll also get to enjoy a lie-flat bed, the Heathrow arrivals lounge (complete with shower and free 15-minute massage), and arrive in Paris refreshed and not having to waste a day napping, it’s tough to put a price tag on that.
If you’re interested in how I can help you use your points like I helped my parents, get in touch with me – matt (at) wheredidmattgo.com