There is a lot of talk in the online points and miles blogosphere about redeeming points and miles for high value tickets. Especially international first class that have lie flat seats. Or hotels that go for $700+ per night. And, it makes sense. Use those miles to redeem a ticket costs $10,000 instead of a ticket that costs $500.
But, what if flying international first class isn’t part of your “routine” travel pattern? Sure, I love traveling internationally, and I love international first class and business class. But frankly, it’s difficult for us to travel like that very frequently thanks to limited amounts of vacation time. We might do one international trip per year. The rest of our trips are usually domestic, whether for vacation or to visit family.
So, why am I considering this issue now? This upcoming summer, Ken and I (along with the rest of my family) are going on an Alaskan cruise out of Seattle. I’ve already booked our flights to the West Coast. We’ll fly business class on Cathay Pacific from JFK to Vancouver a few days prior to the cruise departure date (and we’ll just drive from Vancouver to Seattle, perhaps even stopping at a few places along the way).
We used British Airways Avios to book the ticket on Cathay Pacific. It was 25,000 Avios each for a great business class product. In fact, as the trip approaches, I may see if first class seats open up (it currently shows 0 availability, but the consensus is that Cathay Pacific may not generally release first class seats until one or two weeks prior to departure). it would be an additional 12,500 Avios each for first class, so I’m not sure if it’s worth it. But we’ll see.
So, the flight going out to the west coast was a no brainer.
The issue is with the return flight. When a vacation is over, I usually like to get home as soon as possible. Meaning no connections, no driving farther to get to an airport. So, I don’t want to drive up to Vancouver from Seattle after our cruise disembarks to fly back on Cathay Pacific. I also don’t want to fly Seattle > LAX > JFK > DCA just to try out some decent first class options, like American’s new transcontinental first class with lie flat seats.
Our best bet would be to fly Seattle to Washington DCA on Alaska Airlines. It’s a nonstop flight, and is just shy of five hours. Last year, I travelled to Seattle for work, and flew Alaska Airlines coach, both ways. I don’t want to sound like a brat, but it was torture, especially the six-hour flight going westbound. I had to book my flight last minute, so I was stuck in a middle seat both ways. Plus, the flight was turbulent for a long duration, and I can’t stand turbulence. It would’ve been nice to have access to free booze to help calm my nerves.
Anyway, here’s the deal. On the day we would need to travel, flights are more than $300 each ONE WAY on that Alaska Airlines flight. There are AAdvantage mile points redemptions available at 12,500 miles each for economy class. But, there are also Alaska Airlines first class seats available for 25,000 miles each. Is it really worth it to pay 50,000 AAdvantage miles for two first class seats on Alaska Airlines, especially when the seats are nothing special? Especially when those miles could be redeemed for much more valuable seats? The seats aren’t lie flat, but they are wider and have more legroom than economy, obviously, but should I really “waste” an extra 25,000 AAdvantage miles for such a marginally better benefit?
Anyway, I’m not sure yet what decision we’ll end up making. I’m pretty sure that, barring any significant sales, we definitely won’t be paying more than $600 cash for two one way seats, even if it is the most convenient flight option. So the question at this points seems to be whether we redeem points for economy or first class on Alaska Airlines.
What would you do in this situation?