For those who fly a lot, every flight in “premium cabin” is a forfeit of money in the future. You’ll have to pay to earn back those miles at some point, you’ll have to pay for a flight in the future, or you paid to get those miles.
Now, people who need less miles on a regular basis can easily earn enough miles to cover all their flights. We probably earn half a million miles a year from our credit card spends and bonuses. However, we travel more than half a million miles worth. Therefore, it’s hard to twist my arm not to fly economy.
However, I hate flying. Nearly every long haul flight I mutter about how much I hate flying. I honestly can’t sleep. And then I remember my Cathay Pacific First Class flight and how it was more or less like teleporting and how it was easy to sleep and super comfortable.
As someone who sits in long haul economy quite often, (actually we fly 40,000 miles this month), I’ve noticed commonality between good flights and bad flights.
Here are some rules of thumb:
- Flights under 7 hours aren’t that bad (most flights to Europe)
- Flights with multiple short connections and a flight over 8 hours can be painful.
- Flights with multiple long hauls is terrible.
What really gets me are flights with multiple connections and multiple long hauls. For example our flight to South Africa and back. Houston to London… bad enough. However, the 4 hour layover compounds things, as I didn’t sleep a wink in London and then got on another long haul to South Africa. Painful.
A long layover, like we had on our last trip to Asia, where it’s long enough to get a hotel room and sleep, that can do wonders. Still, even when the route is crappy (like my recent trip with a 7 hour layover in NYC and a 4 hour layover in AMS sandwiched between a 7 hour and 9 hour flight), we often fly economy.
So what does it take for me to shell out for a business class ticket?
One more thing to say. It would take the following kinds of high value routes and a lie-flat bed. I’m not paying more for a glorified economy seat. When it’s a bed, I nap like a baby. And when there is any recline at all it’s not even close to the same as a lie flat. That is a requirement for me to justify the splurge.
The other would be the following routes…
Here are some routes, with such good prices, I would totally justify Business Class:
1) Central America/Caribbean to South/Central Asia for 90,000 miles in Business Class
This one involves a positioning flight if you’re living in the US, but that’s pretty easy given Southwest prices and the companion pass. So for us at least the price to the Caribbean is worth it just in terms of saving miles. However, another cool benefit is simply the fact that you get to also see the Caribbean or something.
But when you start from the Caribbean and head to South/Central Asia the flight is 90,000 US Airways miles instead of 110,000 miles from North America.
But this is only 30,000 more miles than a roundtrip in Economy. And 90,000 miles is nearly the same price as economy with United. A heck of a deal.
South/Central Asia = Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Chagos, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam
2) Egypt to Asia 1 & 2 in Business Class — AA
This is also a non-US starting point but it’s a great deal that could fill a big open-jaw. Flights from the Middle East to Asia 1 and Asia 2 on AA are only 22.5k/30k/45k.
It seems to me that an upgrade from economy to Business class for only 7.5k more miles is a steal. Especially considering the Cairo to Tokyo (via AUH) is 13+ hours of flying (a 3+ hour flight, and then a 10+ hour flight). Not the longest flight ever, but probably the cheapest difference in miles in relation to hours flown. 7.5k more for 13 hours of Business class? Totally. Not even I would think twice about that.
3) India for 12.5k more AA miles for Business Class (or Alaska Miles)
Maybe I should preface with “if I had to fly to India”, because otherwise I might opt to break up my trip to India. I’ve written about unofficial ways to still get stopovers with AA. For example, you could do US to Europe, and then Europe to India on two different tickets for either 5k more or 5k less.
Anyways, but if I was flying direct and already paying the expensive 45k each way, I’d probably opt to pay a little more for business class. India is a long way to go either way. At 67.5k miles, it’s not cheap for oneway business class… but considering that economy isn’t cheap either helps. In reality it’s a small price to pay for a business class upgrade.
4) ANA to South America for 63k-68k in Business Class
Normally if I can have stopovers I’m fine, and really some South America flights can be short enough that I don’t care, but for longer flights it could be worth it for those with a ton of Amex MR points. I don’t personally have a ton, so I would stick to economy, but if I did, I’d pull the trigger.
ANA prices by distance flown (that is until April when they change their award chart). So you basically need to add up all the miles flown to figure out the price, and you can do that with gcmap.com.
You’ll find that ANA’s award chart is quite cheap compared to most airlines if you can squeeze in a flight just under 9,000 miles. A flight that’s between 7,001 and 9,000 flown miles, would cost you 38,000 ANA miles for economy, or 63,000 ANA miles for business class.
The other thing I should mention is that you currently get 4 stopovers. For me that’s a reason not to fly business class as I can break it up. Unless you’re using that as an excuse to travel even further.
5) North Asia (and Japan) to the Polynesia for 30k United Miles each direction in Business Class
Yes, this route is at least twice as expensive in Business class, and yes, it used to be cheaper when I did the Pacific Hopper in early 2012… But you have no idea how much flying we did!
Guam to South Korea, to Singapore, to Auckland, to Rarotonga, to Sydney, to Bangkok, to Tokyo. 7 flights long enough to sleep on! It was insane, and if we didn’t have a bed the entire way… I would have passed out for days.
If interested in learning more, see 4 Variations of the Pacific Hopper.
6) Mexico/Caribbean to Peru for 20k United Miles in Business Class
This is based on the Latin Hopper, an absurdly good value, and you could roundtrip it back to add a stopover. A possible 4 Destinations in the Caribbean, Latin and [northern] South America regions for 20k in economy or 40k in Business Class.
Again it’s not that it’s so long that I need business class, but for 10k extra… could be worth it coming back at least. We didn’t do it on a similar route because the flights were tiny, but for longer routes it could be worth it. The more flying it is, the less I enjoy flying.
Honestly, the only real long First Class flight doesn’t fit into any of the routes but that’s because it was just a bit more than Business Class. For SE Asia to the US the flight with AA miles is 35k/55k/67.5k. Feeling good about a surplus of AA miles I spent a little extra for First, and it was awesome, and it wasn’t even double the economy price.
But really, it was probably just because I was getting tired of airports and flying. Also one of the worst flights ever was a very long string of flights. Coming back from Rarotonga we had a layover in Sydney for a night, then Bangkok, and then Tokyo for a night (where we just got off the plane). The flight from Bangkok to Japan I didn’t sleep because it was a day flight. And even though we got a hotel in Japan I didn’t sleep. It was a combination of early flight, and thinking that I could just sleep the entire plane ride back.
Anyways, the entire 14(?) hour plane ride from Tokyo to New York I was awake. That’s the entire day to Tokyo, awake. Up all night in Tokyo. Awake the entire flight on a crappy AA flight from Tokyo to New York. And then up connecting to LGA and then Houston, and then driving two hours to see my parents.
Having this terrible flight in my mind is actually a huge motivator in thinking about my return flight. I’d pay double miles not to feel like that again. But most of my economy flights are fine! YMMV.
What are some routes you would definitely shell out on? Whether it be a good deal or just simply avoiding a terrible experience, when do you skip economy? I know some of you always fly business or first, but I’m talking to my fellow econo flyers… what gets you to shell out extra miles?