While I do plan on making the most of our Southwest companion pass next year, or at least I keep saying that, our international travel books up quick.
- November Flight: New York to Milan
- November Flight: Prague to Hong Kong
- December Hotels: Vienna and Salzburg for Christmas markets
- January Flights: DC to Oman to DC
- January Flights: DC to Kenya to DC
- February & March: helping with Carrie’s sister’s adoption in Ukraine
- April Flights: New York to Kenya to DC
The next months of our lives could be quite crazy. November/December goals are Europe, and we may skip our flight from Prague to Hong Kong. As you may know, there was a mini-RTW mistake fare to Europe and Asia, and we paid $148 for that. But we’re not really feeling Asia for Christmas since we’d have to turn around and come back.
But if we do go, we’ll need a flight for Asia to Europe.
Then we need a flight from Europe to DC to catch our Oman flight. That was another mistake fare, which takes us right back to DC. We have two nights in DC before we take off to Kenya (from the same mistake fare as the Oman trip that went on this weekend). For this trip we have friends joining us for a safari.
Then we’re hopefully heading to Ukraine to help with my sister-in-law’s adoption process. It’s long and drawn out, and hopefully we can help take care of their current 2 year old and 4 year old boys during that time.
Then back to the US to catch a trip back to Kenya. This we may use to catch a quick flight to Madagascar or someplace cool… No idea really.
Why I fly to fly
But as much as I hate flying (although I wouldn’t mind if it were first class), I fly to keep flying… which makes no sense, I know. But let me help make sense of it a little.
Look, if I’m paying $200 for a roundtrip to Kenya, that’s incredible, because airport taxes alone on a roundtrip award ticket to Kenya would likely be at least $70. So really I’m paying $130 more than the miles price, right?
$130 to save 80,000 miles? To me, that’s simple: would you pay $130 to buy 80,000 miles?
Actually, it’s better than that, because I’ll earn miles.
4 of these 4 mistake fares would earn about 50% Alaska miles, either because Emirates credits 50% or one of the two legs is on a non-Alaska partner. If it’s a non partner, then I earn 100% on Alaska for one half, and then credit the other half to someone else, like Flying Blue.
Which is relevant because 1) Alaska Airline miles are awesome, and 2) because I status-matched and earn double miles.
So let me add this up. Future flights that would earn 100% Alaska would be:
- PRG – AMS – HKG
- IAD – JFK – AMS
- AMS – JFK – IAD
- IAD – ATL – AMS
- AMS – JFK – AMS
Then I would earn 50% on:
- JFK – DXB – NBO
- NBO – DXB – JFK
For the 100% segments, I earn a total of 26,176 miles. And for the 50% flight (on Emirates), I earn 9,053 (half of 18,106).
Here’s where things get interesting…
First, we status matched to Alaska, so we’re essentially earning double redeemable miles. We will each earn 70,458 redeemable miles. From 4 mistake fares averaging ~$220 each.
So far, what do we get? We get to see Oman, Milan, Hong Kong, Kenya, and Kenya again, or positioning for someplace else. All that for $900. But then we also get 70,000+ redeemable Alaska miles. Which is enough for 3.5 oneways to Europe with AA off-peak. Nearly two future roundtrips to Europe along with our 4 destinations.
But it gets better.
In the first few months of the year, we will have earned 35,229 elite qualifying miles with Alaska. Which is only a big deal if I triple that number. Because when you get to 90,000 Alaska Air elite qualifying miles (with partners) you get a bonus 50,000 redeemable miles.
Another 50,000 miles just for reaching top tier status, along with the 4 elite status nominations, and other perks. And we’re more than one-third of the way there.
But wait, there’s more!
I have yet to mention the flights that aren’t on Delta, and therefore won’t earn Alaska miles. We still have a few flights to credit somewhere:
- JFK – MXP (Alitalia)
- AMS – MCT – AMS (marked Delta but operated by KLM)
- AMS – NBO – AMS (marked Delta but operated by KLM)
Not a big deal, but that’s another 19,000 miles to go somewhere. (Suggestions?). Hopefully I can credit to Flying Blue and have at least a oneway to Hawaii.
Adding up the real value and real cost
The numbers are as follows:
- 70,000+ Alaska Miles (and 35,000+ Elite Qualifying Alaska Miles)
- 19,000+ uncredited miles (FlyingBlue?)
But the value to me is also in seeing places. I’ve never been to Kenya, and have never been to Oman. I love Italy and could use that positioning to see a few new Eastern European countries (Slovenia, Croatia, etc…).
But here’s what we’re really getting:
- Oneway to Milan and then a oneway to Hong Kong
- Roundtrip to Oman
- Roundtrip to Kenya
- Roundtrip to Kenya
Plus, a potential/hypothetical:
- Oneway to Europe (20,000 Alaska miles)
- Roundtrip to Europe (40,000 Alaska miles)
- Oneway Domestic flight (10,000 Alaska miles)
- Oneway to Hawaii (15,000 Flying Blue).
That is a lot of trips for $800. So think of the real costs now.
In terms of paid tickets instead of using miles… this is way better than using miles, for me. Using miles would surely cost $70+ per ticket. That’s really $280 in taxes for using miles on four tickets.
Again, I’m only spending $620 more than I would have using miles. So if you will, the $620 is for two things:
1) The “potential” tickets I wouldn’t have had otherwise with the miles I’ll earn. Like the 3 oneways to/from Europe, the domestic flight, and the oneway to Hawaii.
2) The ability to keep a ton of miles these destinations would have cost me otherwise!
If you think about it, the Hong Kong oneway, roundtrip to Oman, and two roundtrips to Kenya… they would surely cost 280,000 miles! With nearly any airline! 280,000 miles is worth… well another trip to Hong Kong and 3 roundtrips to Africa and the Middle East.
Or we can be more intentional and use them for routes that maximize miles really well.
For instance, I could use miles to hack cheaper tickets to Africa with stopovers in Japan (Read: United’s most powerful zone’s post).
Or I could do the Pacific Hopper, which got us from Guam to Singapore, Sydney, New Zealand, Rarotonga, and Japan in business class for 40,000 miles! (Read: 4 Variations of the Pacific Hopper).
Or, I could use 17,500 miles to see Aruba, Panama, and Puerto Rico like we did with the Caribbean Hopper. (Read: The Guide to the Caribbean Hopper with United Miles).
Or, I could do a trip like we just did in Latin America and for 20,000 miles, going from Panama, to Colombia, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. (Read: $0 Trip to Latin America)
In those last three examples, flights I actually booked, we spent less than 80,000 miles and I just listed 13 different countries. Real examples of me using 80,000 miles to see 13 different countries and most of the flying was in Business Class!
Sometimes there are places I want to see, but the award prices are outside of the ideal use of miles… like Africa. In these cases, mistake fares are killing it. I mean, I feel like I’m killing it so bad, it takes all my self-control not to keep booking flights. But I have a wife that wants to help her sister and… I still hate flying.