n00b Gold Award Booking Strategy

Old Jan 18, 19, 2:04 pm
  #1  
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n00b Gold Award Booking Strategy

This is largely from my own inexperience: But I think I have this strategy right. I am a new Gold this year. I am planning a trip to Europe this summer and successfully used Chase UR points to get there on a nice flight. I was going to purchase tickets for returning home the second week of July. But fare on FI are stuck at $1100/ea oneway out of most airports in Europe to Portland. Legacy carriers are even more nuts at $3k. I tried pricing some RT's too with the idea of abandoning a leg. It just seem July out of France is popular, who knew.

So here is the strategy I want to test: As Gold, book all the tickets oneway on FI using AS miles. The redemption rate is not great (1.8 cents at present high ticket prices). But use this booking as an insurance policy - and cancel if revenue fares drop. Its just the partner booking fee ($12.50 x 5) that I would be out, right?
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Old Jan 18, 19, 2:22 pm
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Flying within the US, the round trip fare is usually the sum of the one way fares, so booking individual legs often makes sense.

However, for international flights, there is often a huge penalty for booking one ways. A one way may be close to the same price as a round trip. Even if you are not sure if your return dates, if booking cash tickets, you are usually better off booking a round trip and changing your return. You will pay a change fee but if you change a leg after you start travel (not before) the leg will usually be repriced at historical fares (you don't need to worry about the price going up just because it's closer to the travel date). You will be on the hook for the change fee but that's often a lot less than the "one-way penalty". Of course check the change fees and repricing rules for the particular airline before you book a ticket that you plan on changing. You can sometimes pay a small premium at booking time for a "flex" type fare that reduces the change fee to be negligible... depending on the airline of course.

Since you are already there, that is only useful for future travel. Using an award flight as a backup plan seems like a good strategy. You are correct that if you have to cancel, you only have to pay the $12.50 partner booking fee.

You may also want to look into flying back into a larger west coast gateway (SFO, LAX, SEA) and then buying a cheap flight on AS to get back to PDX. Separate tickets might be cheaper than a connection here.
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Old Jan 18, 19, 2:59 pm
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I'd agree with the above, if you have any inkling of alternative plans for those AS miles with a better value. FI used to have less expensive one-way fares--a few years ago I got PDX-KEF-HEL for something like $600 for Labor Day weekend--but it seems that they've altered their fare rules significantly in the last year or two.
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Old Jan 18, 19, 3:21 pm
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Originally Posted by VegasGambler View Post
However, for international flights, there is often a huge penalty for booking one ways.
For LCCs like AS partners EI, FI and DE, not as much. Usually someone like BA/AA/AF/DL/LH/UA only sells full Y one way, leaving the LCCs to do the cheapo oneways. Of course the AS RDM/EQM you get is likely not much, if any.

Last edited by eponymous_coward; Jan 18, 19 at 4:02 pm
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Old Jan 18, 19, 3:53 pm
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Thanks all - this helps. The OW penalty on the legacy carriers is real. Currently $1300-$1800 RT vs $3200 OW for AA. But FI and DE are still sitting at $1000 for return. DE "Y+" is a little tempting for EQM/RDM since I am Gold and wife is MVP. But not quite the right math yet.

A couple years back I bought RT in January for summer travel only to see fare fall in half in April. (Worth cancelling and rebooking even with fees.) I am not super upset if I use the AS miles, on five tickets its a substantial and real cash savings regardless. But it might delay when I make that AS award trip on JAL J to NRT....

Thanks for the reminder on US gateways, I was watching those for award tickets but need to do the same on cash. Here is hoping a hard Brexit lowers fares.... or something.
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Old Jan 18, 19, 4:13 pm
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Originally Posted by eponymous_coward View Post
For LCCs like AS partners EI. FI and DE, not as much.
Right now, for example, on FI, it's possible to book SFO-KEF, in business, round trip, for $2238. (Connecting in Seattle on AS). There is tons of availability, eg: https://flights.app.goo.gl/hZS5x

The same outbound flights, one-way, are $1923: https://flights.app.goo.gl/uBfgc There is no cheaper one-way SFO-KEF business class itinerary any time within the next several months.

So, it definitely applies to FI as well.

I've looked at DE pricing a fair bit (you don't consider them an LCC?) Usually there is about a $200-$300 per direction premium to buy one ways instead of round trip. It's not as extreme as this example but there is certainly a premium there.
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Old Jan 18, 19, 4:17 pm
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Originally Posted by VegasGambler View Post
Right now, for example, on FI, it's possible to book SFO-KEF, in business, round trip, for $2238. (Connecting in Seattle on AS). There is tons of availability, eg: https://flights.app.goo.gl/hZS5x

The same outbound flights, one-way, are $1923: https://flights.app.goo.gl/uBfgc There is no cheaper one-way SFO-KEF business class itinerary any time within the next several months.

So, it definitely applies to FI as well.

I've looked at DE pricing a fair bit (you don't consider them an LCC?) Usually there is about a $200-$300 per direction premium to buy one ways instead of round trip. It's not as extreme as this example but there is certainly a premium there.
The legacies usually have far more extreme pricing differences, though--I've seen DL ask $800-1000 for a US-Europe RT but $3000 for a one-way. FI, even though they're asking much more than they used to, are still at least charging a bit less for half the travel.
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Old Jan 18, 19, 4:36 pm
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Originally Posted by jinglish View Post
The legacies usually have far more extreme pricing differences, though--I've seen DL ask $800-1000 for a US-Europe RT but $3000 for a one-way. FI, even though they're asking much more than they used to, are still at least charging a bit less for half the travel.
I'm not sure what FI's change fees are, but, I'd assume that booking a round trip with a far off return date, and then changing it when you actually actually want to come back, would save a significant amount of money (well over $1000 in this example) as compared to two one-ways.

This brings up a related question. Does AS reprice at historical fares once travel starts, or current fares? For example:

Suppose on Feb 1, I book AAA - BBB round trip in R class, leaving Mar 1 and returning Mar 8. Both directions are $100 with a 21-day advance purchase requirement, so I pay $200 for my round trip ticket.

I fly AAA-BBB. On Mar 5, I want to change my BBB-AAA flight to Mar 9. I find a flight on Mar 9 day with R space available, and my original fare would have applied to that flight, except that since I'm now inside the 21-day window, the fare (if booked on Mar 5) would be $200. Do I have to pay the $100 fare difference? Or do they "reprice" at the fare that was available on Feb 1 (ie, no fare difference)
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Old Jan 18, 19, 7:22 pm
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Originally Posted by williwaw View Post
DE "Y+" is a little tempting for EQM/RDM since I am Gold and wife is MVP. But not quite the right math yet.
DE J is often very good. You can get relatively cheap fares (as low as $900 each way, though that's hard to find) and as Gold you will earn 4x RDM and 2x EQM. I'm not sure if they have good fares on dates that work for you though. The seat is an angled lie-flat. My parents took it and they were happy with it (I think they paid $1200 OW FRA-PHX) I haven't tried it, though I've been meaning to.

But, yeah, Premium Economy seems to be the current mileage running sweet spot. At least until they start differentiating PE earning by booking class (for most partners all the PE fares earn the same, creating some nice sweet spots, particularly when there are sales that book into the lowest PE class). Honestly I don't expect it to last long in its current state. I was pretty happy with CX PE and I got what amounts to 75% of the cost of my ticket back in miles (making for a very cheap vacation)
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Old Jan 19, 19, 1:20 am
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Originally Posted by VegasGambler View Post

But, yeah, Premium Economy seems to be the current mileage running sweet spot. At least until they start differentiating PE earning by booking class (for most partners all the PE fares earn the same, creating some nice sweet spots, particularly when there are sales that book into the lowest PE class). Honestly I don't expect it to last long in its current state. I was pretty happy with CX PE and I got what amounts to 75% of the cost of my ticket back in miles (making for a very cheap vacation)
What sweet spots? I see the odd good PE fare but the differntial between a 100% EQM earning Y and PE with a 0%-10% COS Bonus is often substantial. Your style, as discussed prior, is not mileage running. That aside, I do see a very good PE fare from Deep South America to North Asia covering over 11K miles for ~$750 one-way.

Better yet, I am flying AA today YVR-PTY return in F for $717. I will take the 50% COS for those International AA flights that still earn on AS. Next week, AA PE to Asia. The fare was 50% more for 0% additional EQM but I haven't flown PE before and the fare was so cheap 50% more wasn't a lot of dollars for the experience.

The thread has digressed so I will leave it at that.

Solid strategy OP A bird in the hand....

James.
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Old Jan 19, 19, 2:10 am
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Originally Posted by Flying for Fun View Post
What sweet spots? I see the odd good PE fare but the differntial between a 100% EQM earning Y and PE with a 0%-10% COS Bonus is often substantial..
The cheapest PE fare is often significantly cheaper than the cheapest Y fare which earns 100%.

Eg, right now SQ has $947 SFO-HKG round trips in PE.

You can find this in economy for $550 but that books into K which doesn't earn miles. The cheapest SQ economy code that earns 100% is B, and that will cost you $1419. Even M (the cheapest econ earning 75%) is $1132. You can get W for $886, but that only earns 50%

So, yes, in my book, that makes the PE fare a "sweet spot" for earning miles. Obviously it is not true for all flights, but PE sales seem to be getting common, and while the "discount" PE fares continue to earn at the same rate as "full fare" PE, that will create these sweet spots for earning miles. Whether the goal is mileage running, vacation, or a combination is irrelevant (you earn the same miles either way, regardless of your motivation)
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Old Jan 21, 19, 12:38 am
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Originally Posted by VegasGambler View Post
The cheapest PE fare is often significantly cheaper than the cheapest Y fare which earns 100%.

Eg, right now SQ has $947 SFO-HKG round trips in PE.

You can find this in economy for $550 but that books into K which doesn't earn miles. The cheapest SQ economy code that earns 100% is B, and that will cost you $1419. Even M (the cheapest econ earning 75%) is $1132. You can get W for $886, but that only earns 50%

So, yes, in my book, that makes the PE fare a "sweet spot" for earning miles. Obviously it is not true for all flights, but PE sales seem to be getting common, and while the "discount" PE fares continue to earn at the same rate as "full fare" PE, that will create these sweet spots for earning miles. Whether the goal is mileage running, vacation, or a combination is irrelevant (you earn the same miles either way, regardless of your motivation)
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Old Jan 21, 19, 3:40 am
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Originally Posted by Flying for Fun View Post
This is a joke! Right?
Why is is a joke? You said that PE was significantly more expensive than the 100% EQM-earning Y fare.

My point is that that is not always true at all; there is often significant overlap between the more expensive economy fares (required to earn 100%EQM) and the cheapest PE fares (which still earn 100% or 110% EQM).

And I gave an example where booking the cheapest 100% EQM-earning economy fare was 50% more expensive than the cheapest PE fare.

No joke...
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Old Jan 21, 19, 5:53 am
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Originally Posted by VegasGambler View Post
The cheapest PE fare is often significantly cheaper than the cheapest Y fare which earns 100%.

Eg, right now SQ has $947 SFO-HKG round trips in PE.
I'm surprised that books into standard (P). A lot of the cheaper ones that were pricing as standard moved to into a saver fare bucket that earns 0 points. They also increased the standard cancel fee from $100 to $200.

Speaking of SQ, I just landed in EWR after flying the "worlds longest flight" in premium economy. I did not like the seat as much as I thought i would. Solo seat is cool but the leg rest and foot rest were useless. It has same width and pitch listed as the new premium on AA/DL/UA but it did not feel as roomy as my AA Premium flight on 787
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Old Jan 21, 19, 6:32 am
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Originally Posted by CDKing View Post
I'm surprised that books into standard (P). A lot of the cheaper ones that were pricing as standard moved to into a saver fare bucket that earns 0 points. They also increased the standard cancel fee from $100 to $200.

Speaking of SQ, I just landed in EWR after flying the "worlds longest flight" in premium economy. I did not like the seat as much as I thought i would. Solo seat is cool but the leg rest and foot rest were useless. It has same width and pitch listed as the new premium on AA/DL/UA but it did not feel as roomy as my AA Premium flight on 787
I didn't realize that there was a saver fare bucket that didn't earn miles for PE. (I know that they exist for econ). This books into P.
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