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Advice on Award Flights for Cruise

Advice on Award Flights for Cruise

Old Apr 3, 12, 10:28 am
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: IAH
Posts: 362
Advice on Award Flights for Cruise

I'm planning to do a Mediterranean cruise next year (probably Sept/Oct) from Malta to Nice. My big question is - is it smart to book flights with miles when you have to be somewhere by a set date? I can afford to pay for the flights in business class with cash, but of course I'd rather not if I can get them with miles. From what I've seen, though, booking award flights requires being flexible, and I have very limited flexibility when I'm trying to meet up with a cruise (I am planning to arrive in MLA a day before the cruise departs just in case something does goes wrong).

If the general consensus is that I would be okay booking with miles, I could use any input on the itinerary (I'd be leaving from IAH). I currently have ~75,000 miles each in both British Airways and United, with another 85,000 in Chase UR (I know, low balances compared to a lot of people on FT, but I just started getting into CC signup bonuses).

I'm considering using my UA miles (plus some UR) to go to MLA (probably on LH), and then BA for the return trip from NCE. I know BA has high fuel surcharges, but I like their product and they seem to have good award availability, so I don't mind paying since it's still cheaper than what I'd pay with cash.

Any additional suggests on what credit cards to pick up, etc. to earn any other miles I might need would also be appreciated.
AggieTraveler is offline  
Old Apr 3, 12, 11:19 am
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: San Antonio
Programs: AA, SWA, CO, UA, PC Plat, HH Gold, SPG
Posts: 701
We have been going on at least one cruise per year the last several years and I almost always use my FF miles for the airfare. We haven't done flights to Europe, but either the flights are available when you need them or they aren't, I'm not sure I understand the dilemma.
bj2757 is offline  
Old Apr 3, 12, 11:29 am
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 2,007
I booked airfare from JFK to ARN and back from BRU for a cruise this Summer without a real problem. Two business (2 cabin) and two economy on the way over, four economy on the way back. Got all of the tickets at the 330 day mark. Using AA miles to fly FinnAir going and AA returning. Still hoping some business availability may show up in the next few months but probably I'll need to book AAnytime awards or just suffer.

We were able to be a bit flexible (day or two either side) with dates and airports. Just as long as we didn't have to eat BA's fuel surcharges.

We did the AA Citi 75K cards (three each) that were available last year. You can do 2Xpersonal followed by a churnable business card for 50K each. Otherwise, AmEx MR points convert to BA, often with a bonus.

If you haven't, check out cruisecritic.com for info on cruises. We usually use CruiseCompete and save about 10% on the cost of the cruise itself. Have a great time!
IkeEsq is offline  
Old Apr 3, 12, 11:30 am
Join Date: May 2008
Location: BOS/PVD, LIM, PTY
Programs: US CP, DL PM, UA Silver, HU/TJ Air Gold, Hilton Diamond, IHG Plat (Yay!)
Posts: 2,694
Right. You should look into availability and if you are going to plan your trip around award flights they need to be there.

That being said, I've flown to MLA for 30 return from Eindhovem om Ryanair, so you really only 100% need availability over the Atlantique. Its not hard, just try to give yourself a couple of days flexibility for availability and don't expect seats on the best flights/products.
benzemalyonnais is offline  
Old Apr 3, 12, 12:40 pm
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: IAH
Posts: 362
Thanks, everyone! You've eased some of my concern.

BA seems to have good availability. I'm more worried about UA/LH to MLA (especially at the saver award level). There's so few airlines that fly to Malta. And I'd have to be able to get award seats both ways, otherwise I end up paying for a one way ticket, and they're so expensive I might as well buy the roundtrip ticket.

The other option is to just find award seats going to somewhere Air Malta flies, and then just pay for that segment to MLA. Air Malta doesn't seem too expensive (I think a few hundred dollars for a O/W LHR-MLA segment?). I tried doing some research, but I can't find if Air Malta has an interline agreement (right term?) for my luggage to go the whole way, so I may have to pick up my bags and recheck them for the flight to Malta.

bj2757, I understand what you're saying about the flights either being available or not. Maybe I'm just worrying too much. I think in the back of my head it feels like if I'm using miles for the ticket I'm more likely to get bumped if something goes wrong. Probably unlikely, though.
AggieTraveler is offline  

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