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NEVER! Use miles on a domestic coach award!

NEVER! Use miles on a domestic coach award!

Old Jan 3, 05, 3:22 pm
  #1  
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NEVER! Use miles on a domestic coach award!

I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but there are new FTers joining every day. Until I started reading this message board, I didn't realize that I should never (and I mean NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER EVER NEVER!) burn miles on domestic coach awards!

I just burned nearly all of my Delta miles on 3 First Class Awards on Delta/Malaysian to SE Asia (routing TPA-CVG-LAX-TPE-KUL-SGN-KUL-TPE-LAX-CVG-TPA). This "cost" me 420,000 Delta miles. At one point in my life, I would have thought someone a fool to "waste" 420,000 miles on a single trip! Of course, I now know better.

Just out of curiosity, I pulled up my itinerary on ITA Software to see how it would price out. $10,449.22 per ticket - let's round it to $31,500 for all three. A "value" of $.075/mile.

Of course, I could have used those 420,000 miles on domestic coach tickets. I could have gotten 17 round trip 25,000 mile coach tickets (425,000 miles, technically). But how much does a domestic coach ticket cost? $200-$300 out of Tampa? At $300, 17 would still only be worth $5,100 - or a measly $.012/mile. As a matter of fact, those 17 domestic coach tickets would have to average a cost of over $1,850 each to get the same value as I got by booking the FC international awards.

Is there temptation to use "orphaned" miles on some infrequent airline for a domestic award? Sure. But in today's environment, you never know where those miles might end up. The 29,000 US Air miles might be convertible into United or Delta miles next month. Virtually any airlines could merge and give you greater potential value for you "orphaned" miles.

Plus, with today's low cost carriers (AirTran, SouthWest & JetBlue are the three I'm specifically thinking of), you never know when you'll be able to earn tickets that are restricted to domestic use because you start travelling somewhere that these airlines are the logical choice (I'm amazed at the number of tickets I've earned on SouthWest and AirTran without even trying). One would think that the trend would be for more LCC to enter the market and make these domestic tickets even easier to earn. Not to mention the latest trend of legacy carriers with their fly-3-fly-free type promotions.

Everyone may have unique situations that mean burning miles for domestic coach makes sense. But for me? NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER EVER NEVER!

Last edited by DevilBucsFlyer; Jan 3, 05 at 3:25 pm
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Old Jan 3, 05, 3:24 pm
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Great advice. FT has made me realize how valuable my miles can be if wisely used.
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Old Jan 3, 05, 3:49 pm
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I think there has to be an "almost" here since there have been some 15,000 rewards and some domestic flights that cost more than foreign flights.

My personal view is it ain't worth even considering if the price of the ticket is under like $300.

but then other things come into play (like whether you need status)
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Old Jan 3, 05, 3:51 pm
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It's great that you got $31,500 worth of travel, however, would you have ever spent that much to go on your trip? How much would you have spent out of your own pocket? Would you have even made the trip without the miles? If you had paid for it with real money would you have flown coach? That is the true value of the miles. I know you are calling yourself not a fool, but if it were my miles it would have been a foolish thing for me to do. Especially since you said you had to burn all your miles. What are you going to do for the next trip?
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Old Jan 3, 05, 3:54 pm
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You only live once. A few mesely couch trips won't add up the experience of that one trip. Enjoy it!
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Old Jan 3, 05, 4:00 pm
  #6  
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Originally Posted by FlyByMike
It's great that you got $31,500 worth of travel, however, would you have ever spent that much to go on your trip? How much would you have spent out of your own pocket?
Good point. I likely would be travelling in coach, and likely on Korean Air. Out of pocket cost would have been under $4,000.

Would you have even made the trip without the miles?
Another good point. And this comes down to spousal negotiation - I'm sure other FTers can relate. Miles have considerably less value to my wife than actual cash does. Even spending $4,000 for the trip would have required serious convincing. But "blowing" 420K miles didn't even phase her.

I know you are calling yourself not a fool, but if it were my miles it would have been a foolish thing for me to do. Especially since you said you had to burn all your miles. What are you going to do for the next trip?
Next trip I'll likely use United miles. Hoping that they still have their Star Alliance relationship with SQ when I get around to it. I'm a mere 75K short of having enough for 3 business class tickets on *Alliance. There are dangers to that, too, of course: bankruptcy, end of *Alliance, increase in mileage requirements for awards, etc.

After that? Well, then it's probably back to spending dollars and earning miles on those trips for a while rather than buring them.
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Old Jan 3, 05, 4:00 pm
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I have before. But that was because the cost of a ticket was over $600 and the award cost me 15,000 miles.
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Old Jan 3, 05, 4:13 pm
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i have used mi's for domestic trips in 04....1 was a 15k for a $500 ticket [about 3.3 cts /mi. not great but i have mi's]..... 2 was a short notice, mid week for wife & me... $2200 ea for 25k mi [i get 8.8 cts/ mi], makes sense to me!
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Old Jan 3, 05, 4:19 pm
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a little context never hurt anyone

Let's not dismiss the value of coach tickets altogether here...

walkup tickets can be rather expensive, as well as tickets for awful city pairs (ie, Portland, ME to Telluride, CO).
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Old Jan 3, 05, 4:25 pm
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Originally Posted by DevilBucsFlyer
...NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER EVER NEVER!...
Never say never...

My mother decided to go Chicago for my brother's graduation 2 days before the event. Ticket price? About $2,500 LIH-HNL-ORD and back. As an EXP, she was able to get an award ticket for 35,000 with very short notice. Value = $0.0714/mile.

Personally, I do cringe when I hear of people literally burning miles for domestic trips -- almost as much as when people "burn" VIP's to upgrade domestics.
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Old Jan 3, 05, 4:26 pm
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Originally Posted by BoyAreMyArmsTired
I have before. But that was because the cost of a ticket was over $600 and the award cost me 15,000 miles.
Oh, and the other thing is I'm too old to say "never" anymore. I've had to eat those words a few times.
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Old Jan 3, 05, 4:36 pm
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I used to believe that the "2c/m" redemption rate rule was golden, using miles for anything less than that is a waste. However, I think the cost to acquire miles has come down so much in the last few years that this threshold may longer be valid.

For example, consider 3 mileage earning opportunities I had with Delta in the last 12 months:

- for a $300 purchase at 1800flowers, received $300 worth of gift certificates, and 30k Skymiles
- for a $150 purchase of a Hotel Intercontinental Gold status membership, I received 25k miles.
- in Dec I almost flew to Key West on a 25k award (wouldn't have been a bad value, coach ticket price was $920). However, Delta came out with a 15k fly anywhere bonus offer. So, for a new difference of ~$155, and flying into/out of FLL (and driving to KW), the net difference was 43k Skkmiles.

Now, we're looking to go to Las Vegas in a couple of months. Fares are running about $250-$300 now. My wife and I combined have over 1M Skymiles. If these were guaranteed (like a US Savings Bond), we'd be set for life. However there's really no way to know what may happen to airlines, and it's not always easy to plan a trip to some more exotic location (Hawaii, Australia, etc), because of both the time involved, and the costs (going to Australia for 10-14 days can still be pricey, even if airfare is free).

So, right now, using 50k miles is a tempting alternative to putting out $600+ for airfare. It's nice to be miles-rich, but not if it makes you cash-poor.

Jeff
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Old Jan 3, 05, 4:53 pm
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Sorry I beg to disagree. maybe as more carriers are reducing their top fares, but many carriers still allow a free coach w/o a sat stayover which can cost alot of $$$otherwise.

As for what the OP trip saved him, IMHO if he wouldnt have paid 31k for those seats but would have purchased coach, then the value is what the 3 coach seats would have been. no way would I pay 6k for Biz to LHR I would however pay some 3-400 for a coach. so even if I cash in for a BIZ tkt its worth Only 3-400 to me and NOT what it would have cost had I purchased a biz tkt. Now someone who usually would purchase a Biz tkt then Id say he is saving 6k for me its saving only the price of the discounted coach I would have purchased.
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Old Jan 3, 05, 5:02 pm
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Lightbulb Think more carefully....

Never say never. It's always dumb advice.

I use miles on domestic coach awards, especially for short flights up and down the Pacific coast. Since it often costs the same as (or even less than) to fly transcon as it does to fly a short distance, I'd rather pay $200 to $300 for, and earn, the 5,000+ miles of a transcon; and burn miles on the short flights which would only earn me 1,000 to 1,500 miles. (Of course, sometimes these short-haul awards have only cost 15,000 miles instead of the usual 25,000.) And my concern is not just redeemable miles, it is elite qualifying miles, which is something that newbies seem to leave out of the equation. Also, when I buy a coach ticket on a transcon with dollars, I can upgrade with the various certificates that come with elite status (and have had 100% success rate upgrading in 2004). I can't upgrade with award tix. And I don't mind flying in coach on short (one or two-hour) flights.

I also use miles on overseas premium-class awards, such as 90,000 miles to fly business class to Australia or Asia, or 100,000 miles to fly first-class to Europe.

I compare the cost of buying a ticket with dollars to the cost of buying with miles. You have to factor in the benefits that come with paid tix, i.e., redeemable miles, bonus miles, elite qualifying miles, as well as other possible perks from promos.

Oh, by the way, although I attempt to burn plenty of miles every year, I somehow keep ending up with fairly substantial redeemable mileage balances. On UA, I currently have over 300,000 redeemable miles in spite of having burned 145,000 miles on awards in 2004 and an even larger number in the two prior years. I hope United stays in business and I will be able to make use of those miles. In the meantime, I'm enjoying my elite status on United and the free (space-available) upgrades it provides.

Last edited by KathyWdrf; Jan 3, 05 at 5:17 pm
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Old Jan 3, 05, 5:06 pm
  #15  
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Originally Posted by raydon22
Personally, I do cringe when I hear of people literally burning miles for domestic trips -- almost as much as when people "burn" VIP's to upgrade domestics.
I've done the latter too. The UA equivalent of VIPOWs is SWUs. They expire in a year's time. It's far better to use them to upgrade domestic than to let them expire!!! @:-)
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