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I recently had a client who wanted to go to Honolulu in business class from ATL on the non-stop flight. Due to medical issues, business class was the only option, and if she had to, she would pay the discounted business class fare. However, she had heard about my services through a friend and wanted to see what I could work out for her- trying to use her healthy bank of SkyMiles for the best deal.
Immediately, I pulled up the award flights and they were all pricing out at 135,000 SkyMiles for the flights she wanted (and she was flexible with her days in an off-peak time). I couldn’t justify this insane amount (I just went to Paris and the Seychelles in Business Class for 120k SkyMiles), so I wanted to see other options. Normally, I’d start to get creative with routing and partners (Alaska and Hawaiian), but I couldn’t in this case because the non-stop flight was the only option.
I then pulled up the price of a regular coach ticket and a discounted business class:
Discounted coach (U fare): $850
Discounted business class: $2,850
Hhhmmm. I then decided to try out upgrading the itinerary with miles, which would require 15,000 SkyMiles each way and a K fare or higher.
Surprisingly, the K fare priced out at $970 which isn’t bad, considering I’ve seen more for much shorter flights. I guess it helps that Hawaii is a leisure, low-yield destination with less last minute business travelers.
On top of the reasonable K fare, I pulled up my Expertflyer.com account and found ONE upgrade available on the flights she wanted (non-stop on the Airbus A33o BusinessElite equipped plane.) Within 20 minutes, we had the trip booked by more than friendly Delta agents.
Moral of the story- don’t always assume using straight miles is the best bet for your business/first class reward. In this scenario, 135,000 would have saved her $2,850 or 2.1 cents per SkyMiles (actually not a bad value for SkyMiles).
Using the 30,000 miles as a mileage upgrade saved her $1,880 ($2,850-$970)- amassing 6.3 cents per SkyMile. Not only that, she will also earn roughly 9,000 SkyMiles and Elite Medallion Qualifying Miles from the trip since she is booked in K class, which at 2 cents a mile = $180 or if she uses those miles for another mileage upgrade a 6 cents= $540 (extreme example, but you get the point).
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