My Points Procrastination/Last Minute Award Booking Outcome

by on June 28, 2012 · 21 comments

in Points Guy Pointers

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Last week I wrote about my bad habit of waiting until the last minute to book award tickets. Things started to get down to the wire and my friends in Madrid were expecting me to be at a couple of events, so I really pounded the pavement to get something that worked – and was in business/first and at the lowest “saver” level possible. I ran into a couple roadblocks along the way:

Star Alliance
, which is my favorite US airline website, kept showing phantom Star Alliance availability. On multiple occasions my hopes were dashed by not being able to book awards which was showing as available – this happened on both Lufthansa and Swiss flights. Besides, I don’t particularly like Lufthansa business class, so I was really only looking for first class, which I ended up getting on my return so I wanted to try a different product out on the outbound.

Delta doesn’t do one-way awards, but I still checked availability of JFK and Atlanta to Madrid to see if anything low-level would open up. During one search I saw 100,000 miles and got really excited, until I realized that the system actually searched for Madison, Wisconsin (I guess I sloppily selected that instead of Madrid when the destination field prepopulated.) True story – 100,000 miles to go from Miami to Wisconsin – not the kind of deal I was looking for! I had set alerts for Air France, KLM, Alitalia and Air Europa with ExpertFlyer, and would have transferred Amex to Flying Blue and sucked up the high taxes and fees if I absolutely had to – but since I’ve flown all of their sub-par angled business class products, that wasn’t high on my list. Though beggars can’t be choosers! Or can they?

I set ExpertFlyer alerts on Miami to Madrid nonstop, as well as upgrade space (since I am an American Executive Platinum and have many systemwide upgrades to burn), but space never opened up – plus I don’t like American’s angled lie-flats, like I recently flew to Beijing. I also set an Expertflyer alert for Iberia’s Miami to Madrid. Nada.

Last, but not least, I checked on British Airways and 3 days before my departure they opened up a single business class award seat with a great connection to Madrid via London. While the ticket cost 65,000 Avios and $455 in taxes/fees, I get a fully flat seat and to maximize my entire day in Miami with an evening departure. Plus, I’ve only ever flown British Airways First Class, so I’m excited to experience Club World, which generally gets great marks. Though my first experience didn’t start off well when I tried to select a seat after booking my award and was told I’d need to pay $90 to get an assigned seat. No thanks, British Airways! Does anyone actually pay for that?

Miami to Madrid via London on British Airways business class for 65,000 Avios and $455.

Overall I thought it was a great deal, because it saved me from having to a) fly in coach on an expensive ticket or spend many thousands on business class ($5,167 was the price to purchase this one-way fare, not like I would have shelled out that much). While I wish British Airways charged less in fees, at least they make more award space available than most other carriers and Avios are pretty easy to accrue (ahem 100,000 point credit card sign-up!) and since they are instant 1:1 transfer partners of Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Bold and American Express Membership Rewards Platinum/Premier Rewards Gold/ Gold and Green (often at a 50% bonus).

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  • Small_brain_syndrome

    You ask whether anyone pays for advance seat selection. The answer is simple: yes. I did it several times when I didn’t have oneworld status, as there’s a world of difference between the best and worst seats (especially on the 747). But as an AA EXP you wouldn’t need to pay (although if you’re using Avios that would mean contacting BA to get your AA status into the system).

  • PJ

    65K= less than 44K amex MRs that seems cool to me

  • PJ

    anybody knows if the target offer from Chase United Mileage Plus for 60K still available when you log into your account on line at last I know was the target offer extended to June 30.

    wonder if anybody else also got the $50 statement credit on 1st pruchase along with 50K and 5K for adding on an Authorized User ?

  • AUSMatt

    Sit upstairs in the “exit” row. It’s nice. Great service. And super quiet to sleep on way over. T5 -not so much.

  • n/a

    BA made me wanna vomit with that $90 biz class seat fee. If traveling alone I wouldn’t pay it, but for an upcoming vaca with the spouse, I paid to ensure our biz class award seats were together. Stupid ass company.

  • anonymous

    Dunno if this holds for biz, but I have had a lot of success choosing seats online exactly 24 hours before departure — seating seemed wide open and I always got exit row seats for 2 in coach (with no status).

  • Michael

    I, too, waited and kept reserving BA flights from LAX-las-lhr and Lhr-sea-lax in F – hoping for something better and yesterday lax-lhr in new first opened up non-stop both ways – very happy at $920 – and 62,500aa miles

  • Cjpat44

    There is nothing sub-par about Alitalia’s new business class product, if you can get on one of the routes offering it.

  • Dan C

    Can you put your AA FF# on the Avios reservation? If so you can use your OneWorld status to get a free seat assignment, even exit rows if you are Emerald.

  • Andrew10412

    BA charges $90 for seats together in business class??? that is asinine.

    what about on revenue tickets?

  • Sean

    Happy you were able to find an award. I consider that $455 your procrastination penalty.

  • Michael

    62,500 AA miles EACH way. What is ironical, is that I could fly BA Biz for $2100 instead of paying $920 and spending 125K miles (valued at $2000) and EARN miles, EXCEPT that I needed something over July 4th not AFTER.

  • AKold

    This. The new Magnifica looks amazing, better than BA Club World. I haven’t tried it out, but it honestly looks like the best European business class product (more so than Lufthansa’s new business on their 747-8).

  • Small_brain_syndrome

    BA charges for advance seat selection in all classes below F unless you have status (BA or oneworld). The fee varies depending on route (long or short haul) and cabin. Upper deck on 747s is most expensive for obvious reasons.

  • bob

    Yes, you can. If the website doesn’t allow you to, call in. It may require a few different agents, but eventually someone will accomplish it.

  • bob

    Seat assignment is free at checkin, 24hrs before departure

  • Tahsir Ahsan

    should’ve done Cathay Pacific first class for that amount. It wouldve been a bit more time, but oh oh so much nicer and cheaper. $71 in taxes

  • Michael

    I could have done so, but it would have taken me 30 hours to get there — as they only fly to London via HongKong.

  • Evodad

    stupid question from someone new at this, when you say avios are 1:1 transfer with Chase Ultimate Rewards, can you only transfer UR points to Avois or can you also transfer avios to UR points?

  • TPG Intern Ryan

    You can only transfer Ultimate Rewards to Avios, not the other way around.

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