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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:
United.com, 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 united.com 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?
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).