Why Australia is Too Far in Coach...for Us
I wrote a post this morning about how my own family is approaching planning our potential next big trip to Australia and New Zealand using miles. The premise of the post was tips for searching for business or first class award seats from the US to Australia for a family of three or more. That is not impossible, but it is pretty challenging, especially depending on what type of miles you have to work with. You are going to need flexibility, persistence, a big pot of miles, and luck to pull it off successfully when you want more than two seats.
In the post I was pretty up-front and definite that the longest commercial flight in the world (Dallas to Sydney on Qantas) at 17 hours is well beyond my family's threshold for booking in coach. Not surprisingly, a couple of the comments on the post were related to saying flying in coach is fine, it won't kill us, most people fly that way, etc.
Yes, of course, all of those things are true. In fact, I'll take it a step further and say if the only way you have to get to Australia is in coach (like it is for most travelers), you are still insanely lucky and should go and have the trip of a lifetime. I know I would, but...
I spend hours of every day thinking about, writing about, researching, or earning airline miles. Granted, that is also basically my job, but it only became my job because it was my passion that I was already doing. Part of the beauty of airline miles is that they unlock the world and allow you to go places your otherwise might not be able to, like Australia. The other part of the beauty of airlines miles that I have learned over time, is that they allow you to go in exceptional comfort.
When the time comes to book the longest journey my family has been on together, and my obsession/hobby has given me the means (miles) to do it in a lie-flat seat, I'm not about to miss that opportunity and book us for 17 hours in economy. My husband is much, much, much happier in business class, my kid sleeps much better, and goodness knows I like it better, too. You have a more pleasant journey, the flight becomes a big part of the fun, and you both arrive at your destination and back home again more rested and ready for whatever comes next. I even sort of like that chasing award availability means leaving some things up to chance and not having total control over when you will go and how you will get there.
I would still go if coach were the only way within our reach to get there, but that isn't our current reality. I can do better than that for my family in this instance, and that's my plan. It will be much harder to book multiple seats in business than just getting the seats in coach, but it will also make for a more pleasant overall experience, especially for a 17 hour+ journey! Seriously, 17 hours. That is a very long time to sit in any seat.
If you only have enough miles (or money) to go in coach, you should still go. Those folks that say it are right, coach won't kill you (just do some stretches and stay hydrated). If your family doesn't care at all about sitting in coach for 17 hours, then great, use that to your advantage and save the difference in miles for something else. Sometimes coach is a good amount cheaper than business class, and sometimes it isn't. For example, with US Airways miles to Australia you are looking at 80,000 miles round trip per person from the US to Australia in economy. For just 15,000 miles additional each way (110,000 miles round trip), you go from an economy seat that we all know won't be comfortable, to a lie-flat business class seat. Sure that's around 38% more miles to get to the same destination, but I can guarantee we will enjoy that flight way more than just 38% more.
If you book your family in coach for a journey to Australia I won't think you are doing it wrong. I will think you are doing awesome and I'm certain doing the best you can with what you currently have to work with. Getting a family to Australia on miles is a huge accomplishment, end of story. Heck, we fly in coach too and are doing some economy flying to Europe this spring because that made the most sense for that trip.
However, if I book my family to Australia in economy I know I'm not doing the best I can, because I know I can do better with what I currently have to work with. That may not be true in a couple years, but for now I have the miles, the availability does pop up from time to time, and it's just my job to work hard enough to find and grab it.
There's no right or wrong way to use miles to fly with your family, but I would love to hear how you decide between coach and premium cabins for long haul flights. Or, do you just ignore the possibility of premium cabins in order to stretch your miles as far as they can take you?