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For the next entry in our Award Redemption of the Week series, I want to share a story from TPG reader Brian, who used points to avoid a lengthy bus ride in Jordan:
My husband and I normally don’t take busy, whirlwind trips, but since my husband is only getting one week off between January and Thanksgiving this year, we decided to “whirl” a bit on our last trip. We were heading to Warsaw for a friend’s big birthday party, and we managed to score two of those sub-$2,000 New York-Frankfurt Business Class seats on Singapore Airlines that we read about on TPG. We spent a day at the spa in Baden-Baden and then took a cheap Lufthansa flight the next morning to Warsaw for the party.
We’ve been to Poland many times, so we were itching to find somewhere new and exciting to visit with the remainder of our long week. I looked at Warsaw Airport’s Wikipedia page to see where we could fly non-stop, and saw quite a few interesting options. Ultimately we decided to book a cheap WizzAir flight to Tel Aviv and then drive to Jerusalem and Petra — places that have been on our bucket lists forever.
Since Petra was at the end of our trip, we had to find a way back to Frankfurt to connect to our flight home. Crossing the border is not a trivial matter, so flying out of Israel didn’t make sense. The bus ride from Petra to Amman is around four hours, which sounded hellish after a long, hot day of hiking, so I started looking for other options. Lo and behold, there’s a well-timed Royal Jordanian flight from Aqaba’s King Hussein airport (AQJ) to Amman and then on to Frankfurt.
Like a lot of flights out of smaller airports, this one cost a pretty penny for this flight — $1,566 per person in business class or just north of $600 in economy. With our trip already so harried, I was fully prepared to fork over the cash, but then I remembered that Royal Jordanian is a partner of British Airways, and that I still had 14,000 Avios points lying around. I logged in to BA.com and found two seats in business class for 29,000 Avios and $181 per person. I transferred points from Amex to top off my account and completed the purchase. After accounting for fees, that’s a redemption value of 4.7 cents per point!
We had an amazing time. Petra exceeded all expectations, and we were in Tel Aviv during gay pride, so the city felt very alive and welcoming. Our Royal Jordanian flight was the perfect end to our first visit to the Middle East: Amman airport is gorgeous, the flight crew was in traditional Jordanian dress, Arab coffee was served as the welcome beverage, and tasty local food and wine were served en route to Germany.
One of the most common questions I get about booking airline awards is “where do I start?” My answer is to figure out what your options are, and that begins with simply knowing who flies where. To that end, I think Wikipedia is indispensable. You’ll find an entry for just about every airport with commercial traffic, including which airlines offer service and the destinations they serve. The information there is occasionally out of date (especially at smaller airports outside the US), but if you’re feeling overwhelmed by possibilities, these concise overviews will help narrow your search.
Wikipedia led Brian to Israel and Jordan, but he might have benefited from using it to weigh his return options. The entry for Aqaba’s King Hussein airport shows that Royal Jordanian isn’t the only major alliance airline in town, as Turkish Airlines offers nonstop service three times weekly to and from Istanbul. That means in addition to the Oneworld options Brian had with Royal Jordanian, he could also have flown back to Frankfurt by booking an award through a Star Alliance partner program.
Since he was transferring points from Membership Rewards, I think Brian’s best move would have been to book through Singapore Airlines. I found plentiful KrisFlyer award space from Aqaba to Frankfurt via Istanbul for 25,000 miles and $158 in Turkish Airlines business class — which includes access to the renowned lounge at IST — or 17,500 miles and $103 in Turkish Airlines economy. Both awards are substantially cheaper than the equivalents on Royal Jordanian.
Booking through British Airways may have made sense anyway given that Brian already had Avios on hand, especially if he didn’t foresee another use for them. Also, the Turkish Airlines itinerary might not have been viable depending on when he needed to be in Frankfurt. Still, I hope this example illustrates the value of shopping around for awards, even if just to see what lies beyond your award travel comfort zone.
In appreciation for sharing his story, we’re sending Brian a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and we’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award redemption stories to firstname.lastname@example.org; be sure to include details about the booking process and what you learned from it, and put “Award Redemption Story” in the subject line. As always, we’d also love to hear your success and mistake stories. If your submission gets published, we’ll send you a gift to spark your next adventure.
Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!
Feature image courtesy of Boris Streubel – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images.
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