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Flying the Babysitter in First Class — Reader Success Story

Jan. 16, 2019
4 min read
Flying the Babysitter in First Class — Reader Success Story
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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Alex, who used his miles to make things easier during a busy week of work-related travel:

My wife and I both work in jobs that require at least some travel. Mine requires a lot of it, all over the world, while my wife generally travels domestically once or twice each quarter. So far, we have been lucky in that our travel has not overlapped, and we have never had a conflict over who would watch our one-year-old son. In February, however, we both have conferences we need to attend on the same dates — my wife in San Francisco and me in Vancouver.

Since neither of us could cancel our trip, we needed another solution. The one we settled on was for my wife to bring our son with her to San Francisco and to fly my mother-in-law out as well to watch him during the week while we were at our conferences. The challenge was to find a cheap flight for my mother-in-law, since part of the trip overlapped with the end of school vacation week.

I expected the worst, as I have always encountered higher prices during that time, so I was shocked when I logged on to Delta and found a ridiculously low mileage redemption for the exact dates and route I needed. The offer: 21,500 SkyMiles plus $11.20 in fees for a Boston (BOS) to San Francisco (SFO) round-trip ticket with the outbound in First Class and the return in Delta Comfort+. Initially I thought it was way too good to be true, and while I was able to replicate the award on a few dates after the fact, in general it was coming in anywhere between 50,000 and 95,000 miles.

I jumped on it immediately. The round-trip fare for the same ticket was $780.40, so the award ticket would net me nearly 3.6 cents per mile in redemption value. That's a much better return than I expected. The best part is that my mother-in-law will be thrilled. She does not travel a ton, and getting to fly first class transcon for a seven-hour trip will be appreciated and I'm sure an experience she will not forget soon.

Delta's frequent award sales continue to offer solid value, especially as discounted premium awards have become more common. In just the last few months, we've seen round-trip flights to Europe from 98,000 miles in business class, to Asia for 50,000 miles in Premium Select, and within the US for as low as 13,000 miles in first class. The destinations and pricing are unpredictable, but you can score an exceptional deal when a sale aligns with your travel plans. Just be ready to buy quickly like Alex did, since the lower rates can disappear quickly.

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One underappreciated (and sometimes misunderstood) feature of frequent flyer programs is that most allow you to use miles from your own account to book flights for other people. This is elementary to experienced award travelers, but it's useful to keep in mind no matter how knowledgeable you are. You don't have to transfer the miles between accounts and there's no additional fee for buying a ticket in someone else's name, though you should be mindful of the name on the credit card used in booking. Whether you have a pragmatic need like Alex did or you're helping others travel as a kindness, redeeming miles for someone else can be as rewarding as spending them on yourself.

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Alex a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes, or to contribute to our new award redemption series. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Featured image by (Photo by Odua Images/Shutterstock)

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