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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Jesse, who got a good price for business class seats by booking far in advance:
My girlfriend and I like to escape the New York winter in mid-January just after kids go back to school and prices fall; for next year, we set our sights on St. Lucia. Delta is our preferred airline and I’m a Platinum Medallion member, but the schedules for the trip we had in mind were really ugly. Everything went through Atlanta, and the only return flight required a 10+ hour overnight layover. We searched other options on Google Flights, but saw only connecting flights, some of which were pricier than we liked.
JetBlue is our second choice of airline, and we noticed it wasn’t showing up in our search results even though we knew from experience that they operate a nonstop from JFK to UVF. It turns out the calendar hadn’t extended into mid-January yet, so I signed up for JetBlue schedule alerts, hoping it might present a better option or at least put some price pressure on other carriers.
When the schedule opened up, I was surprised to see MINT as an option for Saturday flights, and shocked to see it offered for only 30,000 TrueBlue points each way. The seat map indicated these were the first two MINT seats on those flights, presumably meaning we were buying from a deeply discounted fare bucket. We both had a few TrueBlue points sitting in our respective accounts from previous flights (since they don’t expire), and we created a pool which got us about halfway to the amount we needed.
A lucky targeted Amex transfer bonus of 250:280 got us the rest of the way there with points earned mostly through the 4x dining bonus on the Gold Card and the 5x bonus for air travel [by booking directly with airlines] on the Platinum Card. A small Travel Bank credit for broken in-flight entertainment from an earlier flight took care of almost all the fees, with the rest going on the Platinum card.
After we booked, we saw the next MINT seats pricing at 45,000 points each way. All this goes to show that there are deals to be had if you can plan far in advance, especially right when schedules are released. It might not be the longest MINT flight, but it’s a fantastic way to both start and end a vacation!
You’ll generally find greater award availability the further out you book, so if you’re planning a trip well in advance, it helps to know when airlines make seats available for purchase. Some airlines maintain their booking calendars for a set period — for example, Delta consistently puts tickets on sale 331 days ahead of departure. JetBlue takes a different approach by making seats available for purchase anywhere from six to ten months out, and extends its schedule roughly every six weeks. The timing is unpredictable, but you can sign up for email notifications like Jesse did if you want first dibs. Booking early isn’t always better, however, so don’t despair if you’re late to the game.
JetBlue Mint is TPG’s choice for top domestic business class not only for the high quality of the product, but also for its relative affordability. Mint seats are routinely available for under $500 one-way, which is an excellent price for business class on a nonstop, transcontinental flight, and frequently less than what other airlines charge for inferior business class products with less room and no lie-flat capability. JetBlue partners with all the major transferable points programs, so there are plenty of opportunities to earn rewards toward Mint service — like Jesse did from he American Express® Gold Card and Platinum Card® from American Express.
However, be sure to check rates before transferring. JetBlue tethers award and cash prices, so while you can find exceptional deals on Mint seats when airfare is low, you’ll still pay a premium when airfare is high.
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 Jesse a 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 firstname.lastname@example.org; 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. If your story is published, we’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected.
Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!
Featured photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy.
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