Booking Lie-Flat Seats to Hawaii — Reader Success Story
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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Michael, who saved massively on award flights by looking at partner options:
I used to pay for everything with cash or a debit card, until I came across a TPG article three years ago that made me realize how much I was wasting by doing that. I was intrigued by Ultimate Rewards, so I applied for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Ink Plus [no longer available for new applicants], along with the Chase Sapphire Reserve when it launched. I ended up with three Chase cards, and I use them for most of my spending to maximize point accrual.
Most of my travel is on Delta, so I was frustrated at first because Delta is not an Ultimate Rewards transfer partner. However, I learned I could book flights through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal at 1.5 cents per point because of my Reserve card, which ended up being just as good as (if not better than) Delta’s own award values. Plus, I could still accrue SkyMiles while essentially flying on award tickets. It wasn’t until I really got more into award travel that I realized I had even more (and sometimes better) options, such as booking Delta flights through partners like Flying Blue and Virgin Atlantic.
I am getting married this summer, and figured what better way to use the points I've accrued than for the honeymoon? My fiancé wants to go to Hawaii, so I started looking for options to go for two weeks in July. All the major US Carriers wanted at least 160,000 miles per person for round-trip premium awards from our hometown of Savannah, Georgia (SAV), so I began searching partner options, including Virgin Atlantic. I was shocked at what I found on Flying Club: 8-10 days in July with multiple seats in Delta One on the nonstop DTW-HNL route for 75,000 miles and $11.20 per person. Delta wanted 200,000 miles each for the same flights.
I called Virgin Atlantic to confirm the availability, and then signed up for Flying Club since I wasn't already a member. The next day, I transferred 150,000 points instantaneously from Chase to my Flying Club account and purchased the two tickets. The cash price was $2,141 on Delta, so I figured I got a redemption value of over 2.8 cents per point. I could have booked SAV-HNL round-trip on one itinerary through Flying Club, but that added 45,000 miles per ticket. Instead, I'll book the SAV-DTW legs through Ultimate Rewards for 18,000 points each round-trip.
Booking our hotels is the next step, but thanks to your advice on how to book Delta awards via Virgin Atlantic, I now have more points to use than I would have otherwise.
Long-haul, premium award space can be hard to find, and the search gets more complicated when you add a connection, since it forces you to line up availability on consecutive flights. Connections can also inflate the cost of awards on carriers that charge for each segment individually, like Virgin Atlantic or British Airways. One solution to both problems is to do what Michael did and book your connection separately as a positioning flight. By splitting his itinerary into two tickets, he was able to take advantage of Delta One availability to Hawaii without paying Virgin Atlantic's exorbitant price for flights between Savannah and Detroit.
Positioning flights can help even if you already live in a major city with nonstop service to your destination, since they allow you to expand your search base to other airports nearby (or not so nearby). When you find premium, long-haul availability that suits your needs, you can jump on it immediately thanks to 24-hour cancellation policies, and then search for a reasonably-priced positioning flight having already locked in the longer segment. This strategy works whether you book the positioning flight with cash or rewards. The one caveat is that splitting your trip into separate itineraries leaves you more vulnerable to delays, so make sure you leave plenty of time to make your connections.
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 Michael 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 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, or to contribute to our new award redemption series. 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!