How I Saved $1,400 on Airfare to New Zealand — Reader Success Story

Jul 20, 2018

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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Owen, who pieced together an itinerary to New Zealand that saved him some serious money. Here’s what he had to say:

I was looking to book a mid-November trip to New Zealand to visit my girlfriend, who will be studying abroad there for the semester, but I anticipated some difficulty given the tight constraints of my student budget. Because the trip was going to take place right before Thanksgiving, I needed to fly from Boston (where I’m in school) to Auckland, and then return to my home in Chicago.

Initially, American Airlines quoted me a round-trip price of $2,181 with a stop in Los Angeles in both directions; that was a bit more than I wanted to spend. Digging a little further, I found that the Auckland to Chicago leg was just $480 — significantly cheaper than the flight from Boston to Auckland. While I was unable to find a comparable fare from BOS-AKL, I did find ample award availability in economy at the MileSAAver price of 40,000 miles one-way. Though I only had 21,000 miles saved up, a family member was willing to help make up the remaining 19,000 miles. The transfer fees associated with sharing miles would typically be a little over $250, but I received a 20% promotional discount that brought the cost down to $205.

I quickly realized that even with the associated mileage transfer fees, booking two separate one-way tickets was going to be my best option. Between the $480 fare for the AKL-ORD leg, the $205 fee for sharing miles and the $28 in taxes and fees associated with my BOS-AKL award, my total came to only $713. That’s $1,468 less than what American originally quoted me for the round-trip ticket!

Owen’s story is a great example of how pricing flight legs individually can help you save on paid airfare. His outbound trip comprised nearly 78% of the total cost of a round-trip ticket, making it a strong candidate for an award redemption, and that kind of imbalance is common. You can use Google Flights to easily check routing alternatives, including one-way and multi-city itineraries, nearby airports, and a variety of airlines. Just beware that splitting your trip onto multiple tickets has some downside, as it leaves you more vulnerable to fees if your plans change.

Paying to share miles isn’t generally a good idea, especially given that most frequent flyer programs let you use miles from your own account to book awards for other people. However, transferring is worthwhile if the redemption value of an award clearly outweighs the cost of the associated fees, as it did in Owen’s case. You might also consider transferring to someone with high-level elite status, since some of their benefits may apply (like fee waivers and increased award availability) even if they’re not the one flying.

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Owen for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him 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 info@thepointsguy.com; 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 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!

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