Why Do I Write About Buying Miles So Often?

flying piggie logo Regular readers might wonder why I write so often about opportunities to buy miles at a discount. Recent examples include:

Most of the time, however, I ignore promotions to buy miles from Lufthansa Miles & More, British Airways / Iberia / Avios, etc. that I perceive to be poor value…

The reason has to do mostly with how I use loyalty programmes and why I love this hobby. I often come across the misconception that air miles and hotel points are only for those who travel a lot for work. That is partially true, but mainly in the sense that business travellers can accumulate lots of miles and points with little cost or effort on their part, since an employer or client is paying…

The rest of us have to be a bit more resourceful. In fact, there are many different aspects to this hobby and some people might prefer some strategies to others. For example, if you live in the correct country (i.e. one with lots of credit card companies offering massive bonus offers to sign up for credit cards), then you can sign up for a few of those and pay for a holiday or two with miles & points. That’s a great place to start.

You can also try to figure out the Best Rate Guarantee game, which can get you really impressive discounts on your hotel stays, if you manage to find a cheaper rate elsewhere. I’ve written about this before here and here.

Buying miles is yet another strategy, and one I take advantage of quite frequently. For those who think miles & points should be “free” (i.e. business travel and/or credit cards) probably aren’t terribly interested. But, for me, I look at it as an opportunity to buy flights in Business Class for roughly the cost of a premium economy ticket (or less!).

When discussing Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, I often mention the opportunities to redeem those miles on Cathay Pacific. But I’ve never shown a specific example before now…

If you were to fly from London to Hong Kong in March 2015 on Cathay Pacific, you could buy a ticket in business class for roughly 4,200 GBP. This is not something most of us are likely to do so we might choose to settle a lower class, paying 650 GBP for economy or 1,200 GBP for premium economy.

But for those willing to take a bit of time to understand the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, you’ll know that you can fly to Hong Kong from Europe in Business Class for 85,000 miles return. Since most of us don’t travel enough to have 85,000 miles in a Mileage Plan account, the instinct is probably to ignore this opportunity. But why? You can buy 85,000 miles for $1,870 = 1,100 GBP during the current promotion.

Unfortunately, London itineraries will involve eye-watering taxes, as well as Cathay Pacific fuel surcharges, and this will total about 300 GBP for a Business Class return ticket.  Leaving from somewhere like Amsterdam, Paris or Milan (but returning to London) you’d save > 100 GBP in UK APD.

Everybody of course is different, but I see that I can pay 650 GBP and be incredibly uncomfortable for 12 hours each way in economy. I can also pay 1,200 GBP to have a bit more leg room in premium economy. Or… for just a bit more… I can fly Business Class and enjoy every minute (at least the ones where I’m not blissfully sleeping on the flat bed) of those 12+ hours.

Does that work for everybody? Certainly not, but it does for me and many others. So, the next time you are planning a long haul flight, ask yourself…

  1. How much does the cash ticket cost?
  2. Can I find award availability in a premium cabin for the days I’d like to travel?
  3. Where can I acquire those miles cost-effectively, hopefully through a “buy miles promotion”?
  4. Is it worth it to me?  (if it is, enjoy that business class flight, knowing that you paid a fraction of those travelling next to you!!)

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