|by Jason Steele|
Back in December, I told you about the US Airways promotion, and how you could fly in First Class for very cheap. If you took advantage of the promotion, today is the day the miles were to hit your accounts.
With nervous anticipation, I checked by account throughout the day, until I saw the above balance. As you stare at that balance keep in mind two things:
1. I just opened my US Airways account in December.
2. I have never flown on US Airways.
How Did It Work Out?
Yes, I did spend $3,000 on the TrackItBack product to get those miles, but I donated the product to charity and will take a tax deduction. Conservatively, you could say my net out of pocket expenses were $2,250, or about a half a cent per mile.
If you consult the US Airways Star Alliance Award Chart, you will see that it is the equivalent of ing a First Class Ticket to Europe for $600 dollars!
In fact, my friend Shawn and his mother, who I wrote about in the original story, have already found their two tickets to France in First Class to the Tour de France this year using their miles. They put a hold on them over the weekend, and purchased them today. The taxes and fees were close to two hundred dollars each, but think about it: They will be flying to Europe on United Airlines International First Class and returning on Lufthansa’s outstanding First Class for about $2,000 total for the both of them. That compares to about $3,500 for the two tickets in the peak summer season, when priced in coach.
For comparison, the round trip from Denver to Paris on Lufthansa in First prices out at over $17,000, while the lesser United Airlines International First product is somewhat under $10,000.
How Did I Find The Award Seats In First?
You will recall that I had speculated that “there is that oh so tempting chance that they might do the trip in business class or even first, but it is hard to say considering they will only be able to book their July trip in March.” Considering July is definitely the high season for reward travel to Europe, finding space for them was a challenge. Luckily, I had studied the system and found that there are some tools out there to help you.
You cannot book US Airways international partner awards online, you must call their representatives. While their representatives have a reputation for being friendly, they are not known as being familiar with all of the different possible routings in the Star Alliance, nor are they encouraged to spend much time looking on your behalf.
Fortunately, All Nippon airlines of Japan has a website that shows award availability within the Star Alliance, so I signed up for a membership in their frequent flier club and did the searching myself. I completely lucked out when I found two award seats in First Class on a United flight from Denver to London, nonstop. From London, they will take a discount carrier on to Bordeaux where they will see a couple stages of the tour.
Returning from Paris, I found plenty of space on Lufthansa to Frankfurt, in business class, but getting them back to the states was much more difficult. I had to find an available flight transatlantic, and since there was no space on their Frankfurt-Denver flight, I would also have to find them space on United or Continental from their point of entry to Denver. In the end, I found them seats in First on a 747 from Frankfurt to Houston, and continuing in First to Denver on United with good connection times.
Once I found the flights with space, they were able to call up and ask for a reservation on the specific flights they knew were available. It was a win-win as the representative’s work in finding the flight was already done.
A savvy traveler and credit card user can get to their destination in First Class for less than the cost of coach. To do so, you have to wait until the right promotion comes along, and then go all in. The key is having knowledge of the deal when it appears, and acting on it within the promotion guidelines. In my experience, these promotions come up infrequently, but there will be others in the future.
Read this blog and others and you will be in the loop when the next big promo comes around.