Making Your Airline Miles Go The Extra Mileby david daly on 05/07/12
Airline miles are a very valuable asset and many travelers are unaware of all of the advantages they wield. From free stopovers and extended layovers to partner airlines and zero change fees, using your miles wisely can add a lot of perks to your next award trip.
Last December I began looking into a trip to Thailand using my Continental/United frequent flyer miles. The lowest award seats from North America to Southeast Asia within the United Star Alliance network is 65,000 miles for a round trip economy class ticket. An award seat to Europe requires 60,000 miles. Since one free stopover is permitted for an award ticket, it seemed like a great opportunity to combine a free visit to Germany on my way to Thailand!
As I began searching flight options online, some wonderful mileage arbitrage opportunities surfaced. I could choose to fly United partner airline Lufthansa to Munich, and then 3 days later continue on Thai International Airways through Bangkok to the resort island of Koh Samui. Unlike United, the partner airlines offered free cocktails in coach, better meals with real china and stemware, as well as on-demand seatback entertainment with increased legroom (a whopping 34 inches on Thai!). I figured that if I missed the rude service of the disgruntled United employees, I could send them a postcard.
Even though my final destination was a small island in Thailand, I did not want to miss out on the opportunity to visit Bangkok. Fortunately, the return flight options included an itinerary with a 14-hour layover in Bangkok! This gave me a full day to explore this intriguing city and get a taste of the Thai Capital. Equally as exciting was an option to return to New York via Tokyo which created an around-the-world journey for the bargain price of 65,000 miles! I was able to add an extended 8-hour layover in Tokyo as well so I would have a few hours to explore beyond the airport without the hassle of picking up my luggage which was checked through to New York.
In total the trip encompassed nearly 25,000 miles on 6 flights across 3 continents. The total price of the flights if they had been booked separately would have been $2,300 but only 65,000 frequent flyer miles were required to purchase this ticket. As an added bonus, when I decided to extend the trip by two days, I was able to make the changes to the itinerary without paying any fees- perhaps one of the best advantages of booking award travel!
I can only think of two negative aspects of award travel. The first is that you cannot earn any additional mileage when traveling on a free ticket- which kind of makes sense. The second drawback is that you cannot receive any complimentary upgrades on award travel.
If you are someone who is hoarding a ton of frequent flyer miles and has not redeemed them for anything- what are you waiting for? You can go online and look at flight options through the frequent flyer program website and get started on your free travel today.