This topic has been discussed before on numerous blogs. However, it’s become to feel much more personal when I recently faced a prospect of having to fly to Europe last minute. Thankfully, everything worked out just fine and I didn’t have to do it.
But the whole thing made me reevaluate my preparedness for such situations and some changes I can make going forward. The biggest problem with last minute tickets is the fact that they are exorbitantly expensive. Last minute tickets to Europe, specifically Belarus, even more so.
I do have a good supply of AAdvantage miles and BA Avios, both redeemable for Oneworld alliance flights. However, Oneworld is not a good option for flying to Minsk, Belarus capital. And Minsk is where I would need to go.
When we visit my parents, we usually fly to another country in Europe, stop there for a few days, then fly to Poland or Lithuania, and have someone pick us up there. Only few airlines fly to Minsk, and they are Austrian and Lufthansa.
The tickets are usually very expensive. Both are members of Star Alliance and currently I have zero miles or points I could redeem for any of the partners.
If a crisis occurred, I would absolutely need to fly to Minsk. There would be no time to look for someone who has Lithuanian visa and could pick us up. Convenience would trump savings. That’s why I’ve decided to apply for Chase United Mileage Visa at some point in the future, as long as I can get the 55,000 miles offer to come up.
It would also provide diversification for my miles stash. You know how they say, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Well, it appears I did just that, and it’s called Oneworld.
Lufthansa imposes fuel surcharges on their own flights, so I would need to stick to United (their partner). As far as I am aware, United Mileage Plus is the only program that does not impose fuel surcharges on Lufthansa award tickets.
Well, technically, Avianca airline doesn’t either, but I don’t really trust that program, since they have a history of devaluing their award chart without notice. Since I would be the only one going, it would require 60,000 United Mileage Plus miles for a roundtrip economy ticket to Minsk.
This is an example of how having Ultimate Rewards points (a program, which has a monopoly on Mileage Plus transfers) can be extremely beneficial. I currently don’t have any because I refuse to pay the annual fee associated with Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa.
However, there is certainly a case to be made on the benefits of having transferrable points like Ultimate Rewards. With that particular program, transfers to United are instant, which would be a requirement for a “rainy day” miles account.
Most of you don’t have relatives in Europe, but you probably have a family around US. It’s sad to think about potential tragedies and crisis, but the reality is, they do happen. That’s why I encourage you to find a program which would be a good fit for that “rainy day” miles fund.
It could be Southwest Rapid Rewards (though last minute redemptions are expensive), FlexPerks or Citi Thank You program. For the most part, I’m not a huge fan of paying annual credit card fees just to keep the points active, but do your own math on this one. Personally, I will be fine with having some miles in United Mileage Plus program, and will just make sure they don’t expire due to inactivity.
If you only sign up for bonuses occasionally, consider getting Amex EveryDay Preferred. I wrote about it extensively in this blog, even though it doesn’t pay me any commission. So you know, it has to be good!
That card would give you flexibility to transfer to various programs like Delta, Frontier, British Airways (for American flights), JetBlue and Aeroplan (for redemptions on United). You would have a choice of all three major US airlines, plus several additional carriers. Of course, you’ll need to make sure that transfers are instant. At this time all the listed options fit that criteria.
I’m glad I didn’t need to buy that last minute ticket, but it would have been nice to have those United miles, just in case.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.