A few weeks ago, I shared details on how I’ve redeemed miles for 9 one-way tickets to Europe for the entire Storts clan. I had to wait till the schedule for return flights opened up. We had to fly on separate days, and the other two groups decided to go direct from Dusseldorf-Fort Myers at a cost of 25,000 Avios per person, plus $101 tax.
There was one hiccup, though. One of the accounts was 1,600 miles short of getting 3 one-way tickets. I had about 10 days to get the needed amount. We transferred 1,000 miles from E-Rewards. So, it came down to 600 miles. I should have transferred 10,000 IHG points from my mother-in-law’s account and get 2,000 Avios in exchange. But noooo, that’s 2 PointBreaks nights! Never mind the fact that we are swimming in IHG points at the moment.
I looked and tried everything, but there was no promotion that would post quickly and allow us to book flights as soon as they became available. The day came and I still didn’t have the darn miles. In the moment of desperation, I even sent this tweet to British Airways. Take a look:
At least they were a good sport about it and retweeted my response. What can I say? Europeans get each other’s quirkiness. Speaking of Brits, currently, I have a mild crush on Benedict Cumberbatch from the “Sherlock” series. The character is a high-functioning sociopath, just like me. Anyone else? I mean the crush, not the last part.
Where was I? Reluctantly, I transferred the miles from my brother-in-law’s account at a cost of $45. To buy 1,000 miles would have cost $53, a ridiculous amount. To be honest, I probably should have just bought it since there was an opportunity cost of foregoing that amount in the existing account, but I’m a cheapskate.
I know what you are thinking. If I had a Chase Sapphire Preferred, I could just top off the account any time. Umm, no. The account was in my mother-in-law’s name, and I wouldn’t want to risk losing my Ultimate Rewards for not following the rules of transferring only to your own or your spouse’s account.
Anyway, 5 award flights were booked, and I only had to worry about getting the 4 in my family back to the U.S. This is where it got tricky. I really wanted to fly on Aer Lingus from Dublin to Orlando. However, unlike Air Berlin that releases its seats to British Airways program 355 days ahead, the schedule for Aer Lingus is loaded 340 days in advance.
So I faced a dilemma: To lock in Air Berlin Saturday flights or hope for Aer Lingus to come through. Fortunately, the decision was made for me. There were only 2 business class seats on Dusseldorf-Fort Myers route and no economy.
I had no choice but to wait for the Aer Lingus seats to open up. Well, the big day came… and both Dublin-Orlando (25,000 Avios one way in economy) and Dublin-Boston(12,500 Avios one way in economy) routes had only 2 business seats available on their Saturday flights, and nothing in coach. What?? Usually, it’s the other way around.
I started getting nervous. In order for us to be able to do everything we planned, the flight had to be on that particular day. So not only did I not have any flexibility, but I had to worry about 4 award tickets. Air Berlin and Aer Lingus both let me down. My only backup plan was to transfer SPG points to AAdvantage and redeem on American or US Airways metal.
I didn’t want to pay huge fuel surcharges on British Airways flights, which cost almost as much as revenue tickets. There was a possible option of transferring my Avios to Iberia account and paying considerably less in fuel surcharges, but I would have to wait till the account was at least 3 months old.
Fortunately, award inventory is very fluid. I called British Airways the next day, and economy availability opened up on the Dublin-Boston route. However, there was nothing available to Orlando. Still, I happily used 50,000 Avios for 4 tickets, plus $360 in taxes. I asked the agent to waive the $25 per person booking fee, and he did.
I had a chance to get 2 business class seats, but it would be $200 extra in taxes per person compared to economy. The tax my in-laws paid for their flight going to Dublin wasn’t much more than economy. So be aware of it if redeeming for your flight back to US. I’ve decided that I didn’t want to pay 12,500 extra miles plus $200, since it would be a daytime flight.
Dublin-Boston redemption did save me 50,000 Avios for 4 people compared to the Dublin-Orlando route.
My plan was to use CITI Thank You points to book non-stop flights on Jet Blue from Boston to Orlando when their schedule opens up. Since I have a CITI Thank You Premier card (listed on my “best bonuses” page and pays me commission), I would be able to get 25% more in value when redeeming for flights instead of a gift card.
But the story doesn’t end there. Two days later I called again, and lo and behold, Dublin-Orlando route had 4 economy seats available. I decided to cancel my original reservation and pay $55 penalty per person ($220 total) plus 12,500 extra miles per ticket. Since we are traveling with small kids, the convenience factor is worth the extra money and miles. The rate on Kayak.com was $817 per person, so paying 25,000 miles was a good use of my Avios stash.
Was it a mistake to just grab the Dublin-Boston route and not hold out for Orlando flights? No, I don’t think so. I believe I did the right thing, given the circumstances. Remember, I had zero flexibility and 4 seats to book. I had no way of knowing whether Orlando route would become available.
With some flexibility, we got the routes we wanted on the days we wanted to fly.
I did have to pay an extra $220 for rebooking and $45 for miles transfer fee (aka “me being an idiot” tax). But, it looks like next June I might be drinking beer in Germany and sipping limoncello on the isle of Capri after all. #Winning!
P.S. The new IHG PointBreaks list should be bookable later in the day. Read my previous post for more details.
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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.
Nick @ PFDigest says
That is a lot of award tickets to book. I just booked five for MGA-CLT and it went down to the wire–fortunately something opened up at the last possible moment.
Nick, I was pretty nervous, especially since the other groups were all set. We have very little in savings, so I had to rely on miles. Fortunately, things worked out. Hopefully, there will be no major schedule changes. The best part is: Return flight is direct.