Last week I wrote a post that contained a short review of domestic first-class on American Airlines. I got an interesting comment from my beloved reader Ramsey who said that I came off as pretentious and ungrateful (he later told me that he was kidding).
But it got me wondering if perhaps other readers felt this way for realz, hence my follow-up post. To be clear, I’m not calling out Ramsey, who is currently serving as Miles For Family fan club president. Plus, he told me I look like Kristen Stewart (flattered!) I just feel it’s an interesting topic for discussion and I hope you’ll agree.
So, in many ways, our hobby is a world of extremes, and this particular area is no different. I often see two opposite viewpoints when it comes to “fancy” travel obtained with the help of miles and points:
1) Hey, I’m in first-class/expensive hotel! I waited my whole life for this. I expect everyone to bow down to me. I want everything to be super duper perfect. If it’s not, I will call and complain incessantly till I get a full refund or get someone in trouble. I’m watching y’all, hotel and airline minions.
2) I’m not worthy. I shouldn’t be here because I used miles/points and not real cash to pay for it. I’m an impostor and I’m pretty sure airline attendants/hotel employees can tell. That’s why they are ignoring my simple requests, which is totally understandable. I don’t deserve to be treated as a real customer. So no, I’m not going to say a word about bed bugs I found in the room or the fact that my a/c is not fixed after three phone calls to the front desk.
Airlines and hotels aren’t doing you any favors
This is a very important point. When you redeem miles obtained via credit card sign-up bonus, you may be inclined to think that you owe something to the airline. Wrong! You should be thanking the bank who bought those miles on your behalf, reportedly for one cent apiece.
The same logic applies to hotel points or any other currency issued by banks. When you transfer UR points to Hyatt, the latter gets a check from Chase. The hotel chain sells the points, so don’t feel bad about expecting the same treatment as a paying customer. You are a paying customer!
So, by that logic American Airlines received a payment of $2,000 for our four roundtrip tickets in first class. Not too shabby! I would say they did pretty well considering how mediocre the product is. And it is mediocre. When you use “first class” verbiage, you should have working food trays and something other than a piece of wire holding a toilet paper roll. I forgot to mention it in my review, but the cabin wasn’t very clean, and the seats were pretty old. The flight attendants were friendly, so no complaints there.
But as I said in my post, I don’t have any regrets about spending an obscene amount of miles on our first-class flight. In this particular instance, I felt it was worth it. That being said, a number of things contributed to making this decision. For one, sAAver economy flight (12,500 miles one-way) wasn’t available. Sure, we could have redeemed miles on AAnytime award (20,000 miles), but paying 5,000 extra miles per person for free food and bigger seat seemed like a good deal.
I could have redeemed 18,000 Rapid Rewards points on Southwest flight (regular economy seat) or pay $200 in cash one-way. Neither option seemed superior to redeeming AA miles on first class. I speculatively value my Rapid Rewards at 1.2 cents apiece, while I wouldn’t pay more than 1 cent for AAdvantage mile (probably less due to shrinking sAAver availability). It goes without saying that cash is my most valuable currency and one I try to avoid using unless I get a spectacular deal.
That being said, your situation may be totally different. Perhaps sAAver economy flight is available, but you are debating on whether to splurge on first-class instead. There is nothing wrong with picking the latter, of course, but I hope that my review gave you an idea on what to expect. Simply calling something “first class” does not actually make it first class. Lipstick on a pig, yada yada yada.
My AA miles were not free
Yes, most of my AA miles came from credit card sign-up bonuses. But not all of them. Part of the reason I was able to splurge on first class was due to the fact that few years ago I bought 50,000 US Airways Dividend miles for around $550 total. It was not a wise decision and I regret doing it, but oh well. What does it have to do with American Airlines? US Airways took over American, so my money added directly to their bottom line.
By that logic I paid at least part of the cost with real $, even if indirectly. Honestly, I would have written the same review even if I didn’t. Service standards and quality should not fluctuate depending on whether you are paying cash or miles. They need to be consistent regardless of what method you are using to cover the expense.
It’s also important to remember opportunity cost. Not only can you use your AA miles on another award flight, you can usually burn them on hotels at a penny each if you happen to have a co-branded AA credit card (which I do).
It’s my job as a blogger to give an honest opinion
If you are not opinionated, you are not a good fit when it comes to blogging. Seriously, isn’t it why most of us start writing in the first place? Because we have a strong opinion and the world needs to hear it? Wait, that sounds narcissistic, another “must” quality if you want to become a blogger. I’m also a drama queen, but I think that’s why many of you come to the blog, no? But I digress…
Of course, there is a fine line between being opinionated and being obnoxious. I’m sure I’ve crossed it on few occasions, though not intentionally. But my goal with any type of a review is to present a realistic picture of a hotel, airline or destination. I don’t claim to be unbiased. Of course I am biased! My taste is unique and may not match yours. I strongly encourage readers to do their own research. Always.
The importance of having reasonable expectations
This really goes for everything in life, and miles and points hobby is no exception. That hotel employee may be having a bad day and their cold attitude has nothing to do with you. That flight attendant may be super busy helping other passengers, which is why she forgot your order. Et cetera, et cetera.
Of course, you should absolutely expect an overall good customer service and perks that were promised to you ahead of time. Miles and points are not free, and hotels/airlines are not a charity. They are compensated, whether it’s through your loyalty or via reimbursement from banks. No need to feel guilty for wanting to get good value out of your travel experience.
To be fair, “good value” is very much in the eye of the beholder, so once again, it’s important to be reasonable. We once stayed at a Comfort Inn for only 8,000 Choice points. I’ve bought them for around $34 via Daily Getaways promo. We got a suite and breakfast was included. There was even a decent pool.
Check out our “fancy” bathroom:
Ramsey, this one is for you!
The place was shabby, carpet a bit dirty (but no too bad) and the room had a funky smell. But it’s a Comfort Inn, not St. Regis, so I wasn’t about to complain. The advertised rate for a suite was less than $100 and we spent a total of $34 all-in. And we even got a full breakfast the following day. It would be obnoxious to go to front desk and make a big stink about our room, pun intended.
By the same token, when I stayed at Hyatt Regency Clearwater Resort and Spa, I felt that the place wasn’t the best value on points. To be clear, it definitely was for us because we used certificates from Hyatt credit card and at the time, my husband had a Diamond status. But I was writing with the assumption that my readers will pay 20,000 Ultimate Rewards points per night to stay in the resort (plus resort and parking fees), so I reviewed it accordingly.
It’s absolutely unrealistic to expect perfection when it comes to travel. Things will go wrong, so it’s important to have a good attitude and a sense of humor. It’s also unreasonable to demand something that wasn’t part of the original contract.
Don’t be like this hotel guest:
That being said, you should definitely expect good overall value. Remember, you’ve worked hard for your miles and points. They are far from free.
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.