Last week there was a lot of excitement in the miles and points community when ANA airlines has released a ton of first-class award seats on their San Francisco-Tokyo route. Btw, we did share it on our Facebook and Twitter pages.
Some flights, including the one that would actually work with my schedule, had as many as five seats available, which is virtually unheard of. That said, I wasn’t even remotely tempted by this deal and have no regrets skipping it.
But before I go any further, let me be clear that if you booked it, I’m not here to rain on your parade. I’m of the opinion that folks have the right to spend their money and miles any way they want. Plus, it’s super cool to get a seat that goes for $15k for 55k Virgin Atlantic miles+$450. It’s a deal, no question about it. So if you got in on it, I’m genuinely happy for you.
That said, this deal wasn’t even remotely tempting for my situation, even though I could have scraped up enough points to transfer to Virgin Atlantic if I really wanted to. Here is why. A few months ago, I booked economy seats on Delta via Virgin Atlantic at a cost of 27.5k miles+$50 per person for a flight from Tokyo to Seattle. If I decided to switch to ANA first class, I would have to pay a $55 cancellation penalty for each ticket.
But even if I could cancel for free, it would still be a hard pass. It would be one thing if I had to cover two tickets, but we have five people in our party. So, the cash difference would be $2k. I’m not even talking about all the extra flexible points which are certainly worth something. But the money portion is a deal breaker.
I don’t know about you, but $2k is a lot of money for my family. That’s actually my lodging budget for this Japan trip (we are using hotel points in some places). I’m definitely not opposed to splurging, but we are talking about a daytime 9-hour flight here. None of us have a medical condition that prevents us from sitting in economy.
Sure, a bigger seat would be super nice, especially for my very tall husband, but somehow we’ll survive. Plus, I would rather invest that money in an IRA, which will further our goal of early retirement. Despite spending a fortune on travel lately, that is still our plan.
Does it mean that I feel that way about all premium-class award redemptions? Absolutely not. I have paid an extra 15k AA miles per person so my husband and I could sit in business class on our Tahiti–Auckland flight. While not necessary, it was a fun splurge. Plus, it was our big anniversary trip.
Also, I went ahead and redeemed 60k AA miles+$5 per person to fly on JAL from Los Angeles to Osaka in business class. Why did I justify splurging here and not on ANA first class? Well, for one, I already had enough AA miles in my account, and they were all accumulated via sign-up bonuses. I definitely value flexible points more than individual miles. Also, the tax was only $5 per person, same as in economy.
Plus, the flight to Osaka is 12 hours as opposed to 9 hours. So, splurging here felt more justified. Perhaps I’ll regret it later, but oh well. I’m looking forward to this flight, and I know my husband will very much appreciate it. I’m optimistic that I can get more AA miles in the future via credit card sign-ups. And if not, we can always use other currencies or do road trips for a change.
The only flights we absolutely have to do are the ones to Europe, in order to see my family. Due to circumstances, they can’t come to US. Everything else is discretionary. Fortunately, we live in Florida and have all kinds of options in our backyard.
TAP Portugal business class vs. economy on Swiss
Speaking of Europe, in a few months I’m hoping to finally use my Avianca Lifemiles stash that’s been collecting dust for four years. Whole obviously useful in certain situations, this program is a pain to deal with, and I can’t wait to burn these miles once and for all.
My son requested that we do a stopover in London, and I plan to use Avios for the flight back to Florida. So, I just need to figure out how to get to Europe. What complicates this entire plan is the fact that I don’t know where my relatives will be allowed to go next year. They live in Belarus, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for them to get an EU visa. In addition, due to sanctions, Belarus airplanes may not be allowed in Turkey in the near future.
So, my plan is to book a flight to a major European airport, and figure out the rest of logistics later. In addition, the other day, my daughter said she would like to go back to NYC. So, I figured we could kill two birds with one stone. As some of you know, Avianca program offers an outsized value on some routes from JFK.
The fairest of them all is JFK-Lisbon award redemption on TAP Portugal, where you can sometimes snag four business class seats for only 35k miles per person:
Unfortunately, it’s not easy to find availability, especially during summer. That’s why I’ll likely “settle” for this deal instead:
Naturally, I’m talking about economy. Paying 16.5k miles for a summer flight to Europe is a pretty spectacular deal, and there is usually tons of availability. I figured we would fly to New York for a few nights, and then continue on to Geneva. Plus, if my family can’t leave Belarus, we will simply enjoy a vacation in Switzerland before flying to London. I can think of worse options for a summer trip. Like many of you, I loved reading Nancy’s recent trip report on the area.
But I have to admit that getting a business class on TAP Portugal for 35k miles is pretty darn tempting. I may be cheap, but if it’s available, I’ll probably pick it over Swiss Air option. Getting to Europe involves a long overnight flight, and I find those to be brutal nowadays. I’m no longer in my twenties, folks. Sadly.
Once again, I want to reiterate that I’m not here to be a Grinch and mock those who decided to jump on this ANA deal. I’m simply sharing my personal reasoning on the matter, and recognize that others may feel differently. It’s just there is so much emphasis on premium redemptions in the miles community, it can be hard not to succumb to the peer pressure. You may feel as if there is something wrong with you if you don’t follow the crowd. I’m here to tell you that you are not a loser if you prefer to save $2k and do something else with the money.
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.