Paid Economy Ticket Or Mileage Award In Premium Class – How To Decide When To Use Your Miles?

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Today’s ‘food for thought’ article is about a difficult decision we often have to make when it comes to judge whether it’s worth it to use your miles or just purchase a low priced revenue ticket.

A few weeks ago I was confronted with the decision if I should burn through some of my coveted Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles or just buy a paid ticket in Economy as the price was extremely low.

I have accumulated the Singapore Airlines miles over a longer period with the plan to fly SIA First Class or Suites from North America to Asia on a one way ticket as I had another (paid) one way ending in Canada late September.

As time progressed I looked over my options and discovered some options available to me using miles:

  • San Francisco – Hong Kong with Singapore Airlines First Class for 95,000 Miles
  • Los Angeles – Seoul with Singapore Airlines First Class for 95,000 Miles
  • Los Angeles – Tokyo with Singapore Airlines First Class for 95,000 Miles

Singapore Airlines has discontinued their Suites product from Los Angeles to Tokyo and the only A380 service with Suites is now New York JFK via Frankfurt to Singapore. I was in Las Vegas at the time and had things to do in LA so hopping over to the east coast just to pick up a Suites flight wasn’t going to happen.

To fulfill the requirement of 4 revenue flights on United in order to requalify for my United Platinum status I also had to clock in these four flights with them during this trip, two of which I already completed with YVR-SFO-LAS where I got a low priced First Class ticket for just US$270 one way.

As I played around to find a decent two segment ticket from Las Vegas to Los Angeles via SFO I decided to just see how much a one way flight to Hong Kong would be and couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the price.

All this was available for just US$277 on the United website and without the stopover in LAX I could have even booked it for $240.

I still had US$100 in my TravelBank safe from the annual American Express Premier Rewards Gold travel credit (I wrote about it here a few months ago) which brought down the price for this ticket to US$177.70 which was simply too low to blow 95k KrisFlyer miles in good conscious, even for First Class. I decided to buy the ticket and fly Economy (Economy Plus thanks to my Mileage Plus status) instead.

The best of it all: Since I already reached my 4 UA segments as soon as I reached SFO I was able to switch my frequent flyer number for the long SFO-HKG to Singapore Airlines Krisflyer where I was able to collect 100% base miles (6,840) for the cheap K class ticket. United would have only given me ~ 1400 miles based on the low purchase price which is obviously terrible.

That being said, as John wrote (see here) Singapore Airlines has since adjusted their accrual chart with almost zero notice and cut these earnings by up to 75%. Lucky me my flight was on the 30th and the changes came into effect on the 1st of October.

Conclusion

I’ve often said on here that I have no problem flying Economy Class as long as the price is right and it’s a full service airline, especially one where I have status benefits. Sure it would have been great to do the long transpac flight in First Class but it simply didn’t make much sense in this case to burn all my Singapore Airlines miles when I could fly for pretty much nothing in Economy and even earn more miles (and my required segments) in the process.

This year has been very good for paid fares and I was able to save most of my miles simply for the reason that the prices for paid tickets in both Economy and Business Class are very low. It’s better to keep the miles for time periods or routes where fares are high. This wasn’t a special trip for me and just about transportation which made it a little easier for me to decide based on the economics of the trip rather than going the comfortable way.

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