Over the past few years, airlines have become wiser at selling Business and First Class tickets than giving them away for elite upgrades or as awards.
These sales are sometimes so good that it makes no sense to issue awards on the same flights especially with airlines that still charge sky high fuel (now often called carrier) surcharges on those very awards.
Here are some recent examples:
– Malaysia Airlines has had almost non-stop sales for travel from select Asian countries to Europe or within Asia. I booked several Business class tickets from Thailand to London just for roughly $1,100 each return.
– Europe to/from US sales. All the three alliances have had very good sales lately sometimes for merely $1,000 return from various points from/to Europe and US.
– Air China just had a “Black Friday” sale for excellent Business class fares from Germany to Asia including Australia and New Zealand.
– Sometimes around the world fares can be a bargain too if you issue them at the right time. I wrote about my Oneworld Explorer fare that I recently issued ex-Cairo (read more here).
As a matter of fact, I am writing this from Malaysia Airlines “Platinum” lounge here in Kuala Lumpur on my way to Japan on one of those Malaysia Airlines specials.
I used to always pay for Economy and redeem for Business or First Class but I don’t believe that this is the best strategy anymore. I still redeem when it makes sense and even for economy especially using BA Avios. This usually means that there is between noncompetitive city pairs and/or times when the paid tickets prices are out of whack but award inventory exists.