In our regular series Award Success I’d like to showcase an award I booked this week for a friend of mine who had to travel between Tokyo and London on short notice and was looking at Business Class tickets on Japan Airlines.
For this purpose I found availability using American Airlines AAdvantage and their Buy Miles promotion which ended yesterday (we covered it a few times).
Paid fares originating in Tokyo are traditionally high especially on the local carriers ANA / Japan Airlines and this time was no exception. Both carriers charged close to US$9000 for the three day trip and that even included the weekend.
Paid fares with other carriers were in fact not unreasonable at all (Air China $3300, Cathay Pacific 3500, Qatar Airways $3,900) and if this was a longer trip then making a connection somewhere would make sense but in this case it wasn’t a practical approach.
American AAvantange charges 75,000 miles per way in Business Class, a total of 150,000 return:
Now it was a question of how to procure these 150k miles in the easiest way. Before I did this I also looked at other frequent flyer programs within oneworld that are selling miles to see if there is availability at a better price. British Airways would have required 185k miles but it’s not possible to buy that many and Alaska Airlines doesn’t allow redemptions on JAL between Japan and Europe.
In the end we decided to just purchase the miles from AAdvantage directly:
The reason why I purchased exactly 100,000 miles is that per the recent promotion a 100k purchased triggered the next bonus level with 72,000 bonus miles. Would I have bought 99k I’d have gotten just 48k bonus and not only wouldn’t that be enough for the 150k round trip award but in this case there are also 22k left over. I could have invested another $1600 of my own money to buy 150k and get 120k as bonus but didn’t feel like it at the moment even though it would possibly have been a good investment for future travel.
Now the tricky thing: There was just one award seat left at the time of booking and I was a bit nervous to buy $3200 worth of nonrefundable miles and then run into possible problems when bookings. I decided to forego the online booking route and just called American Airlines to set up the reservation. The agent I got was extremely competent and I said outright that I want to take Advantage of the mileage promotion in order to book an award ticket. She offered to put the award on hold, set everything up and I was even able to purchase the miles right there on the phone.
Not sure if the agent gets a commission on mileage sales but if so then it was definitely worth it. The miles were in the account immediately and I was able to ticket the reservation.
AAdvantage members can buy 150k miles per calendar year and this promotion was a good opportunity to get a direct flight on Japan Airlines which would have otherwise been priced way too high ($9740).
This way were able to get the entire award ticket for US$3,528 in Japan Airlines Business Class which is a very good deal from Tokyo. Not cheap but she would have spent this money anyway with a stop in Hong Kong so wasting a lot of time along the way. This was a much better option all things considered.