I’ve been on a bit of a mileage burning spree over the last month and I’ve booked some flights that I’m really excited about. This year I’ll be to fly on Qantas’ A380 in First Class from LAX-SYD, Singapore Airlines’ A380 Suites Class from LAX-NRT-SIN, and Thai Airways’ A380 First Class from BKK-FRA. And I’m still trying to figure out how to fit in Emirates’ A380 First Class also so I can get the famed shower at 40,000 feet.
It’s always a special thing to book First Class, but when you can do it on an A380 then you’re usually in for a very special experience. Some people, though, don’t understand why I’m interested in using my points for these flights. The two most common arguments made to me are:
- Why not book Economy for half the price and travel twice as much?
- Isn’t it a waste of points to fly for just 10-16 hours? Why not use the points for a great hotel where you’ll have a proper bed?
These are totally valid questions, and I’m sure many people would prefer to travel in economy and/or use their points strictly for hotels. I fall into a different category. The reasons I fly premium classes are pretty simple, actually.
First, the argument of being able to travel twice as much sounds great and would totally be worth considering for me…if I had unlimited vacation time from work. Unfortunately I’m not a full time blogger, and while I’m fortunate and do get a lot of vacation time from my job, I definitely don’t get enough to be able to travel twice as much as I currently do.
Second, the overall experience of flying in premium cabins on international flights is much, much better than flying economy. The easy check-in, the lie-flat beds, the lounge access with showers and food during layovers, better customer service, and the multitude of other perks…it makes a big difference to me. When you’re traveling to the other side of the world where the entire transit time from origin to destination can be up to 24 hours or more, it’s worth it to me to pay the premium in points. It’s always a plus when I can arrive at my destination well rested also.
The final reason is a little bit different. I’m of the opinion that our loyalty points game is very slowly coming to an end. No, I don’t mean that loyalty programs themselves are coming to an end, but I think the ability to earn and burn points like we currently do will not last. It’s no secret that redemption options have dramatically decreased over the last 5 years. Undoubtedly a lot of that has to do with how the economy has picked up over those years, but programs have also become more restrictive. I think credit card bonuses will start to decrease slowly (again likely a result of the improved economy), and while manufactured spending opportunities will always exist, redemption costs continue to rise. See the Southwest, Hyatt, and United devaluations just for a few examples of how award prices continue to rise. Yet $1,000 still pretty much earns about 1,000 or possibly 2,000 points when manufactured spending, and don’t forget about all the work and time required.
So all that to say that I think the opportunities to book First Class flights, like the ones I’m booked on this year, will not be nearly as easy to do 10+ years for now. I’m paying the extra points for an experience that I not only enjoy now, but one that I also think is a somewhat limited time opportunity. I want to be able to say 10-20 years from now that I flew First Class on the biggest commercial plane in the sky and on some of the best airlines that exist. I think that’s cool, and that’s the experience that I’m buying.
I also get tons of questions on how I manage to get such seemingly difficult/popular flights. This is a totally valid question, but unfortunately the answer is very uninteresting. The two things I do that most others don’t or can’t do is book well in advance and have a flexible schedule. When you book far in advance, there’s more availability. Often times there will only be one First Class seat released on each flight…and even that might be a liberal description of availability depending on the airline. If you want to be that one, then you have to plan in advance.
And if for some reason that seat just happens to become available 2 months from now rather than 10 months from now, you have to have the flexibility to book it. You can’t always get the Friday-night-after-work-flight to maximize your vacation time away from work. Sometimes you have to book the Monday or Wednesday afternoon flight. Thankfully I have the flexibility to do that. The final factor, and likely the biggest for many readers, is that I only need to look for one seat for myself. I don’t have a significant other to travel with, and if a friend wants to come he/she is usually fine with being on a different flight or in a different cabin. Not all of us can be like Lucky and fly First Class around the world on A380′s with a companion!
Anyway, I try to post frequent reminders to burn your points so this is as appropriate of a post as any. Use the points you’ve worked hard to earn! Enjoy them sooner rather than later. You have only 4 days until the United devaluation, and your AA and US miles are going to be devalued some day. Burn, burn burn!