Friday, December 19, 2014

Europe 2014 Flights

This past summer, I was able to visit Europe for the fourth time in the past six years. My family enjoyed a couple of days in Rome, a seven-night cruise around the Western Mediterranean with stops in Naples, Italy; Barcelona, Spain; Toulon, France; and La Spezia, Italy, and a few days on the western side of Crete, Greece. But of course the trip started off with a flight.

On our way to Europe, we flew in Lufthansa business class. On our return home, we flew in Turkish Air business class. The cost of this flight was 100K United miles, plus about $150 in taxes and fees per person. That means I spent 400K United miles for my family. I did not collect those miles overnight. I collected these miles over the course of two years, with multiple credit card sign-up bonuses, finding ways to take advantage of credit card category bonuses, and using shopping portals for most of my online purchases. I don’t have the exact tallies on how I collected these miles, but the majority of the miles were from either credit card sign-up bonuses or earning more miles on the same credit cards. The United credit cards that I did sign up for provided a good bulk of these miles. I believe that I had a personal and a business United card, each providing 50K miles in sign-up bonus. My wife did the same, and together we have 200K United miles. The remaining 200K miles were collected in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards points. The transfer from Chase UR to United is immediate. So as I was on the phone with United awards reservations trying to ensure that these flights were still available, I did not yet have enough miles to book all four tickets. With a single-click on the Chase UR site, I completed my points transfer, and within 15 seconds, the reservations agent confirmed that I had enough miles to continue making my reservation.

I was able to book flights on Lufthansa and Turkish because both of them are in the Star Alliance with United. There were also a couple of shorter intra-Europe flights on Aegean Air, another Star Alliance member, that were included in my award booking. This flight was booked using a United awards chart that is no longer available. In winter 2013, United “devalued” their awards chart by charging miles differently from their own flights to their Star Alliance partners’ flights. Today, this same flight routing would now cost 140K United miles per, but if United flew the same routing, it would still cost the same 100K as when I booked it.