The Lowest Priced Award Is Not Always The Best Option For You
Today I come before you humbly so that you can all laugh at my mistake. See on my recent award booking I decided to go with the most expensive booking option, at more than 45% an increase in cost. I did this knowingly…because it simply made too much sense to me! In all seriousness I thought I would show you a recent award booking I made and why I decided to go the route I went. Even if many would consider it the worst option I will break down my thought process for you. My point is, the lowest priced award is not always the best.
The Last Frontier, Here We Come
I was looking for some topics for the website when I came across some new direct routes to Alaska. And wouldn’t you know it that Detroit was one of the airports on the list. This sent me down a rabbit hole of sorts. I have always wanted to check out the last frontier and what could be better than doing it direct? My son has not flown with me in over a year, and as I have said in the past traveling is one of the few things we have in common. It has been a big piece of our relationship missing and this seemed like the perfect chance to correct that.
Off I went searching flights, still not sure if it would happen or not. After talking with my wife she said go for it and that she was not interested in tagging along with my daughter. So boys trip it was! And since this is our first trip since the pandemic, I am sitting on a stash of miles and the flight takes as long as getting to Europe I figured we would do it in style. Domestic first class here we come! Can we get some lie flat on this luxury route already 🤣?
I knew I wanted to fly Delta since they offered the direct flight. I am also chasing Delta status, as you may know from my recent application spree. So my plan was to book my flight with cash and his with award redemption(s). I was going to use my Amex airline incidental credits to cover a lot of my cost but I needed to find some award space for him.
The options I were considering were Delta Skymiles, Virgin Atlantic Miles & Flying Blue / Air France. I had a stash of Virgin Atlantic miles from covid cancellations and Delta Skymiles for the same reason. My Flying Blue account is at a big fat zero but I could easily transfer some in if needed.
I found some saver first class space and here is how the pricing shook out:
These prices are not all for the exact same flight but Flying Blue and Delta were the same for either flight. Since Virgin Atlantic is a segment based program, like British Airways Avios, adding a connection made the price astronomically high. So Virgin was only a consideration for the direct flight out.
The direct flights out of Detroit are only available on Friday and Saturday and since we were not staying an entire week we had to book a connecting flight on the way home.
The cash price of the flights was just under $600 each way so we will use that as our baseline for our valuations.
- Flying Blue
- $600 – $32.07 = $567.93 / 36,000 = 1.57 cents per mile
- $600 – $5.60 = $594.40 / 45,000 = 1.32 cents per mile
- Virgin Atlantic
- $600 – $5.60 = $594.40 / 52,500 = 1.13 cents per mile
As you can see, domestic first class is not a huge win most of the time, even on trips to Alaska.
Which Option Did I End Up Taking & Why?
I guess I already spoiled the ending since you know I went with the expensive option for part of it. I ended up using Virgin Atlantic miles for the direct flight there and Delta Skymiles for the flight home for him. That is because Virgin Atlantic shot up in price with the connection in Minneapolis on the return flight.
But why would I take the two least valuable options? Especially when most people would value Virgin Atlantic miles above 1.13 cents a piece?
Virgin Atlantic Reasoning
If I was booking this flight last year it would have cost me 22,500 miles for the direct flight. With Virgin’s recent program changes, going distance based, the cost for flights like these have shot up. There is still value to Europe (for the time being) but who knows if that will be around by the time we can use it. Throw in the fact that Delta saver space is becoming harder and hard to find on Virgin Atlantic, even domestically, and I wanted out of this sinking ship. Because of that cent per point valuations didn’t mean a ton to me and I am sitting on a decent stockpile of their miles from my cancellations. I’ll get what I can, while I can and move on. Could I get more if I waited? Probably, but these are 3rd tier miles to me now and the pain of using them is a lot less than it used to be.
Delta Skymiles Reasoning
While most people would value Virgin Atlantic miles above 1.13 cents I don’t think people would look down on 1.32 cents per Delta Skymile. I personally peg them at around 1.25 cents a piece and with Delta that value is usually fast approaching a devaluation. So even though the cost was 9,000 more miles than Flying Blue it was still a good value for my Skymiles. I had a little stash of Delta Skymiles as well and 80,000 more are on the way from my new Delta Reserve card. So it made sense and I wouldn’t need to transfer anything to make the booking.
Why Not Flying Blue?
Why not grab the best deal all the time, every time? The main reason is because I didn’t have any Flying Blue miles in my account already. If I had 100K in all 3 accounts then I would be singing a different tune right now. But, since this booking would have taken a transfer I decided against it.
- First, my transferrable currency balance is on the mend and I would prefer to use miles I already have. Plus, getting 1.57 cents doesn’t move the needle enough to make me dump some.
- Second, I was still getting get value out of my Delta Skymiles.
- Third, I want to dump my Virgin Atlantic stock ASAP as long as it is within reason.
Those three things add up to Flying Blue, and it’s best value redemption, being left out in the cold.
Lowest Priced Award Is Not Always The Best – Final Thoughts
As you can see, using the miles with the best value doesn’t always make the most sense, at least for me. Hopefully this helps you consider all aspects of your miles and points during your next booking. Cent per point isn’t the only thing you should be considering.
What do you think? Would you have booked it the same way or done something different? Let me know below!