US Airways Promotion: How to Save on International Flights
Right now there is an opportunity at US Airways to save money on an international trip. Through April 15, 2012, if you buy up to 50,000 US Airways Dividend miles, US Airways and Points.com will double your miles. Thus, 50,000 miles becomes 100,000 miles. (See also: 6 Ways My Family Scores Free Travel With Credit Cards)
How Much Does It Cost?
Each mile typically costs 3.5 cents each. With the bonus you can get miles for 1.75 cents each.
Obviously, if you were going to consider this, you'd need to be buying tickets that are more expensive than the cost of the miles. The best way to do this is to buy miles to use for business class tickets. To be clear, this would typically not be a good deal on most domestic itineraries, but it could be a great deal for international flights.
For example, let's look at flying from the United States to Australia. Depending on your departure city from the U.S., an economy class ticket to Australia could be around $2,000. However, through this promotion you can buy 75,000 miles for $1,330 (plus tax). That's a decent price. But, to make the value even better, you can buy 100,000 for $1,750. A round-trip ticket to Australia requires 110,000 points. As long as you have at least 10,000 miles in your account, you can turn that $1,750 purchase into a business class ticket to Australia.
Best of all, if you book travel through Asia, you can add on an Asia stopover at no extra charge. Destinations that could be valuable include China, Hong Kong, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macau, Mongolia, S. Korea, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. These cities in Northern Asia require 90,000 miles for business class and 60,000 for economy.
The Best Course of Action
First of all, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind. One is that when you fly on miles, you won't earn miles. A factor in the price difference calculation should include the miles you could have earned if you purchased a ticket instead of miles. Also, some destinations (like Australia mentioned above) are hard to get with miles. I had to book 11 months in advance to find availability. Other less competitive destinations could be booked closer to six months in advance.
Here's what to do.
1. Search for Mileage Availability
Before you get too excited, you need to be sure there is availability around your dates.
You can use your Dividend Miles for Star Alliance airlines that have "Saver Awards" availability. The simplest and most comprehensive way to search availability is at United.com. Just type in your trip information, and click on "Award Travel." Look for the "Saver Awards," as those are eligible flights to use with Dividend Miles.
Typically, you can expect to find a couple of business class seats far in advance, but don't expect to find enough business class seats for your family of six.
2. Call US Airways
If you see flights you are interested in, call US Airways Dividend Miles (you can't book international award flights online), and ask them to put the the flights on hold (which they will do for three days). Technically, you need the miles to do this, but usually they will hold them even if you don't have enough miles. If they say you don't have enough miles just tell them you are planning to buy the miles.
3. Buy Your Miles
Once you have tickets on hold and you've calculated the taxes and fees into the equation, then buy your miles.
When you make your purchase, 25% of the miles you buy don't post automatically. Thus, this method works best if you already have some miles in your account and buy enough miles so that 75% of what you purchase will cover what you need.
Finally, consider signing up for the US Airways Dividend Miles credit card. This card can give you 40,000 bonus miles plus a 5,000 mile discount when booking award tickets.
I would almost never suggest buying miles on speculation only. However, if you have an upcoming international vacation or trip, you may find that you can lock in some seats for less than by buying miles instead of tickets.
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