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Question Frequent Flyer Miles for international flights???
Old 02-07-2013, 01:57 PM   #1
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Question Frequent Flyer Miles for international flights???

Looks like American isn't going down, so I would like to use some frequent flyer miles; but seems like you end up spending 60-70K miles for every trip.

Has anyone here been able to book an international trip using frequent flyer miles at the coach level using the minimum miles? I have tried booking using only 20K miles off-peak with American which is the lowest they supposedly offer, and what I get are a few trips going at 20K but a return cost of 30K or 60 miles. You can't win it seems.

The customer service gal did spill that the airlines try and sell these seats so offer few. I wonder if they offer ANY seats at the off-peak 20K one way level with a 20K round trip cost on international flights? Anyone here have any luck?
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Old 02-07-2013, 02:00 PM   #2
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I seem to recall that the best use of miles for international travel was to buy an international coach ticket and then use miles to upgrade to business (or first).

But I recall hearing that quite a while ago so it may have changed.
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Old 02-07-2013, 02:33 PM   #3
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I had good success with international Saver Awards on United, moderate on American and really poor on Delta.
All depends on route and timing. But I was able to get cheapest tier award both ways. Mostly US<->Europe, but few US<->South America too.
Unfortunately AFAIK there is no easy way to find these, except the airline website itself (ITA Software used to be able to show available award seats, but with the advent of muti-tier awards it went away).
What's your route?
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Old 02-07-2013, 02:50 PM   #4
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I've used Continental's miles to fly coach to Europe a couple of times & to Asia once. Book well in advance.
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Old 02-07-2013, 03:10 PM   #5
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I seem to recall that the best use of miles for international travel was to buy an international coach ticket and then use miles to upgrade to business (or first).

But I recall hearing that quite a while ago so it may have changed.
Still the optimal use of miles I reckon. 60 - 70k seems to be the minimum for a decent international flight ( 6 - 8 hour). It would cost about that much in points to upgrade from cattle class to business, whereas if you paid cash it would be 3 or 4 times coach prices.
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Old 02-07-2013, 05:42 PM   #6
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I've booked award coach international travel on United at least 6 times. 3 times to Latin America, twice to Europe, and once to Australia. Also once on American to Mexico.
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Old 02-07-2013, 05:47 PM   #7
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I had over 4 million miles on Northwest. (yes, 4,000,000)
60K miles for international seems fair for coach. Usually you'd use double that for a 'rule buster' to get through any blackouts.
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Old 02-07-2013, 06:03 PM   #8
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I had over 4 million miles on Northwest. (yes, 4,000,000)
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Don't you get free flights once you reach the million mile club? .. or am I confusing this with the mile high club
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Old 02-07-2013, 06:36 PM   #9
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Don't you get free flights once you reach the million mile club? .. or am I confusing this with the mile high club
The flights are 'free' when you use miles to buy flights. Part of the million mile club is getting upgrades to first, priority in flights, free limo pick up from home, free access to airline clubs, access to "non published flights" and concierge service which will vary from airline to airline. In my case, I was among their top 1% customers and had a dedicated personal airline person who I could call to handle most details.
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Old 02-07-2013, 07:02 PM   #10
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Yes; booked 2 round trip tickets from East Coast USA to MVD, Uruguay, returned from Buenos Aires Argentina. 40k points each on American, plus $10-20 in fees each?? Back in 2009. We got great flights at convenient times and minimal layovers. 1 stop in MIA but that is due south from us anyway, so no backtracking to the north to connect and fly south. I recall we booked a few months ahead of time and it was the Saver fares (off season) for March flights. Retail at the time was ~$1200/ticket.
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Old 02-07-2013, 07:11 PM   #11
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Fuego, can I interest you in being my frequent flyer travel agent? I need to use my random assortment of miles to get one ways to UK and home from UB! My, what a pita to figure out!
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Old 02-07-2013, 07:28 PM   #12
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I consider FF miles a form of fraud. Bad experiences in the past, but I will look into the upgrade thing.
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Old 02-07-2013, 07:44 PM   #13
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Well the airlines can inflate away your existing miles. They are no longer as attractive as they once were. I would think that if an airline had a real FF program (fixed miles, no black out dates, no limits per flight) they could capture a huge portion of business travelers (who would use miles for personal flights).

If American did this, I would even fly them again (i think they are the worst of the major carriers by a large amount).
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Old 02-07-2013, 07:47 PM   #14
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I consider FF miles a form of fraud. Bad experiences in the past, but I will look into the upgrade thing.
I will have to let you know how it works for us. I did book a night in the Atryau, Kazakhstan Marriott in July with my points today-had to have a reservation for the visa application! Looked pretty fancy in the pictures!
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Old 02-07-2013, 10:38 PM   #15
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As a personal traveler only (no business flights) nowadays, I have pretty much totally given up on the concept of Frequent Flyer Miles and just go with the cheapest airline ticket (thus getting my discount and flexibility NOW) instead of paying extra now in hope of a free hamburger on Tuesday. In fact, an extensive Frequent Flyer Mile program is a big negative for an airline in my book.

Normally, as soon as I can get anything for my miles, I would like to try to use them.
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Old 02-08-2013, 09:40 AM   #16
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Looking at November I found a flight to Buenos Aires with a choice of about 3 days I would go from Phoenix to DFW and spend the night there then leave the next day at 7:30 pm. Too bad I don't know anyone in Dallas anymore....sigh.
Also, lots of flights where you land in Dallas at 4:40 pm say and your next flight would take off at 5:10 pm which is not enough time to take the chance on changing planes; so, my next choices would require anywhere from a 3-5 hour wait till the next flight when you had to change planes.
Do they do this on purpose?
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Old 02-08-2013, 09:55 AM   #17
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DFW is far from the worst airport in my mind to spend a 3-5 hour layover: Plenty of places to eat/drink/walk and people watch. I cannot give any real advice for overnight activities around DFW. (I have a friend who lives close to the airport whom I generally visit during long layovers; we always just sit around his house and catch up.)

DFW to Argentina is a very long flight in coach. You might enjoy the trip more and have more flight options if you look at the business class rewards. It always takes me one or two days to recover from a coach flight of that length; but, I am good to go on the day I land when flying up front.

Enjoy the trip.
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Old 02-08-2013, 10:23 AM   #18
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I was looking into flights from ATL to Taiwan and could get the minimum amount for one coach ticket but not two with Delta. That happened the last time we went there - I ended up getting medium level awards for both of us. The value of Skymiles is so low now that I think I am giving up the Delta Amex card I pay a yearly fee for and switch over to the Costco Amex. The only other benefit to the Delta card is Zone 1 boarding which we find helpful because we both carry backpacks full of expensive camera gear and don't like to risk not having overhead space.
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Old 02-08-2013, 12:02 PM   #19
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I've successfully booked numerous FF award travel trips in the last several years. I can't remember them all offhand, but in the last two years:
WDC-Honolulu (American)
WDC-Ft. Lauderdale-WDC (Delta)
WDC-Dubai (United)
WDC-Auckland (Delta)
Bangkok-WDC (Delta)
Sydney-WDC (United)
Venice-WDC (United)
WDC-Southampton-WDC (United)

I booked almost all of these as early as it was possible to do so (i.e., ~330 days prior to travel), and was able to get three tickets for each of these trips. A few were booked only a few months prior to travel, and also no problem getting tickets. I've never actually encountered a blackout day, but never had to travel during holidays or obvious peak times either.

All tickets were coach. The mileage "price" for them varied quite a bit -- rarely 100% minimum, usually some blend of lowest and medium (sometimes the mile charges for different legs of flights appear to be split, or one-way on a RT flight was different than the other way). All were very reasonable schedules, probably what we would have selected even if purchasing the ticket directly. Small cash charges were associated with each for taxes, etc., but next to nothing really.

In my experience, United still has very good value for your miles, American is okay, and Delta is terrible for international travel (very devalued, as someone else commented) -- I pretty much only use them for domestic flights now, since they demand a ridiculous number of miles for most international flights.

Re: using miles to upgrade vs. on getting tickets -- I'll use them for upgrading when I'm on work travel, but only on long-hauls to Asia (it isn't worth it to me to blow the miles for trips that are shorter, or that have layovers where no single flight is more than 7-8 hours). I'd much rather accumulate miles and redeem for my own personal travel -- this has saved us thousands over the years.
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Old 02-08-2013, 12:06 PM   #20
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I had over 4 million miles on Northwest. (yes, 4,000,000).
NO WONDER you're on this forum!
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