Over the past couple of months, we’ve seen some incredibly fares between the West Coast and Asia. Back in July, The Flight Deal shared a $330 roundtrip fare between San Francisco and Hong Kong. Since then, lots of other fares of around $400 have popped up. Just a couple of weeks ago, there was a $478 roundtrip fare between San Francisco and Beijing. While these are really great fares that I would highly recommend to anyone wanting to travel to Asia cheaply, they just don’t appeal to me. Why? For starters, 12 hours in economy class is pretty hard to endure when you’ve traveled the same route in Cathay Pacific’s first and business class cabin. Second, through the magic of manufactured spending, I can get a premium cabin seat on the same route for around the same price as that economy fare.
I could accomplish this by focusing my efforts on accumulating Alaska Miles for a roundtrip business class ticket on Cathay Pacific, which would set me back just 100,000 miles and get me a stopover each way if I booked two one-way awards. Earning 100,000 miles through online Visa gift cards purchases would cost $438 out of pocket after cash back portal bonuses are factored in. If some of these miles are earned through the Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express, with its 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred to Alaska, it could work out even cheaper.
I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t it cheaper to manufacture enough miles for a $400 economy class ticket, especially if you redeem Arrival miles for it? Sure it is, but again, the prospect of a 12-hour flight without a flatbed seat isn’t enticing. Points and miles aside, I can afford a $400 economy class flight – it’s the $5,000+ business class ticket that’s going to be hard to explain to Suze Orman. With a business class ticket to Asia costing about the same as an economy class ticket, I choose the former. It requires a bit more effort on my part but results in a much better travel experience. I think it’s worth the effort.
There is the matter of the miles you’re giving up by traveling on an award flight rather than a paid fare. As someone who collects miles to be able to travel in premium cabins, there are easier and cheaper ways for me to earn those miles (as I’ve explained above) than via paid travel. Most of these super cheap flights don’t accumulate many miles anyway – in the case of the $330 roundtrip fare to Beijing, it was 1,319 redeemable miles and 14,326 elite qualifying miles. Neither of these are of much use to me, since I don’t travel enough to earn airline elite status anyway and I can manufacture 1,319 miles easily and for less than $7.50 out of pocket.
Taking into account how cheaply and fairly easily I can generate enough miles for a business class ticket to Asia, the prospect of a ~$400 economy fare isn’t as appealing as it would be for folks who aren’t able to manufacture miles for a business class ticket so easily. On the other hand, if you’re saving up miles for an economy class ticket to Asia, then you’re absolutely better off booking these cheap fares. You’ll save miles and get an insanely good deal on a paid fare.
What’s your take on this? Have you booked any of the super cheap economy fares to Asia lately?
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