I love and value a flight in a premium cabin, especially lie flat seats and impeccable service. I love that just as much as anyone else, but I still prefer to spend my hard earned points and miles on economy redemptions.
Unless you run your own business and can charge all of your expenses on your personal card, points are not limitless. Every year, my family tends to go on two vacations on points, whether it’s during winter, spring or summer break. When you consider that you need to get four round trip flights and possibly two rooms per night at a hotel, the points add up quickly.
For example, I am going to use Hawaii as the destination because it is a fair middle ground, in terms of points cost, between domestic itineraries and international ones. Each round trip ticket in economy, on average, goes for about 45k points. All together, for a family of four, you are going to need at least 180k flyer points, whether it’s Delta, United, American, or now Southwest (I’m leaving out using international carriers to book with points in this scenario). If you wanted to go on an average of two trips per year, whether it’s one domestic, one long haul or two medium haul trips, it’s going to cost in the ballpark of 360k points for economy.
Let’s say that you want to fly business to Hawaii. American Airlines saver award business class flights regularly go for 55k points each way. All together, for one trip for a family of four, that would be around 440k points. Not only will it cost around 80k points more, but you get just one trip instead of two.
Some people may argue that quality is better than quantity, but in some cases, such as flights, I disagree. I would much rather go on two trips than one, even if I am sitting in the back of the plane. Yes, sometimes, especially on red-eye flights, it would be nice to have lie flat seats, but in the end, is it the journey or the destination? No matter where you are sitting on the plane, everyone is going to the same place. Considering the fact that many US carriers operate their flights to Hawaii on narrow-bodied, one aisle planes that don’t have lie flat seats, is it really worth giving up an entire other trip to have a seat that’s a little bit wider with more legroom in domestic first class? I definitely do not think so.
If you want to make your economy experience a little bit more pleasant, you could start your trip with a spa treatment in a lounge to which you have free access, which you get with the American Express Platinum Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve. You could also take your own premium snacks and drinks, take an olive assortment, charcuterie board, or whatever your heart desires. I guess you could even take your own Dom Pérignon, and then the people sitting up front would be the ones missing out. All I am saying is that the economy does not need to be as bad as it is made out to be.
Redeeming points for a premium cabin might make sense if you have an endless supply of points or if you are traveling with just a partner or by yourself. But even then, would you rather go on more trips with less leg room or fewer trips with more? Let me know in the comments which you prefer and what makes sense for you.
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