Ben, AKA Lucky from One Mile at a Time has recently posted about taking his dad on a round-the-world first class flight on Emirates Airlines. I might’ve been critical of Ben on more than one occasion. I thought his infamous Kickstarter attempt to raise money for a flight in a new Etihad Residence suite was nothing short of a disgrace. And besides, his grand idea of traveling often seems to be getting in a first class seat and being pampered. Don’t get me wrong; I do enjoy an occasional flat-bed suite just like the next guy, but my idea of traveling is getting there and enjoying the destination. Getting to said destination in a first class seat is not the reason why my suitcase does not get dusty.
His Emirates series of articles, on the other hand, is not just a fun read, it is warm and really inspiring. He is a great son, and I’m happy to give credit when credit is due.
Do Not Wait Up
When life interferes, your plans will be thrown off course in a heartbeat. My mom and I have been planning a trip to Paris (her long-time dream) for ages, but there has always been something. And then a sudden debilitating illness puts a huge wrench in our plans. We are still planning, hopefully next summer, but now that her mobility has been drastically reduced, there are a lot of logistical problems at hand.
Tell your parents to pack their bags while they are well and healthy. Do not wait until the time is perfect. It never is!
Miles and Points Are a Great Tool to Convince Your Parents to Fly Premium Even IF You Have the Money
The vast majority of people do not consider business and first class flights to be worth the money, and they are right! None of my friends or clients — and there are some wealthy fellows among them — flies in business or first on their own dime. The concept of buying yourself some short-lived comfort and pampering for thousands of dollars is something that normal people have a very hard time to understand.
What I’m saying is, I don’t know about your parents, but if they are anything like my mom, they won’t take money from you. However, with miles and points — they will jump in. People don’t treat our fantasy currency as real money, and they are right about that, too. My mother would never-ever pay or let me buy her a first class ticket. People do not have the same issues with frequent flyer miles.
But Flights in a Premium Cabin Cost a Lot of Miles?
Sure they do, but if you are in the know (and you are, if you have read my books), you either have the miles, or know how to get them easily, which is the next best thing. Now, what you need is careful planning.
Start by asking your parents where they would like to go. Don’t tell them about the first-class flight yet. Try to write down the list of choices they might have for different regions, such as North America, Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, etc. You know there is a simple rule to achieve a successful redemption, especially a successful premium class redemption:
- One must be flexible about either the dates or the destination.
With my mom, it didn’t work like that. I asked her to list the places where she would like to go. Her answer was “Paris”.
“OK, and if not Paris, then what else?” I asked.
“Paris,” she insisted.
“Or…” I kept encouraging her to think outside the box.
“ Or London… and Paris”.
Getting two nonstop business or first class seats on a non-stop flight to Paris during warm weather would not normally be an easy proposition, but the born-again Delta Airlines award chart still shows awesome availability to Paris and other European cities in the late summer 2015. You might be as lucky or even luckier. Your parents might have a few places on their mind, and that would give you the much-needed flexibility.
There Is First Class and There Is Really First Class
Don’t seek an easy way out and forget domestic first (with an exception of a few markets, like NYC-LA or SF). Get your parents a real international premium class seat. It doesn’t have to be Emirates or Etihad; many trans-Atlantic or Transpacific business class seats will do. Airlines all over the world are feeling enough peer pressure right now to upgrade their fleet. Even Air Berlin that used to position itself as a semi-budget airline is installing lie-flat seats on some of their Transatlantic routes.
Of course, it’s all in the name. Premium Business or Business Elite cabins are nothing to sneeze at, either.
The American Airlines AAdvantage Program Is the Best for Premium Redemptions
Yes, I know it is arguable, and they can be very stingy with rewards, but think about it this way.
- There are four credit cards that can easily get you 200,000 AAdvantage miles.
- Citibank AAdvantage Visa Personal: 50,000-mile bonus
- Citibank AAdvantage Visa Business: ditto
- Citibank AAdvantage Visa Executive ($450 Annual fee – $200 credit): ditto plus Admiral Club membership.
- US Airways: 40,000 Dividend Miles (soon to be AAdvantage)-bonus plus 10,000 more upon the anniversary, plus an offer for another 15,000 miles you are likely to get in your email.
After you are done with meeting the spending requirements, you will have enough miles in your coffers to get two business class tickets to Europe and Latin America, and almost enough miles for two business-class tickets to Asia.
The United Airlines Mileage Plus program is the [Distant] Second Best Thing
United Airlines sucks. Not only did they devalue their premium redemptions a year ago, but even those devalued miles are not easy to redeem for first or business class travel on United metal—and traveling on United metal is the only way it can make sense, since the redemption levels on their Star partners are simply insane! Still, if your parents can be flexible, you will find your seats—well, eventually.
How to get United Mileage Plus Miles
Chase United has had their 50,000-mile bonus offers for business and personal credit cards for years, and they will probably get back. When that happens, grab them quickly. There is also a trick described on Flyertalk on how to trigger the offer, although it hasn’t worked for me lately.
In the meantime, there are other ways, too.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred: 40,000-mile bonus plus 5,000 for adding an authorized user.
- Chase Ink Bold: a business charge card with 50,000-mile bonus.
- Chase Ink Plus: taken out of their website, but still offered in Chase bank branches. That card still offers a 70,000-mile bonus (you need to ask the manager to pull their credit cards offers; otherwise, they might not even know).
If you get all these cards, including two Chase United cards, you will have enough miles (after meeting the threshold) to book a business class trip for two on United to Europe and even Asia.
To Be Continued
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I agree that using United Miles for Firtst Class is “insane”.
However the premium in miles to fly business class on non united metal is 5,0000 or 10,0000 miles extra – so well worth it in my opinion.
David, thank you for your comment. I’m not sure I can completely agree with that. For business class flights between NA and Europe, you’re looking at extra 25,000 per roundtrip (140K vs. 115K), although Asia flights are not that bad, “only” 20,000 miles more to fly on partners.
And Asia is where I usually go.
Last year I took Eva Air to Taiwan and also added on a “free” flight to Japan.
To me the extra 20,000 milese were miles well spent – Eva Air was much better than United.
About 7 years ago I flew United First class to Japan and back – not something I look forward to doing again. For me, Eva Air Businees is much better than United First class.
I guess, you’re right about that. Never tried United Global First, but did fly Asiana First which was sensational.
United Global First is where I was served Champagne in a plastic cup. And the guy across from me immediately took off his shoes and socks and put up his feet on the console. And the Purser didn’t care! At least I didn’t get food poisoning like I did from their Biz-First product from SFO-CDG, so I consider it a win. What a gawdawful airline. Morons run the place. Until a few years ago a lot of their planes had those old drop down CRT IFE screens (that barely worked). But each one must have weighed 50-80lbs. Had they upgraded… Read more »
Sounds like I haven’t lost much by never trying this product. 🙂
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