Monday, May 27, 2013

San Francisco to Uganda - Buying Miles

Under certain circumstances, buying miles can be an excellent deal. It can be especially useful if you are buying them to book international first or business class tickets. There are also occasions when the price of economy airfare is so unreasonably high, that it is cheaper to buy miles and book an award flight instead.

I have been helping to track airfare for a family member trying to fly from SFO to EBB (Entembbe, Uganda). By the time they were ready to book, economy tickets had risen to over $2300 and included at least 2 stops or an overnight layover.

While holding out for prices to drop, I began looking at possible alternatives. US Airways frequently runs a 100% bonus on purchased miles, which allows you to buy miles at ~1.8 Cents per mile. Their award chart also allows for a round trip ticket from the United States to Africa for only 70,000 miles in economy (110,000 in Business). Using I was able to search for award availability on star alliance partner airlines. After finding availability, you can call up US Airways and confirm the tickets are bookable. Purchased miles post instantly, so you can complete your purchase while still on the phone with the agent and make your booking all in one call.

During the current 100% purchased miles promo, 70,000 miles cost you $1317. After adding in some booking fees and taxes, the total cost of the tickets came out to $1463.87.  In our case, the flights did not line up exactly as we would have liked so we added a one way from JFK-SFO for $312, bringing the total trip cost to $1775.87. Even with this added expense, the trip is still $500 cheaper than buying a regular ticket. 

It is not the most straightforward process and your experience with a US Airways phone representative can be very hit or miss, but the booking is possible and potentially more flexible than a purchased ticket.


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