Cheap Air Travel - How to save thousands on business and first class flights

When we were moving back to Moscow from the BVI, we were faced with a major luggage dilemma. I would need to fly from the BVI to Miami and then a month later would be going on from there to London to collect a new work visa.

Having originally paid more than $5,000 to ship all of our belongings to the BVI, we didn't want to do it a second time on our return trip. Therefore, we loaded up all of our suitcases and decided to fly our luggage back with us. Our family helped us out with a few cases when they were over on vacation but we were still left with six 32kg cases to deal with.

Getting from the BVI to Miami involved taking a flight from the USVI to Miami International - usually a couple of hundred dollars but with all of the excess and overweight luggage we had, it would have cost us a fortune flying in economy. Luckily, I had accumulated a few miles with American Airlines using my Scotia Bank credit card and we had enough miles to book two one way business class tickets - these cost us next to nothing in taxes and allowed us to take all of our cases free of charge.

However, Miami to London was going to be a different story. The economy class flight with BA was over $600 and the excess luggage would have take the total cost to over $1,000. That seemed very steep for a one way economy class ticket. If only I had more miles on American right?!

Then, scrolling through my junk emails one morning I spotted the email that would change air travel for me forever. American Airlines were offering a 50% bonus on any miles you purchased from them. I couldn't believe my luck - I could purchase enough miles to buy a one way first class ticket from Miami to London, via New York, which would allow me to fly on BA's flagship first class service from JFK to London. Sound expensive right?! Wrong - the total cost of the journey was around $800 using the purchased miles. That was less than the economy class ticket when you factored in the baggage costs.

What a bargain! Go and check out how much a one way first class ticket on this service would usually set you back. A lot right. But here I had bagged one for under $1,000. The flight itself was exceptional; I particularly enjoyed the complimentary filet mignon in the first class lounge whilst waiting for the connection in JFK, and although the flight is too short for a proper night's sleep I thought the complimentary first class BA pyjamas were a nice touch.

It turns out that this trick is entirely repeatable and is particularly profitable when using the American based airlines; American and United, as opposed to their European counterparts. Purchasing miles in their sales, which seem to take place at least twice every year, and then booking value award flights gives you the opportunity to save thousand of dollars on premium tickets.

The best thing is - this doesn't only work for Business and First class but also for economy class tickets. I was recently booking the flights for our dream honeymoon, which would involve us completing an around the world circuit back from our destination wedding in California to Moscow. The problem was that the flights from LA to Hawaii to Guam to Palau to Seoul were going to set us back a rather steep $5,000 per person. I noticed however that all of the flights were with United. What if they had the same deal as American Airlines, allowing me to book our honeymoon flights for a fraction of the cost?

Well, it turned out that the very day I was looking was the last day of United's miles discount sale. First checking the availability of the award flights and then making sure I could purchase enough miles to cover the journey, I figured out that the flights would cost us less than $2,500 for both of us! This would be a saving of more than $7,500, which would pay for all of the accommodation on our honeymoon as well.

It may have taken me more than a few hours to jump through all the hoops of selecting the correct connections on the award flight, carefully picking the days of our flights, and then calculating how many miles we needed and making sure we didn't go over the cap on purchases, but it was well worth the extra effort.

So next time you're booking a flight, be sure to check out the award flights availability for that flight and then how much it would cost you to purchase the miles to cover that flight rather than paying the airfare. You might be pleasantly surprised!

Happy travels and be sure to let me know what your best airfare deal was in the comments!
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