People often ask me how they can squeeze the most value out of their frequent flyer miles. I begin my answer by stating that maximizing monetary value and actual value are two very different things and ultimately there is no magic formula that tells you whether you are effectively using your miles.
I find the biggest waste of miles is to use them to purchase consumer products, like spending 200K miles on a $700 television set when those miles could have been used for two business class tickets to Europe with a stopover, with a sticker price of over $8,000. But some people I know travel for work or rack up tens of thousands of miles each month spending for their small business and simply have no desire to travel any more than they already have to. For them, blowing 100K miles on an iPad does make sense.
But I digress. I booked a honeymoon trip for a couple yesterday traveling to Africa and just wanted to share why I believe miles are best spent for premium cabin redemptions. When you book an award on Continental.com, you can see the price of your selected flights in economy class and business class when you get to the payment screen, just in case it might be more economical to purchase the tickets outright. Take a look at the numbers for the tickets I booked yesterday:
Now to be fair, the outbound was on one carrier and the inbound on another carrier without codeshare agreements, so you are seeing the full-fare one-way pricing above, but think about the value this couple is getting for their miles. The flight times and connections were perfect and the couple will be flying on two top-notch airlines. Of course most people would never spend over $30K on airline tickets, but just stop and think for a moment how valuable the concept of award tickets are–the chance to try out multiple airlines in premium cabins all on the same ticket.
Maybe I am making too big a deal out of this, but the more I work with frequent flyer miles, the more I appreciate what a value they are and what they allow us to do and see.