I posted some time ago about the tremendous deal/mistake fare that was offered by Air Transat from several airports in Canada to several airports in Europe. I wasn’t sure at the time if this was just a great deal or if it was in fact a mistake – with today’s prices who can tell? But as the time neared to actually take the trip, the threat of a medium-length redeye trans-Atlantic flight began to loom large. Was it me or Air Transat that had made the mistake?
Cheap or Broke?
The difference between being cheap and being broke really comes down to your will vs your ability to pay for a given item. No matter how much money, how old I get, how many millions of miles and points I have – I struggle to turn the other way from a good deal. In some cases this may mean I buy stuff that I don’t necessarily need simply because the value is so overstated and I feel it would be a mistake to miss out. I am not talking about loading up on mustard bottles and hoarding like the extreme coupon-ers (though this hobby is often compared to such). But I am most certainly buying some Lifemiles at their 145% bonus to keep my points active, which means that in the last 18 months I have not spent or earned any more of them – likely making this an irrational purchase (but a great deal).
I type this post from row 25 on an Air Transat A310 in the middle of economy, Matthew’s deep coach section. The seating is a tight 3-3-3 but perhaps better than you might find on Spirit or Wow! We have three seats in the middle of the plane which is good enough to create our own little space, but this was a really terrible idea.
Mileage Rich, Common Sense Poor
Here’s what really makes it hard to tolerate. The following are Household balances and are not displayed to brag (really you should burn points as fast as you earn them) but rather to show what was available to us when we chose to fly the mistake/sale we booked.
- Chase Ultimate Rewards: 310,000
- AMEX Membership Rewards: 370,000
- American Airlines Advantage Miles: 700,000
- United Airlines Mileage Plus: 140,000
- Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan: 110,000
- American Airlines Business Extra: 22,500
- Hilton Honors: 550k+
- IHG Rewards: 625k+
- Marriott Rewards: 100k+
- SPG: 30k+
- And on, and on, and on
I could go on a little ways but I’m going to stop because I think you’ve gotten the picture. We have enough diversity and instruments to have booked this trip affordably and comfortably but have instead chosen affordably and uncomfortably because it was a better deal.
I’m just not cut out for this any more. I was using my OneJet boarding pass as a bookmark on this flight – let that sink in. Let me say that when I was just starting to travel, I would have been all over this trip and never whined about my economy seat. To the contrary, I would have felt like I scored big time by securing a row of three for our family together where we could build a little nest for our journey across the Atlantic. And at the time I would have been right.
But that was then and this is now. I have literally millions of points at my disposal (as do many of our readers and peers), I have at least six upgrades on two carriers that will expire before I get to use them and another voucher or two that I could have used. Before I was broke, now I’m just cheap. Unfortunately, I’m getting older, work consumes more of time than it used to and my daughter is growing up fast – I don’t want to waste the little family time we have being grumpy because I slept for 75 minutes upright on a trans-Atlantic redeye.
The time when mistake fares like these presented a tremendous value was before I had the mileage means to go wherever I wanted whenever I wanted. This is a relatively inexpensive trip to book in a more comfortable setting, so not doing so feels like a missed opportunity rather than one seized.
Practice What You Preach
I send out alerts for good deals when I find them for our readers, friends and family. I try to limit it to exceptional deals with outsized value and deals I may actually book myself. We have passed on the last few mistake fares and missed out on ones we really wanted to take (Sydney Business class for $600s and Vietnam Business class to the US for $600). That made us a little trigger happy when it came to this particular deal combined with the fact that we have been wanting to get back to Manchester for some time but it never quite fits into our schedule.
I also want to practice what I preach. Surely I can’t be too spoiled to pass up $183 round trip into Manchester. What kind of an example am I setting for my daughter if I can’t slum it in the back for a measly six hours? When I was growing up, we would take an airplane trip maybe once every three years (I know some traveled even less). When I reached high school I began to find affordable ways to spread my wings and by 18 I’d found my way to 10 countries on three continents, delighted by the utter joy of travel. I want my daughter to feel that way too, I don’t want her to pass up an opportunity to see old friends in Manchester simply because she can’t find award space in a premium cabin for her desired dates or doesn’t want to sit in the back.
I also want it to be better for her than it was for me. Isn’t that the American Dream? That your kids have a better life than you had? My mission in life is that she should have both the means and the knowledge to give herself any kind of travel experience she wants, something I didn’t have when I was growing up but is available to her.
Moment of Truth
I held some award space the week of our trip as it opened up but ultimately it was more expensive to throw away the mistake fare tickets and book award replacements in a premium cabin due to the UK Air Passenger Duty. We headed to Manchester in coach, on a redeye from the east coast, no luxuries or comforts at all.
But the real moment of truth came when we landed, having flown the outbound segment and deciding whether we would be finding another way back home. The jury, I’m afraid, is still out.
Do you have a line you won’t cross for a great deal? Or am I too spoiled to appreciate the joy of travel for travel’s sake?