Reading today’s Wall Street Journal reminded me that I am not the only one left in the world who still sees value in earning (and burning) frequent flier miles. Scott McCartney’s weekly column, The Middle Seat (subscription required), broached the subject of maximizing the value of your miles today. It’s a worthy read if you are a subscriber. Long story short, forget those 25,000 mile coach awards and sit thyself in the pointy end of the airplane! That’s a strategy I’ve long followed.
I think that burning miles on domestic coach tickets with few exceptions is a lousy use of miles. Buy the ticket and sit in First Class instead. Most airlines charge 15,000 miles for a one-way domestic upgrade from discounted coach. Some, including my airline of choice, American, also charge a co-pay. Currently, that’s $50 dollars each way on AA (more if booked less than 3 weeks in advance). Still a good deal as long as the flight is at least 3 hours in length. Three hours is my personal minimum flight length before I consider mileage upgrades to be wise. Yours could be different. I have used miles to upgrade slightly shorter flights, but that was a special occasion trip to Miami and I did not want to chance clearing the comp upgrade at the 72-hour window for AAdvantage Platinums like me. Upgrades to a premium cabin on international flights can be an even better value.
There are plenty of very valuable options out there for using your miles. Upgrades are among the best. So next time you fly, spend some miles and sit in First Class!