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3 ways you can save 60% on luxury international flights

sunset pattaya nov09 3 3 ways you can save 60% on luxury international flights

After a hard afternoon of jet skiing yesterday, my friends and I came off the water right as the sun was descending in the horizon over the ocean. The sun sets in Thailand in a more vibrant, distinctive way than most other places in the world that I have seen, and quite honestly it can be intoxicating.

As we collected our belongings and paid the 1,300 baht fee (roughly $40) for the afternoon rental, we started talking about travel– my friends are returning to Europe tomorrow on Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways, which was recently voted ‘the world’s best air carrier’ at the 2009 World Travel Awards.

Our conversation made me realize that I had not touched on travel secrets in a while, so I thought I would make a few suggestions if you are considering some holiday travel.

It’s no secret that most airlines are short of cash. They’ve come up with creative ways to raise money through checked baggage fees, ticketing fees, increased change fees, and of course, the fuel surcharge.

My favorite was Bratislava-based Sky Europe’s ‘payment fee,’ which as the name suggests, charges a fee for the passenger to make a payment.  It makes me wonder if they were planning to charge a fee for someone to pay the payment fee… No wonder they went out of business.

The newest cash-raising craze for airlines is to sell miles or points within their award programs.  Points can subsequently be accumulated and traded in for free tickets, and even extend beyond the airline to the rest of their alliance.

American Airlines, for example, is a member of the ‘One World Alliance,’ which is also comprised of British Airways, Royal Jordanian, Japan Airways, Malev Hungarian, Mexicana, Spain’s Iberia, Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific, Finland’s Finnair, Australia’s Qantas, and Chile’s Lan.

Miles accumulated on American Airlines can be used across this entire network, which is quite convenient.  American now has a special for buying miles– 80,000 total miles will cost $1,642.50 including fees and federal excise taxes, which works out to be roughly 2 cents per mile.

Let’s do some quick math.

Purchasing a roundtrip domestic economy ticket with miles will require a redemption of 25,000 miles. At 2 cents per mile, that’s the cash equivalent of $500… plus the airline will still charge the 9/11 security fees and a ticketing fee on top of that, so let’s say roughly $540.

If you plan ahead, you can easily beat $540 for any domestic route in the continental US or Canada. As I do a quick search, for example, a cross country Seattle-Miami trip is a mere $346.40 including taxes and fees.

Naturally, using miles for this sort of ticket doesn’t make any sense– why pay $540 for something that costs less than $350?

I fly business or first, especially internationally… and using miles for these tickets is a much, much better deal.  A roundtrip business class ticket from North America to South America, for example, can be awarded for 100,000 miles. At $0.02 per mile, that’s a cash equivalent of around $2,100 including taxes and fees.

If you were to actually pay for this ticket– let’s use a sample route of Miami to Buenos Aires, Argentina– it would cost around $5,000.  In this case, buying and using miles gets you 60% off the fare, an absolute steal.

I’ve also noticed some great business class fares from North America to Europe for the holidays; Lufthansa, Continental and Air Canada all have advanced-purchase fares starting at just over $2,000 to Europe.  Normal fares are well over $5,000.

If you have been thinking about kicking the tires in Asia to see what opportunities are here for you, I’ve also found that Philippine Airlines has some really great deals from LA, San Francisco, and Vancouver connecting through Manila.  Business class is running around $3,000, which is less than half the cost you would normally pay.

I’m sure there are plenty of other holiday deals out there, so if you know of any, don’t hesitate to post a comment.

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About the author: Simon Black is an international investor, entrepreneur, permanent traveler, free man, and founder of Sovereign Man. His free daily e-letter and crash course is about using the experiences from his life and travels to help you achieve more freedom.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Keith Rushing

    Simon,
    I am very new to ‘notes from the field’, which I am enjoying very much. In your last note you mentioned the Atlas 400 club. I googled without success to find out anything about Atlas 400 except a login which is only for members. Can you enlighten me?

    • Nick

      Google the names Simon drops.

  • Kelly

    Hi Simon. I just want to add my 2 centavos about flights to Asia. The only reason I’d fly Philippine Airlines would be if I were on the west coast and had to be in MNL in the shortest time possible. Their biz class seats are uncomfortable and their flight attendants are adequate at best. This is baffling for a country that’s overflowing with young attractive workers who fall all over themselves to give good service.

    I think a better option for most travelers is EVA Air. EVA’s website is confusing, but once you get the hang of it you can find some great deals. Biz class from the west coast (of the USA) to most of Asia runs about $3000 with some advanced planning. They also have “Evergreen Deluxe Class” which is basically “Coach Plus” which is about $1000 on the same routes. You’ll spend 2 to 4 hours of quality time connecting through TPE and then you’re on your way. Find the “Hot E Fare” link on EVA’s website (good luck) for these deals. You can probably get the same prices by calling their reservations number, but I’m not sure. By the way, EVA flight attendants are “old school” by which I mean they’re young, trim, and tailored, and they provide excellent service.

    I don’t want to ramble on and on, but I’ve crossed the Pacific a few times so novices might find something valuable here. In the past I’ve found surprisingly good deals on NWA biz class seats, and the service was surprisingly good also. I don’t know what it would be like today with their recent changes. Cathay is very good but quite pricey. Someday I hope to make the trip on Singapore Airlines but it’s not in the budget anytime soon.

    I hope this helps someone. Thanks for the great blog.

    v/r
    Kelly

  • Qualified

    I’m curious what the BA/Iberia merger will do to the European business tr avel market. Is anyone aware of an all business class airline from N.America to Asia?

  • Jake

    SkyEurope went out of business a few months ago!

  • Christine

    Hi Simon,

    Very true; and I have used miles for Intl. flights before, but I must say Philippine Airlines just sucks, the seats are so uncomfortable. Their business class lounge needs help.

    I personally like buying a coach ticket and using miles to upgrade, this makes sense for me since I am a last minute traveler.

    I also use Amex points to transfer to partner airlines to book business class flights.

  • David

    Simon,

    I enjoy your blog and international advice. A small tip from me you may find amusing or helpful considering your letter is called notes from the field.

    There is a high quality notepad I use called “Field Notes.” Perfect to keep in your pocket or bag when you need to jot something down and are far from civilization. Check it them out at fieldnotesbrand.com

    Dave

  • Jess Peery

    I disagree with Kelly about Philippine Airlines, I just flew them to Bangkok and they were great, comfortable seats, and a truly great staff…maybe Kelly was on an older plane, it makes a big difference. The 747 I flew was great, and the food even better than usual. Check out farebuzz.com for cheap business class flights 40% off!

  • BFT

    When you’re already in Asia you should take a look at airasia.com. You can go from for example Singapore to Phuket daily, and it’s so cheap that it’s almost free. You can also go Phuket to Indonesia, Taipei and a lot of other places. I live in Thailand, and I travel a lot around asia because it’s so cheap that you’ll literally not even notice that money leaves your pocket. The planes are fine, and the service is good. Of course it’s not first class, but for travelling between countries in asia which is rarely more than 1-2.5 hours it’s no problem.

  • Brian

    How about free tickets? I recently booked free tickets to Bali (from Bangkok) on AirAsia in June of next year. That deal was quickly snapped up but perhaps there are others. AirAsia is trying to be the Ryan air of Asia. I suspect I may end up in the back working a large set of pedals throughout the flight – we’ll see.

    Sunsets here in Thailand are indeed truly magnificent – at my house it sets over the Burmese mountains and I look forward to it every evening. I try to tell myself that it has nothing to do with pollution but I suspect that at least some of the fantastic color results from the common burning of the fields by my neighboring farmers. In Pattaya, Simon, you are directly 75 miles due East across the Gulf from me and the ocean sunsets there can also be breathtaking looking across the water.

    more good PR for Thailand! But don’t all come here!

  • Bob

    Amex Platinum card will allow you to buy one business class ticket and your companion flies free.

  • D

    Hi All

    The website below has some useful info on airlines and how to best use your points, upgrades, etc..

    The blurb on the main page states “It’s the hub that brings everyone together — from leisure travelers to mileage junkies — to converse about programs, get the latest program buzz or discuss how to maximize points or miles. You’ll even get some good general travel information! ”

    http://www.flyertalk.com/

    I personally don’t use it as my wife works for a major airline so we have some benefits there but from what i’ve seen it appears worth the effort to look at. And it’s free [not that mind paying for good advice!]

    Regards
    D.

  • Brent

    Exactly. I’ve just booked a First Class ticket on Cathay Pacific from the UK to New Zealand, return, for the equivalent of $4000! It’s certainly possible to take that approach and pick up some fantastic deals. I do remember someone once saying to me (a number of years ago now) that hardly anyone who flies business or first pay the full fare……

    Regards.

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