Please note this site has financial relationships with American Express and this post may contain affiliate links. Read my Advertiser Disclosure policy here to learn more about my partners.
Every couple months, it seems the miles and points hobby has to deal with another devaluation. Another blow to how we operate. Another good mileage opportunity that no longer exists. Yesterday it was British Airways who made some awards more expensive, last year it was United, and I don’t even want to put into the universe who I suspect will be next, but it is a matter of when, not if, another program makes it harder to earn, or in many cases more expensive to burn miles at reasonable rates.
There are two very definite trends we are seeing right now…
1. Those who earn the majority of their miles via rewards earning credit cards instead of flying are largely protected from the cuts to the earning ratios and revenue based changes we are seeing. That’s good news for many of us rewards cards junkies, at least here in the United States.
2. Premium cabins are getting pricier on miles, and many of us who need multiple seats are simply going to be priced out of the front seats at some point unless we somehow manage earn massive numbers of miles every year.
Premium Cabin Redemptions Pricing Out Most Families:
Most of the award chart changes we are seeing thankfully aren’t impacting economy awards, or are impacting them only slightly. It is the business class and first class seats that are really taking the award-chart-adjustment-beatings and are getting to be more and more expensive on miles.
I have no qualms about admitting I like the fancy lie-flat seats for long flights. In fact, my whole family likes them, who wouldn’t? This hobby has given us the chance to fly in extreme comfort over the last few years, and it has been quite an enjoyable ride, literally.
I don’t think our days of flying in the good seats are over, but I do think they may be numbered and more limited. I think it is time for us to take a deep breath and learn to love coach, or at least tolerate it even on longer flights than we have been in recent times. We have flights to Europe coming up in coach, and I’m not excited about the flights themselves at all or trying to sleep sitting upright, but we’ll live, and then 8-9 hours or so later we will be in Europe, which is the whole point of the trip in the first place.
I still hope we will be able to get a big family trip to Australia and New Zealand in fancy seats in before we are potentially priced out of doing so, and I think there will be some other special trips up front in the years to come, but the writing is on the wall. The number of miles required to sit up front is only increasing, and while there are some very good opportunities to earn miles for those of us in the world of rewards credit cards, being able to regularly earn enough miles for 3, 4, or 5 seats in a premium cabins is getting tougher and tougher. Not to mention finding the award space…
My advice is book those premium cabin trips now, or in the near term, if you can. I’m thankful for every one I got to book, and will book in the future. Travel isn’t about the seat or airplane for me, but the nice seats sure do make the journey more comfortable (and my husband much happier!).
Get Smarter, Pay More, Earn More, or Sit in the Back:
Take advantage of things like the 40% Amex Membership Rewards transfer bonus to British Airways and snag a business class seat to Ireland on Aer Lingus for as low as 25,000 Avios each way (which comes to essentially 18k Membership Reward points per flight with the transfer bonus) before they get pricier on April 28th. Take advantage of the current US Airways award chart, and even the American Airlines award chart for premium cabin flights at reasonable prices. You can fly in first class to North Asia on US Airway partners for 120,000 miles round trip or the South Pacific in business class on partners for 110,000 miles round trip. Those rates are destined to increase very shortly.
If you want to continue flying in premium cabins, you will likely have to learn how to maximize the foreign carriers award charts and earn flexible currencies that can transfer into those programs via Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards, and even the Citi ThankYou program. You’ll need to learn about how to avoid or minimize fuel surcharges when using those foreign programs. For example, ANA is revamping their award chart effective in April, at which time you will be able to fly from the US to Europe for 72k miles round trip in business class or to Australia for 105k miles round trip in business class, but you will have to contend with fuel surcharges on the carriers that charge them.
Fancy Seats are Still Possible, But…
Don’t panic, and don’t give up dreams of taking that special trip to a far-off place in a lie-flat seat. You can still do it now, and for the foreseeable future, but it increasingly may need to be for that “special trip”, and not for every long journey unless you are just “miles rich”. This reality is amplified for families who likely only have real 1-2 mileage earners, but many more mileage
It will be a little bit of a mental adjustment for us to transition from planning long haul trips in a premium cabin to a coach cabin when that times comes, but as long as we are still traveling to places we love at prices we can afford, the sky is still blue and certainly not falling. Our bottoms and backs just may be a bit more sore…
What do you think? Am I off-base with these conclusions, or is your family also learning to love the idea of coach seats for longer flights?