How We Saved 46% on Peak Airfare Costs

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Since I’m now in my third trimester of carrying Tiny Traveler #2, our travels have not surprisingly slowed down a bit.  I had one more one night trip booked for early May, and then that was it for air travel and me for a while.  The precipitous drop-off in travel bookings came both from the pregnancy itself, and from the time when my husband was between jobs and we basically put a freeze on booking new travel.  However, as the days have gone by I’ve started to again get that “itch”.  Yes, you fellow addicts know the one, the itch to hop on a plane and go somewhere new.  You can fight it, you can delay it, you can ignore it, but it doesn’t always go away on its own.  It’s our blessing and our curse.

My husband is working his tail off at his new gig and doesn’t really have any days off yet, so I knew we couldn’t do any big trips, but more and more I wanted us to do just one more weekend getaway before that becomes much harder for a while with an infant.  Back before the SPG award chart changed earlier this year I threw a virtual dart at the wall and booked a weekend stay at The Phoenician Resort in Arizona before it went from 12,000 points per night to 20,000 points per night.  I didn’t know if I would be able to actually travel on that weekend, but I figured there was no harm in locking in something and hoping for the best.  I could always cancel with no penalty until a few days before the trip and refund the points if it didn’t work out.

The Phoenician Resort Scottsdale Pool

For a long time I assumed I would be cancelling the award stay, but then I decided I really wanted to go.  Even though I am now quite large and increasingly uncomfortable, the idea of swimming in warm water in Arizona for a weekend sounds fantastic.  They also have a Kid’s Club, a splash pad, a 165 foot water slide, and it looks like a very swanky place to just relax and have fun for a couple of days.  In other words, it looks totally perfect for one more easy family vacation before things get a bit crazier for a while and it is somewhere we have never been.  You could almost even call it a “babymoon” even though we are bringing our 5 year old, and I really am not a fan of the “babymoon” phrase.

SURGE Interactive Spray Ground

Since I already had the room booked on SPG points, the main problem was flights, especially since I had waited so long to decide that this trip really did sound like a winner for our family.  Houston to Phoenix on US Airways would cost just 7,500 British Airways Avios each way in economy, which would have been ideal.  However, there was no award availability to be found that weekend on US Airways, or really anyone else for that matter.  Paid flights started at a somewhat reasonable price, but the lower priced tickets were at times that didn’t work for us, and we really didn’t have very much time flexibility given that my husband has to work pretty much a full day Friday, and we need to be back at a decent hour on Sunday to get ready for the week ahead.  Basically it was a deal hunters worst nightmare with a close-in booking, Friday and Sunday travel days, and virtually no flexibility on dates or times.

The flights that would work for us started at about $412 round trip each, and when you multiply by 3 that takes a quick weekend getaway to the realm of unrealistically expensive in a hurry.    However, I wasn’t about to give up on the idea of floating in warm Arizona water with my big belly that easily, so I found a solution.  Since US Airways operates a nonstop flight from Houston – Phoenix, this seemed like the absolute perfect time to use the $99 companion certificates that come with the US Airways Credit Card (that you can no longer apply for).

There are several caveats and blackout dates associated with this certificate which you can read about here, but this trip met all the necessary criteria to be eligible to use the companion certificate.  Each certificate is valid for up to two $99 companions, so I sucked it up and paid the $412 for my round trip ticket at our ideal flight times, but then my 5 year old and husband were both added on for just $99 + taxes/fees each.  All of the sudden we had cut our family’s airfare costs for the trip virtually in half and brought it back to a doable expense level.

The grand total for our peak travel time flights would have been about $1,236 if we just booked as normal, but using the companion certificates dropped our total to $666 – a savings of around 46%!  This was great because we were still able to book the exact flights we needed and earn American Airlines AAdvantage miles on our flights.  I love using airline miles to travel instead of paying cash, but you need to have some back-up tools at your disposal for when award availability is just not there for the flights you are after.

US Airways Companion Certificate

I’m very much looking forward to one more weekend getaway as a family of three, and it absolutely would not have been possible without using hotel points for the room and the companion certificate to bring the airfare prices back to a reasonable level.  I like “free travel” the best, but I know that with as many trips as we take that is not always going to be an option so I’ll settle for “free” hotel rooms at a luxury resort and 46% off airfare.  If you have the US Airways credit card, remember to utilize those companion airfare certificates before they expire by the end of 2015.

Have you been able to put your companion certificates to good use one last time?


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  1. My hubby and I are both US Airway card holder (now AAdvantage). We utilized my last companion certificate in the fall for a trip to Boston. We used my hubs certificate for a family trip to Chicago, just last week. Our family of five flew from Phoenix to Chicago nonstop for $670 using the certificate and award travel. We had a great time in Chicago and are going to miss the certificates.

  2. Hmm…I think you are fooling yourself into thinking you saved more than you really did

    You can find roundtrip nonstop flights pretty much every weekend for under $200 per person, or under $600 for 3 people. So you are actually *losing* money when you paid $666. And that doesn’t even factor in the time spent acquiring, managing and booking the companion certificates

    • Not really if you don’t have flexibility. If you don’t have flexibility (and in this case we didn’t), the prices for any other time or weekend don’t really matter.

      • Well you arbitrarily created the lack of flexibility by locking in the hotel to begin with!

        Your end goal was obviously to have a weekend away… and that can be accomplished with less than $600 in flights.

  3. @Cogswell: Did you even read the post? The whole point, the single point, is that the Companion Pass is one possible way out of a time/date/scheduling jam when you simply have no flexibility to go and grab one of those great cheap fares that you so condescendingly mention.

    So MP managed to snag perfectly scheduled quasi-last minute tickets for something approximately the normal “cheap deal” price thanks to the Companion Pass — which, thanks to the pregnancy, very, very, VERY obviously isn’t going to get used for any other purpose before it expires. Did you think of that either?

    Sometimes a little humility is in order. Really.

    • Tom, indeed, CP was perfect for situations like this one when it was pretty much one or two flight options or don’t go. 😉

    • I’m not being condescending. This is a perfect example of how people are being convinced they are getting a deal, or *beating the system*.

      The goal was to get a weekend away. This can easily be accomplished, with the $600 flights I’d mentioned and $200/night (that will get you excellent hotels pretty much anywhere in the country). That’s $1000 total and gives you 100% flexibility on dates, hotel brand/location, airline

      And yet, MP, possibly through an obsession with miles and points, has been convinced that she has to 1. use her SPG points before the devaluation and 2. use the US Airways Companion certificates.

      Her cost:
      Flight $666, hotel 24k points (which per MP at 2.3 cents each is $552, if not more) for a total cost of $1218! Don’t forget to add in the time spent accumulating and managing miles and points.

      So who is really winning out here? That’s my point. In many cases you can get some great deals, but in many others… err not really

      • Cogswell, I’m not convinced I have to use either. I have some $99 cents that expire. I’m happy to use SPG points later. However, I want a weekend away, and that’s the time we have to go, and this is the soonest our plans were clear. This posts describes the way I made it affordable when it otherwise wouldn’t have been.

  4. We already booked a round trip flight from Sacramento to Charlotte, NC on U.S. Airways and used 1 companion certificate for my wife and I.

    Since the companion certificate is good for two companions, does it also mean that we can take another trip this year and use the “other” companion certificate or did both have to be used on one trip?

  5. When I applied last summer for the us air cc for my husband I didn’t think we would use the companion cert just the signup miles. My husband had 50,000 miles that had expired when they offered to reinstate them and give him 40,000 more so I applied. Our daughter moved from Northern California to Southern California shortly before having her second baby. I was going to miss both Thanksgiving and Christmas with my husband and sons. We decided to use the companion cert. to fly them out for Christmas.

  6. I did a girls weekend trip to The Phoenician right before my second child as well! Are you staying at the Canyon Suites? We stayed there and it was fabulous! Loved the spa and the afternoon tea service.

  7. I was able to use my companion certificate to book tickets for me and my mom and dad to fly to San Francisco this August for my sister’s wedding! Round trip on ANY airline from Orlando or Tampa was near $600 (and literally I checked once a week starting in February). For the three of us using my companion certificate I paid just under $900 total! It took forever to book over the phone but you really can’t beat the amount of money we saved. I was thrilled!

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