The Tempting Side of Apartments in the Sky

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There are two sides to airline miles. First, and foremost (at least for me), they enable you to do things that you would have hoped to find a way to do anyway, but just do them either more frequently or via a much more cost effective manner. This includes things like visiting family, going on occasional family vacations, etc.

Then there is the other side. The alluring, mysterious, and tempting side of airline miles. Yes, miles have a tempting or almost dark side.

This quality of airline miles makes you consider doing things that otherwise would never pop into your head, or at the very least would be immediately ushered out as momentary insanity. For example, you can use American Airlines miles to fly from the US to Abu Dhabi on the gotta-see-it-to-believe it Etihad First Class Apartments or Business Class Studios for just 90,000 and 67,500 miles respectively, at least until the big DevaluAAtion strikes on March 22nd.

This an insane deal on many levels given the cash price of the ticket and the cost to fly in international first class via other programs, or even via AAdvantage miles beginning on March 22nd. I’m sure flying the A380 in your own “apartment” or “suite” for 12+ hours would be a very memorable experience for many of our otherwise pleasant but “normal” lives, so it is absolutely tempting to spend those miles to add that experience to the “whoda-thunk-it” chamber of my mind.

Etihad Apartment on the A380

Etihad Apartment on the A380

I mean, really tempting. How exciting to skip packing lunches, midnight feedings, laundry, yoga pants, grocery store runs and more for a few days and instead fly across the ocean using miles in your own apartment while sipping champagne, and then experience a new-to-you part of the world before heading home and transforming back into Pre-Glass-Slipper-Cinderella Mom.

Even just browsing for award availability is even pretty exciting  – look for Guest availability on Etihad’s site if you want to use AAdvantage miles, then call American to book the award over the phone if you are so inclined.

Etihad A380.jpg

However, then there is the hard landing of reality. Yes, I have a very healthy six figure balance of AAdvantage miles, so I could burn 135,000 – 180,000 of them to fly round trip in business or first on Etihad without being in the mileage poor house, but that doesn’t change that those 135,000 – 180,000 miles are enough to take the four of us on a trip within the US, the Caribbean, and beyond on a “real” trip instead of just taking myself on a fancy flight. It also doesn’t change that it isn’t always as easy to replenish accounts as it was to earn the miles in the first place.

Then there are the also realities of life and the fact that those lunches, school pick-ups, middle of the night feedings, and more would still have to be done by someone if you weren’t there. Unless of course you just brought the little(s) and let the Etihad Nannies do their thing.

So is it wrong to burn some miles and indulge yourself at 35,000 feet? No, absolutely not, at least from time to time. But, is it also right to keep the dreams of indulgence as dreams in your mind because the time isn’t right to pack up and fly away? I think that is also a totally valid call….even if these first class seats will cost 28% more AAdvantage miles beginning in five days.

My feet are staying on the ground for now, but my head will remain in the mileage dreaming clouds. Have you booked an award flight for yourself just because you can or are you staying on the more pragmatic track with me for a bit?

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  1. I have very few things on my bucket list. One of them was to fly first class from the US (where I live), to Australia (where I grew up, and where my family lives). I thought it was an extravagant indulgence (assuming I would be paying cash for it), until I got my first credit card which offered AA points, and j realized the possibilities.

    I am taking that trip this September. I will be visiting my family, so it’s not just about burning the points for the flight – it was a trip I would have likely taking (and paying cash to sit in Economy).

    Since I have started following blogs such as yours, I’ve discovered wonderlust, and am planning future trips (at least in my head!)

  2. Perfect timing for this post. I had booked Etihad First and Cathay Pacific first for a total of 157,500 miles. Now I think if I should have used those for 2 round trip tickets to Europe instead!

  3. THIS all day. We have a 6 yr old and a 4 month old and a healthy AA balance (along with many other programs). I’m using 300k AA miles to take the 4 of us to Carmel, CA (Hyatt Highlands stay), and Glacier National Park during the first half of the year. Granted, it’s in Biz/First class, but the little extra comfort is nice when you’re traveling with kids and the baby. I’m taking the 2 kids back by myself from Glacier in June, so I pls, pray for me 😉

    I’m only a year into this “Game,” but I’ve traveled a decent amount for work. Yet I’ve never been on a trans-Pacific/Atlantic First class flight and certainly haven’t been able to fly in one of the ME-3 or SQ apartment style flights. I DREAM of it all the time and am filled with envy every time some blogger posts photos of them taking a shower while eating caviar and sipping Krug. But that’s just not the right move for us at the moment. My wife couldn’t enjoy the time away from our baby and I live having that sort of luxurious aspirational experience without her.

    So for the time being, we’re seeing America in as much comfort as possible……while dreams of Etihad and Singapore in 2018 dance through my head 🙂

    • Spending AA miles on domestic First? There is the practical use, as MP often advocates, and the aspirational use, from Lucky and Gary. And then in between you can spend an aspirational amount of miles on a practical redemption. They’re your miles, but domestic First? That 100,000 pp is round trip business saver to Europe!

  4. There is something to be said about practicing self-care before taking care of everyone else! An apartment in the sky would be a way to do that! 🙂 I’m with you, though. While it would be amazing, taking a family of four someplace for a real vacation probably wins out in the end for me as well. And traveling alone in an apartment in the sky sounds kind of lonely to me because it seems it would be best shared with someone.

    • I’m all for self-care, but perhaps getting hair done or a pedicure might be more cost and time effective remedy than a jaunt across the ocean…at least for now. 😉

  5. I just wish that AA had a more reasonable infant-in-arms policy. Paying $2000 to bring along a one-year old in that huge apartment seems ridiculous. I’ll pass and get 3 biz class seats instead on QR.

  6. You have perfectly articulated my thoughts…..I’ve been wrestling over this exact same idea. It is soooooooo tempting to try it out. I keep wanting to make a trip out of it, just to experience it once. But you’re right, that would just as easily take my family of 4 someone special too. Decisions decisions…..ahhhhhhhhhhh!

  7. I hear ya. Eithad and Emirates don’t temp me, but paying 2x for business flying solo to Europe this summer almost did. In the end the extra 60K miles is 2 round trips + here in the states and the time is measured in hours.

  8. Such a gr8 post at the right time. I have booked SIN-LAX on CX J using Alaska miles. Now m thinking to use 31k Singapore miles to fly 380 from SIN-HKG to fulfill my dream to fly Singapore suites. But my wife tells me with those 30k miles we can take a trip to Florida also. Jus can’t make tat call

  9. Struggling with this now as the devaluation nears. If I book my wife and I first class to the Maldives in the apartments, it basically drains all of my AA miles. If I don’t, we can use those miles to travel with the kids more (although we do that a lot already). Ultimately, not having enough points to book the hotel in the Maldives yet will probably keep me from booking the flights, but having never flown first class, it would be like the honeymoon we never had.

  10. We have two toddlers at home and, with a balance of 500k AA miles between my wife and me, opted for a week trip to the Maldives, traveling on the etihad apartments, while the kids go to visit the grandparents. Will be an exhausting trip, no doubt, once we factor in the flights to pick up and drop the kids off, but between the grandparents generous offer and the coming devaluation, it was just too tempting.

    “Saving the miles” for a future family trip is honestly not a consideration to me. I see these devaluations such that I’d rather enjoy myself now and deal with the zero mileage balance later. Plus, the Mrs and I have such limited vacation time, that finding award availability is difficult in the first place.

    We’ll look to take the kids on other (closer) trips with us, particularly as they grow older. Even flying with them (and they’re well behaved, relatively speaking) Ro beach destinations a couple of hours away last year was exhausting!

  11. I’m entertained when i read people talk about how they get the most value per point (i.e. 10 cents/pt) when booking business/first class.. so yes you spend 100k points for a $10,000 ticket. There’s one way to look at it, someone in the world would really pay 10k for that ticket and you just got a huge value on your points, but on the flip side you could have easily just sucked it up and paid 50k points for a $750 ticket… your points didn’t go nearly as far but you saved 50k points, and you can do it twice, or bring someone with you. It’s all about what is fulfilling to you I suppose.

  12. I’ve been earning miles for over 20 years. And earning in large volume for 15 years mostly due to business travel.

    What I have learned is that, at least for me, the flights are the single least memorable part of any vacation for me. I have flown tons of premium cabins witn and without the kids and I am a firm believer that class of service doesn’t matter nearly as much as the general quality of a carrier and minimal trip complexity.

    I would rather pay cash for a one stop to Asia in Y on SQ than use miles to find availability on another carrier in J with 3 stops. The time I spend trying to find the availability and later to manage the award booking plus the cost of YQ etc really only make sense if one can get the super direct routing.

    I can sort of understand the allure of flying Etihad apartments (or CX F or TG F etc) but it is a very hollow victory to finally do it, especially if one does it alone. Don’t do it…it really isn’t worth it IMO. Use the miles to take the whole family…been doing that for a decade and have never regretted it.

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