The best program for booking first-class awards

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😮 Wow! JetBlue has just announced that they will add free checked bags to their most basic fares… I’m loving this trend of U.S. airlines adding value and removing fees. Way to go, JetBlue!

Good morning from steamy Jakarta, and welcome back to Daily Drop!

Today is jam-packed full of tips for booking premium award flights on the cheap, so let’s get straight into it:

✈️ The best program for booking first-class awards

Earlier this week, I told you about a tasty stack with Avianca LifeMiles that combines a transfer bonus with a 10% mileage rebate from their subscription program.

Well, it turns out that LifeMiles has even more secrets, including ways to fly first-class for WAY cheaper than other programs.

Let’s start off with some basic info here…

LifeMiles uses an award chart for booking partner flights with Star Alliance airlines.

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s a very generous chart in that they charge way less than other programs.

For example, you can book a first-class Lufthansa flight from Germany to the U.S. for just 87,000 LifeMiles.

LifeMiles first-class booking for 87,000 miles

That’s already an excellent deal, but here’s where things get interesting.

LifeMiles uses a weird system to price their flights that have connections.

When selecting connecting flights, you can choose some flights in economy and some in business or first.

However, LifeMiles will price the itinerary based on the percentage of the itinerary flown in a given cabin.

Let me show you…

Let’s look at this flight from Krakow to Frankfurt to Newark.

Flight itinerary from KRK-FRA-EWR

Let’s say you want to fly economy on the first short leg and first-class on the long leg.

As you can see, the leg from Frankfurt to Newark covers 89% of the distance of the whole itinerary.

Avianca will actually only charge a percentage of the normal cost based on how long each leg is.

In this case, you can fly this entire itinerary (including the long first-class flight) for a total of just 82,000 miles.

An example of how combining flight segments can reduce the overall cost of a first-class flight

Don’t forget that the second flight on its own costs 87,000 miles. But when you add a short economy flight before or after, the price goes DOWN.

Weird, eh? 🤔

For reference, Aeroplan would charge 100,000 points for the same exact itinerary.

United, on the other hand, charges 88,000 miles just for BUSINESS CLASS, which is 6,000 miles more than Avianca charges for the same exact flights in FIRST CLASS.

United business-class transatlantic flight for 88,000 miles

As you can imagine, there are some pretty cool possibilities when you start to play around with this tactic.

For example, you can fly ANA first-class from Tokyo to Los Angeles for 120,000 LifeMiles.

However, if you tack on a United flight from Los Angeles to New York afterwards, the price of the ANA leg goes down to just 83,000 miles.

That’s pretty incredible for flying one of the world’s best seats.

ANA first-class suite

And this takes me back to what I wrote about last week.

There is currently a 15% transfer bonus from MR Points to Avianca, offering even higher savings on any of the prices I’ve mentioned today.

15% transfer bonus to Avianca LifeMiles

So, that Lufthansa itinerary from Krakow to Newark would only run you 71,000 MR Points, which is ridiculous for a first-class flight to/from Europe.

Don’t forget that LifeMiles is also selling miles with a 155% bonus.

Even if you just wanted to buy enough miles to book that first-class flight, you’d only need to spend about $1,100.

Example of purchasing 82,000 LifeMiles for $1,155

That’s obviously a lot of money, but nothing compared to the egregious cash cost of around $10,000…

Lufthansa first-class flight for almost $10,000

So here’s the bottom line:

Avianca has some weird and cool quirks.

As time goes on, Avianca is becoming more and more of a key player in the points and miles game, offering some great ways to save money and points while traveling.

💳 15% transfer bonus to Cathay Pacific

Speaking of 15% transfer bonuses… there’s another one. This time, it’s from ThankYou Points to Cathay Pacific.

15% transfer bonus to Asia Miles

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles is not a program we talk about very often, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable.

One thing I like about Cathay Pacific Asia Miles is that they use a very straightforward pricing model: a zone/distance-based award chart.

Cathay Pacific Award Chart

I love the simplicity of the Asia Miles program

Sure enough, if you run some searches on Cathay’s website, you’ll see that these numbers hold true.

For example, you can fly from Toronto to Hong Kong nonstop for just 38,000 Asia Miles in economy, which is a fantastic deal for such a long flight.

Toronto to Hong Kong for 38,000 Asia Miles

With this transfer bonus, that number would go down to just 33,000 ThankYou Points for an 8,000-mile, 15-hour journey.

Of course, one of the reasons people love Cathay is because of their premium cabins and excellent business and first-class products.

Cathay Pacific business class

There are certainly some sweet spots when it comes to these premium cabins, too.

For example, you can fly between Hong Kong and Tokyo in business class for just 32,000 Asia Miles (or 28,000 ThankYou Points with the transfer bonus), which is not a bad deal at all.

Hong Kong to Tokyo for 32,000 Asia Miles in business class

If you wanted to fly a partner airline like Japan Airlines, you’d only need to shell out 5,000 more miles for the same route in business class.

So here’s the bottom line…

Cathay Pacific is a great airline, and their loyalty program has some pretty generous award rates (and great availability, from what I can see).

Having an extra 15% bonus toward these rates only makes this an even better deal, in my opinion.

🍪 Tasty Travel Tidbits

⚡️ Wowwwwwww… This summer, a small airline will operate passenger flights using electric planes. The catch? It can only fit one passenger… and no luggage… but it’s still a cool development!

🇮🇸 Hilton has just announced plans to open a hotel in Northern Iceland, which is really interesting. While Iceland sees a TON of tourists every year, there aren’t many chain hotels outside of Reykjavik… until now.

✈️ Scary… Southwest just released the details of a flight in April that was seconds away from plunging into the Pacific Ocean… Thankfully, everything turned out fine.

That’s all for today, folks! I hope you enjoyed these two strategies for maximizing your points on premium flights.

I know I’ll personally be eyeing some first-class awards with these two programs in the near future.

For now, take care and have a lovely day. ❤️

Mike Dodge
Head Writer, Daily Drop

6.1944° S, 106.8229° E

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