Happily booking a “Standard” airline award ticket

I like to think I’m pretty good when it comes to travel points. In 18ish years of playing this game I can think of exactly prior one instance where I redeemed a “rule-buster” award rather than the cheaper, saver level (though there may have been others; I just don’t remember any of them). This week I did it again and I have no regrets about that decision.

At the end of August I’m joining my wife on a west coast tour (come join if we’re near where you live!) promoting her new book (it is amazing; you’ll love it; go pre-order now!) and our schedule is relatively inflexible. We need to get home from Seattle eventually and the selection of decent flights available for such are limited.

That's a lot of flights to choose from, but the fares aren't great and neither are most of the schedules.
That’s a lot of flights to choose from, but the fares aren’t great and neither are most of the schedules.

Oh, and I hate domestic redeye flights unless there is no other viable option so that cuts out something like half the options on offer. Midcon domestic redeyes are simply not an option.

Drop the redeye flights and options dwindle
Drop the redeye flights and options dwindle

Kill the flights arriving in New York after midnight and those departing before 6:30am and a bunch more drop off the list. But I’m willing to pay real cash to not wake up at stupid o’clock so I’m also willing to pay points for the same.

Turns out I dislike a 3-5a wakte-up call to head to the airport. I'm willing to pay (a little bit) for that luxury
Turns out I dislike a 3–5a wakte-up call to head to the airport. I’m willing to pay (a little bit) for that luxury

At that point the cost differential for a nonstop — saving 3+ hours — is under $50. That’s a no brainer to me.

Ultimately, these are the flights worth considering
Ultimately, these are the flights worth considering

In the end American Airlines and Delta Air Lines have a trio of flights between them and none were available at the saver points level. Paying in cash my options were $354–439. And so maybe paying with points isn’t such a bad deal. Both AA (20k) and DL (32.5k) were charging “full price” for the awards and first class was also unavailable at saver levels (not always the case; worth checking before committing to paying the extra points in the back). But it turns out that the date in question was one of American’s lower priced premium award dates — only 20,000 points for the one way trip. I did not hesitate at all in buying those tickets.

And the trip I ended up with: An AAnytime AAward from AAdvantage
And the trip I ended up with: An AAnytime AAward from AAdvantage

Yes, I’m also giving up the potential award earning on the trip and the PQMs might be nice. But I’m mostly over that. The cost to get there just wasn’t worth paying the cash.

Are 20,000 AA points worth more than $354 (I would have taken the cheaper Delta flight if paying cash; no reason not to)? Maybe in some cases. But for me in this scenario definitely not.

Certainly not my most “valuable” redemption ever, but sometimes doing the “wrong” thing with points isn’t such a bad deal after all.

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