Sometimes 1+2 < 4, and Sometimes it’s Not

Let’s say you’re trying to get home to Los Angeles from Munich in a premium cabin, and the cheapest award flight:

  • MUC-FRA-LAX: 155,000 United MileagePlus miles

One of the simplest easy ways to access much more business and first class international award inventory and save miles in the process is to book a positioning flight, where you fly to another airport on one ticket and then start your award travel itinerary. For example, you might find:

  • MUC-AMS: 4,500 Virgin Atlantic points
  • AMS-LAX: 60,000 FlyingBlue points

At the surface level, 60,000+4,500 points for the second itinerary is much less than 155,000 miles for the first itinerary. But as you dig deeper, the second one has its own set of issues that might mean the savings isn’t worth it because you’re on two separate itineraries, which means:

  • You’re on your own if you misconnect
  • You can’t check your bags all the way from Munich to LAX
  • Schedule changes on one airline might torpedo your whole trip
  • There’s probably not opportunity to route around weather events

Any of those things could mean you lose out on that 60,000 point redemption, and you’ll end up trying to find a last minute ticket to LAX that costs quite a bit more.

The wisdom? Sometimes it’s cheaper to spend 155,000 points than it is to spend 64,500 points, but sometimes it’s not.

MEAB math.

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