I just burned through 585,000+ points in the 2.5 week trip to Eastern Europe with a good friend of mine. Those were points well spent as we had a good trip. My buddy hadn’t been out of the country for well over 10 years, so having some comfort along the way in the form of nice hotels and up front cabin space was nice. Besides the miles spent, I also earned over 2,000 Ultimate Rewards from Airbnb gift cards purchased at Staples (at 5x) used for apartment rentals in Minsk and Lviv. Our trip also landed us in 6 great lounges, including Lufthansa’s first class Frankfurt lounge, along the way. Eastern Europe can present its own set of problems, but we navigated them pretty well.
Below are the points used as well as the “savings” that I achieved from the trip.
Most of the trip for my buddy and I was paid from my points cache. He did kick in 30,000 United miles for a one way flight from the U.S. to Minsk and also used his Barclay Arrival for a short domestic flight from Minsk to Kiev. Otherwise the first class Lufthansa and hotels were on me, and I was happy to do so.
Savings from the use of points is a difficult thing to accurately capture, because defining the value of travel isn’t easy. For example, the bulk of this trip cost was the first class Lufthansa return flight from Poland back to the U.S. I wouldn’t pay $8,000 per one way ticket for that trip, but that’s the retail value. That price equates to about $1,000 per hour in the air, which is pretty ridiculous! I don’t value the first class experience at $8,000, even if you throw in the Lufthansa first class lounge, the $160,000 Porsche Panamera Executive and AMG Mercedes chauffeur driven rides to and from the airplanes at the Frankfurt Airport. However, I met some people in first class who did pay tens of thousands for the flight in first, so those steep prices aren’t make believe.
Splash and Flash
All of the high end treatment are nice, but I normally wouldn’t pay $8,000 for any flight in any class of service. In that case, is it fair to say that I “saved” that amount by using points? I could calculate a CPM (or cents per mile) redemption, but that stat also relies on the “cost” of the flight. The bottom line is that I used points to dramatically decrease the expenses associated with my trip. The trip went well, and it was a trip that couldn’t have happened without the use of points and miles.
The most important parts of earning and using points and miles are money and enjoyment. I’m earning points at a greater rate than I can actually spend them at this point, and doing so at little to no cost. My theory is strike while the iron is hot – or get what you can while you can. Not all of the opportunities, primarily related to manufactured spend, available now will be available in the future. Hopefully new points earning opportunities will be available will arise, but it’s not certain. With that said, if I can use points to enrich my life, and the lives of others, then I’m happy. The redemption math is just an extra talking point that itself doesn’t have much value to me – happiness does.