Opinions wanted on using miles - Economy or Business.

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Miles/Points' started by Denro, Dec 6, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. Denro

    Denro Silver Member

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    I wanted to get some opinions on whether I should book a trip Business or First class rather than Economy using United miles. As a result of the devaluation coming up, I'm trying to put together a trip from the U.S. to Hong Kong with a stopover in Barcelona. I've gotten my flights to price out at 65K in Economy with an agent, but now I'm starting to debate whether I should go ahead and use more miles to get Business or possibly First, especially since the miles cost will be too high to fly in Business and First in the future with the Star Alliance partners.

    The concern I have is that doing a Business or First booking would wipe out my United and Ultimate Rewards accounts. I currently have 100,000 United miles and about 47,000 Ultimate Reward points. Thus, a Business ticket at 120K or a First ticket at 140K would wipe out the United account and deplete the Ultimate Rewards account for the most part. I do have miles and points in other programs for other future trips - 40K in AA; 70K in US Airways; 80K in Delta; 55K in Lufthansa; and 40K SPG.

    Any opinions/comments will be appreciated.
     
  2. moongoddess

    moongoddess Silver Member

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    How comfortable are you flying trans-Atlantic or trans-Pacific in coach?

    Do you have any future trips in the planning stages for which you might need UA miles?

    Given your mileage totals in other programs and the length of trans-oceanic flights, I'd strongly lean toward burning the miles on a Business or First Class ticket. Your body will appreciate the more comfortable seating on such a lengthy trip!
     
  3. LarryInNYC

    LarryInNYC Gold Member

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    Depends purely on:

    1. Whether the difference in award price means that you will take one fewer trips than you would otherwise (it's not immediately clear to me that that's what would happen -- you're close to enough miles in a couple of other programs for round-trip awards there and if you only travel once or twice per year on awards, by the time you use those you may have built up enough miles for your next redemption).

    2. How much you care about flying premium.

    Personally, I'd always prefer an additional trip in economy to one less trip in a premium cabin.
     
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  4. Denro

    Denro Silver Member

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    moongoddess and LarryInNYC, thank you for your responses. As far as other future trips, I am trying to put together a trip to Australia for 2014 as well, and I want to do that before the Hyatt devaluation on January 6, so I can use my Hyatt points to stay in the Park Hyatt Sydney. One option to Australia is to use 100K Delta miles (my 80K with Delta and then transfer 20K SPG), although as we all know it is tough to put a Delta award together with Saver Award space. I can find LAX - SYD, but am having trouble finding space from the east coast to LAX on Delta. Although, I could use miles from other programs or do a revenue flight to LAX. So if Delta didn't work out, an option was to use any remaining balance from my United miles after the HKG trip plus Ultimate Rewards for the Australia trip. Thus, I did have a possible use for the remaining United miles.
     
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  5. Newscience

    Newscience Gold Member

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    A great point, LarryinNYC! While all too many "flight gurus" promote flying in first class luxury, that shouldn't be the sole consideration for planning a trip. Of course, distance to be flown and personal comfort are important. :cool:

    But there are some economy seating options that will permit enough comfort to get to where you want to go without suffering. I'm 6'5" and can be comfortable in the UA "economy plus" seating, or just about any air carrier's exit row seating. :)

    I think that it's easy to succumb to the pictures of first-class luxury, but why do you need to use all your miles, or spend a bundle to do it? Guess what - the coach class cabin section arrives at the same destination at the same time as the first-class cabin! ;) And there are times that it would be better to travel twice to a premier destination in simple comfort, than to travel there once in luxury! :rolleyes:
     
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  6. Steven Schwartz
    Original Member

    Steven Schwartz Gold Member

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    No right or wrong, Newscience. By your reasoning, there would be no need for Ritz Carltons and Four Seasons hotels. Room is a room and you still get to see the city and the sights. The game for premium air redemptions gets harder and harder. I'm glad I've experienced a number of them and some were as memorable as the destination!

    That said, I would never look down at someone who wanted to use points for Coach or who wanted to wring as many trips out of their points balance as possible. Some people, however, through either business use or creativity, have been able to amass millions of miles - so what the hell!
     
  7. ella
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    ella Silver Member

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    I, personally, would rather have more experiences. So I have a hard time spending miles on Business or First Class tickets. The first year pmCO offered GPUs without restriction I used them on a trip to ARN. I didn't sleep any better in the lie-flat seat than I do in coach - not so much for comfort or lack thereof, but because of ambient noise.

    As far as hotels are concerned, I don't need to live in the lap of luxury but I do like nicer hotels when traveling to new areas - only because I feel more secure. I stay in at least 3 star hotels always because I feel they're generally safer and cleaner.

    You have to decide what your priorities are and go from there. If it's important to you to burn miles before they're devalued, you should. If additional trips are more important, then maybe coach is good enough.
     
  8. Randy Petersen
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    Randy Petersen Founder

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    Always personal choice. I'm with ella and Newscience on this one that I'd use my miles for more experiences (that is, more trips) and leverage my elite stratus and cabin knowledge for the best seat for me behind the curtain.

    Actually Denro, I find your post interesting (in a very positive way) as it touches on a phenomenon of how there can be an attention to burn miles for fear of devaluation vs. a typical redemption based upon needs, desires and normal timing of redemption.

    I love the friendly diversity of opinions on this topic.
     
  9. cc1972

    cc1972 Silver Member

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    I've mostly flown in economy, a few times in business and only once in first class. Personally, I didn't think the difference between business and first class was phenomenal, but that was for a flight taken about 10 years ago; I might think differently if I were to fly first these days. However, I do think the difference between economy and business is just plain awesome! Moreover, I just felt a lot better when I reached destination, and I thought it took me less time to get rid of jet lag as well because I could really relax in business class during my flight. Like I always tell my wife, I love luxury when it's cheap, but I won't do it everytime I get reward tickets because at the same time I want to get more tickets. If you've never experienced business class, though, why don't you treat yourself!
     
  10. Sweet Willie
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    Sweet Willie Gold Member

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    this is a key statement & one I agree with as I'm not earning miles in the quantities I used to. (I just do not travel for business anymore & my favorite cheap mileage run of ORD-SIN is now 2x sometimes 3x the price it used to be).

    We lucked out on our recent flight from U.S. to Frankfort as the economy + section was nearly empty, so Mrs Willie & I each were able to have a 3 seat section to ourselves. We slept nearly the entire way over. On the return flight, plane was completely full, with the enhanced in-flight entertainment options, the economy flight from Munich back to the U.S. was the easiest trans Atlantic flight I've ever taken, a complete breeze (& I didn't even have my coveted aisle seat).
     
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  11. Pizzaman
    Original Member

    Pizzaman Co-founder

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    Certainly diverse opinions on this subject. I'm a big advocate of stocking up on miles, though a slightly smaller one after the recent wave of devaluations.

    No question, more experiences is better. But, I don't think it's quite that clear cut. If you're talking about a long redeye that ultimately means you arrive at your destination exhausted because you burned less miles to be in coach, I'm not sure that's the best solution.

    For example, I have a long weekend trip to Paris with my wife and daughter in a few months. Would I rather we all got a good night's sleep on the way over so we could be fresh for two busy days sightseeing? Yep! But, I could fly home in coach if I was trying to conserve miles since that flight's not a redeye.

    I generally don't think the extra miles for F over J is worth it unless you're able to generate miles rapidly and in mass quantities.

    But, I certainly think being well-rested is a factor to consider when booking, so you can be sure to enjoy your destination when you get there.
     
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  12. jwsky
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    jwsky Silver Member

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    The length of a vacation is a big factor for me. On a short trip, you will want to be rested when you get there. If I am off for a month, I can rest upon arrival and start my vacation slowly.
     
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  13. Pizzaman
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    Agree. Short trips I'm much more likely to recommend traveling comfortably. Longer trips give you a lot more flexibility.
     
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  14. Sweet Willie
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    Sweet Willie Gold Member

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    not everyone arrives exhausted when flying in coach, some have little problem.
     
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  15. marcwint55

    marcwint55 Gold Member

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    I would highly recommend using the miles for the better class of service, especially since it will cost you much more to do so in the future. Everyone has different opinions on the subject, but I truly think that the additional comfort is well worth the cost. Some have mentioned that they would prefer another trip, but I would certainly choose quality over quantity. I think that a vacation should be the best that one can afford, as for most people it is usually a only small amount of time to escape from the realities of every day life.
     
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  16. satman40

    satman40 Gold Member

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    I am 72, and I have done the long trip to MAD, PEK, PVG, and no way would I want to be in the rear, use your miles, they will be worth less next year,

    When you get older much of your miles get give away anyhow. that's the fun of life sharing with your friends,

    My wife and I set next to a guy with a screaming boy on his lap, going to Paris, it was no fun, I gave up the miles and the money on the way back. It was a blessing to wait in the AC. instead of setting on the hard seats,

    In todays world miles are not that hard to come by
     
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  17. ella
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    ella Silver Member

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    I don't think I'm sacrificing quality of vacation just because I choose to purchase coach tickets. If I have a window seat I have no more problem sleeping in coach than in business. The older I get, the more important it becomes to experience as many destinations - in a quality manner - as I can. Conserving my miles to stretch them as far as possible is important. I don't take month-long vacations. Most of my international trips are one to two weeks. I have purchased (with cash, miles, or instruments) business class a few times, and I didn't arrive any more rested than I did on trips where I rode in back. Obviously, others have different sensitivities.
     
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  18. Newscience

    Newscience Gold Member

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    Actually, I was only considering air travel, but let's also discuss hotels. When I travel alone for work (I am writing this from Istanbul, after 15 hours travel from Africa), all I require from a hotel is a safe and secure room, with the attempt to provide good service. When I travel with my family (i.e., vacation), the bar is set considerably higher. And I do agree, no matter how luxurious, a room is still a room, where you still get to see the city and the sights.

    What I was alluding in my earlier post were those who advocate business-first class air travel on their websites/emails, replete with many pictures of the food/wine/sleeping arrangements, almost as a type of "airplane porn". :rolleyes:

    Sure, I'll travel business/first class if I can, and I just did that last week by using my miles to supplement a long-haul flight from Miami to Madrid. It was great to get superb service, meals and some rest prior to arriving at my destination. And I most certainly agree with the observation that, the older that you get - and the more air travel that you do - the more that you surely appreciate those "extras", whether that is business class seating, having your luggage come off the carousel first, getting access to an airport lounge, etc.

    I am 6'5", and am very much into "pain avoidance"! With the shrinking coach class seating, it has become more difficult for me to travel comfortably in coach class on many airlines. When I travel for business, it's always on coach class reservations, and so I check the airline websites immediately after booking to try to use my miles or $ to upgrade, at a minimum, to secure "economy plus" seating or equivalent. It's no fun to be crammed into an airplane seat that you can't fit into, for an 8-11 hour ordeal. :eek: FWIW, I'm old enough to have flown on airlines when "standard seating" on an airplane meant that you always had plenty of leg room, and you were served steaks in coach on a long-haul flight! Obviously, those days are long-gone. :(

    Regarding both hotels and airlines, safety is always a first consideration, and I like the suggestion of always staying at a 3-star hotel. An issue today is that you need to investigate the hotel thoroughly before booking (assuming that you have a choice). At this point, we've all seen the "phony 5-star" hotel recommendations, and with some internet sleuthing, you may learn that perhaps the hotel shouldn't qualify for 1-star! :eek:

    Last year I stayed at a "5-star" hotel in the Mideast (the 5 stars were featured prominently everywhere in the hotel, and on it's correspondence). It only took a day or so to realize that this hotel must have awarded itself those 5 stars! Either that, or it received the 5 stars a very long time ago! :rolleyes: And I always try mightily to only fly those airlines that belong to one of the major airline alliances, perhaps hoping that would help ensure aircraft safety standards.

    This posting has been a great exchange of ideas from a diverse group of Milepointers about travel, and it would be wonderful to see many more like this posted on Milepoint! :)
    Best to all!
    Newscience
     
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  19. moongoddess

    moongoddess Silver Member

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    I've done that, too, and it's an approach that works well. And since UA allows one-way award redemptions, it's an approach the OP can also consider. Fly the red-eye segments in Business Class for more comfort, and the daytime segments in Economy Class to save miles.
     
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  20. moongoddess

    moongoddess Silver Member

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    I have your problem in the opposite dimension: I'm 5'2" and weigh 220 lbs. I do fit into an economy class seat, but just barely, and it's agony to sit in one for hours. So while I'm fine flying economy domestically, for transfer-oceanic flights I go business class.

    Since we don't know the OP's body habitus or whether he/she has ever flown international economy class before, it's hard to give advice. Some folks are fortunate enough to fit well in those seats, while others do not. And fit makes all the difference!
     
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  21. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    While I agree in theory, I also generally consider an east coast - Europe flight too short to get a good night's sleep anyways. That makes it harder to justify the increased cost for the 4ish hours I'll have of sleep time. I just did EWR-FRA-EWR (again) in Y and it was far from luxurious but it was very cheap and got the job done just fine. But that doesn't stop me from redeeming on premium cabin awards from time to time. ;)
     
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  22. Pizzaman
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    Pizzaman Co-founder

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    I know. Is it perverse that I'd consider flying to ORD to connect for FRA or LHR so I can get more sleep on a redeye? :)
     
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  23. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Nah...though Houston/Dallas or further west would be better. ;)
     
  24. moongoddess

    moongoddess Silver Member

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    OT, but this discussion does have me wondering why the airlines don't offer more morning flights to Europe from the east coast. Sure, you'd be arriving late -but you'd be heading straight to your hotel to get some quality sleep (much better than anything you get on a red-eye flight).
     
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  25. Newscience

    Newscience Gold Member

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    An excellent point, moongoddess! Invariably, the flights I've taken "over the pond" are mostly always afternoon/evening from the East Coast. I suspect that air crew awake times influence these decisions, but am not certain. If that is true, then I'm all for it! Otherwise, let's allow pax to arrive at a convenient time at their destination to "reset their clocks"! ;)
     

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