Monday, February 3, 2014

One Last United MileagePlus Redemption

This past weekend, United Airlines implemented their new award redemption price chart, which frequent flyers have been dreading for the past few months.

For most people who use their United MileagePlus miles to redeem for economy award seats, the new pricing chart won't be much of a change (unless you're going to Hawaii).

However, for those people who were planning to redeem United miles for premium cabin seats on Star Alliance partners (i.e., Lufthansa, Thai, Swiss, ANA, Turkish), then this repricing is like pooping yourself without your diaper on. For example, our flight from Thailand on Asiana business class last year will now cost 160,000 miles round trip per person, up from just 120,000 miles when we took the trip (33% increase). Unfortunately, while we never had a chance to fly International First Class, some of those awards go from 140,000 miles round trip to a whopping 260,000 miles -- an 86% increase!

Graphic from Travel Summary
Of course, now that I'm over 2 years old, my family has to pay for my own seat on our trips. Meaning, we'd have to book 3 award seats now all at these new higher prices. As good as my father is at generating frequent flyer miles and points, we probably weren't going to be able to fly in business/first class anymore after the new pricing scheme took effect.

So with the deadline looming, he decided to pull to the trigger on one last premium cabin redemption for my parents' 5th wedding anniversary coming up this July. The good news was that there were actually some decent award flight options for the trip in mid-late July to Europe where they were looking. The bad news was that my father only had about 30,000 miles in his United account (after redeeming a bunch for our last minute trip to Israel last September).

Fortunately, we had a stash of Chase Ultimate Reward points built up from both my parents opening up 3 different Chase credit cards each and spending on them over the past two years.

So we found some sweet business class awards on Lufthansa from New York JFK to Rome (via Munich) on Lufthansa's A330 planes which should have their new business class seats. Baby Songer loves her lie-flat seating on overnight transatlantic flights.

The Stopover
Now we could have stayed in/around Rome for the entire trip, but we like taking advantage of United's flexible award routing rules. As you may recall, United lets you stop somewhere for up to 1 year before continuing on to your final destination. So we could have used Rome as our final destination, but we decided to use it as our stopover city instead.

Because we were flying on Lufthansa both ways, we'd have to connect back in Munich (or Frankfurt) on the return anyway. So it wouldn't matter where we were coming from as long as we got back to Germany to connect onto our final return flight to NYC.

My nerd father likes to have themes for his big trips.
So for 2014, we "needed" to find somewhere that fit in well thematically with Italy. Note: my father did notice that he seemed to be hitting all 3 of the World War II Axis Powers (Japan, Germany and Italy). To be fair though, that was 1 of the 100 questions my mother had to study for her U.S. Citizenship test.

Then an idea entered his mind. Italy & Greece. These two ancient power cultures formed the origins for all current socio-political intellectual thought in Western civilization. Of course today, the nations of Alexander the Great, Aristotle, Julius Caesar and Michelangelo are currently represented by slick Mediterraneans with excessive body hair and gold chain necklaces.


But my father had never been to Greece, so after looking up dates and flights that worked out to give us 5-6 nights in each place, here's what our trip will look like flying on Lufthansa and Aegean Airlines.

  1. Thu July 17 - New York to Munich (Lufthansa Business) arriving July 18
  2. Fri July 18 - Munich-Rome (Lufthansa Business) - STOPOVER
  3. Wed July 23 - Rome-Athens (Aegean Business) - FINAL DESTINATION
  4. Tue July 29 - Athens-Munich (Lufthansa Business)
  5. Tue July 29 - Munich-New York (Lufthansa Business)
Total cost per person: 100,000 United miles + $163 cash. Had we waited til today to book this trip, it would have been 140,000 United miles + $163 cash. For those of you who are bad at math, that's an additional 120,000 miles for the 3 of us.

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