Once in a while, there comes a time when we must redeem our hard-earned mile for air travel. (How’s that for the most redundant opening line ever?) But really, as any miles and points enthusiast will tell you, USE YOUR MILES!… that’s what they’re there for.
Anni’s brother, Shawn, is getting married in October… time to put on my travel agent hat. We’re in Wanzhou, Chongqing (WXN), a domestic-only airport, so getting to Taipei meanings flying out of Chongqing City (CKG) (more on my thoughts about
the joys the pains of routing out of WXN in my Trip Planning: Tioman Island/Singapore post)… at least there’s a direct CKG-TPE flight. Since this was just a short weekend+1 day trip for the sole purpose of attending the wedding and not a vacation, we had to minimize our time away from work. That meant leaving on a Friday and returning on Tuesday (there’s a planned family outing on the Monday following the wedding). This being a “personal trip”, costs are out-of-pocket so we were trying to be as economical as possible. As always, I followed my trip planning/airfare booking procedure as outlined here: LINK.
Itinerary found on Expedia.com for $440:
- 10/26: CKG-TPE, CA409, 3:20pm-6:20pm
- 10/30: TPE-CKG, CA410, 7:20pm-10:30pm
While booking a flight can be as easy as opening Expedia.com, a couple of clicks here and there, and pulling out the credit card… sometimes it doesn’t hurt to see if award flights are available.
Since Air China (CA) is a Star Alliance partner airline, award space is searchable and bookable via United.com. There are plenty of walkthroughs out there on this… and United.com is fairly easy to navigate, so I’m going to skip to the results:
There are many other ways to search for Star Alliance award space. I like United.com and have found it works well enough for my purposes. However, some say that All Nippon Airlines (ANA)’s search engine is more powerful. Brian, thepointsguy, has a very detailed write-up on this (LINK).
Booking the award flight. While I used United.com to search for award availability, I went into it knowing I wouldn’t book with UA miles. Anni had some US Airways miles from previous travel (ironically, from flying Air China); collected before I switched from banking our Star Alliance miles with US Airways to banking them with United. In any case, as you can see from the Star Alliance partner award chart for United and US Airways, the lowest economy award ticket costs 25k miles in either program. However, US Airways charges a hefty “$25/$50 award processing fee” that United does not for award flights (a MAJOR reason we have since switched over to banking with UA).
Since I knew we wouldn’t be banking anymore miles with US Airways and whether Grand Slam 2012 promotion will happen or not is still uncertain, I decided to go ahead and burn the miles.
The taxes of $24.14 is the same as the $24.30 quoted by United above (the negligible difference is probably due to some trailing decimal rounding with the currency exchange rate used by the two systems).
Miles and points. Since this post is about USING miles not ACCRUING miles, we get to analyze the value of the award booking. Miles and points valuations are calculated in “cents per mile (CPM)” and if we take into account the $74.14 in tax/fees ($440.70 – $74.14 = $366.56) and divide by the number of miles used (25k), we get 1.47 cpm. While 1.47 cpm won’t win any accolades for award redemption value, it still makes a $366.56 positive difference to my wallet. Since we needed two tickets, I hedged my bets and bought my ticket with cash. Total out of pocket cost for two (2) CKG-TPE r/t tickets = my ticket ($439.30) + Anni’s tax/fees ($74.14) = $513.44.
And let’s not forget, I’ll accrue 1904 miles for my flight. Since I booked through the UR Mall & Expedia and charged the ticket to my Chase Sapphire Preferred card, I’ll get 2X travel category bonus + 1X UR Mall bonus for the $439.30 ticket = 1317 UR points. The $74.14 tax/fees were put on Anni’s AMEX PRGold card for 3X MR = 222 MR points.
Taipei, Taiwan… birthplace, metropolitan, foodie heaven. Here are some pics of Taipei’s famous nightlife to wrap things up.