The first time you get to sit in business class on a long haul flight is one of the “WOW” moments of the miles and points world. You never forget the first time you get on the plane and see the big seat that you’ve always had to walk past (or never even got to see because the special people board through their own door on the plane). Our first international business class flight was back in 2004. We used 90,000 US Airways miles and $42 in taxes to fly from Orlando to Chicago (on TED) and then onto Osaka, Japan in United business class.
After that, Sharon stopped making fun of the “points and miles” thing and realized that having your own seat that reclines back into a bed on a 12+ hour flight is not a bad thing.
It was then I really started to pay attention and I had a plan. I wanted to fly in First Class on our next trip. Though a combination of beginner’s luck and preparation, I managed to find two first class seats on ANA from Washington DC to Tokyo for our trip in 2009. This was the first time we ever had access to a first class lounge where you board the plane right from the lounge into the first class cabin. There was only 1 other passenger in First, so we had one of the flight attendants all to ourselves. Now, I know that some people love the extras first class provides but it was almost too fancy for us. I just wanted to sit in my seat, recline back and watch the entire first season of Heroes (true story).
As I learned more ways to earn points and miles and focused on the ones that would work best for the trips we wanted to take, we started to fly in business class when we traveled to England. I found us flights on Virgin Atlantic Upper Class using ANA miles. More recently I booked our trip to London and Salzburg, flying there on Aer Lingus, where we took advantage of a long layover and went into Dublin for lunch, and home on American Airlines with a 23 hour layover in London.
So I’ve learned the systems and how to earn the points. So why, when I found space on Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for our upcoming trip to London, did I book a flight in premium economy instead? I’m asking myself the same question.
The Upper Class flight I found flew into Manchester, not London. That’s not horrible, as it’s only a two hour train ride. However, it’s a two hour train ride AFTER a red-eye flight. The flight I found in Premium Economy leaves from New York so we’ll have to fly there first but I’d rather have a two hour plane ride at the beginning of the trip instead of a two hour train ride at the end. That’s just a travel preference for us but it’s not enough to tip the scales towards one side or the other. There are other reasons as well that led to making this decision.
Even with a comfortable seat and under the best conditions, on a flight to England, you’ll only get 6 about hours of sleep. I don’t sleep well on planes due to a combination of not being able to get comfortable and the excitement of going on a trip so I figure I’d only get four or five hours, tops.
If I’m only going to be able to catch several long naps, a Premium Economy seat on Virgin Atlantic will be plenty good for me to recline, stretch out my legs and put some relaxing music on my Bose Headphones.
For the flights I was looking at, the Upper Class Virgin Atlantic flight was going to cost 120,000 Delta SkyMiles for the one-way ticket. The Premium Economy ticket only cost 55,000 miles. I was able to book a round trip, with a direct flight home to Orlando for fewer miles than the one Upper Class flight would have cost. While it’s easy to forget, miles do have some value so I’m not going to just throw them away.
If I had never flown in Business Class before, I probably would have a different opinion about this but since we’ve done it already, and I hate if I sound hoidy toidy about it because that’s not my intent (or my personality), flying in business class is no longer special. It’s nice. It’s comfortable. But it’s not unique for us anymore. I’ve been on Virgin Atlantic on the same route in Upper Class. Why should that make a difference? What does that mean about us? Have we become jaded, or are we now able to make a more informed decision since we have the advantage of experience? I mentioned above I know I’m not going to spend much time sleeping on the flight to London so the extra points for Upper Class aren’t worth it. I also know that on the flight home, I’m probably not going to sleep much. It will be daylight for the whole flight and I’ll want to stay awake so when I get to my house I’m able to get right to sleep and readjust to the time zone.
By not wanting to pay the extra miles for Upper Class, I’m making an educated choice based on our preferences. That’s how I feel about it today. It’s a single decision based on one set of flights. If the difference in miles been less, the itinerary different or even a new airline to fly with, I might have splurged for the Upper Class tickets. Like with everything, we’re learning as we go. Learning what we like, what we don’t and what we’re willing to pay extra for. But as always, Your Mileage May Vary.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary