Why Choose Business class over Economy class when you’re redeeming miles

by Mike on January 7, 2013

Aircrafts flying long haul international routes have three cabin classes: first class, business class, and economy.  First class offers the best inflight service and amenities, followed by business class and economy.  Certain airlines offer a premium economy, which falls between business class and economy class.

Most folks confuse business class as the better class of service over first class because domestically configured aircrafts only have first and economy class.  So when a third class of service, business class is introduced, most think it’s the better class of service because it’s only on offered on international flights.

This assumption is wrong. 

Domestic first class and international first class are vastly different.  Domestic first class is pretty much a glorified economy class seat served with a glorified TV dinner.

Champagne on Lufthansa First class

Champagne on Lufthansa First class

On the other hand, international first class is quite the experience.  The seats have a lot more leg room – you can kick up your feet and not hit the seat in front – wider seats that lay completely flat to convert to a bed.  Depending on the airlines, they typically offer you a complimentary amenity kit complete with a set of slippers and pajamas.

Asiana First class Amenity kit

Asiana First class Amenity kit

Additionally, the airport experience is quite a different experience than those used to flying economy class.  Lines are almost non-existent by way of priority check-in and security line.  Sometimes the airline will offer a fast past lane through passport control.

I’ve been fortunate enough to fly international first class on a few times, but I’m happy enough to fly business class.  Some business class seats come in the lie-flat configuration or the recliner type.  I’m not too picky and either or works for me.

A paid business class itinerary is considerably more expensive than an itinerary in economy class.  I’m not a high rolling highfalutin wealthy guy that can afford these business class seats.  I simply use frequent flyer miles to redeem for business class seats.

Some will raise the question: why redeem more miles for a business class seat rather than redeem them for an economy class seat, thus saving miles for another(future) trip.

The answer is two folds.

One is value.

A paid business class seat sells for several times the cost of an economy seat.  However, there’s only an incremental cost in miles when you’re redeeming miles for a business class seat.  By redeeming for a business class seat, you’re getting more value from your miles than you would with an economy class ticket.

Take for example, the cost of a paid economy class ticket and business class ticket.

Cost of Paid business class seat

Cost of Paid business class seat

Cost of Paid economy class seat

Cost of Paid economy class seat

The business class ticket goes for $6,400 while an economy class seat sells for $1,700. Alternatively, if one were redeeming miles, it would be 120,000 miles or 65,000 miles for business and economy class respectively.  The business class seat requires nearly double the miles required for an economy class seat, but a paid business class seat is nearly 4 times the cost of an economy class seat.  The business class seat represent a better value of getting something that’s 4 times as much money, but only requiring only twice as much miles.

Two rules change.

If you decide to redeem for an economy class ticket and save miles for another trip, you’re speculating that you’ll redeem miles at the current redemption rate.

However, rules to redeeming frequent flyer miles are almost guaranteed to change for the worse.  Quite often frequent flyer mile programs abruptly change their redemption rates and rules making it more costly to redeem.  So just because you were able to redeem 60,000 miles for a round trip economy class ticket to Europe, doesn’t mean you’ll be able to do so in the future.

Turkish Air short haul business class seat

Turkish Air short haul business class seat

Swiss Air Business Class

Swiss Air Business Class

Singapore Airlines Long haul business class seat

Singapore Airlines Long haul business class seat

ADVICE FOR REDEEMING MILES

Use them for expensive tickets, such as international flights(business or economy class).  If you have the required miles, try to fly in a premium cabin(business or first class), though first class tends to be difficult to attain due to availability.  Add stopovers or open jaws to extrapolate more travel from the same amount required for a round trip.

 

TO USE OR NOT USE MILES

I was asked a question whether it was better to use miles for a trip to Costa Rica or save them for a bigger trip.  My response was depends on the cost of a paid ticket.  A round trip flight from North America to Costa Rica runs about $550 in economy class while redeeming united miles would require 35,000 miles.  So if you’re redeeming miles, you’re getting a value of1.5 cents per mile ($550/35000).  This isn’t bad because assuming you’ve earned the miles through credit card spend where $1 spend equates to 1 miles, you’re receiving a 1.5% rebate, beating out a 1% cash back credit card.

Now of course, this is a crude estimation because the equation is not taking into the consideration of the miles earned from the paid ticket and the taxes/fees when you’re redeeming miles.

I suggested to use the miles for a bigger trip to Thailand because you can add in stopover in Europe or North Asia, thus extracting more travel from the same amount of miles required for a round trip to Thailand.

Of course, some folks are limited in vacation time and can’t take many big trips in the same year, which adds the risk of airlines devaluing their award chart making it more costly in the required miles for a flight redemption.  If you know you want to take that big trip, plan ahead and book now.

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