An $18,000 Flight for $600

So my flights are all booked for my trip to South Africa, I’m a few days away from having my return trip booked on Emirates. The wonder about all of this is that I’m flying in business and first class in all cases, yet I do it on a budget that most people fly domestic economy with… so the ultimate question I always come away with after booking an award flight, how much did I save? This is a pretty easy question to answer, but once you see the numbers on these flights, well you may be blown away if you’re anything like me.

Let’s start by recapping the flights that I just booked.  My outbound flight will depart from Atlanta (likely I will be moving to that area, so I probably won’t need a staging flight here). From Atlanta, I’ll be flying aboard a Virgin Atlantic A340 in “Upper Class” as they call it. Upper Class is set up as a business class style seat. After a long layover in London, I’ll be catching a British Airways 747 to Johannesburg, South Africa all in First Class right up in the nose of the 747. The last connection takes me the remaining distance to Cape Town, South Africa done in business class, because there is no first class on this regional flight.

The award tickets were booked through both Delta and American Airlines separately. The flight on Virgin Atlantic cost 62,500 miles through Delta and I paid a fee of $5.60.

The british Airways legs were booked as a single award ticket at 50,000 miles. Keep in mind that I have the American Airlines Citi AAdvantage credit card, so I get 10% back on my award spending on the first 100,000 miles I spend. So it really came out to be 45,000 total miles. When we look at the fees, that’s where the big money comes in for this trip. British Airways charges a fuel surcharge for award flights, in this case $583. Normally I wouldn’t suggest that anyone fly British Airways award for this reason, but it gave me the chance to fly a 747, which has long been a desire of mine and these are being phased out quickly.

So what was the price of these tickets if I had actually purchased them? This is where things may blow you away, these tickets are expensive, very expensive, I wouldn’t touch it with someone else's finger level expensive. The flight on Virgin Atlantic through Delta, would have cost me $7,589. The flight on British Airways through American Airlines would have cost me $10,534. Bringing the total cost of a one way ticket to a whopping $18,123. Even at the price, I was still able to fly it, and I only spent $589 to do so, saving me $17,534.

At one point I was even looking at buying a ticket on Qatar airways economy in order to get to South Africa. That ticket would have cost $1,300. So in the end, I was able to get a flight in first/business class for less than the cheapest economy class ticket.

It does take planning, good financial control, alot of credit card signups, and some real desire to travel. The reward  for the effort though is an incredible trip in lie flat seats, access to premium lounges, great service, and an incredible experience. When I look at the experiences I’m about to embark upon, I just can’t believe that this is all working out in my favor. I get to travel to places I never thought I’d get to go, and I get to do so in style. Hell, I’m more excited about the flights than the time on the ground… but I’m a huge aviation nerd, so what did I really expect?.

Rocket Scientist, Travel Junkie, and Ruler of the 4th Moon of Omicron Persei 8