Don’t Panic, Part II: Devaluations are Not the End of the World

ou have probably been reading all of the hoopla pertaining to this massive devaluation of the American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flier loyalty program, which has most likely happened by the time you read this article.

Did you miss out on redeeming those precious American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flier loyalty program miles before they became less valuable? If not, congratulations. If so, join the club: so did I.

That is not to say that I had not tried, which is one of the reasons I had not posted an article all day. I was trying to see if I can make any sense of spending the American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flier loyalty program miles which I currently have in my account — and I could have easily done so — but I chose not to do so because there were impediments which were in the way.

Charles Barkowski of Running For Miles wrote this excellent article pertaining to how you can secure ten hours of time sitting in First Apartments class of Etihad Airways from London to Mumbai with a stop in Abu Dhabi — and have lounge access besides — by spending only 40,000 of those American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flier loyalty program miles.

There were several issues upon which I stumbled, however — one of them being availability, as Andy Shuman of The Lazy Traveler’s Handbook reported that premium seats were already gone on many flights operated by Etihad Airways in this article back on Tuesday, December 29, 2015. Seats aboard the Airbus A380 aircraft from Abu Dhabi to both Sydney and Melbourne were virtually impossible to find — Dominik Żmuda of Travelling the World was apparently successful with the latter, as he reported in this article — but I did find exactly two dates for ten luxurious hours in an Etihad Airways First Apartment seat from London to Mumbai.

I would have had to pay an additional $467.00 or so in addition to redeeming the miles due to the high taxes when originating from London. I was able to get the taxes down to almost $200.00 by originating from a different country; but that is still $200.00.

Then, how do I get to the origination point? I probably could have used miles plus spent more money in taxes and fees; but that would depend on availability — which is typically not plentiful. I might have simply paid for the ticket; but I was originating in the United States. Would I have to get to New York to catch a flight on Norwegian Air Express for less than $200.00?

How do I return to the United States? I encountered a similar conundrum to getting to the origination point of the flight: use miles with limited availability plus spend who knows how much money in taxes and fees; or I could have spent $218.00 on a flight on an airplane operated by Air Asia X to get from Mumbai to Hong Kong; and then another $500.00 or so to get from Hong Kong to New York — and then another flight to get from New York to where I am based.

If I was going to go to India, I would have wanted to get to Agra where the Taj Mahal is located. That would have required a flight to New Delhi — it might have been possible to include it in the award ticket; but if not, the flight was not expensive — and then get to Agra, which is greater than 100 miles away from New Delhi.

Even if the itinerary were possible — and it was — Charles Barkowski warned the following information from this article:

The next part is a little bit different from usual awards. For some reason, for a while the US-based AA agents have been unable to see Etihad award space in business or first class. So, you will go through all of that above and find your dates only to have AA tell you their is no availability.

Fortunately, other call centers can see the space. Many people, myself included, like to call American Airlines’ Australia call center. The times I have done this, they can find the space promptly and are able to ticket it for me.

To call them, you will need to call this number (check this page for a complete list of global numbers) – +61-2-9101-1948. Of course, this call will incur long distance charges so consider using something like Skype or Google Voice to keep the cost down. The hold time for me was under 3 minutes each time so it should not be a long time.

There are other expenses involved as well: lodging, food, ground transportation — and who knows what miscellaneous expenses I would have encountered.

That 40,000 mile deal seemed less and less appealing to me — to the point where I abandoned the effort, thinking that it simply not worth it…

…and I am okay with that.

Don’t Panic, Part II: Devaluations are Not the End of the World

Like most other people, I do not like devaluations of any kind where my purchasing power has been decreased. As I first wrote in this article, I dislike going to the grocery story and finding out that the containers of not-from-concentrate red grapefruit juice — one of my favorite beverages — now hold 59 ounces of product instead of 64 ounces a couple of years ago, which translates into 7.8 percent less juice…

…but not at 7.8 percent less cost, of course.

I also do not like when prices increase for the same amount of product, which is another type of devaluation…

…and guess what? Unless you monitor the news where you are warned that there is a shortage of a product — such as hazelnuts or eggs — which will usually cause prices to increase due to the simple laws of supply and demand, there is usually no advance warning of an impending devaluation in a grocery store. “You had better stock up on bacon now, because the prices are expected to increase another eight percent.”

To use the grapefruit juice analogy again, let us say that we know that prices will increase next week. I prefer the not-from-concentrate version of red grapefruit juice which is ready to pour from the container. If I stocked up on it, some of it may eventually spoil, as grapefruit juice is perishable. Sure, I can purchase cans of concentrated grapefruit juice and throw them in the freezer; or I can buy bottles of the stuff sitting on shelves at room temperature that have the refreshing taste of battery acid…

…but then, I would be wasting my money if I did not fully enjoy it.

Beware of “Spoilage” — or Unanticipated Consequences

I feel the same way about rushing to spend frequent travel loyalty program miles and points to beat a devaluation: unless you are using them as you would if no devaluation was pending, you could very well be wasting them.

Spending them is only part of the equation: if you are redeeming American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flier loyalty program miles, you are most likely planning on flying as a passenger on an airplane operated by American Airlines or a partner of the oneworld alliance. Great!…

…now what about when you arrive at your destination? Will you rent a car? At what hotel will you be staying? How much will meals cost? Is there anything worthwhile to see and do at your destination?

Remember the “mistake airfare” from Los Angeles to Fiji for only $51.00including taxes and fees — back in 2005? Who in their right mind would not take advantage of that fantastic airfare?!?

Me — but maybe I was not in my right mind. Come to think of it: when am I ever in my right mind?!?

I priced hotel properties in Fiji at that time. Many of them advertised a room rate of at least $300.00 per night. Add other costs such as food and transportation, and suddenly even a free flight did not seem to be worth it — at that time for me, anyway.

Again — to me — rushing to spend your frequent travel loyalty program currency is similar. You are under pressure. You have to calculate the total cost of engaging in such a practice. While you may very well come out ahead overall with some careful planning and good timing, I personally would rather carefully plan a trip that I want when I am ready to plan it — even if at a devalued rate — than rush into something at a perceived value which may not be such a bargain in the long run.

Summary

Perhaps my analogies are faulty; and perhaps I am wrong. Despite eschewing all types of devaluations which negatively affect me — whether or not they are announced ahead of time — I do not go into a panic when one happens. I do not like devaluations; I never usually do…

…but whether or not a devaluation occurs — no matter how significant — the sun will still rise in the morning; and life will still continue. I have said this before and I will say it again: life is all about maintaining perspective and adjusting your expectations.

Besides, one thing I have noticed over the years is that despite the devaluations — whether at the grocery store or in frequent travel loyalty programs — there is usually a deal which appears if you are patient enough to wait for it; and sometimes the value of that deal is even better than prior to a devaluation…

…and in this case, I am eyeing a flight from the United States to Dubai on an airplane operated by Emirates Airline — an airline on which I have not yet flown as a passenger, unlike Etihad Airways — by saving up my Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan frequent flier loyally program miles. Sure, the cost is 90,000 of those miles each way — but I get to book directly via the Internet without placing any telephone calls to reservations centers outside of the United States; at least half of my trip will be completed by the time I arrive in Dubai; the amount of money I would be required to pay will be as few as $20.00; and as there is no devaluation yet on the horizon, I have time on my side with no rushing required…

…but if you were able to use your American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flier loyalty program miles in the best possible manner for your travels prior to the devaluation — again, congratulations to you…

…and safe travels.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

5 thoughts on “Don’t Panic, Part II: Devaluations are Not the End of the World”

  1. Chris says:

    Good post and on right on target. Planning is the key. I used 137K AA miles (actually old leftover DM miles bought at 1.75 cent p/m) for CX (67K) and QR (70K). I was on CX J then ponied up another 12K to F with a gamble that a F seat opens for the long haul before my travel. If it doesn’t the consolation is a 3 hour 777 F and use of CX’s HKG F lounges,which I’ve never been to. QR is in F A380 7 hour flight and J 787 5 hour flight, I could have flown the second segment in F to LHR or CDG but then I would be faced with a separate award flight or buy a ticket to where I need to go, but it came really came down with not wanting to change planes in LHR/CDG, so I took the most direct way. But I will say this, the paid price for QR routing in J was cheap, like $1,400 BKK-DOH-ARN, ergo the hike to F which made it a better return on value for miles, but not by much as that asking price was only $3,400! The point is that each traveler has to weigh what they want and/or need from their miles. For me it’s the combination of ‘needing’ to get to my destination coupled with ‘wanting’ to fly CX long haul – in J or F – and QR in their A380 F. On the way back I managed to get a ‘two fer’ using LifeMiles unique routing: 63K for TK J IST to ICN on their 777 and OZ J ICN to SEA in their 777 Smartium Business – and I bought those LifeMiles at 135% bonus, so $1,000 total for two long haul J flights. The remaining AA miles I’ll reserve for J or F in Qantas or JAL Asia 1 (Japan) to Australia. I’ll pay and suffer for a TP Y flight to Japan, then enjoy spending only 40K or 60K to get down under.

  2. rick b says:

    I kept wondering why I had a hard time reading this…then at hit me, I haven’t seen this much keyword stuffing in an article on BA before. Serious, is there a need to explicitly refer to miles as “frequent flier loyalty travel miles” every f**ing time?

    1. Captain Kirk says:

      I bet your full name is Richard…instead of going by Rick, why not go by Dick. It’s more accurate. Then people would know what you are as well as who you are.

  3. AlohaDaveKennedy says:

    Meh – you complain about points devaluations and the price of groceries going up as if there was inflation in this country. Your government has decreed that there is no inflation and that senior citizens on Social Security need no cost of living adjustment. Either our government economist friends believe that years of near zero interest rates are the magic beans for the economy or they are simply full of beans and, like beans, are better off canned.

  4. Ben says:

    I normally use AA to commute between various places to visit relatives, so I end up staying in guest rooms at my relatives’ houses, so hotel costs are quite inconsequential to me, but airline miles do help me out a lot, whether it’s a ticket I find a day in advance, an upgrade, an Intl F long haul ticket, etc, pre/post devaluation, I’ll still fly and I’ll still earn miles and I’ll still use miles as I need them. Over the course of a year, maybe it means I a couple extra revenue tickets instead of mileage tickets, oh well, just means I earn more Elite Qualifying Miles/Lifetime flight miles. As much as I fly, elite status also helps out a lot.

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