Redeem miles for free flights to Asia in business class


Delta SkyMiles versus AmericanAdvantage Miles

Last year I had managed to build a nice bank of American Airline miles by signing up for AA’s Black card which got me 100K miles (unfortunately the offer no longer exists, but they still offer the 50K bonus points which I had also signed up for). I booked a last minute trip when I quit my job and was able to redeem miles for free flights to Asia in business class (see redemption chart) on Cathay Pacific.

This trip, things are a bit trickier since I need to get 2 round trip tix for me and my Mom I don’t have much flexibility with travel dates. I had to leave mid week to land in HK on Thursday to get 2 days in the office, and then fly out of somewhere in Asia 2.5 weeks later, ideally late night Saturday. I had a lot of miles, but not enough in any account to redeem miles for 2 round trips tickets, so I started search for 2 one ways. I had 240K Delta miles, 160K AA miles, 55K United miles, and 83K Chase Sapphire points to play with.

Since I had luck with AA last year, I started my search with Cathay to HK. To redeem miles from American Airline’s program for Cathay tickets, you need to sign up for the Qantas frequent flyer accounts and search for availability on Qantas’ site. Their business class tix tend to open up last minute so I didn’t have much luck this time around.

I found non-direct flights flying into HK on Delta’s partner airline, China Eastern Air stopping over in Shanghai for 70K miles each. The 777 flat bed seat reviews seem to be decent. I gave up on searching on AA flights as they don’t have the best options for Asia.

Chase Sapphire Points transfer to United MileagePlus

So I was thinking about booking thru the Sapphire site to get a 1.1x travel credit and pay for 2 Asiana Airline one-way business class tix from Bangkok for $1700/each which isn’t too bad. I would end up paying $3400-$1100 = $2300 + $372 (2 x $186 taxes on the Delta flights, a bit costly for a ‘free’ ticket).

Then my GF suggested United. When I first checked for flights out of Bangkok there weren’t any super saver options so I hadn’t spent much time looking into United. When my departure city changed to Ho Chi Minh City, I searched again, and voila! I’d have to fly back on a Monday, but an extra day off from work for free biz class tix was worth the trade-off. Except, I realized I was shy by 22K miles when I transferred all my Sapphire points.

My mom is an authorized user on both my and my brother’s Sapphire accounts, so he was able to help cover the 22K and I transferred the remaining points needed to my/my mom’s MileagePlus accounts. I was able to get 2 one-way flights for 80K miles + $55/tax per ticket on business class tickets from Ho Chi Minh.

I was able to redeem miles for free flights (nearly free), by redeeming Delta SkyMiles for 2 one way business class tickets to HK and 2 one way 2 business class departing from Ho Chi Minh City. All together, I redeemed 140,000 Delta SkyMiles and paid $326 in taxes and fees for the two one-way flights, the steepest redemption fees I’ve seen, but, they also had the most options and 160,000 United MileagePlus miles and paid $110 in taxes and fees.

Tips to Redeem Miles for Free Flights:

  • If you don’t have enough miles to redeem to get a round trip tickets in one account, try searching for multiple one way flights
  • To redeem miles for free flights, keep track of all your frequent flyer accounts and know the balances available
  • Keep notes of your credit card accounts and the points programs and transfer options so you can easily reference all your options when you begin your search

Do you have any other tips that help you when you search for reward travel? Please share!

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