Home Credit Cards Fly First or Business Class Internationally for a Fraction of the Price

Fly First or Business Class Internationally for a Fraction of the Price

Cut the ticket price of international business class in half by following this dirty little secret.

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Fly First or Business Class Internationally for a Fraction of the Price
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All airlines offer the option to purchase points in their mileage programs, but they’re typically sold way above market value. So we typically don’t recommend buying them. However, when Alaska Airlines runs one of its mileage purchase promos with bonuses in excess of 40%, we jump on it!

If you’re looking to fly long-haul in first or business class on one of Alaska’s many premium partners like Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Fiji Airways, Hainan Airlines, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, or LATAM Airlines, purchasing points and redeeming a points ticket can get you that business- or first-class seat for far less than retail price. Here’s how to get to the front of the plane at a fraction of the price.

Price Out the Ticket as You Would on Google Flights

You want to go on a big trip, and you’re pretty set on flying first or business class. Go on Google Flights, enter your desired dates, and price out your ticket in business and/or first. Most airlines participate in Google Flights, but for those that don’t, like China-based, five-star airline Hainan, a link to their website will appear in the Google Flights search, from which you can get the price.

Price Out the Ticket in Alaska Miles

Next, go to Alaska Airlines and use the simple search engine to look for mileage seats. Be sure to check the “Use Miles” box so that international airports not serviced by Alaska but by its partners can populate in the “From” and “To” fields. Once you’ve done the search, see if business or first class is available on your desired dates. If it is not, scroll down on the left-hand side to view by “Calendar” and see which dates are available using mileage tickets (and decide if you are willing to be flexible). For partners Cathay Pacific and LATAM, you will need to call Alaska’s partner desk to manually check availability, as it does not show up directly on Alaska’s website. (Pro Tip: Interestingly enough, their availability does show up if searching for a points’ ticket on British Airways. So, quickly set up a British Airways Avios account and use its search engine, if you’d rather not call.)

Once you find mileage seats, click on them and go to the check-out screen to tally the total miles needed plus the taxes.

Compare the Two Ticket Prices

Next, convert the Alaska miles to dollars at the current promotion ratio. Compare the regular ticket price to the mileage price, and then see if you’ve got yourself a winner!

The retail price of Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles is $27.50 per 1,000 miles, plus a 7.5% federal excise tax. But with the frequent 40% bonus promotion, this cost is reduced to approximately $21 per 1,000 miles including tax, and in the more recent promotion of a 50% bonus, $19.70 per 1,000 miles including tax. (Pro Tip: Alaska Air has a 60,000-mile pre-bonus limit per transaction, but you are NOT limited on the number of times you can buy miles and take advantage of the promotion.)

As an example, let’s look at flying Hainan Airways Boston to Beijing round-trip in business class, September 20 to September 30, which prices out on Hainan’s website at $5,025. On Alaska Air, this ticket prices out at 100,000 points round-trip + $408 in taxes. Buying 100,000 Alaska Air points with the standard 40% promo would cost $2,177. Add $2,177 and $408 to get $2,585. Compare $2,585 to $5,025. That’s a savings of $2,440 or about 51%. Not bad!

As another example, let’s look at doing a Fiji honeymoon flying Korean Air Los Angeles to Nadi round-trip in business class, November 1 to November 13, which prices out at $8,576 on Google Flights. On Alaska Air, this ticket prices out at 125,000 points round-trip + $174 in taxes. Buying 125,000 Alaska Air points with the standard 40% promo would cost $2,721. Add $2,721 and $174 to get $2,895. Compare $2,895 to $8,576. That’s a savings of $5,681 or about 66%. Amazing!

Consider Doing One-Way in Business or First Class

While partner availability is typically generous with foreign airlines, it isn’t always present for the days you want. Sometimes, you’ll find seats on the way there but not the way bay, or vice versa. In these instances, consider doing one of the legs in business or first and the other way in economy. Repeat the same method as above to compare costs.

Purchase the Alaska Miles for Free

Finally, consider doubling-down on your points and credit card skills by cashing out credit card points as a statement credit for the purchase of Alaska miles. Using a card with a good cash back rate, you’ll feel like a points master. For example, with Mastercard® Gold Card™, points are redeemed at a value of 2% for cash back, so a 100,000-point redemption equates to $2,000 in hand. You’d need to cash out 108,900 of your Mastercard points for the purchase of 100,000 Alaska Air miles (with the 40% bonus promo). 108,900 points + a few hundred in taxes for an international round-trip in business—now we’re talking!

 

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Award-winning travel writer and economist Paul Rubio is a credit card enthusiast, whose sophisticated use of points and rewards has helped him travel to 125 countries for free. Paul is a Harvard graduate with a master’s degree in public administration and a master’s degree in economics. He also holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston University with a double major in economics and environmental policy and a minor in conservation biology. He attended both undergraduate and graduate schools on full scholarships. Paul worked in the field of wildlife conservation before embracing his writing talents full-time in 2008. Since then, he has won more than two dozen national awards for his exemplary work in travel journalism. The prolific writer contributes to a number of top-tier international, national, and regional publications including Condé Nast Traveler, Fodors.com, Palm Beach Illustrated, Private Clubs, and Robb Report.