I am planning a trip to South Africa in April, and so my nightly ‘game’ of scouring the connections to Cape Town on a variety of on-line travel booking sites (Expedia, Orbitz, Kayak) and the airline sites themselves had been going on for a while. First one has to find an itinerary with decent connections, and then it is a whole new ball of wax to figure out how to pay for it if you are Mr Frequent Flyer with several accounts with air miles in them.
So last night it was time to buy a ticket. BUY IT RIGHT NOW, I thought. The Europe connection to Cape Town is the hardest. It’s usually between London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt or Paris as a connecting city, to get me to Cape Town, and usually with a stop in Johannesburg. I found a direct Paris to Cape Town and was about to buy an Air France ticket on Expedia when I thought : let me log on to airfrance.com and see if I can use at least some miles to pay for the ticket. Hmm. A pitiful 3,000 miles on my Flying Blue account. Maybe I can transfer in miles from my American Express Membership Awards account. Yes. 60,000 miles available to transfer. Great. For a business class seat in, and a premium economy back, I still needed 57,000 more. Man. Let’s see what happens when I try to pay with partly miles, and partly dollars.. voila! Air France let me buy extra miles at the bargain rate of €1.10/ dollar .. and they have a sale until March 18. They throw in an extra 50% miles in addition to the ones you buy. So buying 38,000 got me 19,000 for free. So : all told, an almost business class return fare for US$1,100. Not bad at all. That kind of fare on the open market goes for at least $6,000 and Nelson Rockefeller I am not! (Of course : it took several years to rack up the American Express miles that I now burnt up in one go. But hey, that’s what they are there for).