Upgrade Economics 101, Part 1
January 19, 2023 Mindset Stimulation
Deeper thinking about the costs and benefits of upgrading
First, here’s a quick definition of what we call an “upgrade.” FCF defines an upgrade as an option whose total benefits outweigh its drawbacks. It can be a better seat, a bonus destination, or better value-per-mile. If you’re able to achieve any of those with little or relatively no downside, congratulations! You’ve got yourself an upgrade.
This month we’ve put together a list of special upgrade opportunities to stimulate your travel dreams and potentially get you up to 53 cents of value per mile.
Upgrade Economics Example #1
Upgrade from Japan Airlines Business Class to First Class to Asia for Just 40,000 More Miles R/T
This is a killer deal. Japan Airlines First Class is easily one of the world’s top First Class experiences. So to pay just a few more American AAdvantage miles (JAL’s Oneworld partner) to score it, leaves us chomping at the bit here at FCF HQ. Take a look at that value per mile, not to mention the overall savings. Subarashī!
Example Award-Class Upgrade Economics:
|Operating Airline||Route||Class||American Miles Required R/T||R/T Fare|
U.S. to Tokyo
|Upgrade Cost / Miles||40,000||-|
|Savings Benefit / $||-||$21,027|
|Upgrade Value Per Mile||-||$0.53|
Why bother flying Japan Airlines in Business if you can score a seat in First Class?
Upgrade Economics Example #2
Upgrade a West Coast Trip to a Hawaii-Bonus Trip
(for $186 as icing on the Hawaiian cake)
Bend your knees slightly, stay loose. Sway your hips a little, two steps right, two steps left. Put the arm up that corresponds to the leading foot, bend the other arm. Repeat.
Those are the basic moves for the hula. FCF’s Hula Loophole is even easier. The key is to find a low-fare route to Hawaii that allows a free stopover in a West Coast city you’re planning to visit. When fares are high on the New York-San Francisco/Los Angeles transcon route, for example, think about adding a stop in Hawaii to enjoy a bonus destination — for little more.
Example Hawaii-Bonus Upgrade Economics:
|Operating Airline||Example Route||Typical Fare R/T|
|American||New York-Los Angeles||$2,497|
|New York-Los Angeles-Maui-New York||$2,683|
|Cost Increase / $||$186|
|Benefit Increase / Bonus Destination||Hawaii|
Upgrade Economics Example #3
Upgrade from Delta SkyMiles’ 0.8¢ Value-Per-Mile to Its Partner’s 2.9¢ Value-Per-Mile
This is no “hack-cident.” The Delta-Virgin hack FCF discovered has been a go-to play for a couple of years now. It works like this: Counterintuitively, you can get round-trip Business Class flights to Europe for just 100,000 miles through Delta’s partner Virgin Atlantic on Delta flights, when Delta charges 320,000 miles for the same flight. And remember, you can transfer points to Virgin Miles with Amex, Capital One, Citi, or Chase.
Example Partner-Savings Upgrade Economics:
|Operating Airline||Loyalty Program||Example Route||Mileage Required R/T||Value-per-Mile Given a Typical Fare of $3,590|
|Virgin Flying Club||100,000||3.6¢|
|Partner-Savings Upgrade / %||-||69% Savings|
See you up front.