Showing posts with label Upgrades. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Upgrades. Show all posts

February 7, 2015

Is Upgrading to Hawaii a Good Deal?

Generally speaking, premium cabin flights to Hawaii from the lower 48 aren't anything special.  Unless you're flying on a handful of United flights, you're not getting a lie-flight bed, amenity kit, fancy Champagne, etc...That said, the flights can be pretty long.  Even from Denver, you're looking at  7+ hours westbound and nearly that coming home.

You are off to Hawaii after all (so in theory you should be pretty stoked) and the airlines know this.  So first class fares are exorbitant.  For our trip to Maui in October, we found relatively cheap coach fares (~$800 each) with a stop in San Francisco on the way there and the direct flight home.

Andaz Maui

Upgrading coach tickets to first class using miles used to be a decent use of miles.  But now it is so easy to earn a massive amount of miles that it's far better "value" wise to book an award ticket in a premium cabin.  Obviously this reduces the cash outlay as well.

One exception I've found is Hawaii.

  • Our cash fare cost $800 per ticket
  • Had we purchased a first class fare for the outbound (coach home) the fare would have been ~$1,800
  • Basically United is selling the first class upgrade for ~$1,000

Cash upgrade

Since the upgrade doesn't mean a ton to me, I figured I'd check to see if there was availability using miles.  It is 8+ hours in the air so I'm willing to "pay something" for an increase in comfort.

Mileage upgrade

There were a couple of seats available (I took the screenshot after I upgraded one of us) for 25,000 miles each way.  We are sitting on a boatload of United miles so this was a pretty easy decision.  The inbound redeye is pretty uncomfortable either way so we'll both take our chances on the back of the bus.

While I wouldn't pay $1,000 cash each for the upgrade, the fact that 25,000 miles is "buying" $1,000 in cash value is pretty good ($.04/mile).  I would imagine this is the way United sells the majority of it's upgrades prior to departure.  Hawaii is also a good use of a United Regional Premier Upgrade (RPU) if you are sitting on any of those.

April 27, 2014

Upgrading to First Class on Alaska Airlines

I can't remember the last time I flew Alaska Airlines.  It's probably been over twenty years.  They have steadily built their west coast presence and actually have a pretty big operation in San Diego where I grew up.  Alaska does allow redemptions on partner Emirates in first class so I have been steadily racking up Alaska miles in anticipation of using them for an Emirates flight.

My parents are flying Alaska to Hawaii in May.  My dad just had back surgery and 6.5 hours is a long time to be uncomfortable in a middle seat so I set out to try and get them upgraded to first class.

It was actually incredibly simple.  Alaska allows first class upgrades (even on flights to Hawaii) for 15,000 miles one way.  There was availability on their flight (the non-stop from San Diego to Lihue) and the total was just 30,000 miles for both tickets.  I could see availability online but had to call to complete the process.  The call took about five minutes to process the upgrades, select new seats, and issue a new itinerary.

First Class Upgrades on Alaska are 15,000 miles One Way

Kudos to Alaska for having such a straight forward mileage upgrade process and enabling me to make my Dad just a bit more comfortable.  The product on this aircraft (a 737-800) isn't earth shattering but it will certainly be better than coach for a quasi long haul flight.  

Mom & Dad - hope you enjoy!!