When Award Travel is Too Expensive

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Miles and points allow the bearer to take trips that may not otherwise be doable. I have been privileged to go on many such trips thanks to frequent flyer miles. However, sometimes these “free” trips can actually be quite expensive.

When Award Travel is Too Expensive

I had played around with the thought of running the Amman Marathon in early October. I had thought about it a few times before and figured now would be a good time to do since I am in Europe. Because of some travel I have around that time, I knew I needed to go with Royal Jordanian due to the convenient arrival and departure times. It made me feel good when I looked up the ticket for purchase and saw it was a little over $1,000! Royal Jordanian is a partner of British Airlines so that meant I could use my British Airways Avios to fly on an award ticket to Amman.  Since Avios are distance based airline currency, it was only going to cost 15,000 Avios round-trip.

Award Travel

The cost for the cash purchase of the Royal Jordanian ticket

15,000 points for a $1,000 ticket is a great deal! If that was all it took, it would be a great bargain. Unfortunately, like many of the partners of British Airways, there were some high fuel surcharges levied on this ticket.

Award Travel

Good availability on Royal Jordanian for the marathon

Award Travel

That’s right – almost $400 for an award ticket!

As you can see, there was good availability for the award ticket I was looking for but the taxes were very high! They were almost $400 – and this is for an award ticket! Now, from a point valuation standpoint, this is still a good redemption. When we subtract the fuel surcharge/taxes from the $1,000 this ticket costs, we get a value of 4 cents per point out of this trip. While that is a great, true value redemption, the real-world cost in cash was too much for me to consider this trip. For me, the miles and points are a way to travel for little cost – not necessarily just less cost. When I figure in the flight from my airport to Athens, the rental car, and the marathon fee, this 24 hour trip for the Amman marathon would have cost me around $680. That is too expensive for me – especially when I am already using miles and points.

Many airlines in Europe level these large fuel surcharges on tickets. The cost is often tied to the class of travel as well. This means, if you are traveling in business or first class, the taxes and surcharges on the award tickets can be significantly higher. In fact, they may cost more than the economy ticket that you could purchase for that itinerary – without using any miles!

Award Travel

Look at the taxes for an award ticket in First Class from New York to London!

This shows the cost in points and cash for an award ticket in First Class round-trip from JFK-London. Almost any day of the week, you can fly in coach on that route (even on that same plane!) for less than the cost of taxes on this award ticket! Not to mention, you can earn some miles instead of spending 120,000.

So, is award travel always cheap? Nope! There are many times that award travel can be expensive. You need to decide if the required expense is one that you are willing to take. In the case of the Amman Marathon, I decided I was not willing to take on that large expense. So, I am on the lookout again if anyone knows of a great fall marathon in Europe! :)

About the author  ⁄ Charles Barkowski






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