Would rather use points for two Business Class flights rather than four in Economy?

How and where to get most value from your points

GUIDE: Using Points
DIFFICULTY: Intermediate
TIME TO READ: 3 minutes
POSTED: December 11, 2019
UPDATED: December 11, 2019
LOYALTY PROGRAMS: Relevant to Multiple Programs

The single best advantage of frequent flyer points is to get into Business and First Class without paying the kind of money that an outright ticket purchase requires.

The maths

Airlines charge anywhere north of 7x the cost of an Economy ticket for a First Class seat on the same flight. It’s 4-5x for Business Class, and 2x for travel in Premium Economy. So using points to get to the front of the plane more cheaply becomes the goal if you want to maximise the value of your frequent flyer balance.

The basic premise that points get so much more valuable for Premium Economy, Business or First Class redemptions is simply because the cost in points of these trips is more like 3-4x the cost of an Economy ticket for First Class, 2x for Business, and 1.5x for Premium Economy.

So you can totally use 55,200 Qantas Points to fly from Auckland to London one-way in Emirates Economy Class:

or you can use 216,900 points (just over four times) to fly the entire way in a First Class Suite:

Let’s look at that in table form, using a real-life example of flying Emirates from Auckland to Dubai return during low-season dates:

CabinIn cashCompared to EconomyWith pointsCompared to Economy
Economy$1,3981x102,4001x
Business$6,9985x253,0002.5x
First$13,3589.6x379,6003.7x

If you compare the multipliers between the paid fare and the points fare, you can see that saving up your points can pay real dividends. That’s if you place a value on travelling in premium cabins.

Note that when using Airpoints Dollars on ‘any seat’ awards with Air New Zealand, the multipliers remain per the column on the left. However during a sale period, when prices drop, you can get some outsized value from these redemptions, even in Economy.

This is compared to the fixed rate redemptions offered with most programmes, where the number of points or miles stays the same even if the cost to buy a seat drops.

A caveat

This does not factor in the taxes and fees that are usually payable with redemptions with frequent flyer programmes. While these tend to increase as you move towards the front of the plane on points bookings, they are usually worth it. However, that’s only if you place a value on travelling up towards the front.

What did our readers say?

We put this question to those who follow our Facebook page and over 1,600 Point Hackers responded, with more than 4 in 5 preferring to direct their points to travel in premium cabins:

What about Business vs First Class?

Is it worth paying 60,000 points for a lie-flat Business Class seat with priority check-in and lounge access, or 90,000 to get access to an even better lounge, eat whenever you want (‘dine on demand’) and potentially have a hot shower while you are flying?

Yes, you can shower on a plane

That is a different ball game, so we have explored that question in this post.

Summing up

I want to stress this point: points can definitely be used for Economy travel to make your travels go further (as Martina does). Rates with Air New Zealand can be brilliant when flights are on sale. However, the points system for most programmes have most of us paying surcharges on our redemptions. That means that Economy Class awards can often be slugged with fees that eat up most of the benefit of using your points in the first place.

As such, the best value to be had (versus paying in cash for the same ticket) is for travel in First, Business or Premium Economy Class. However, some travellers do not care less about travelling up front (or never have). So getting high perceived value out of their points will be a lot harder if they do not value travelling in this way.

Do you have a friend, family member or colleague who just doesn’t ‘get it’, i.e. they keep using their points for low-value redemptions when you know they could be getting a better deal? Share this article with them using the social media buttons below and spread the word!


Earning Points: First Principles

Using Points: First Principles

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Would rather use points for two Business Class flights rather than four in Economy? was last modified: December 11th, 2019 by Daniel Kinnoch

Supplementary image courtesy Emirates.

Would rather use points for two Business Class flights rather than four in Economy? was last modified: December 11th, 2019 by Daniel Kinnoch