My Highly Insignificant, Yet Still Highly Annoying Dilemma


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Earlier this week I wrote a post about how I’m using the thoughts of future travel to distract myself from the fact that I’m grounded and stuck at home for the foreseeable future. In that post I mentioned that one of the trips I’m planning would probably require me to buy some miles – it does and this is now causing me a dilemma.

I have a wide variety of ideas for trips that I’d like to take once this current mess is behind us, but one trip that I’d especially like to book is one that sees Joanna and me flying back to Sydney and doing all the different things that we didn’t have time (or the opportunity) to do when we visited last year.

Specifically, I’d like to be able to use AAdvantage Miles to book Etihad First Class and Business Class awards to get us to and from Sydney in comfort (and in a fair bit of style), and I’d like to use Bonvoy points or Hyatt points to pay for all our accommodation.

The accommodation isn’t an issue as I have more than enough Bonvoy points for a good-length stay at the Sydney Harbour Marriott Hotel at Circular Quay and I have more than enough Chase Ultimate Rewards points (which I can convert to Hyatt points) for a long stay at the Park Hyatt Sydney…but I don’t have enough AAdvantage Miles to book the Etihad awards.

As I was planning this Sydney trip, the fact that I would probably have to buy some AAdvantage Miles didn’t bother me as I “knew” the following:

  1. I wouldn’t be buying miles without knowing that awards are available to book
  2. Any miles that I bought would be used almost immediately so American Airlines wouldn’t have a chance to devalue its award chart and leave me high and dry.
  3. All the accommodation for the trip would be covered by points so the fact that the flights wouldn’t be free wasn’t really an issue – buying miles and using them for the flights would still be a lot cheaper than booking cash fares.

On Monday evening, American Airlines threw me a curveball by launching the cheapest mileage sale I think I’ve ever seen the airline release…and therein lies the root of my dilemma.

The trip I’m planning isn’t due to take place until late March/early April 2021 and as Etihad only releases award inventory 331 days ahead of time, I can only currently see award inventory through 25 February 2021.

The American Airlines mileage sale will be on through 12 April, but that’s still nowhere near enough time to give me a chance to see what Etihad’s award availability will look like….so do I gamble or not?

Having reworked the excel spreadsheet that I’m using to plan the Sydney trip, I now know that I’ll need to spend approximately $3,300 on AAdvantage miles if I’m to book the two roundtrip awards that I have in mind…and that’s a lot of cash to be spending without a good guarantee of getting what I want out of it.

On the one hand, it’s tempting to buy the miles now because the cost per mile is considerably lower than I expected it would be (and I’m not sure when American will offer miles at this rate again), and I’m reasonably sure that the awards I want to book will be available…eventually (I can be flexible with the start/end points of our trip).

On the other hand, I don’t really like the idea of buying miles without having an immediate use for them (I’m always advising readers against doing this) and I’m not entirely comfortable trusting American not to sever its ties with Etihad or to devalue its award chart before I get a chance to use any miles I buy…which may not be until May/June this year.

Bottom Line

At the moment my more cautious side appears to be winning and I’m leaning towards passing on this latest AAdvantage mileage sale and hoping that a sale as good as this one comes around once I can see award availability for April 2021…but at 1.6 cents/mile I’m still a little tempted.

What would you do?

5 COMMENTS

  1. Wait to buy. AA and other airlines are really hurting for cash and that will not be changing anytime soon. While this miles promo last until April 12, it’s almost a sure bet that between now and when Etihad opens space that there will be another sale and perhaps an even better one. I just got back from Sydney too 3 weeks ago. Roundtrip on UA IAH-SYD in Polaris. Not as flashy as Etihad but booked two last minute saver level tickets for my wife and I. 17hr 50min flight to SYD also so the lie-flat beds were great considering we got the bulkhead on the 787-9 which provides a lot better footrest space than other seats. I’m getting off the subject here but I’d just wait given the current economic situation AA and others are in.

  2. If you have so many Bonvoy points just transfer some over to AA. It isn’t great but likely a better value than buying miles at this time.

    • I considered that, but I’ll be getting a LOT more value by using those points at my preferred property in Sydney and I’d still need to buy AA miles even if I wiped out my Bonvoy account so I’d still be exposed to the potential issues I highlighted

  3. Not to be overly negative (as I REALLY hope this is over by summer and fall will see things getting “back to normal”) BUT how do you know the airline will even fly that route and that Australia won’t have some restrictions (like quarantine) in place. Also there are projections COVID-19 is likely to come back again next winter so that timeframe may be in question.

    All in all I would say pass and wait a while to see what happens. I’ve got a trip to Italy booked for August that I almost certainly will have to cancel but holding out hope it may still happen so I really hope your dates and travel arrangements are good but we just don’t know.

  4. Why not check into the pricing for a Star Alliance award one way or maybe use Alaska miles if you have enough? The *A tickets could be used for EVA, which is superb. Besides award space being tight unless you book far in advance, the only major EVA consideration would be allowing routing through TPE. With Alaska, you could fly via Tokyo with a stopover if you wanted.

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