The title of this post was going to be a triumphant, “How We Booked 4 Round Trip Flights From SFO-PVR Using 80,000 Points.” However, in the game of Points and Miles, you need to be prepared for a few curveballs, and that is exactly what happened today.
I wrote last night about how I figured out that we could fly round trip from San Francisco to Puerto Vallarta using 80,000 Avios, plus a total of $221.20 in taxes. This is a steal compared to other points redemptions (Alaska Airlines prices out at 170,000 miles round trip and United at 210,000). Avios are perfect for short-haul trips such as this one because they’re a distance-based award, meaning that the farther you fly, the more Avios you need…and vice versa. Since Puerto Vallarta is 1,554 miles from San Francisco (check it out on the Great Circle Mapper), the flight only costs 10,000 points each way. Yay!
Avios are the frequent flier currency of British Airways, but since British Airways does not fly to Mexico, we would be flying on Alaska Airlines, a partner of British Airways. (I agree that this is ironic given that it would cost 90,000 additional miles to fly on Alaska Airlines using their own miles currency). The British Airways site does not have the capability to handle this transaction (booking an Avios award on a partner flight), so you need to call in. Since it is impossible to do this online, you can sometimes get the $25 phone booking fee waived, but ymmv (your mileage may vary).
I called the British Airways Executive Club this morning. I was armed with my dates and Alaska flight numbers (don’t rely on the booking agent to do this for you – spend a few minutes gathering this information before your call. This way you are sure to know all the facts). The agent wasn’t very knowledgeable, but she was friendly and willing to believe me when I told her that using Avios on Alaska was possible. Unfortunately, when she pulled up flight availability, there were no seats available for our outbound flight. However, there were plenty of seats open for the return.
I decided to gamble and booked the return flights. Worst case scenario is that I don’t find outbound award flights to Mexico and cancel the inbound back to San Francisco, which would cost me a total of $65/ticket.
At the end of the day, if I can’t figure out how to get this flight for free (or almost free), then I’m going to move on to the next trip and chalk this one up to a “great learning experience.”
I’ve still got a few tricks up my sleeve, so this ain’t over ’til it’s over. In the meantime, I’m headed back to the “lab” to try to work this out.
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