I made preparations to experience British Airways First Class all the way back in 2009 by applying for the British Airways Visa Card when there was a 100,000 British Airways Avios sign up bonus. My wife did the same and we each hit the $2000 spend in order to get the total of 200,000 Avios sign up bonuses.
In 2010, I then planned to hit the $30,000 annual spend on my card in order to receive the British Airways buy one award ticket get one award ticket voucher. Purchasing coins from the US Mint was still in full effect at this time and hitting the $30,000 was pretty easy. I completed the $30,000 spend in June of 2010. I therefore had two years in order to use my voucher.
In 2011, I thought about using the voucher in order to get myself to the Maldives, but finding business / first award seats from London to Male was impossible. I ended up using Delta Skymiles via Malaysia Airlines instead.
Fast forward to the fall of 2011 and it’s time to start planning our 2012 vacation and with the voucher expiring in June 2012, I was determined to finally use them. I start searching preliminarily for several destinations trying to decide where we wanted to go. I still several destinations in Europe on my bucket list.
Then in November 2011, I fell off a ladder at my house and broke both of my wrists and the last thing going through my mind was using these vouchers. In fact, I wasn’t sure I was ever going to be able to even function much less worry about a vacation. So I put the thought of a vacation far away and instead worked on recouping and doing massive amounts of physical therapy.
By March of 2012, I had healed to the point where I was functioning again and I began to think again about taking a vacation. However, I was positive with such short notice of only four months till June that I wouldn’t be able to find open award seats and use the British Airways voucher. I signed up for the Platinum level of the KVS tool to search British Airways availability. I started to search for flights out of Los Angeles to London Heathrow and there was nothing available in first class on any of the days in late May or early June. It was not surprising given how late in the year I was looking to leave. I was pretty much ready to give up the search at this point.
I then started to search for flights leaving out of New York and Boston and I was totally surprised. Flights from Boston to London Heathrow had First Class seats available. It wasn’t even on specific days, it was basically every day (except weekends) in May and June. I reread through the KVS tool instructions to make sure I wasn’t missing something. It was wide open!
The next part was to piece together something leaving out of London Heathrow and now I had to decide where to go. Lisbon? Madrid? Athens? Istanbul? After a lot of research I felt like going to Istanbul would be a departure from our usual beach vacation we had taken recently in the Maldives and before that in Phuket, Thailand. Once again there was decent availability from Heathrow to Istanbul and back in business class. Return flights in first class from London to Boston where wide open again. Everything was magically falling into place.
A quick check of award nights at the Conrad Istanbul showed they had nights available and therefore I could use my large stash of Hilton points to stay for free.
I went to the British Airways website and entered in all the dates that I had pieced together on the KVS tool and finally had the entire itinerary as we wanted it. I went to the final check screen – and it showed $2000 was due for the taxes and surcharges. I knew ahead of time that taxes would be in that range – so I wasn’t surprised. It gave me a second to pause. I would still have to either buy two $300 tickets or use Skymiles to get from Salt Lake City to Boston. Factoring in that, I was looking at a possible outlay of $2600 before we had even stepped in the country. I knew all of this all the way back in 2009 when I started this whole process. However, I started to weigh the pros and cons. It’s an incredible First Class journey to Istanbul. I thought about this blog and writing a sweet trip report and all the pictures I could take. It would be an amazing trip! The cost of the taxes pales in comparison to the actual value of those First Class tickets if purchased separately. On the other hands, $2600! That could pay for an entire vacation elsewhere! After discussing it back and forth, my wife and I agreed – we weren’t going to Istanbul. We weren’t going to fly First Class. We were going to allow the vouchers to expire and not spend all that money at this time.
Instead, I used the KVS tool and searched for flights from Los Angeles to Maui. On United. In Economy. I found plenty of dates and low award availability for 40,000 United miles per ticket. I searched the Starwood site for award night rooms available at the Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa and it was wide open as well. So I booked the United economy tickets for 40,000 miles a piece plus $20 in taxes and secured nights at the Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa where I’ll be making my first stay as a newly minted Platinum and we’ll put that $2600 to good use in Maui.
It’s not as glamorous as staying in Istanbul but I just couldn’t bring myself at this time to spend that much money on taxes but I’m excited to be going to Maui. So what now with all those British Airways Avios points I have stashed away? I imagine that in 2013 I’ll make another run at a $30,000 spend for another voucher or perhaps use them for trips domestically. Whatever the case, I will fly British Airways First Class – now just wasn’t the right time.
This is what is so great about this hobby – I’m feeling down from heading to Maui after having been to Phuket, Maldives, Bora Bora, and Stockholm recently on award trips!