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Business-Class Awards Cheaper Than Coach?

Rather than the usual question-and-answer format, this month’s Q&A column consists of a reader’s suggestion followed by my comments.

The suggestion, from Mark Graham, is as follows:

“Dear Tim,

“I always enjoy reading your columns.

“Just an addition to your [% 2540090 | | April 1 article %]:

“Before trying to use miles for an unrestricted coach seat, check business class. Sometimes flights that have no award availability have seats in business for the same number of miles as unrestricted awards in coach, or even less.

“My wife and I are flying round-trip to Copenhagen in business class this summer using award miles. No seats were available in coach, but seats were available in business at 80,000 miles each, less than unrestricted coach.”

With practically [% 2610832 | | all airlines cutting flights %], award seat availability will get worse before it gets better. So tips and tricks for successfully redeeming frequent flyer miles, like Mark’s, are more welcome than ever.

As he correctly points out, the cost of a capacity-controlled business-class award is sometimes less than the cost of an unrestricted coach award.

In American’s AAdvantage program, for example, an unrestricted round-trip coach award ticket for travel between the U.S. and Europe is priced at 100,000 miles. But a restricted business-class ticket can be had for 90,000 miles—10,000 fewer miles for a bigger seat, more legroom, and better meal service.

Of course, a restricted coach award will always be cheaper than a restricted business-class award. In American’s program, restricted coach awards to Europe cost 40,000 or 60,000 miles, depending on seasonality.

But if no restricted coach seats are available, and if you have enough miles for an unrestricted coach award, it certainly makes sense to first check pricing and availability of a restricted business- or first-class award seat.

You could find yourself enjoying more comfort for fewer miles.

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