Getting To Your Next Cruise: Business Class Air To Europe: $2,000, Including Intra-Europe Flights

Today marks 56 years that I’ve inhabited this wobbling blue planet (yes, the earth wobbles, something I learned years ago in astronomy class).

To put it another way, I’ve been in various stages of a carbon lifeform for 20,440 days or 490,560 hours or 29,433,600 minutes or, drum roll, 1,766,016,000 seconds. When looked at that way, I am ancient. Think I’ll stick with the youthful sounding double digits, 56.

Those may or may not be interesting numbers to you. What may be of more interest, however, is the number that most intrigues me at the moment: 4.

That’s the row that I am sitting in on an Airbus 330 destined for Madrid, Spain. When you learn that you will be seated in row 4 on a flight across the Atlantic, you know that good things are ahead.

Indeed, US Airways tells me that I am seated in an Envoy Suite. Calling the seat a Suite is an example of a marketing department gone hoarse with hyperbole, but the large leather seat (that reclines into a flatbed), the entertainment center with new release movies, and the not-quite-but-could-have-been gourmet meal service is a whole heap better than the experience several rows behind me.

The best part of this story is that I snagged the seat for about a quarter of the asking price thanks to a smart (or perhaps, lucky) move I made earlier this year. First, let me give you the itinerary: Asheville, North Carolina to Charlotte, North Carolina on US Airways, then picking up Lufthansa from Charlotte to Munich, then Lufthansa (I am still in Business Class) from Munich to Madrid.

I’ll celebrate my birthday in Madrid (which is today), then the next day, I’ll fly Brussels Airlines to Brussels, then connect to SAS to Copenhagen. Yes, all Business Class.

After a couple of weeks in Northern Europe, I fly from Copenhagen to Amsterdam on SAS, Amsterdam to Newark on United (both flights in Business) and still on United but in economy because that is all that is offered, from Newark to Asheville. Total cost: about $2,000.

When I priced this ticket with US Airways, Business Class was going for more than $6,000, and that did not include the intra-Europe flights. Out of the question. I would never pay that much, even to avoid what has become akin to the torture techniques used during the Spanish Inquisition in Economy Class, where, incidentally, the rate was $1,600, without the Madrid to Copenhagen flight.

So how did I pay more than $4,000 less than the going rate for Business Class? I used miles, but not miles I had accumulated. Rather, I used miles that I had purchased. I used miles as airline currency.

A couple of times this past summer, USAirways ran promotions offering a 100 percent bonus for purchased miles. I purchased 50,000 miles for $1,881, and USAirways matched that to give me a total of 100,000 miles. I used those miles to purchase my Business Class tickets. With taxes and fees, my total cost was about $2,000.

I bought miles during a special US Airways promotion, and the payoff was big.

There’s a lesson here for avid cruisers. Look for creative ways to cut costs — and upgrade — your air experience. Stay tuned, this week I’ll be talking more about ways not only to save on air travel but to travel well.

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