We arrived in Nicaragua from Columbia and quickly began to realize that the Covid-19 virus we had been hearing about on the news is really spreading, globally. First we thought considered staying put to avoid all travel and ride it out. But as the
days hours went by, we began to realize it would be much more responsible to get back to North America. This is how we ended up using AAdvantage miles instead of cash to get home due to Covid-19.
Due to the virus I was trying to find the least amount of stops and human interaction as possible. My criteria for searching flights were as follows:
- Least amount of stops.
- The quickest overall journey time, without any long layovers. This was to prevent having to leave the airport and go to a hotel.
- No connections in a country that has closed their border. We may get stuck there.
- Business class if possible. Overall comfort with more space between others. Also, getting off the plane first to get through customs quicker.
Step by step search
When searching for a flight, I first check to see if it is cheaper to use points or simply use cash. If cash is best I’ll then decide if I should redeem my Amex, Chase or Citi bank points. Secondly I consider using a credit card that gives points for booking air travel. My Amex Platinum pays 5x Membership Reward points per dollar spent. My Citi Prestige pays 5x ThankYou points per dollar spent.
Next I checked Kayak.com and flights from Managua(MGA), Nicaragua to Vancouver(YVR), Canada were all over the place. One way economy flights were ranging $400-$3400 depending on different travel times and connections. I then checked FlightConnections.com from MGA to see who flies out of there, and where to. I’ll usually double check this later at the airport’s Wiki page, under Airlines and Destinations. I find Wiki is more reliable, but I like the quick and easy visual of using the map feature at FlightConnections.com.
Web Special Discount To The Rescue
Looking at the map made my choice pretty clear. No direct flights. We didn’t want to take a chance of getting stuck in any other country in Central America. Therefore it looked like we’d have to transition through the US. Normally AA charges 15k for economy and 25k in business from North America to Central America. You can view their award chart here. While checking I was surprised to see AA had ‘Web Special’ availability for 10k in economy or 20k in business, plus $71.68 taxes/fees, just a few days away.
Thankfully as of January 15, 2020, AA stopped charging their $75 award fee for bookings made within 21 days of departure. So this was a no brainer. All boxes checked. All the way into Vancouver, the same day, in business class, for 20k+$71.68? Value at 1.6 cents per point, 20k x 1.6 = $320 + $71.68 Tax/fees = $391.68 each for business class. Yes, please!
From now until April 30, 2020 you can log into your AAdvantage account and purchase points to get a 100% bonus. That works out to 1.6 cents each. Is that a good deal? First of all, this is NOT the time for travel. But this Covid-19 pandemic will not last forever. This is the cheapest I’ve ever seen them being sold. Usually they are around 2 cents each when on sale.
Is it a good idea to buy points speculatively? No. It’s never a good idea to buy points, hotel or airline, just to pad your account. There are always risks of a devaluation. Just because a company asks ‘x’ amount of points/miles for a reward today, does not mean it will be that same value when you want to use them. But “What if I have an immediate use for them”? Then heck ya! For us to get home using AAdvantage miles due to this crazy Covid-19 time was priceless.
Anytime we can get a cheap value, using points, in business class, for cheaper than it would have been to use cash for economy, is a great redemption.
Were you able to get home using AAdvantage miles or other points due to this chaotic Covid-19 time?
And if you are travelling during Covid-19 here are some tips to do it safely.