Before preparing to move to Kazakhstan, I had never really bothered with frequent flyer mile programs. I think I signed up for one years ago, but never accrued enough miles to benefit, and just got bored with the whole thing. But after we accepted our job offers in Kazakhstan, someone suggested that we look into frequent flyer miles, and it made sense to me, since we would be earning a lot of miles over a fairly short period of time.
So we signed up for a program with Star Alliance, and most of our flights home were with its member airlines. I checked after every flight to make sure more miles were added to my total, but didn't really understand how to redeem them for anything.
Fast forward to our return to the US. Two of our closest friends we made in Kazakhstan got married while they were planning their move out there, and planned to have a larger wedding party for this coming summer. The celebration will be in England, where they are from. We decided that if at least one of us had at least a job offer by that time that we would try to go. I was fortunate to start working pretty quickly, but living in the DC area has a funny way of eating up income pretty quickly, so I decided it was time to figure out how to use our frequent flyer miles.
I checked my account, and, to my delight, found that I had (and by extension, Scott would have) enough miles for a one-way trip between North America and Europe. But then how would I book the other half a round-trip ticket? And how would I book for both of us?
I decided to experiment. I started a booking to see if there was any way to input two account numbers so that I could combine our miles and book for both me and Scott at one time. Nope. I then tried to book a round-trip ticket just for myself, and was invited to purchase the additional miles I would need, to the tune of around $1,000. Um, no thanks.
It looked like we would have to each book a one-way ticket separately in order to use our miles, and then book another one-way ticket together to pay with "real" money. Scott had scoped out one-way ticket prices and found that return tickets were more expensive. So we sat side by side with our laptops and booked the return trip tickets together. We even managed to book seats next to each other. I was surprised that we had to pay some money for those tickets even though we supposedly had enough miles to cover the tickets, but maybe I should have been, considering that airlines are stingy even with cheap snacks these days.
Then we booked our tickets to fly to England together. Being a frequent flyer mile novice, I have no idea if the somewhat convoluted process we used to book our tickets was the best one. But we did save a considerable amount of money over what we would have paid to purchase round-trip tickets without any miles. And frankly, flying between the US and Kazakhstan several times a year was very taxing, and I was glad to have a tangible benefit come from it. I doubt we'll accrue this many miles again anytime soon, but I'll certainly keep any eye on how many miles we do earn, with the hope of more affordable travel in the future.