2 Miles & Points Lessons From The Best Airline Advertising of 2013

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After miles and points, I love marketing and branding (yes, I’m the weird guy who watches the Super Bowl for the ads!)  Much advertising is a waste of money, so I was thrilled to see a You Tube video from British Airways which is a just a terrific & powerful piece of advertising.

Most airlines compete on price for coach tickets, and if the price is comparable, folks will go with a brand they connect with.

This spot from British Airways is extremely well targeted (it isn’t trying to be all things to all people), is emotional, and will appeal to immigrants in many countries (though it is specifically targeting the Indian diaspora in the US).  Keep a tissue box handy before watching!

1.   Miles & Points Lesson #1

The best use of miles and points is to USE them for trips.  And to use them how YOU want to use them.  The one who ends the game with the most unused miles has lost.  

It doesn’t have to be a spectacular redemption with all segments in first class.

The best redemptions to me, are the ones which folks typically scorn – i.e. domestic coach redemptions which wouldn’t otherwise happen because you’d rather save the money.

I’ve used miles for job interviews, used miles to visit family, and used miles for family to visit other family members whom they otherwise wouldn’t have met.  Emily visited her grandmother (before she passed) thanks to miles and points.

Tampa Trip Report

The Last Time Emily Saw Her Grandmother

The best use of miles and points are to make happy memories which will stay with you for a long time.  For some, that is flying across the world to take pictures in a lounge.  For others, happy memories are from visiting friends and families & visiting new destinations.  And, yes, you can have happy memories from both domestic and international redemptions!

2.   Miles & Points Lesson #2

Redeeming miles and points for long-distance coach travel on British Airways isn’t worth it.

British Airways also launched a 1-day discounted fare from New York to Mumbai for $1,099 to capitalize on the popularity of the video.  Unfortunately, you don’t get an extra 10% off if you pay with the British Airways credit card.

The offer is valid only up to 11:59 pm Eastern Time today (August 7, 2013).  And you have to travel between November 5 to November 30, 3013.  Diwali (a big Indian festival) is on November 3, 2013, so the fare isn’t valid until after Diwali.  Tickets are usually around this price in November, so this isn’t a great deal.

The bigger lesson is that out of a fare of ~$1,090, you’re paying ~$677 in taxes and fees for this British Airways flight.


A $1,090 Coach Ticket on British Airways has $677 in Taxes & Fees!

You could also redeem 90,000 American Airlines miles or British Airways points for the same round-trip flight.  But, not only will you pay 90,000 American Airlines miles or British Airways Avios points, but you will ALSO pay ~$677 in fuel surcharges.  90,000 miles + $677 for a ticket which costs $1090 is a bad deal!

So you’re much better of not redeeming your miles, and paying ~$400 extra to save the 90,000 miles.  Or using more miles and slightly more cash in taxes and fees for a business or first class award.

The good news is that you could redeem American Airlines miles (but not British Airways miles) for a flight on Etihad which would cost you virtually nothing in taxes and fees.  Or use your United miles for flights to India because their partner  airlines like Lufthansa, Swiss, and Turkish Air don’t charge fuel surcharges.

So be careful when you redeem American Airlines or British Airways points for long-distance coach flights on British Airways.  Often times, the taxes and fees aren’t worth redeeming in coach.

British Airways points are best used for short-distance flights.

Bottom Line

Redeeming your miles and points and making happy memories is why I collect miles and points.

The big pay-off is in using your miles for taking trips which you’ll fondly remember afterwards!

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29 responses to “2 Miles & Points Lessons From The Best Airline Advertising of 2013

  1. >>The best redemptions to me, are the ones which folks typically scorn – i.e. domestic coach redemptions which wouldn’t otherwise happen because you’d rather save the money

    I find this to be a straw man that other bloggers frequently use as well. I think the vast majority of the miles and points community subscribes to this view – i.e. that miles and points are useful for redeeming for trips which otherwise wouldn’t happen (even in coach). I am still looking for the person that says “I wont redeem my miles to visit my dying grandma because only standard awards are available”. To paint this as the “typical” view in the community is a bit disingenuous, in my opinion.

  2. Brilliant & beautiful BA ad. Thank you for sharing it.

  3. Wow, what a tear-jerker that video was! I live across town from my parents but it made me sad I haven’t seen them in a few days.

  4. Great video! Just had my parents with us for a few days to see our daughter (their granddaughter) and now my wife’s parents are here. One of our focuses for the next year is travel with family, extended family. Very much looking forward to trips in 2014 —- trips that wouldn’t have otherwise happened for us without points subsidizing the cost of it all!

  5. Hi D

    I have been stopping myself to see this ad for past few days because I knew I will miss my Mom back home in India but I finally saw it while reading your blog and stupid me is trying to old my tears back in office ( I could’nt) …Feel like going back to India and hug my Mom ..Thanks for making me see this.

    I may sign up for few more cards to plan a trip soon .. 🙂 as I have to fly family of 3 including my 16 month old daughter

  6. David Gutierrez

    Boy fond memories of going to India. Wish I could get back there real soon! We have always flown United Airlines and had a good experience.

  7. Do I read that correctly? 10% discount when booking with the Chase BA Credit Card? Is that for all classes / origins/destinations? Has that always been the case? (about to book a BA flight, was going to use my Barclays Arrival but rethinking that strategy)

    • @JettyBoy – Check out the threads on FlyerTalk or in the blog comments or on old blog posts or and you’ll see the disdain towards coach redemptions prevalent.

      @Justin – You’re welcome.

      @Everyday Ryan – Travel with extended family is great (especially if you have a baby!)

      @Katie @KG @David Gutierrez – Well, what are you waiting for? 🙂

      @Trevor – It is only for booking flights on British Airways though the link in the post. It is valid until December 31 2013, but is usually extended. Saving 10% is definitely worth more than using your Barclays Arrival!

  8. Wonderful, wonderful ad from BA. Makes me sad I have two sons that live an hour away that never come to see me.

  9. For some of us, like the young man in the video, miles ARE for international travel–to see family.

    Our daughter is having a baby in Oct. In Italy. You can bet that both my miles on Alaska Air, and his on Delta from his AMEX are already spent for our tickets to be there!

    That said, I’ve used my miles to get her youngest brother home from DC at Xmas, too. I love the idea of being a massive earner of miles, and have had some amazing trips with miles, including, years ago, a family trip to MX all paid for with miles.

    I can’t imagine amassing them just for the sake of amassing them. What’s the point, really?

  10. Ok, I definitely croaked… if not, cried!

    Reminds me of a fantastic trip we did many years ago, paid for, in coach. But we lived in London and my wife is from Montreal and her parents live there. We had just had our first child, he was about 9 months old and we decided to pay them a surprise visit as they were very sad not to be near their grandchild to see him growing. We enlisted their friends to help us out so they invited her parents to dinner the evening we were arriving so we knew they would be a specific place. So we flew over with our little boy in lap and drove over and just walked in and got the exact same kind of huge shock, tears of joy type response. It was very moving. London to Montreal is not as far as New York to Mumbai but it sure as heck ain’t close!

    And right now, my wife and son are up in Montreal while I stay at home with my daughter. My wife and daughter will go separately in September, and my wife and *I* are going to Maldives at the end of this month, ALL paid for with miles. The Maldives and September trip were both great bargains (using Alaskan for Emirates first class and used just 36k Avios for the two of them to go to Canada) but for the two of them this week I used 100k. Delta. So what! Plenty more where that came from….

    Thanks for sharing the video

  11. Not sure if you saw this or not.. This video was posted by lucky a few days back

  12. I just redeemed AA miles for family of 3 to Bangladesh on Eithad in December.

  13. That BA ad has me crying! Another box of tissues, please. Thank you for sharing, Daraius.

  14. That was incredible. I didn’t see the twist coming, though the original plan as she understood did seem like a strange waste! Loved it. I’ll have to visit mOm.

  15. D,
    You are evil, you made everyone cry. LOL Goodjob

  16. I was happy to have a Southwest standard award available last week when my grandmother went into the hospital. And now I’m able to change my return flight to attend the funeral at no extra cost because Southwest doesn’t charge change fees. Sometimes mile valuations are more than cpm.

  17. Brooke Babcock

    Yup, that’s a tearjerker! Awfully well done.

  18. Brooke Babcock

    Yup, that’s a tearjerker! Awfully well done. Thank you, Daraius

  19. @MilesAbound,
    I did something similar a few years back. Got in on the priceline fuel dump trick and flew to Frankfurt (was ~$250 in coach from the east coast) and surprised my sister’s family with a visit. Fortunately my father was visiting my sister and I got to see him for the first time in ~10 years.

  20. Good video!

  21. 1. That video had elements of manipulation in the name of advertising and branding. There is a fine line which it seems to violate often to induce emotions from viewers.
    2. NY – Bombay – lot of Indian parents travel rather than wait till a point here where they become so impatient to see their kid.
    3. In this specific route, Air India and United, American, Jet, Delta et. al. are way better in terms of rate and service compared to BA.
    4. I wish AI and Jet had credit card tie ups to generate points.
    5. Overall valuable lesson – use the points for trips. You might meet that friend one last time. And travel to meet your family out of your own cost. Don’t wait for the credit card offers to make the trip.

  22. Hi Daraius,

    This is a stupid question, but can i use my BA Avios to book award flights for me AND my wife, or am i only allowed to book award flights for me. Thank you!

  23. That ad make me cry!! So incredibly touching and emotional. Makes me want to show up at my parents’ doorstep across the Pacific and surprise them too.

  24. Oh boy, I cried like a baby!
    I really do identify with this guy- as a grad student in the US 12 years ago and then as an immigrant I had come to terms with the fact (like so many others) that I would be able to see my family only two years or so. Discovering the frequent flyer community in 2011 was like a dream come true. We don’t do business class trips, my husband and I, since flying coach allows us to make frequent trips home (BOM), while at the same time, being able to save enough miles for award travel to other countries. We’ve also used our miles to bring our parents to visit us, and to travel around the States. One of my favorite redemptions was when I was able to fly my parents business class from Bombay to Sydney so my mum could see her brother as he is in his life in Australia something neither had ever thought possible. So heck yeah, the best redemptions for me are the ones that make all of this possible- coach or otherwise.

  25. Here I am, sitting at work and furtively wiping away the tears that would just not stop streaming!

    My wife has not seen her parents for 3 years now. She will be flying home in October, Business Class, all paid by points. No one back home knows she is coming. I can’t wait to hear how they react when they see her standing at the doorstep!

  26. Can I trade my mother for his?

  27. Okra. We all need to eat more okra.