For reasons that I will never understand all major airlines seem to hammer you on one way flights. As with throwaway ticketing techniques, I struggle to understand how the airline braintrust charges less for more flights. Regardless, it's a problem when it comes to using miles. I try to only use my miles for elevated travel experiences and in doing so, I don't always have enough for a round trip. Enter discount airlines....
Elevated travel in premium cabins with beds, lounge access and champagne create excitement. On the way to a trip or vacation I am excited enough as is, I don't need the glamorous flying. On my way home, it's a great feeling to keep the jovial rush all the way to baggage claim. I would always rather spend a small amount of money for a cheap one way flight so that I can use my miles for a luxurious flight coming home (or on the longer segment). In running searches to and from various destinations, it seems that the only airlines that price out one ways the same way they price out round trips are Norwegian, WoW, Icelandair, Southwest, Ryanair and other discounters.
You can snag one way business class flights between the U.S. and Europe for as low as 40,000 miles, Asia as low as 50,000 and the rest of the world for similar figures. It's not very difficult to accrue that level of mileage just through personal consumer habits. Having enough for a round trip is another story. WoW air is offering fares to Europe as low as $101 with connections onto the mainland for only $250. Norwegian is consistently in the $200-400 range, with Icelandair and others closely in tow. Essentially I see this as a way to snag thousands of dollars worth of flights (due to the business or first class segment) for only a couple hundred, far less than the cost of a normal paid round trip. It's not free but it's something to get excited about and it still comes out to less than half of what you would've paid for a standard round trip in economy with one of the big guys. I have exactly 40,000 (wonder how I did that?) Virgin Atlantic miles left over. Exactly enough for a one way from New York to London. Norwegian Airlines direct flight the other way and I am on my way to a great vacation.
As a side note to this post, one of my closest friends followed my advice on the subject and used miles for one way in business. He described the experience as "Forrest Gump getting all those free Dr. Peppers". What an incredible visual and reminder of how awesome elevated travel can be.
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