We don’t always buy the cheapest ticket and neither should you.

Earlier this week, we posted a deal from Washington, D.C. to Nairobi, Kenya on Brussels Airlines for $841. Over the course of that day, we received a few emails on why we didn’t put up the Turkish fare that was cheaper.

What Is The Better Deal?

Price alone should not be the determining factor for what is a better deal. Let us illustrate:

Option 1: Turkish Airlines, $806 from Washington, D.C. – Nairobi, Kenya


The Turkish fare is in W class. W class fares earn zero miles with United and all other Star Alliance carriers except Turkish. If that wasn’t bad enough, starting June 1st, W class will only earn 25% mileage with their own program.

or Option 2: Brussels Airlines, $841 from Washington, D.C. – Nairobi, Kenya


Brussels Airlines also serves Nairobi. The fare is $35 more and 100% mileage earning with United. So are the miles worth $35?

What is a mile worth?

Mileage valuation varies but, at minimum, a mile is worth a penny to us. The Brussels Air itinerary  is 15.9K miles.

Image via GCMAP.COM

Image via GCMAP.COM

So what can 15.9K miles get you on United?

How about a domestic one-way for 12,500 miles plus $2.50 (nonstop) or $5 (with a connection)?


How much is the same paid ticket?


The paid ticket is $224. Meaning, if you went to Nairobi on Turkish Airlines and then traveled again later from DC – San Francisco, buying the Turkish Airlines fare would’ve cost you at least $189 ($224 – $35) more than buying the Brussels Airlines fare.

Travel is a long game

Do not look at travel as one-off transactions. When you do, you end up spending more. Having miles allows you to travel more for less. Always buying the cheapest ticket is not the path to success nor saving.

Our philosophy since Day One has been:

  1. Feature deals that are mileage earning (we denote any that aren’t) that are 6 cents per mile or less
  2. Do not feature mileage earning deals if they are significantly more than the non-mileage earning deal
  3. Always denote exactly how many miles you can expect to earn for the sample routing

When you do see a cheap fare, do the following:

  1. Ask yourself – Is it going to earn miles with any mileage programs (like American and United)?
  2. Look at the fare class code to make sure the fare is mileage earning — the fare class code is shown on ITA on above screenshot next to Economy.
  3. Once you have the fare class code, go to American, United, Delta, etc. and see if the fare will earn miles. A lot of airlines are partners with the three majors so be sure to check!
  4. ITA automatically calculates the mileage for the itinerary. Use that as a guide on how many miles you can expect to earn.
  5. Use a baseline of one penny per mile to see how much those miles are worth. The Nairobi itinerary with Brussels Airlines is 15,926 miles. Those miles would be worth about $159 to us.
  6. Do not redeem your miles for an award ticket if you are getting less than that. We only redeem if we can get at least 2 cents per mile on a coach ticket and at least 4 cents on a business class ticket.
  7. Collect those miles! They are free. Not collecting them is like leaving money on the table and it makes travel more expensive in the long-term!

And that’s why we don’t always buy the cheapest ticket. For more on our philosophy on travel, see our interviews with Extra Pack of Peanuts, AAdvantageGeek and Business Insider.


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The Flight Deal does not sell travel products or services. We provide you with information about third-party travel suppliers’ offers, and link you to their sites. The information posted by The Flight Deal is valid at the time of publication. However, we have no control over the suppliers, and we therefore do not warrant or guarantee that their offers will not change or become unavailable. Nor are we responsible for their products, services or site content. Please see their sites for their most up-to-date offer information and all applicable terms and conditions.

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