Through this blog I plan to change a few stereotypes and myths.
Stereotype 1: Travelling is for the rich
When it comes to travel, people often think that money is holding them back; I beleive it’s just the mindset. This blog is for Pakistani travelers who think that traveling is for the rich. This is also for those rich travelers who do not know how much money they can save by a few simple tricks, or how to fly Business/First class on Economy/Coach class budget or even less. This is also for those who want to travel for free (yes, you can actually do that).
Stereotype 2: Frequent Flyer Miles are not worth it
Someone who thinks that Frequent Flyer Miles are not worth it, must have chosen a wrong programme where they’re not getting full worth of their miles. Several airlines nowadays are interconnected through three major alliances oneworld, Star Alliance or SkyTeam. In addition to this, many airlines have direct partnerships between them which allows them to earn and redeem miles between several programs. Also, not only you can earn miles for flying, but for hotels, car rentals and even shopping. So sometimes you can even rack up miles with your monthly shopping WITHOUT EVEN FLYING.
Where to start?
- Frequent Flyer Miles
If you’re already a frequent flyer you can start by subscribing to your local airline’s mileage programme.
In Pakistan, only two airlines offer mileage based offers – PIA and airblue. None of these airlines are part of any alliances, so you cannot redeem your Frequent Flyer miles earned from these airlines for flights on any other airline.
A roundtrip flight on PIA between Islamabad and Karachi can earn you around 1400 FF miles on basic Emerald status. For flight redemption you need around 18,000 miles for a return domestic ticket and 20,000 for international return ticket to Middle-East (Dubai, Abu Dhabi etc). Likewise, airblue’s redemption starts from 8000 FF miles for domestic one-way flights. However, what most airlines don’t mention in their redemption charts is amount of taxes you have to pay even with flights you’re redeeming for miles, which could amount up to 50% of the flight cost. For example, on airblue you can redeem a flight from ISB to KHI for 8000 miles, but you would also pay around Rs. 3300+ with that.
While you cannot avoid this on local flights, you can do it on International flights, as many airlines offer redemptions for zero or negligible amount of taxes/surcharges. For example, on my favorite American Airline’s AAdvantage from JFK to LHR can be redeemed for 20,000 miles + $5.60 in taxes.
In many countries, you can get from 30,000 to 100,000 miles just by subscribing to airline credit cards, but as this is for Pakistani travellers, I’ll stick to what deals are accessible to them.
- Importance of Low-Cost Airlines
You pay for what you use in low-cost airlines. For example, in conventional airlines you’re paying for food even if you’re not eating it. In these low-cost airlines you pay for your seat only. However, you have an option to buy food onboard for small amount of money if you want. This way these airlines target more customers by keeping the prices low. Sometimes they offer free seats as well. In 2015, I bought 7 free international flights from AirAsia (How I booked 7 international flights for under $180).
- Changing Departure and/or Arrival airport
In June 2016, a friend of mine consulted with me for cheaper air-tickets from Islamabad (ISB) to St. Petersburg (LED). They were 6 travellers (3 adults and 3 children). Travel agent quoted him for around Rs.600k ($6000) for all passengers. After a little research, I suggested him to depart from Faisalabad (LYP) which is around 4hrs drive from Islamabad and Arrive at Moscow (VKO) which is around 4 hrs through train from St. Petersburg and it would cost him for Rs. 320k (around 50% less). Why? FlyDubai is a low-cost airline which flies to a few destinations in Pakistan but not Islamabad, and it doesn’t fly to St. Petersburg, but it does to Moscow. A private cab transferred them from ISB to LYP for around Rs. 11,000 and since he had to visit Moscow during his trip, he accepted the suggestion and he was very happy with the savings. Interestingly, the total flight time + stopover was less than 14 hrs.
Therefore, just by choosing an alternate airport you can save lots of money and it adds up when you’re travelling in a group. Especially, if you’re based in Islamabad, the airport is small and not many cheaper airlines fly to this destination. For example, airlines like Sri Lankan airlines, Malindo airlines, FlyDubai, etc don’t fly to Islamabad.
- Open-Jaw Flights
It’s another myth that return flights are always cheaper than separate flights from different airlines. Well, in most cases they do, however there are several cases where you can get much cheaper deals by choosing flights from different operators. Open-Jaw flights are those which fly from a point A to B and then C to A. For example, if you’re visiting Thailand and Malaysia from ISB, you can buy a ticket into Bangkok and out of Kuala Lumpur. You can separately buy BKK-KUL through low-cost airline like AirAsia or TigerAir.
- Mileage Run
It may sound a bit crazy but people actually take same-day-return flights just to earn cheap miles. It not only gives cheaper redeemable miles but also helps towards elite status. For example, last year Harbin to Dubai roundtrip was around $450 on China Southern which would have earned around 8200 miles EQM (elite qualifying miles) and around 2000 redeemable miles (RDM) which you could credit to Delta Airlines (Delta miles never expire).
- Cents per miles (cpm)
The term that is used to value your miles is cpm. cpm = ticket cost / number of miles earned or redeemed. Consider it as a whole different currency. If you have miles, you can use it as currency – if you’re smart, you’d get the best value for your miles. So whats better? Low or high cpm? Low – when you’re earning miles and High – when you’re redeeming your miles.
- What’s holding you back?
There are people out there who quit their jobs to travel the world. They are not only earning better through jobs during travel but are also happier than before. There are examples of families who are traveling the world along with their kids for years. There is a Pakistani guy named Kamran who traveled from Germany to Pakistan on a bicycle. There is a guy from Yorkshire who holds Guinness records for visiting 133 countries in a year without driving or flying (he visited 201 countries in 4 years). There is another guy who visited all UN member countries for just $30,000 — All these have only gone rich through traveling the world.