How I’m Visiting Beijing for $2.86

I’m currently sitting on a plane, starting the first leg of very exciting journey. Everyone likes a good deal, and I’m no exception! If you know me at all, you know flying is a huge hobby for me, particularly when it comes to airline loyalty programs. I’ve been working towards earning Gold or Platinum with Delta this year, and have been on the lookout for cheap flights and mileage runs to pad my work travel and get me to status.

Ah yes, the mileage run. To the layperson it sounds crazy; fly somewhere for the specific purpose of earning air miles, then fly home. I’ve done a few of these in my day, but as I get a little older (and my legs stay as long as they always have been), I find myself wanting to bookend my mileage runs with trips to fun destinations.

So when I saw the below deal pop up on Thrifty Traveler I was excited. Not only would the flight net me over 21,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) on Delta, I could cross off my 21st country – China! Topping it off, I’d get to check out the Airbus A350, one of the newest aircraft out there, as well as Delta’s new Premium Select cabin.

But you’ll notice it says ‘from $599’. Arguably this is still a steal of deal, especially for a premium cabin flight that earns 1.5x the MQMs. So how did I book it for just $2.86? The trick comes from using a feature exclusive to Delta credit card holders; pay with points.

Delta allows you to use redeemable miles (earned based on money spent, vs. MQMs that are generally distanced based) to pay for a portion or all of your ticket. The exchange rate isn’t exceptional; you get $50 off your flight for every 5,000 SkyMiles, but that’s not much worse than the rate on many award tickets. As an added benefit, you still earn MQMs using this method compared to when buying an award ticket where you don’t.

Medallion Qualifying Dollars, another important requirement for earning status, are not earned on the portion of your ticket paid with points. This, however, is of little concern as I plan to waive this requirement by spending $25,000 this year on my SkyMiles credit cards.

In this case, my ticket cost $652.86 so I redeemed 65,000 SkyMiles to bring the cost down to $2.86. Considering it can be hard to find many economy award tickets for less than that amount of miles, I think this is a great deal, especially when you factor in the MQMs and Premium Select Cabin!

I plan on writing a trip report when I return. Until then, happy flying!

Cover image from Flickr user Matt Barber under a CC license.