Why the $448 Deal from Philadelphia to Beijing Didn’t Make Sense


While I was in Vegas for the past few days, I was informed of an amazing deal from PHL-PEK (Philadelphia to Beijing, China) from @TheFlightDeal via Twitter. With multiple routings from PHL-BOS-ORD-PEK-ORD-LGA-PHL, it came out to $448 Taxes Included at 2.8cpm.


Now, I’m a big fan of mileage runs and that’s how I re-qualify every year for top tier Executive Platinum elite status on American Airlines. Here are some of my Trip Reports I’ve written about my mileage run vacations this year:

Mexico City, Mexico
Tel Aviv, Israel (also includes Jerusalem, Bethlehem (Palestinian Authority), and the Dead Sea)
Shanghai, China
Lima, Peru – Sao Paulo, Brazil – Santiago, Chile
Monterrey, Mexico
Ponce, Puerto Rico
Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Bogota, Colombia (a work in progress)
Helsinki, Geneva, Nice, Monaco (coming soon)

Let’s break up the real costs of positioning:


LAX-PHL round-trip was going for $350 on American Airlines. The lowest price was $250 round-trip on Delta, which I don’t fly with them anymore. There’s no point in earning orphan miles in a program you don’t use. With the positioning flight from LAX-DFW-PHL-DFW-LAX for $350 and 5,075 miles, it came out to a whopping 6.8cpm. With this cpm and the 2.8cpm, it averages out to 4.8cpm which isn’t too bad.


This leaves me with two overnight stays in Philadelphia on the beginning and end of my journey to Beijing which is a total deal killer. Hotel prices are through the roof in Philadelphia!


Another note to consider is that the YQ (fuel surcharge) was $88 instead of the usual $288 as per @TheFlightDeal.


This could be challenging to call up American Airlines and have them process a Systemwide Upgrade for you. When AA processes a SWU, they have to put you on hold and call the rate desk to manually check your rate. When they see the low price you paid for this fare to Beijing, it might cause an alarm and make you pay the additional YQ. This could cause for your ticket to be cancelled or held up for ransom by American Airlines.


The stars would’ve aligned if the positioning flight from LAX to PHL was at a reasonable cost and SPG hotels would be lower than $100 a night (or at least BRG-able) since I would also be re-qualifying for 50 nights at Starwood Hotels. Also, sitting in the back of the bus doesn’t seem fun at all considering I would not apply a SWU on this mistake fare.

Have you booked this amazing fare to Beijing? If so, how have you managed to position yourself?


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4 Comments on "Why the $448 Deal from Philadelphia to Beijing Didn’t Make Sense"

  1. I didn’t book it either as I just don’t have the time. I may attempt to visit Beijing again if I go to Tokyo or Southeast Asia again. I only plan to go for a day or so to try some real peking duck.

    I live in Boston of positioning isn’t bad. If I really had to, I would book a $35 5-hr bus ride down to PHL, or stay at home in Brooklyn the night before and take a cheap bus down to PHL. Not ideal but damn cheap. On the return, the flight lands at 2pm so plenty of time to get back to BOS.

    The next option would be book a morning flight BOS-PHL, which would also cut down on the CPM. I could also take Amtrak on UR points down. Only 5k points so figure that’s worth $40 a way. On the way back, Acela may be an option as its mid-day on points.

    I probably would have booked the BOS-PVG deal if I had some free time. I would immediately book a flight out of PVG to NRT or HKG to avoid the visa and try to loop up to PEK on the way back. 4 day min would work perfectly for a trip like that.

  2. More accurate to title this why it didn’t make sense *for you*, as the current title would seem like a different topic.

  3. No one is going to have any issues with AA trying to refare this when they apply the eVIPs. AA made the mistake on the fare and will honor it. This is NOT like fuel dumping where you’re breaking the CoC and cheating the system.

    And while the fare may not have made sense for you being based in LA it made a TON of sense for a lot of people based on the east coast.

    Finally, some creative routing work could have likely cut your positioning costs in half. 😉

  4. A good site to watch mileage based deals is FlightJumpr.com, specially the US page http://www.flightjumpr.com/country/US

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