The secret is at the bottom. Read down even though the beginning might not seem so relevant!
I love sweet spots in award charts. I think it’s the Asian in me as I rather enjoy seeing that I paid less for everything (and that includes shopping for anything else) so I guess it extends to redeeming miles and flying places as well.
A lot of sweet spots exist with zone based charts with conventional miles (i.e. United/Aeroplan/etc.) when you redeem within a zone. Some programs have very “wide” zones, and that’s where a lot of the very nice redemptions exist, because generally redemptions within a zone require much lower mileage than usual. For example, look at US Airways’ Dividend Miles Award Chart:
As I’ve highlighted in red the redemption is only 25,000 miles in economy, 30,000 miles in business, and 40,000 miles in first. So remember how I said that it’s good to have a wide zone? Well, with US Airways, the zone includes Australia/New Zealand (duh) and Guam.
I’m sure Guam rings a bell for a lot of you (chirP) but what’s important to see is that Guam and Sydney are quite far from each other.
Of course there are very few direct flights between the two city paris (Guam and Sydney) in this case so what does this mean? Connecting in Asia! The city pair even has an MPM (maximum permitted miles) of 6585 miles. Of course, US Airways theoretically allows you to have up to 25% more miles than that (or 25M) so you are allowed up to 8,231 miles of flights between these two city pairs.
All of this is all on paper, because as we well know US Dividend Miles agents looks at an itinerary with a real paper map and of course prices taxes with an abacus. But anyways, theoretically, you could have a perfectly legal routing such as Guam-Manila-Singapore-Sydney:
I say this because while there is the rule that awards are supposed to price at the most expensive region transited, I’ve at most seen this enforced once or twice out of the many calls I have had with the Dividend Miles desk for these types of awards (which don’t touch North America at all). I’ve also seen this as an itinerary suggested by the agents when s/he thinks the routing I’ve cooked up myself isn’t valid (and of course you thank them politely, and hang up call back).
But now you ask, where is the international first class for 10,000 miles per segment?
When you take an routing which exceeds the MPM of course. It isn’t too hard actually. For example, GUM-NRT-BKK-SYD which could include two segments of Thai First Class. You just need a good agent who thinks Tokyo is 30 minutes away from Bangkok.
So if you can find award space for a nice clean routing like GUM-NRT-BKK-SYD-BKK-NRT-GUM, that means 40,000 miles and ~$200 in taxes for 4 international first class segments. You’re welcome. Of course this pairs wonderfully with a certain tricked Lifemiles route. I would argue this is probably the best redemption for international first class with US Airways if not most other mileage currencies.
Of course this is not the only one. There are probably tens of these sweet spots in zone based award charts but this is one of the most lucrative. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to comment below!
Note: I can personally guarantee that this is bookable as I have already ticketed and flown one of these tickets. For more information perhaps my post on booking an “interesting” US Airways itinerary may be useful.