Matthewonlive and let's fly

Top up your bmi Diamond Club Miles with a 20% bonus

With just under two weeks left to redeem Diamond Club miles for Star Alliance flights, bmi has sweetened the incentive to burn your points now with a 20% bonus on purchased miles. If you are just short of another award (like I was), take advantage of this offer. The miles posted in about six hours for me.

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Next week I will do a final post on maximizing Star Alliance award redemptions on bmi, but for now let me share with you what I booked today to demonstrate how valuable this program remains. The 20% bonus offer runs through 30 June.

After completing all my bookings last month, I had 10,729 miles left. I still needed to get my brother to Europe this summer, and with bmi's generous cash + points scheme, one last award was in reach. I purchased 7,000 miles (with a 1,400 miles bonus) for £99 (including a £15 service fee) to get up past 18,750 miles, the mileage amount required for a one-way cash + miles award to anywhere in Europe. As a side-note, I wish I just would have credited a recent United Airlines flight to bmi--consider doing that instead of purchasing miles if you are flying on UA or US soon, especially in a premium cabin.

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Next, I had to find a good routing. By good, I mean a route that would minimize the fuel surcharge while still maximizing comfort and schedule. Although Lufthansa non-stop space from Los Angeles to Frankfurt was available in business class, Lufthansa family carriers (Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian, and Brussels) are no longer bookable with bmi and even when they were, carried a high fuel surcharge. All other Star Alliance carriers can still be booked through the end of the month.

That left US Airways and TAM, the two Star Alliance carriers who do not separate fuel surcharge from the fare itself. Routing via São Paulo would have been fun, but bmi strictly enforces the MPM (maximum permitted mileage) on award travel, so that left only US Airways. Even United awards on bmi can add up to several hundred extra dollars thanks to their fuel surcharge.

The goal was to get from Los Angeles to Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. My brother also wanted a day in Zagreb on the way. This was no easy task during the peak summer travel period, but I put together the following award (for early August travel):

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  • Los Angeles to Houston in United Airlines Business [757-300]
  • Houston to Philadelphia in United Airlines Business [737-800]
  • Philadelphia to Paris in US Airways Business [A330-200]
    • 12 hour layover (my bro's never been to Paris)
  • Paris to Zagreb in Croatian Airlines Business [A320]
    • overnight in Zagreb
  • Zagreb to Sarajevo in Croatian Airlines Business [Q-400]

Next, I verified the routing using the MPM tool on ExpertFlyer. Although there were a lot of stops enroute, the routing had no backtracking and came in about 500 miles under the MPM limit of 7705 miles.

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Finally, a call to bmi. I reached the Indian Call center where an agent insisted on trying to find routing himself before sheepishly coming back to me and asking what I had found. We built the itinerary flight-by-flight and soon he put me on hold to validate the routing and calculate the taxes.

I ended up paying 18,750 miles + £127.50 for the ticket and £88 in taxes--an incredible buy considering this is a one-way business class ticket to Eastern Europe and will feature all business class travel and an overnight flight on US Airways' new business class seat.

Next week I will share about a couple other recent bmi redemptions. I am really going to miss this program!

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Comments

#1
Aleks May 19, 2012 at 12:27 am

Wow, that is an awesome redemption! Did you really redeem only 18500 mi + appx $300 for a J ticket one way US-Europe?! Sarajevo is actually a place I travel to often (as well as Belgrade) and it's often a challenge getting there on dates I want to. I have 19500 BMI miles left and *A has a much better choice of routes than oneworld. I'm thinking about making a speculative reservation for next spring and then call and change once I have a better idea of the dates. With no status on BMI or *A, however, I'm not sure if this is doable, OR what would happen to this reservation once BMI integrates into BA. Do you have any advice?

#2
Matthew May 19, 2012 at 01:35 am

@Aleks: Indeed, 18.5K + ~$300 was all I paid.

I'll be in BEG the day before and will meet my brother in SJJ. I'd be interested in your advice on what is the best way to get from BEG to SJJ. We'll be departing on a 10-day trip south to Thessaloniki.

I would certainly make a booking by the end of the month--for this amount, it just makes sense to make a speculative booking (refund is only £20).

Here's the thing--choose carefully. Come June, you will not be able to redeem on Star Alliance carriers anymore and if you make changes, it will have to be to OneWorld carriers like British Airways and Air Berlin.

As I mentioned above, you want to get on US Airways for the transatlantic flight, since they do not have fuel surcharges.

Check out our award consulting service at the top of the page if you need some help finding the space--the bmi folks typically will not find it on their own.

#3
Aleks May 19, 2012 at 10:17 am

Well, if I knew then what I knew now, LOL. I'm going to visit family and recently booked CAE-IAD-FRA-BEG//SJJ-VIE-FRA-IAD-CAE for me and my son in coach :( for 60K UA miles each for the first week in June. I have like 19K BMI miles that I don't really have a use for, least of which would be to add them to my BA balance. At this point, I"m guessing it's way to late to change the UA redemption since we leave in less than two weeks. It would've been sweet to get the J redemption on the way over similar to your routing with BMI miles and one-way UA redemption for the return.

As far as getting from Belgrade to Sarajevo, honestly, the easiest way is to drive. It's about 6.5 hrs, border crossing is a breeze (it never takes more than 5-10 min), and you get to see some countryside. It would probably take about as long dealing with the airports. For a truly authentic (read: scary) Balkan experience, you can take a bus -- it would take probably 8-9 hrs, you'd get to experience close calls between the bus's tires and edges of narrow, windy mountain roads with no guard rails, and local characters. On the plus side, a couple of stops at relatively good restaurants with tasty local food are built into the trip.

#4
Matthew May 19, 2012 at 01:19 pm

@Aleks: Thanks for the info--I will plan to take the bus. Should be interesting! Is there rail service?

At this point, perhaps you'd want to take a look at availability (use united.com for a general overview of availability) to even see if there are any business class options. If there are not, problem solved. If there is something, then you've got to weigh the decision, factoring that UA will charge a $75 change fee per ticket.

The routing you have now is not bad, especially if you are on UA from IAD-FRA and have Economy Plus, but business is business. If it were me traveling, I would make the change! But you'd need 18,750 per ticket, so you'd have to purchase some miles as well or use a bit extra UA miles for one of the outbound tickets (UA, as you probably know, allows mixed itineraries now and would price an outbound in business and return in economy at 80K miles).

#5
Aleks May 19, 2012 at 01:49 pm

Thanks for the advice. I did check united.com for general availability this morning and there is no J space that would get me there avoiding LH group around my desired travel dates. There was one option on US via PHL and MUC, but then still needed LH to get me to BEG or SJJ. Even piecemealing it via ZAG or LJU doesn't help this close in. Looks like I may be out of luck on this. And you're right, the current routing isn't bad. Availability wasn't all that great when I searched, so I grabbed these flights when they came up. Lesson learned, I suppose. Now I have to figure out what to do with 19K more BA miles. My travel is mostly TATL and I don't care to pay their extortionate YQ.

I'm not too certain about rail service Belgrade-Sarajevo. The route used to be well served by rail in the days of Yugoslavia, but the rail was never renovated to even the pre-war quality, let alone something resembling modern. My aunt, who lives in Sarajevo and used to be a religious train rider, now takes the bus to come up, so my guess would be that that's your best option. I hope you enjoy the area. Despite the recent history, it's very pleasant there and this should be a great time of the year to be there. The food is great and there are so many things to see. Let me know if you're looking for something in particular to do while in Belgrade or Sarajevo.

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