I think that I have always had it in the back of my mind that if you need to go somewhere fairly last minute you are likely to find flying very expensive. I would naturally plan my travel months in advance, partly driven by the school holidays and partly to ensure that I got the best deal. In the last two weeks, I have booked two trips – one 6 weeks out and one 10 days out – which have put me out of my comfort zone, and revealed a few things to me.
For the first I am travelling up to Scotland and to maximise my time I am travelling overnight. I had been about to book the Caledonian Sleeper (in First for £155) when I remembered that there is a MegaBus with lie-flat beds – a sleeper coach. £50 got me a bunk from London to Glasgow and a seat on the MegaBus Gold, where someone will be on hand to serve tea, coffee and snacks, up to Inverness. I will report back on how that goes!
For the return, I will be starting in Aberdeen, and would usually look at the train. In this case, it was about £90 for a first class single (it is a 7 hour journey – I am not sitting in standard!) The plane was £76 including a bag so I booked that. I could have used Avios, but that would have valued them at 1.16p* and I know that I can get better than that.
The second trip is to Manchester for a course that I am leading. Now that the delegate list has been finalised, I am able to book my travel. As I would have to leave home before 0630 to get there on time on the day, I am able to book a hotel and travel the night before after work. This puts me into peak travel time, and a single from London to Manchester was £110, and an open return for was £329.
These seemed ridiculously high, so I looked at flights and was able to get a return for £160. This could have been slightly cheaper if I had gone hand-baggage only, but I wasn’t paying, I used a £10 off coupon that is floating around, and I wanted to use my Silver status to select exit-row seats. In the end, it has all worked out as I work next to Heathrow, and am staying at the airport in Manchester, so it is also more convenient.
It seems that I am not the only one who had the, clearly wrong, impression that flying was much more expensive. The course organiser’s handbook says that I am able to book the train and they would prefer it if this wasn’t on the day, but that flying needed to be approved in advance. They also will not pay for First class on the train, even if it is cheaper than the standard fare. It makes no sense to me, particularly as they would have no qualms about paying mileage for me to drive which would have been even more!
From now on, I will not assume that the cheapest fares for last-minute travel are on the train!
*Here is my calculation for the value – is this how you do it?
Cash price – costs £76 and earns 228 Avios on BAPP and 375 Avios from flying
Avios price – costs £17.50 and 4500 Avios and earns 53 Avios on BAPP
Using 4500 would have have saved me £58.50 (£76-£17.50) but lost out on 5050 Avios (4500 + 228 + 375 – 53).
5850p / 5050Avios = 1.16pence / Avios