One of the things that surprises me sometimes about airfare is how wildly flights can vary in price. I’ve found sub-$300 deals to Europe and seen $500 one-way domestic tickets on the other end of the spectrum. It’s supply and demand that sometimes doesn’t make sense based on the distance you’re traveling.
Some of the most expensive tickets I’ve flown have been domestic itineraries from one small regional airport to another across the country. One back in 2018 cost the company I work for over $1,000! For United economy.
In general, the longer the flight, the more expensive the ticket. But this doesn’t always hold true. Another generality is that the longer the flight, the more economical it is in terms of cost per flown passenger mile. Which should make longer flights some of the best-value per flown mile.
But this doesn’t always hold true.
My 5 “Best Value” Flights by Cost per Flown Mile
I’m only looking at one metric here: how much did I pay in terms of cents per flown mile. I’m also excluding all award travel, as that’s an entirely different beast. It’d be too much hassle trying to peg the value of all the miles.
So, without further ado, here are my five best-value flights:
Alitalia – Barcelona to Los Angeles via Rome and back – 4.22 cents/mile
This wouldn’t be that major of a feat, except that this was a business class mistake fare. It was a reasonable round-trip between North American and Europe. But I would not have booked it had it not been in the business cabin.
United – San Jose to Atlanta round-trip – 3.46 cents/mile
At $153.60 per person, this is one of the cheapest tickets to the East Coast I’ve ever booked (if you consider Atlanta the East Coast…it’s close enough for me). I’m happy these days when fares are a hair over $200 coast-to-coast.
Virgin Atlantic / KLM – San Francisco to London and back – 3.38 cents/mile
This is the best North America to Europe round-trip I’ve ever booked in terms of value. I’ve had my eyes on others, but this is the cheapest I’ve actually booked at ~$375 for my ticket.
The kids’ tickets cost a mere $275 each, which was amazing. Thank you, Great Britain, for not levying the same duty on children as you do on adults.
Xiamen Air – Taipei to Los Angeles via Xiamen – 2.79 cents/mile
At right around $200 for the long-haul one-way ticket, I turned this fare sale into a quick trip to Taiwan with my middle child back in 2019. Our outbound was booked in China Airlines Business Class with Delta SkyMiles. But I was more than willing to schlep it back in economy for this value.
I actually booked these with Chase Ultimate Rewards, bringing the out-of-pocket cost to $0.
Alaska Airlines – San Francisco to Boston and back – 1.98 cents/mile
When Alaska lets you apply a BOGO code to a single passenger fare, what holds one back from booking? I flew this in early 2020 as part of earning MVP Gold 75K status with the new Oneworld carrier. Turns out it is my very cheapest flights in terms of dollars per flown mile.
It also earned me a hefty number of Alaska miles for the price paid. #winning
I really expected my recent Avelo flight for $29 one-way out of my local airport to Las Vegas to be on the list. It isn’t far behind the Alitalia round-trip in terms of cents per flown mile, but it did fall short of the top five.
But nothing rivals the Oakland to Fort Lauderdale one-way I booked with Spirit during the early months of the pandemic. The budget carrier was selling round-trip fares for just $38.40. This would have translated to 0.75 cents per flown mile, which blows away literally anything else I’ve ever seen. Sadly, Spirit canceled the flights, and the only rebooking options for us were terrible, so I pulled the plug.
This exercise also showed me just how many award tickets I book. Which is a good thing. It took a while to sort through old revenue flights in my head and figure out the likely candidates.
What are the best-value flights you’ve managed to snag in terms of dollars per flown mile?