You Can’t Out-Fox the Fox.

I’m planning a trip to Europe immediately after the annual April meeting of the Rail Passengers Association in Washington, DC. and thought I’d use a bunch of my American Airlines miles. When I checked on flights from Washington to Paris, I got a pleasant surprise: an economy seat from Dulles to Paris was only 30,000 miles on the day I wanted to travel. Better yet, I could upgrade to what they call Business/First for 57,500 miles!
Wow! That flight is ten or eleven hours in the air and there is a chasm-like difference between ordinary cramped Economy and Business Class on flights to Europe.
When I went to select a specific flight, however, it turned out that the only choices offered on the American Airlines web site were British Airways flights, and I’ll have to change planes in London for a flight to Paris. Well, I guess that’s OK. I thought it would be non-stop, of course, but . . . well, OK.
Then, a click or two later, the computer tells me there’s a fee of $525 in addition to the 57,500 miles. Wow! Suddenly this is not the really good deal I thought I was getting. Still, American’s regular economy seats are well over a thousand bucks, so this is still worth doing. OK, I put the $525 on my MasterCard —ka-ching! ka-ching!— and it’s a done deal.
Oh, wait! I’m still not finished. Now I have to call British Airways for my seat assignment. I‘m not actually required to do that. I can let British Air assign me a seat when I check in for the flight next April. Thank you, no. I have a touch of claustrophobia, and I prefer—and I mean I pretty much need—a window seat. 

 So I call B.A. and am told that—Why am I not surprised?—there is a $120 fee for seat selection. Of course, that’s just for the Washington to London segment. Can I choose my seat from London to Paris? Certainly sir. Not a problem . . . for another 28 bucks.
Bottom line: My Business Class ticket from Washington to Paris actually cost me $673 cash, plus the 57,500 miles.
After the fact, I did a quick comparison: With a one-hour stop in Reykjavik, Icelandair would get me to Paris on that same day in an economy-seat-with-extra-legroom for $877. I guess I do come out ahead . . . as long as I don’t dwell on the fact that my 57,500 miles turned out to be worth about 200 bucks.
Of course, I can always purchase miles to replace them . . . for $1681.50.