Useless Frequent Flyer Miles

Ed Hewitt, features editor for The Independent Traveler, wrote an article called, “Frequent Flyer Miles: Useless?” , in which he discusses how easy it is to obtain the frequent flyer miles, between spending money on credit cards, to staying at hotels, or eating at certain restaurants. However, he says, it’s nearly impossible to actually redeem your miles and put them to use.

Hewitt ends his article with some tips.

He wrote, “Tips: By all appearances, the airlines want your loyalty with the lure of free tickets and upgrades, but they don’t seem to want to make good on it. That’s not exactly true — according to published accounts, the airlines made 20 million awards last year! Hard to believe, I know. Here are my tips for turning your miles into actual travel, no mean feat.

Plan WAY Ahead. When traveling to Europe in peak season, advance purchase recommendations range from six to nine months!

Stick With Upgrades. I have never, ever been able to redeem mileage for free travel. In this day and age, with time a most precious resource, who purchases plane tickets six months in advance?

Upgrades, however, are a better bet. If the seats are empty, the airline loses nothing by upgrading you. You can also be put on a waiting list so you’ll get the upgrade if an upgrade or full-fare passenger is a no-show.

Try at the Last Minute. Airlines are constantly adjusting their award quotas when reservations are canceled or planes are under booked. If you’re willing to wait, try for an award redemption very close to your travel date, usually within the last week before travel — ouch.

Try and Try Again. As above, award flyers often cancel reservations, and these awards are put back into the system for you to scoop up. Get a “not available” verdict? Try again tomorrow, and again in a few days.

Check Partner Airlines. If you can’t get a flight on your airline, try one of their partner airlines. For example, United mileage members may redeem miles on USAirways, Continental members on Delta, etc.

Best and Worst Days for Award Travel. In general, Monday through Wednesday is your best bets for redeeming award travel. For international travel, Tuesday through Thursday works best, as international travelers often come home on Monday mornings. For warmer climates such as the Caribbean and Central and South America, Tuesday and Wednesday work best (book against long-weekend travel).

The worst days for award travel are Friday and Sunday, with Monday almost as bad for longer-haul or long-weekend destinations…”