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Seat Availability = Award Availability?

Seat Availability = Award Availability?

Old May 9, 14, 4:39 pm
  #1  
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Seat Availability = Award Availability?

I love how United allows you to book an award ticket even if there are no award seats available by paying with more miles. Do any other mileage programs work like that without a tier requirement that is earned by flying?
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Old May 9, 14, 4:41 pm
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AA has AAnytime seats. If there is a seat, you can fly. But with the recent changes there, the highest level of AAnytime awards can cost an obscene number of miles.
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Old May 9, 14, 4:42 pm
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Seat Availability = Award Availability?

On UA I you have their premium card from Chase they will even let you pay at the standard rate.
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Old May 9, 14, 4:47 pm
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AA has AAnytime seats. If there is a seat, you can fly. But with the recent changes there, the highest level of AAnytime awards can cost an obscene number of miles.
That sounds interesting. Does that work with other One World carriers? For example, I recently saw the Iberia LAX-MAD flight labeled as an AA flight operated by Iberia. Could I use AA miles to book business class seats on that Iberia flight as long as there are open seats?

On UA I you have their premium card from Chase they will even let you pay at the standard rate.
I have the premium United card from Chase and I just booked at the Standard (non-Saver) rate yesterday. Do you mean they will give you the Saver rate even if there are no award seats left?
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Old May 9, 14, 5:02 pm
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Wirelessly posted (BlackBerry: BlackBerry8530/5.0.0.601 Profile/MIDP-2.1 Configuration/CLDC-1.1 VendorID/417)

"I recently saw the Iberia LAX-MAD flight labeled as an AA flight operated by Iberia. Could I use AA miles to book business class seats on that Iberia flight as long as there are open seats?"

No. AAnytime awards are only valid on AA metal. AA codeshare flights operated by other airlines are not eligible.
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Old May 9, 14, 5:10 pm
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OK so it sounds like United and AA are the only ones with the sort of program I described and that only works on their own planes.
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Old May 9, 14, 5:22 pm
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Air Canada Aeroplan has Market Fare pricing, which correlates roughly to fare buckets. Discounted with Aeroplan (not AC) status, which is measured by collecting RDM
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Old May 9, 14, 6:27 pm
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Originally Posted by flyertalkrocks View Post
OK so it sounds like United and AA are the only ones with the sort of program...
I daresay it might be premature to reach that conclusion barely 30 minutes after asking the question. See, for example, Alaska Airlines award levels here:

http://www.alaskaair.com/content/mil...el-alaska.aspx

Refundable Coach Award:
Refundable Coach Awards offer the most award flexibility for travel in the main cabin. These awards are available on every flight, every day, down to the very last seat on the airplane. Plus, no change or cancellation fees apply.
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Old May 9, 14, 6:33 pm
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Another one, nice. Do any programs offer that for more than one airline?
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Old May 10, 14, 8:38 am
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Originally Posted by flyertalkrocks View Post
Another one, nice. Do any programs offer that for more than one airline?
Not at a fixed price (ie, true "miles" redemption). They only offer it for their own airline because that's the only place where they don't have to actually pay anything to give you an award seat (ie, they're giving you what they project to be "excess capacity"). With partner awards, it's not "free" to the airline the way it is with its own awards.

At variable prices, revenue-redemption rewards programs (especially bank-based airline-independent ones) can get you any seat that anyone is willing to sell on any airline, but then the higher the cost of the seat in money, the higher the cost of the seat in those points, no way around it.

So you never should simply ask just whether there's award availability. You should also ask at what cost. Because in some cases, especially with revenue-based rewards, there is always award availability (as long as there are seats for sale*) but the cost can skyrocket to the point where most people wouldn't consider it a good value and where most people wouldn't have enough of those points to redeem for that anyway**.

* Btw, here's an interesting difference between sold seats and "anytime" award seats. "Anytime" seats are viewed as the last seat on the plane, but there are rare cases (typically in lower cabins) where "anytime" may not be available but there is still a seat left for sale. This happens when the airline is willing to "overbook" the cabin (on multi-cabin planes, this may happen because the next cabin up is lightly filled and they know they'll be able to "roll" some passengers into the next cabin if need be). But they're not wiling to "overbook" using "anytime" award seats, just with sold seats.

** Unless you're earning some of your points in non-linear ways (ie, through bonuses not proportional to spend), most revenue-based redemption methods of getting to "anytime" seats work out no better than typical "cashback" credit card returns, sometimes even worse. Revenue-based redemption offers the hype of "you can always redeem for a reward", but the reality is that it's never a better value than paying cash for one flight than another flight, because it's always proportional to paying cash. The beauty of "true" miles is that it's not at all proportional to cash, and so sometimes you can find great value (though other times of course there's no availability except with "anytime" awards perhaps).

Last edited by sdsearch; May 10, 14 at 8:43 am
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Old May 10, 14, 9:21 am
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At variable prices, revenue-redemption rewards programs (especially bank-based airline-independent ones) can get you any seat that anyone is willing to sell on any airline, but then the higher the cost of the seat in money, the higher the cost of the seat in those points, no way around it.

So you never should simply ask just whether there's award availability. You should also ask at what cost. Because in some cases, especially with revenue-based rewards, there is always award availability (as long as there are seats for sale*) but the cost can skyrocket to the point where most people wouldn't consider it a good value and where most people wouldn't have enough of those points to redeem for that anyway**.
So if there isn't award availability, I should be able to pay cash to make up the difference? That's probably not what you mean but I'm not grasping it.

Unless you're earning some of your points in non-linear ways (ie, through bonuses not proportional to spend), most revenue-based redemption methods of getting to "anytime" seats work out no better than typical "cashback" credit card returns, sometimes even worse.
That isn't what I've found at all. For example, last summer I booked two first-class one-way direct-flight tickets from LON to SFO with a United Standard (non-Saver) Award for 295K miles at the last minute. At the time, united.com said the tickets would have cost over $20K each. I just searched for the same tickets on the same date this year and the total cost of both is currently $27,569. With my United credit card, earning 295K miles means spending $147,500 which would earn $2,950 cash back at 2%. There's no comparison.
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Old May 10, 14, 1:34 pm
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Originally Posted by flyertalkrocks View Post
...At the time, united.com said the tickets would have cost over $20K each.
MSRP is seldom the most useful way to measure value.

1. Are those the tickets you would have purchased with money if you had not held sufficient UA miles, or would you have purchased less expensive seats, perhaps in another cabin, perhaps on another airline, perhaps on a slightly different date?

2. What was the opportunity cost of that redemption? For example how many Saver LON-SFO one-way business class flights could you obtain for 295,000 miles?

Last edited by mia; May 10, 14 at 3:19 pm
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Old May 10, 14, 2:39 pm
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Are those the tickets you would have purchased with money if you had not held sufficient UA miles, or would you have purchased less expensive seats, perhaps in another cabin, perhaps on another airline, perhaps on a slightly different date?
I don't think First Class seats and seats in another cabin make for a valid comparison.

What was the opportunity cost of that redemption? For example how may Saver LON-SFO one-way business class flights could you obtain for 295,000 miles?
I'm not sure why that matters when we're comparing cash rewards to mile rewards.
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Old May 10, 14, 3:23 pm
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Originally Posted by flyertalkrocks View Post
I don't think First Class seats and seats in another cabin make for a valid comparison.
It matters if that's what you would purchase if you were spending money. In order to judge whether a "last seat" award is good value you need a benchmark for comparison. One possibility is what you would have purchased if paying with money, another is what else you could have obtained for the same amount of miles or points.
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Old May 10, 14, 4:11 pm
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It matters if that's what you would purchase if you were spending money. In order to judge whether a "last seat" award is good value you need a benchmark for comparison. One possibility is what you would have purchased if paying with money, another is what else you could have obtained for the same amount of miles or points.
I think that sort of granularity is unlikely to tip the scales given the gap between these numbers:

$2,950
$27,569
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