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Your best and worst frequent flyer miles redemption experience

Your best and worst frequent flyer miles redemption experience

Old Sep 2, 16, 3:52 am
  #1  
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Your best and worst frequent flyer miles redemption experience

Hi,
Could you please share your best and worst experiences when you spent your air miles/points? Basically what do you think are the biggest problems linked to miles redemption?
I'm working in a company that makes IT solutions that help to spend air miles. Thanks in advance for your feedback that could potentially improve the frequent flyers' air miles redemption experience!
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Old Sep 2, 16, 8:47 am
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Hello and welcome to FlyerTalk. I am moving your post to the MileBuzz forum. The Mileage Run Forum is for revenue based miles, not use of award miles.

Pat89339, Moderator Mileage Run Forum
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Old Sep 2, 16, 12:13 pm
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Not an example, but an observation that you'll see all over FT: constant lack of availability of award seats. To me, that's one of the biggest problems linked to miles redemption. Having to save up miles for an extended period of time (assuming no MS), only to have to jump through hoops to be able to use them is ridiculous. Booking 330 days out for a greater chance of getting a seat for some trips is easier, but most of the time its too far in advance. Earning miles is getting harder, and redemptions can be hard, so somethings gotta give. There are outliers to any scenario, and I'm not considering super, power users - more the average consumer - someone who's main source, or possibly only source, of info is TPG...
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Old Sep 2, 16, 3:49 pm
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Creative ways to get low awards. For instance, when I travel to Europe, I look for the lowest flight virtually anywhere in Europe and then book a Euro domestic flight with cash to get me to my actual destination. I have to search for this city-by-city.

It would be nice to have a tool like this: I enter a city pair, say JFK-IST. I get back this:

75,000 award points OR
45,000 award points plus $89 paid flight
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Old Sep 2, 16, 6:01 pm
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Well, I'm flexible, and always learning, so I don't know if a I have a "worst" experience.

I mean, there are trips I gave up taking at the time I initially wanted to take them because of no availability, but then I ended up taking other trips instead.

I didn't realize that I had to search QR (Qatar Airways) award availability on www.awardnexus.com one flights leg at a time (searching multiple legs brings up phantom inventory !), so when I thought I'd found a flight, I called AA to book it, and they couldn't see the connection. Fortunately, they could see a connection some 10 hours later, so I took that. I have zillions of hotel points, and nice hotels in Doha don't require many hotel points, so I'm fine with spending the night there to make the routing otherwise work. So is that the worst (because the exact flight I tried to book wasn't really available) or the best (because all in all it's still a fantastic redemption for me)?

So while I may think I know what Ii'm doing a bit more than the average person trying to use miles, there's always something more to learn.
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Old Sep 2, 16, 6:05 pm
  #6  
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Originally Posted by safigan View Post
Creative ways to get low awards. For instance, when I travel to Europe, I look for the lowest flight virtually anywhere in Europe and then book a Euro domestic flight with cash to get me to my actual destination. I have to search for this city-by-city.

It would be nice to have a tool like this: I enter a city pair, say JFK-IST. I get back this:

75,000 award points OR
45,000 award points plus $89 paid flight
That could be tricky, because everyone has a different opinion of how time you need to put between separately booked flights (since you are not "protected" on separately booked flights if the first flight being late makes you miss the second flight). So you'd have to be able specify what your own personal minimum connect time is for flights on separate tickets.
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Old Sep 3, 16, 8:21 am
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My best award experience was a US Airways Dividend Miles ticket from YUL-JNB. I flew LX down and SA/AC back in J. Total price was around $100 and 0 miles. It should have been 100,000 miles I believe, but the miles were never deducted from my account. If you can build an app that does that for all of my redemptions, I'll use it for sure!
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Old Sep 3, 16, 3:38 pm
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worst experience was booking an international award ticket on DL and finding out months later that they never secured the connecting flights with the partner airline.

my biggest annoyance is the close-in booking fee. this fee really doesn't make any sense to me.

best experience was UA helping me secure new international F flights after a passport issue forced a change of plans - on less than a day's notice + on partner airlines + AFTER I had already begun travel
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Old Sep 3, 16, 8:59 pm
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Best experience: Discovering miles! It's been life-changing. It's been challenging to learn the rudiments of the good/better/best/worst redemptions, and the challenge is just getting tougher as our miles earning opportunities tighten up.

Worst Experience: Realizing that I've just made a boo boo right after I book a ticket. I recently booked an award for the wrong day, because I didn't correct the search engine. A moment after I hit submit, the realization gob smacked me. It took an hour on the phone to correct it.
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Old Sep 5, 16, 9:49 pm
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Of course lack of award seats at low mile levels is the biggest issue, followed closely by fees and fuel surcharges, but as far as the IT side that you can address, I think the biggest problems are when a website presents inaccurate or misleading info...
  • Award calendars or searches that show availability that isn't there.
  • Partner awards that seem to be confirmed, but aren't.
  • And partners that aren't searchable on line at all.
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Old Sep 6, 16, 9:51 am
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Originally Posted by swag View Post
I think the biggest problems are when a website presents inaccurate or misleading info...
  • Award calendars or searches that show availability that isn't there.
  • Partner awards that seem to be confirmed, but aren't.
  • And partners that aren't searchable on line at all.
Agreed -- and I'd add partner awards that are searchable / bookable online, and appear confirmed when you pull the trigger, but actually require some sort of manual confirmational backstage follow-through by one or both airlines involved (the one whose FF program it is, or the partner).

This follow-through action often doesn't occur timely, or gets screwed up. Then when you lose an itinerary that seemed set, the airline just shrugs and you have no recourse -- unless you count hoping your itinerary will magically come available again, which it never does.

The human error factor nailing down partner awards is infuriating. The customer can do everything right and still lose.
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Old Sep 8, 16, 8:01 am
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Thank you everyone for your interesting feedback! It is very useful indeed! I've a question about a limited availability of award seats.

You know some airlines like for example Air Canada offer a full availability of seats for redemption. However the cheapest seats (redemption classes) are still limited and all other seats are more expensive. What's your opinion about it? Would you spend your miles to buy a more expensive seat for a specific date/itinerary if no cheap award seat was available?

Also have you ever paid for your tickets with a mix of miles and money? What do you think of it?
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Old Sep 8, 16, 12:21 pm
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Originally Posted by Murielle View Post
Thank you everyone for your interesting feedback! It is very useful indeed! I've a question about a limited availability of award seats.

You know some airlines like for example Air Canada offer a full availability of seats for redemption. However the cheapest seats (redemption classes) are still limited and all other seats are more expensive. What's your opinion about it? Would you spend your miles to buy a more expensive seat for a specific date/itinerary if no cheap award seat was available?

Also have you ever paid for your tickets with a mix of miles and money? What do you think of it?
I'm not (and I doubt most of us are) familiar with how big a difference that is at Air Canada. (I've flown Air Canada on an award, but it was booked with United miles, and only the lowest-tier Air Canada flights are visible to United.) The higher-priced tiers quickly get ridiculous over at Delta, which last time it published an award chart (it no longer does so), it had 5 tiers.

AA and UA also have most everything available for redemption, but only at two tiers (well, in AA case, 3 sub-tiers of the higher tier). The higher tier, generically known as Standard awards (but more clearly perhaps explained as "anytime" awards or "last seat' awards) typically starts at least at double what "saver" awards are.

You can find a separate recent thread about such high-priced awards here:
http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/miles...el-awards.html
(So it would redundant IMHO to discuss that seperately here.)

However, even if someone is interested in those, those only ever apply to the airline's own metal AFAIK. Which often doesn't get you where you want to go in international travel. Partner awards pretty much always have to be available at the 'saver" rate to be available through partners at all.

Now, as to your question of miles + cash, it depends very much on how it's set up. I'm mainly familiar with it from hotel programs, where at some hotel programs (IHG and Choice) it's nothing more than buying points at the time of making the reservation (as the cash component is always the same for the same number of points that you're paying cash for), while at other hotels there's no such relationship and the value of points + cash tends to be good at mid-tier hotels for whatever reason, but not good at low tier or high tier hotels for whatever reason.

It is illegal for parties who don't have a contract with the airline to sell airline miles. In the US, even when airlines sell their own miles, it's invariable outsourced to points.com.

There is one very specific case of miles + cash that people would love, but I don't know how it would be possible: Use miles for the flight legs that are available on miles, use cash for (hopefully shorter connections) that aren't available on miles, yet have them all end upon the same ticket! It doesn't do much good to have them end up on separate tickets, unless you have TONS of buffer at the connection airports, because on separate tickets you are not "protected" if the arriving flight was late and the onward flight was on a totally separate ticket.
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Old Sep 9, 16, 7:03 am
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Originally Posted by Murielle View Post
Would you spend your miles to buy a more expensive seat for a specific date/itinerary if no cheap award seat was available?
The answer(s) for most will be entirely situational / contextual. It depends. I did once drop 50,000 miles on a domestic award to get my wife to a funeral in two days' time when the cash price of the ticket would have been $1,500 and I had just run up a big home repair bill IIRC. Very glad of the miles option in that case, but in most other cases I wouldn't do it.

Originally Posted by Murielle
Also have you ever paid for your tickets with a mix of miles and money? What do you think of it?
Again, it would depend on the redemption value of the miles component of the transaction. Have never done this with air travel, but I do it fairly often with Hilton family hotels -- the HHonors program offers "Points + Money" bookings on an irregular basis. The offer can be terrific, or ridiculous: you can pay $50 plus 20,000 points for a nice room in London (terrific) or $200 plus 40,000 points (ridiculous). It's a great option that I wish more airlines would adopt, but everything hinges on redemption value.
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Old Sep 9, 16, 9:10 am
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Originally Posted by swag View Post
  • And partners that aren't searchable on line at all.
This is a feature, not a bug.
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