In a Knight Ridder newspaper article entitled Strapped Airlines Making It Tougher To Redeem Miles, the assertion is made that frequent flyer miles have become a form of currency that can be used to purchase many types of everyday products and services, including cameras, hotel stays, and meals. On the flip side, the article also suggests that redeeming frequent flyer miles for airline tickets is getting tougher and tougher. For those looking into travel rewards credit card offers, this is a very sensitive topic.
I found the article topic intriguing
and decided to solicit comments from an expert. I interviewed Ladonna Epler who is the senior award planner at AwardPlanner.com. Ladonna is associated with travel expert Randy Peterson, who was quoted in the referenced article. Ladonna clarified a few points regarding the article's implication that airlines were making it tougher to redeem miles. According to Ladonna,
"The same number of miles still exist today with airlines. The difference is that [frequent flyer mile] programs are getting so popular that more and more consumers are taking advantage of frequent flyers miles. This then gives the appearance that airlines are making it tougher [to redeem miles], which is not actually the case."
Since these remarks were quite different than the thrust of the Knight Ridder article, I asked Ladonna about the services offered by Awards Planner and for advice for our frequent flyer readers.
"Award Planner is a membership service. We are experts when it comes to planning award travel and are very successful in achieving most itineraries. If seats are not available when we initially call, we can take the time to continually call back to check for openings-but we can never guarantee anything. We have extensive experience and can access a wealth of resources that provide us with the most up-to-date program information."
Ladonna stressed flexibility is the key to successful redemption. Flexibility of date, time, and location are all important.
"The more notice the client provides us, the better the chances are of getting the awards desired. But we can arrange award travel even hours before departure. We can work with the consumer 6-9 months out, but we usually like to have around 2 weeks [notice]."
In a typical year, about 500 billion frequent flyer miles are earned by members. Over time, an average of 82% of all awards earned will actually be redeemed.
For members of selected programs, the value of a mile depends on how the award is used. Generally accepted to be valued at 2 cents, a mile can vary from 1 cent to 8 or 9 cents. With advanced planning, an upgrade has a higher value than a coach award in the U.S.
I hope these tips help you as you plan your next vacation. Bon voyage!