The best way to get “free” airline seats has been through frequent flier and other rewards programs. The trouble is, according to Randy Peterson of Inside Flyer, there are 17 trillion free miles out there that have never been used. Why?
Let’s face it, the airlines, even tough they have been paid by marketing partners like credit card companies and hotel chains for those seats, make it next to impossible for vacationers and casual fliers to use these free tickets. Airlines are reluctant to use up seats for paying passengers with reward fliers. Last-minute seats and popular flying times are eaten up by cash customers. Some airlines have only about 10% of their seats available for reward fliers, and some in-demand flights are totally blacked out for reward fliers.
It’s not really fair. You have earned these points by spending money and the places you have spent money have paid airlines for the seats. Why should they go unused?
Here are some tips for making better use of frequent flyer miles.
- First, use those miles before the rules change or before an airline goes under. Take your trip now.
- Also, you can give your mileage away as a gift, as long as there is no bartering or exchange of cash.
- Use airline partners. Delta Airlines partners with Air France and Sky Team Alliance. It may be possible to redeem your miles through the partners.
- If last minute booking is only available for paying customers, then book your flight ahead. You can book ahead up to 330 days.
- And, if certain demand routes save their seats for paying customers, think about using smaller airports and taking routes that are a little out of the way.
- Travel in off times. So you can’t use your miles for a vacation; use them for weddings, shopping, or other out-of-season affairs.
- And, look for reward miles offered by companies that do not attach the rewards to one airline. For instance, the Discover Escape card offers Unlimited Double Miles on all purchases which is in itself a rarity, enhanced travel benefits (you can book with whoever you want and use it for cruises, airlines, hotels etc) plus you can redeem Miles for travel credits, cash or gift cards. Similarly, Capital One’s Venture Card allows you to collect $300 after you have 30,000 accumulated points. This cash can also be used for cruise ships or car rentals.
Take advantage of what you have paid for. Rewards are meant to be rewards, so find ways to use them.
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