Many occasional flyers are members of frequent flyer programs. They hope to earn sufficient miles to order a reward ticket. But they never will, because their miles will expire before they will have earned sufficient miles.
For airlines, however, it is rational to have this kind of members in their programs. Those travelers are willing to pay higher prices for their tickets because of the miles they will earn. Usually, they don’t realize that it will take too many years to collect enough miles for a reward ticket.
Co-branded credit card
They may have a chance if they spend a lot of money on a co-branded credit card. Carriers earn a lot of money by selling miles to companies, who use them to build customer loyalty. For example, credit card companies buy millions of miles from airlines. It illustrates that frequent flyer programs have evolved from a loyalty instrument to a profit center.
Carriers’ customers can earn miles by paying in shops, hotels, etc. with a co-branded credit card. In fact, the majority of frequent flyer miles is accrued by using such a credit card. Let us suppose that thanks to their credit cards some flyers collect enough miles to order a reward ticket. Then they need to check how much it costs (in miles and money for taxes and fees) and whether such a ticket will be available.
Price of reward ticket
How much a reward costs, is not very clear as airlines hate transparency. Prices of both paid tickets and reward tickets are not obvious. Most carriers have abolished the chart showing prices of reward tickets in miles.
They replaced it with variable pricing. Essentially, it means that you will have to pay more miles for a reward seat as a flight fills up. You can only find out the price by asking the airline.
On the other hand, prices are now lower for less popular routes and on off-peak dates. As a result, overall reward prices are now 17% lower than in 2014. Thus, from this perspective the situation has improved for frequent flyers.
The survey is based on 3,975 booking and fare queries made at the websites of 20 frequent flyer programs. This is the way how Ideaworks assesses low-priced everyday reward seat availability. The table below displays the results for long-haul flights economy class reward availability.
Etihad’s and Turkish Airlines’ frequent flyer programs are on of top of the list with 98% reward availability. Only 4 flights out of 200 long-haul queries didn’t provide reward seats at the low-priced everyday level. Those are rewards that require the minimum number of miles and are limited in supply.
Tags: frequent flyer programs, availability reward tickets