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Unfair Miles – The Sequel

Due to popular demand and a lot of commiseration I have decided to fill y’all in on the secrets of using your airmiles. It’s quite simple really. Plan ahead. Waaaaaaay ahead. And be prepared for disappointment.

You want a summer vacation, gratis? Sorry, suckers, but you’ve probably missed the, ahem, boat for this year. But next year’s flights will probably be wide open. Why? Because you aren’t allowed to book that far in advance. See how they get you?

Some airlines have an extra special trick. They have two tiers of rewards so you can use even more points to go the same distance. Sound familiar, Aeroplanners? Here’s what I mean: a short haul flight within North America costs 15000 points (economy). There are a limited number of seats on each flight reserved for points-redeemers. Maybe a handful. A very small, itty, bitty handful. But if those seats are gone, the kind folks at the airline conveniently offer you the exact same seat – for 25000 points. Geddit? You “pay” more for the same flight. So you can either swallow it, and pay, pay, pay. Or you can book as far ahead as they will let you.

Has the point come across yet? BOOK AHEAD. The minute you start talking about your trip, put your money where your mouth is and book ‘er down. Especially if you want to go business class. Both ways. Or, my personal fave, the one where you score the business-class seat but it’s on a flight you didnt even know had stopovers and it’s only for the first (short) leg of the journey Then you’re demoted to steerage. Ditto and double if you don’t want to go alone. Otherwise what do you do? Fing for the good seat?

There are probably more ways to book your “free” travel than there are seats available. You can go online and try your luck. I did, and managed to nab one of the elusive 15000 pointers. Plus the usual taxes and surcharges and all that. Here’s the thing: I booked the trip in February. I’m going away in June. And there are about 12 flights a day on this route. Sounds like shoo-in, right? I thought so too, and kind of dragged my heels a bit. Until one morning I checked on the best return flights and found the cheap versions had disappeared. There was no way I was using 25000 points for a one hour flight. I booked then and there.

Another way is to get your travel agent to reserve for you. Ka-ching ka-ching. The agent will charge you, but at least you don’t have to do any work. You get what you pay for – and as we all know, you’ll pay for the free flight. This is the preferred method for long haul, deliberate stop-overs, or for those who are such frequent flyers that none of this really matters. In which case, how do you have time to read blogs??

Finally, there’s the old-fashioned way: calling the airline. If this is your thang, you’ve got nothing but time. In fact, you’re probably still on hold! Hang up now, loser – you’ll never get through. And if you do, chances are your seat has gone to the smartypants who went on-line.

2 comments:

pritza said…

I think the first possible date you can book ahead of time is 290 days before your flight or something like that. My opinion is to ditch Aeroplan and go for the points toward a ticket credit cards – my brother always seems to get flights this way. Aeroplan points may be more valuable, but if you can’t use them what’s the point? I have already ditched my Aerogold Visa.

5:45 PM

Anonymous said…

great job lady

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April 28, 2006   No Comments

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Unfair Miles

OK. Hands up those of you who’ve tried to book reward travel using air miles.

Anyone who was unsuccessful can drop your hands now.

I’m guessing there ain’t a lot of hands left flying out there.

I am one of those who use my Visa…oops, I mean my credit card … to rack up the points. The pricier the item, the better to fly away on my dears. So why is it when you go to book these flights, there never seem to be any seats on the flights you want? To make matters worse, if you are lucky enough to have some magic golden horseshoe up your butt and snag a seat, you then have to pay (on your points-gathering credit card of course) to go for free. HUH??

My grandfather (bless his soul, rest in peace and all that) flew up a storm. Every 3 weeks he shlepped from Toronto to Ft Lauderdale. For months. And years. Obviously he collected points and, being the pre-war, first generation immigrant that he was, never used them. So get this: one day, he has a heart attack. In Florida. And as any Canadian, first gen or otherwise knows: do not get sick in the USA!! Immediately his wife, my grandmother, made arrangements to get him home. At last, she thought, I’ll use those airmiles. The ones we’ve been collecting since the program began. But guess what? As the clock ticked away on my Zaidy and his ticker, the folks at the Airline (no names=no lawsuits) told them there were no seats. Forced to pay the old fashioned way, the g’parents headed home to health care. When my grandfather emerged, relatively unscathed with a new pacemaker and a new attitude, he took the airlines on. He sent them letters, made some phone calls and finally, they paid him back – in airmiles of course.

These days, the credit card companies have wised up. They’ve realized there’s a market for cards that actually let you spend your miles. No shortage of seats, no blackout periods, no restrictions on carriers – nothing to stop you jetting away. Oh no, wait – there is one little itty thang; the tax. And did I mention the other “fees”? Lord help you if you dare to change your ticket. Ka-ching, ka-ching.

So, let’s get back to me (actually my man, D, but we’re just counting miles stuff here). A Toronto-NYC flight on a cheap ‘n cheerful airline (don’t get me started on our national biggie) retails for $250 (plus tax).That translates into $350 worth of reward travel via the go anytime/anyplace credit card. A mere $15000 in spending and you’re ready to fly for fee. I mean, free. After the tax (which you pay) and $40 to the airline for a date change, not to mention another $25 to the credit card (again, for the change) the price continues to rise. And you pay for it. I’m no mathematician but that’s seems like a lot of cash for a freebie.

Let’s just hope you’re not delayed.

1 comments:

Fearful flyer said…

Love the blog – it’s funny. I’m disturbed by the airmiles posting – I have a gold travel visa on which I’ve racked up a ridiculous number of points and haven’t yet tried to use them. In the back of my mind I’ve been anticipating problems when I finally go to book something, but in the meantime, I spend, spend, spend with that g-d card. Am I really going to get screwed? I was hoping to book flights in the fall to NY or London. Do tell friend.

April 22, 2006   No Comments

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