Bar­gains on in­ter­na­tional travel have be­come far more elu­sive

The Buffalo News - - BUSINESS -

miles can be used, with Delta ac­cept­ing them to up­grade a fare even after pur­chase-an op­tion be­ing used by about 1,000 pas­sen­gers a day, the air­line said in Jan­uary.

The car­rier has in­creased the num­ber of SkyMiles “Flash Sales” and has in­tro­duced one-way tick­ets start­ing at 5,000 award miles.

Car­ri­ers no longer care “whether they sell a seat with dol­lars or miles,” said Jay Sorensen, IdeaWorks pres­i­dent. “His­tor­i­cally it was neg­a­tive from a rev­enue stand­point if they sold a seat with miles in gen­eral. Now air­lines are rec­og­niz­ing that these loy­alty pro­grams are tremen­dously valu­able.”

Cus­tomers trav­el­ing on re­deemed miles will of­ten pur­chase other prod­ucts and ser­vices with cash, Sorensen said.

United’s over­all re­demp­tions have in­creased and the av­er­age price of awards both do­mes­ti­cally and across its route sys­tem has de­creased, mostly over the past 16 months, said Mag­gie Sch­merin, a com­pany spokes­woman.

In 2018, more than 250,000 of United’s MileagePlus mem­bers chose awards for 15,000 points that pre­vi­ously would have cost 25,000, she said.

Pro­gram mem­bers also booked 10 per­cent more of the air­line’s most af­ford­able re­wards op­tion last year than in 2017.

Amer­i­can Air­lines cut prices in some award cat­e­gories start­ing in 2016, and the fol­low­ing year in­creased avail­able awards in its AAd­van­tage pro­gram, in­clud­ing those that could be used on con­nect­ing flights.

Last 13 awards were re­deemed, the com­pany said, up 18 per­cent from 2017.

The IdeaWorks/CarTrawler study used book­ing queries for a party of two at fre­quent-flyer pro­gram web­sites dur­ing March, look­ing at 280 spe­cific travel dates from June through Oc­to­ber. The av­er­age mile or point statis­tics re­fer to the low­est rate found.

The study did not in­clude in­ter­na­tional travel, an area where mileage redemption bar­gains have be­come far more elu­sive, said Adam Morvitz, the founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive of Juicy Miles Travel Ser­vices, a New York-based ser­vice that books air­line award trips.

Most for­eign travel on U.S. car­ri­ers’ in­ter­na­tional part­ners re­mains sub­ject to fixed mileage charts, and those itin­er­ar­ies have got­ten more ex­pen­sive, he said.

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