Frequent flyer miles are probably some of the best things about air travel. If you are a moderate to frequent flyer, you can easily transform yourself into a road warrior with frequent flyer miles if you are an avid collector.
Frequent flyer programs, like many other airline service innovations, have been around for quite a while. In the case of frequent flyer miles, it has almost been four decades since they were first introduced into air travel. Yet despite all the information, free flights available, perks and other offers by airlines, the vast majority of travellers still think that FF programs are simply not for them. They assume there is a special category of wealthy flyer for whom these perks are reserved.
FF myths are not just prevalent with those flyers who know little about them and have never used them before. Even frequent flyers who have tried out airline rewards often fall victim to various myths and misconceptions about frequent flyer miles. Whatever your travel frequency or level of familiarity with these programs, we would like to dispel some of the common myths, misconceptions and disinformation regarding the all important and beneficial airline miles.
Myth 1: I Don’t Fly Enough To Earn Enough Frequent Flyer Miles
Not true. You don’t have to fly to earn frequent flyer miles.
Although the original idea of the frequent flyer programs was to reward those travellers who flew regularly multiple times a year, the business model has changed considerably in the recent years. The real frequent flyers, those globetrotters or road warriors who spend several hours in the air every week, are only a tiny percentage of the membership in frequent flyer programs. Industry insiders estimate that they only constitute 3% to 7% in FF program memberships.
For the vast majority of travellers and non-travellers, there are numerous “non-flight” ways to earn frequent miles. If you cannot fly, then you can definitely spend. There are numerous travel credit cards that you can spend with and earn points that are convertible to frequent flyer miles. You can also earn miles by shopping in airline online shops and duty free shops, booking hotels with co-branded cards, dining, renting a car with some of the leading car rental companies such as Avis, Sixt, Budget or Europecar among others. You can also earn miles by simply signing up for airline promotional emails or by acquiring a new credit card and earning the sign up bonuses. The vast majority of miles collectors earn their frequent flyer miles this way.
Myth 2: You Will Earn a 100% Free Ticket If You Have Enough Frequent Flyer Miles
Not true. When booking your flights with frequent flyer miles, you will definitely not pay the ticket price but you still get to pay the fees, taxes and surcharges for the ticket price. That is why you might pay your full ticket in miles and still end up paying up to $1000 in fees, taxes and surcharges. The good thing is that you can still pay for these fees and surcharges using your frequent flyer miles.
The amount of taxes, fees and surcharges will vary from one airline to another. While it could be quite cheap in one airline, it will cost you a fortune in another carrier. Airlines have complete discretion when it comes to fixing fuel surcharges so before you shop using your frequent flyer miles, you need to research widely so as to determine the cost of surcharges, fees and taxes that you might have to pay. Generally, once you have mastered the art of ducking the airline surcharges, your frequent flyer miles will be a real gem. You can take a round the world trip for as little as $100.
Myth 3: Airlines Have Designed the Miles Programs to Expire Too Soon Before You Use Them
This is not true. There are airlines with frequent flyer miles that simply do not expire. For some airlines, the miles will not expire as long as your account is active. Even for airline frequent flyer miles that expire, there is always sufficient time to redeem them which can vary anywhere from two years to five years. A recent landmark bill in Ontario has banned the expiration of airline reward programs and this could have a knock on effect nationwide so you will always have your miles indefinitely as long as you have an active FF account with the airline.
Myth 4: Frequent Flyer Miles Do Not Guarantee You a Seat
This is one of the most common misconceptions about frequent flyer miles because many frequent flyer miles holders experience this problem. A lot of travellers believe that if they book their flights via frequent flyer miles as opposed to hard cash or credit cards, then somehow their reservation is “second rate” and they will not be guaranteed a seat on the plane due to the blackout dates imposed by airlines.
Now, it is a true that many airlines have blackout dates. These are generally those dates, typically around holidays or peak travel, when there is no availability of travel rewards and other promos for deeply discounted tickets.
Earning miles is one thing but using them is another ball game. You have to be a little patient and also know where to look and find the award ticket availability. The common mistake that many people make is that if they have a frequent flyer program with a particular airline, they will simply go to the airline website and search for an award availability. In many cases, nothing will come up and so they will assume that award seats are unavailable. The right way to go about this if you have frequent flyer miles is search widely not just on your airline website but also on partner airline websites in the airline alliance. For example, two airlines might be members of Star Alliance and while one will not display award ticket availability, another will and you will score your seat using your miles. Widen your scope of search instead of limiting yourself to only a single airline. The best way to search for award availability is by using expert tools such as Expert Flyer http://www.expertflyer.com/.
Myth 5: All Frequent Flyer Miles Have the Same Value
Frequent flyer miles are just like any other commodity in the market so there are wide variations and differentiation between the various loyalty programs offered by the airlines. The best way to look at miles is treat them as currency. With currency, 50,000USD is not the same as 50,000RMB or 50,000 Rupees. Likewise, 50,000 of Air Canada miles are not the same as 50,000 of United miles or 50,000 of Cathay Pacific Miles. The difference in value can vary remarkably and you will have to look at the individual airline loyalty program to determine what its miles are actually worth.
Frequent flyer miles are an incredible tool that can help you save a lot of money over the long term. There are people who use frequent flyer miles to travel virtually free around the world. In order to make the most of them, we suggest taking a proactive effort to optimize your frequent flyer miles. If you don’t have a lot of time on your hands to manage and make the most of your miles, there are a host of tools that can do the job for you such as the following:-
ExpertFlyer.com: Worried about blackout dates? Use this tool to search for award space as well as availability of flight upgrades.
AwardWallet.com: This is an online tool that you can use so as to keep track of all your reward programs ranging from frequent flyer programs to hotel loyalty points and credit card points among others.
KVS Availability Tool: This has the same function as ExpertFlyer.com. You can use this tool to search for award availability and discover those rare award airline seats easily.
MileageManager.com: This is a simple tool that you can use to not only track your miles but also other opportunities to earn bonuses. It will send you notifications on the dates for miles expiration for certain miles and points programs, search hotels and flights and let you know where you can find award ticket availability. This is a premium service that costs $1.25 per month.