Midwest Gets One-Way Award Pricing Right

Remember when all frequent flyer award tickets were issued exclusively on a round-trip basis?

It sounds irrational, but it's the same logic associated with the advance-purchase fares most travelers buy for leisure travel, which historically have also been offered only as round-trips.

Whatever its origins, the effect could be maddening. Even if you only needed to fly one way, you'd have to redeem enough miles for a round-trip. And perhaps even more exasperating, it meant you couldn't book the outbound award flight in first (because, say, there were no available award seats in coach), and the return in coach.

The trend these days is definitely in the direction of offering award tickets on a one-way basis, permitting award travelers to mix and match both classes of service and unrestricted and restricted awards. And the cost of a one-way is generally pegged at half the number of miles required for a comparable round-trip.

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But there was a time—when one-way awards were still a novelty, and industry standards hadn't yet been established—when it seemed reasonable to allow one-ways, but to charge somewhat more for them than half the number of miles required for a round-trip. (The common-sense thinking was probably along the lines that a round-trip should be less than twice the one-way cost, since it amounted to a volume discount.)

Midwest was early in making one-way awards part of its award chart. But the airline charged 15,000 miles to book half a 25,000-mile round-trip restricted coach award, and 30,000 miles to book half a 50,000-mile round-trip unrestricted coach award.

That was acceptable at a time when most other programs offered no one-way awards at all. But today, airlines are not only expected to offer the convenience of one-way awards, they're also expected to offer the value of one-ways at half the price of round-trips.

Midwest got the message, as the following recent note to members of the Midwest Miles program attests: "Effective February 18, 2010, all one-way awards will now require one half the number of miles of the equivalent round-trip award."

With the new pricing in place, Midwest Miles members can not only mix and match restricted and unrestricted awards on the same itinerary, they can do so cost-effectively. Which is as it should be.

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