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Northwest permits payment with cash and miles

Beginning this week, members of Northwest’s WorldPerks program may combine cash and frequent flyer miles for round-trip tickets, using half the number of miles required for a round-trip award ticket for one leg of the trip, and paying half the applicable round-trip ticket price for the other leg.

While PerkChoice allows for the combining of cash and miles, it should not be confused with Northwest’s periodic cash-and-miles offers. PerkChoice is a permanent program feature while Cash & Miles is offered as an occasional limited-time promotion.

PerkChoice benefits consumers in two ways.

First, WorldPerks members with lower mileage balances can redeem as few as 12,500 miles for half a round-trip, paying cash for the other half.

And second, in situations where an award seat is available on one leg of a round-trip but not on the other, WorldPerks members will now be able to use miles for the available award seat and cash for a seat on the other leg of the trip. That’s likely to be preferable to the alternatives: purchasing a round-trip ticket, or redeeming twice as many miles for an unrestricted round-trip award.

The first question that will occur to many concerns the paid segment: Which fares can I use for the paid portion of the trip? Will I be limited to the very few, and very expensive, fares which permit one-way travel? The good news is that any fare may be booked for the revenue segment, even heavily discounted fares normally offered only on a round-trip basis. Using PerkChoice, the traveler will be charged half the round-trip ticket price.

PerkChoice is not without drawbacks, at least in its initial incarnation.

The following caveat appears on the Northwest website: “Please note that currently, Elite upgrades are not permitted and WorldPerks miles will not be earned for PerkChoice travel.” According to Northwest, both of those disconnects will be addressed and corrected later this year.

Until then, those limitations will be deal-breakers for some. But for many, PerkChoice is a significant positive step toward increased flexibility and a more valuable WorldPerks program overall.

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