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Some frequent flyer awards are freer than others

SmarterTravel

In the frequent flyer universe, free is good, and freer is better.

Of course, frequent flyer award tickets aren’t really free. You earned the miles for the award ticket by paying real money for real goods and services. So the award is, effectively, a rebate. And like all rebates, a big one clearly trumps a small one.

Hence the topic of this article: discounted frequent flyer awards (i.e., award tickets offered for fewer than the normally required number of miles). In the 20-plus years that frequent flyer programs have been entrancing consumers with their earn-and-burn magic, the summer of 2001 takes the prize for the most available discounted awards. That’s for several reasons:

  • The economy is weak, travel is off, and seats are plentiful.;
  • It’s summer, and the public’s thoughts turn to leisure travel; and
  • The widespread perception (including that of influential congressmen) is that award seats are few and far between?that frequent flyer programs are little more than pyramid schemes.

Never mind the “20th Anniversary Celebration” rationale being applied to some of these offers. I’m a proponent of honesty in marketing, and in that spirit, most promotions and discounts should simply be labeled as “Help, We Can’t Sell These Seats!” offers.

So, for reasons of supply, demand, and the fear of government intervention, there’s never been a better time to make more award seats available, for less required mileage.

It’s the “for less” aspect that concerns us here, bringing us back full circle to the idea that an award ticket available for 15,000 miles is “freer” (or certainly cheaper) than the same ticket at 25,000 miles. The following are some specific examples of these lower-mile awards currently available. Get ’em while they’re cheap!

At Delta: Dallas and Cincinnati Discounts

Between now and August 31, 2001, SkyMiles members can request award tickets between Dallas and 11 cities, and between Cincinnati and 16 cities, for 15,000 miles instead of the normal 25,000. Travel must be completed by August 31.

Dallas

The 15,000-mile reduced SkySaver award is valid for flights between Dallas and New York (LaGuardia), Washington (National), Raleigh/Durham, Savannah/Hilton Head, Memphis, Louisville, Cincinnati, El Paso, Phoenix, Tucson, and Los Angeles (Orange/Santa Ana).

Cincinnati

There’s also a 15,000-mile reduced SkySaver award offered for flights between Cincinnati and New York (JFK), New York (LaGuardia), Philadelphia, Richmond, Washington (National), Tampa/St. Petersburg, Ft. Lauderdale, Jacksonville, West Palm Beach, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, Tucson, Phoenix, and San Jose, CA. Delta is also offering a reduced SkySaver award for nonstop travel between Cincinnati and San Juan, Puerto Rico, for 20,000 miles.

But airfare is not your only redemption option. Delta SkyMiles members can also redeem their miles for discounts on Delta Vacations packages for a limited time. Members can save up to $200 with Delta Vacations when redeeming miles towards the purchase of a vacation package of three nights or more, as follows:

Miles Redeemed Value of Certificate: Valid for Packages with a Total Price of:
2,500 $50 $750 and above
5,000 $100 $2,000 and above
7,500 $150 $3,000 and above
10,000 $200 $4,000 and above

Award Certificates must be issued by December 31, 2001, and members have until June 30, 2002, to book their Delta Vacations packages. All travel must be completed by December 31, 2002. This promotion is only valid for SkyMiles members residing in the United States.

For more on Delta Vacations, go to http://www.deltavacations.com/skymiles or call 877-759-7949.

Northwest: Save by Booking Online

In contrast to Delta’s route-specific discounts, Northwest is offering its members an across-the-board 1,000-mile discount for awards booked on the airline’s website http://nwa.com/freqfly/updat/save.shtml.

WorldPerks members who redeem their miles online for award reservations at nwa.com by December 31, will automatically receive a 1,000-mile discount on their award booking. For example, an award that would normally require 20,000 miles can be had for 19,000 miles when the 1,000-mile discount is factored in. This discount is applied immediately upon purchase of award travel and is reflected in the online booking process.

Midwest Express: Big Easy for Less

Midwest Express is usually pretty prim when it comes to frequent flyer program offers, but the Milwaukee-based carrier pulled out the stops in promoting its new service to New Orleans.

Between now and August 31, Frequent Flyer members are being offered, double bonus miles for flights to/from New Orleans. During the same period, members can also take advantage of a compelling award-travel offer: Redeem 25,000 miles for two round-trip tickets between New Orleans and either Milwaukee or Kansas City. (Both travelers must fly together on the same itinerary.)

Cathay Pacific: Asia for Less

If your sights are set on more exotic destinations, consider Cathay Pacific flights to Hong Kong and beyond, redeemable for American AAdvantage miles.

Through October 31, 2001, AAdvantage members can claim reduced economy class AAdvantage PlanAAhead awards on Cathay Pacific for travel from September 1 through December 15. Normal and discounted mileage requirements are as follows:

From North America to: Normal Miles Required: Discounted Mileage Rate:
Hong Kong 60,000 40,000
Bangkok
Cebu
Denpasar
Fukuoka
Jakarta
Kuala Lumpur
Manila
Nagoya
Osaka
Penang
Seoul
Singapore
Surabaya
Taipei
Tokyo (via Hong Kong)
70,000 45,000
Adelaide
Auckland
Bahrain
Brisbane
Cairns
Colombo
Delhi
Dubai
Istanbul
Johannesburg
Karachi
Melbourne
Mumbai
Perth
Sydney (via Hong Kong)
75,000 55,000

There’s more at http://www.cathay-usa.com/offers/fallaward.

Aeroplan Awards: 20% Less

Air Canada is offering Aeroplan members selected award flights for 20 percent less than the normal mileage requirement.

Starting July 8, 2001, reduced mileage rates can be booked for reward travel on selected Air Canada routes when you fly through September 30, 2001. To take advantage of this sale, you must book online at least eight days in advance and have at least 15,000 Aeroplan miles in your account.

For 20,000 Aeroplan miles, you can request award tickets between San Francisco and Edmonton; Miami and Vancouver; or Toronto and Jacksonville, Norfolk, or Charleston, SC.

And for only 12,000 miles, you can fly between Toronto and Greensboro, Kalamazoo, Cincinnati, or Indianapolis. The same reduced mileage applies to award travel between Montreal and Albany, NY, or Manchester, NH.

See Air Canada’s website at http://www.aircanada.ca/aeroplan/promo/virtual.html for terms and conditions.

Hilton: Save 40% With Points Stretcher

Discounted awards are not the exclusive domain of the airline programs. Hilton, as an example, offers members of its HHonors program so-called Points Stretcher awards (http://www.hilton.com/en/hhonors/rewards/hotel.jhtml).

Point Stretchers let you book award stays for 40 percent fewer points than the standard reward level at participating hotels.

Point Stretcher Rewards are valid only during specified time periods and availability is limited. You can check participating hotels during the desired period on the HHonors website, or by calling the HHonors Automated Account Inquiry Line and requesting the Faxback documents for the chosen hotel brands.

Diners: Doubles for BA Miles

Lastly, expanding our focus beyond airlines and hotels, there are also the occasional credit card-related offers.

For example, through August 31, Diners Club Rewards members can redeem one Rewards point for one mile in British Airways’ Executive Club, twice the normal redemption ratio. In the Diners Club program, $1 earns two Club Rewards points, which normally can be redeemed for one frequent flyer mile. With the special BA offer, members are effectively earning two Executive miles for every $1 charged, making awards twice as easy to earn.

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