Airline Points can be Pointless

For those who have contacted me to wonder why I have been silent for a while, I thank you; it is reassuring to find out that there are actually readers out there in the blogosphere; the simple answer is a combination of actually having to work hard at my own desk, becoming preoccupied and a touch lazy, and being unable to think of some interesting subjects.

The last bit is disingenuous because there is always something interesting to write about in the travel biz, and today I shall vent a little about points.

Frequent flyer points are the crack-cocaine of the travel world. Collectors can border on the obsessive, and it is not unheard of for travellers to request routes with one or two additional connections to allow them to get more segments toward some elite level. Some time ago, we had a couple buy tickets from Winnipeg to London with intermediate stops in Thunder Bay, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax, thus earning 12 segments on a return journey; odd, but true.

The serious side of the World of Points is that they are a rapidly inflating currency; elementary economics reminds us that an increase in the base money supply without a corresponding increase in available product will inevitably cause price-inflation; and guess what? The airlines point-making-machines have been left running, and now with every credit card, gas store and restaurant offering points, the pressure on redemption is becoming rough.

Aeroplan are considering increasing the redemption requirement by 20%, and rest assured that they will do so. If you have Aeroplan points, and are planning a trip, book it now; even if you are not sure of the dates, by making a reservation, you are locking in the number of points required, and the dates maybe changed for a nominal fee of $90.

The points debate is also enlightened by the addition of new carriers in the various alliances. Continental Airlines recently joined the Star Alliance, and their redemption rate for travel to Europe was 80, 100 and 120K for economy, business or first class travel respectively. Air Canada’s is 65, 80 and 100, so one can imagine that Continental Airline’s favourite clients would be tempted to abscond to a program that offers faster redemption with an identical accrual rate!

Other carriers, under the cunning guise of offering you, the Valued Client, “more choice” have now introduced seasons, where for an outlay of only three times the points that you previously needed, you can fly at convenient vacation times. I am not sure who does burn up their stash of points at those stratospheric rates, but I am sure that some do.

Partly because if you don’t, they will evaporate.

I have collected American Airlines points slowly but surely; a BA flight here, a leg on Aer Lingus there; they don’t’ really fly anywhere near me, but when I need to travel on a route that does not offer a hit of my preferred drug (Aeroplan and Delta’s Sky Miles), I go for the One World carrier. Over time, I had accumulated 31,067 miles, and was planning to cash them in on a flight from London to Moscow with British Airways. Too late; with absolutely no direct warning, my account’s “inactivity” had led to them cancel all of my scrip, leaving me with a balance of zero.

So beware; use your Aeroplan points before the redemption rate inflates, and keep an eye on the expiry date! The airlines’ computers do.