View Full Version : Giving up on using airline points...

08-31-2008, 11:11 AM
Sometimes, it just doesn't pay. I just went through a half day ordeal trying to book a flight via Aeroplan (the reward flights via Air Canada). I can't faulty Aeroplan itself - the staff were very nice, but does the airline industry make any sense? It seems more bizarre than ever.

Others of you will know that I posted on various topics related to an upcoming trip to Northern Italy - combination business and some pleasure. I attempted to get my wife's trip using accumulated Aeroplan points, and because I didn't get the details of my business trip early enough, was not left with many options for her. Still, it looked like it could work reasonably well, routing through from Toronto to Philadelphia to Frankfurt to Milan via Air Canada and US Airways, and then coming back using Lufthansa, and then Air Canada.

I had been advised to get the points ticket first, then get a matching paid ticket, and this is where the problem came. Because the reward ticket used two different partner airlines, the paid ticket came up as over $5000 Cdn! What? I could get a paid ticket for about $1900 Cdn using Air Canada/Lufthansa, so $5000 certainly wasn't a deal. We did a similar Europe trip 4 years ago, and it was confusing then with the reward/paid ticket, but we got it to work quite well.

Well, Aeroplan and Air Canada are two separate entitities - in fact, their phone agents cannot see what flights/costs are available on their own web sites either (makes no sense to me...) and what is available to Aeroplan under contract is very different from Air Canada. The next step was to see if Aeroplan could come up with any alternate routing, but that was a bust too. Even more confusing is that the *lower* tier Aeroplan Classic redemption has more flexibility than the higher tier Aeroplan Classic Plus in terms of partner airlines: in other words, if I had spent MORE of my reward points, it still would not have helped.

After much back and forth and several hours on the phone and on hold, I cancelled my reward flight for my wife - and that cost me $135. Even the Aeroplan agent agreed that particularly for international flights, it sometimes is better to just save the points (for merchandise or in country flights), and just pay a conventional ticket.

Good grief... I have all these TB bags... and nowhere to go!

09-04-2008, 09:42 AM
Thanks for the tip.

Another reminder that reward program are a waste of time and paper, the minute one signs up, they send load and loads of junk mail and email.

However, trying to use the partners coupons, promotions etc... is
a nightmare of logistics.

09-04-2008, 12:05 PM
hi there,

i assure you that you're not the only one facing problems with aeroplan. my in-laws live in toronto, so we fly regularly up to canada. they used to have a much larger selection of flights, but the number available has decreased over time. mostly, all we can get is the 6am flights for our route from dca to yyz.

however, not all frequent flyer programs are created equal.

the only other one i can comment on is delta. i have gotten delta to provide me with 3.5 business class round trip tickets between washington, dc and india with their partner, air france. they charge less than other airlines for their free trips (120k miles gets you a round trip business class ticket between the u.s. and india). they also don't charge large fees+taxes when you get a free ticket from them. for example, i paid $200 in fees+taxes for the round trip business class ticket to india.

as a comparison, i tried getting the same ticket with air france directly, through their flying blue frequent flyer program. they also charge 120k miles for this route. however, taxes+fees amounted to almost $400 rather than delta's $200. the reason i checked directly with air france is because delta charges a $50 surcharge (part of the $200) when you book with a partner airline for the free ticket.


09-04-2008, 01:46 PM
The cost of flying is going UP and many perks are
being eliminated and/or restricted. In addition,
there will be much fewer options in terms of
airline routes in the near future.

Welcome to the real world Fall 2008.

09-04-2008, 01:59 PM
The cost of flying is going UP and many perks are
being eliminated and/or restricted. In addition,
there will be much fewer options in terms of
airline routes in the near future.

Welcome to the real world Fall 2008.

Indeed, the cost of flying is increasing with rising fuel costs.

Frequent Flyer miles is how airlines have traditionally earned loyal customers. Those who fly often try to stay with one or two airlines so that they can earn frequent flyer miles, "elite" status (where you get upgraded automatically when seats are available), and so forth.

While I don't fly as often, for long haul flights, I do try to stick with certain airlines for that very that very reason - even if it means a slightly more expensive ticket.

The rewards are becoming more restrictive with some programs, but I would hope that they do not go away altogether.


09-04-2008, 06:32 PM
For a different kind of travel point system, American Express used to have a card that allowed you build points that you could later use to wipe out travel charges including airfare and hotel. I meant to get one but never did. Seemed like a great idea to me.

09-05-2008, 12:20 PM
funny - i just received the following email from continental:

"Our OnePass® members are important to us, so we are making every effort to keep you informed of some changes to our checked baggage policy and the OnePass program.

"Effective Oct. 7, 2008, customers will be charged $15 for their first checked bag when traveling on tickets purchased on or after Sept. 5, 2008, within the U.S., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada.

"The service fee will not apply to EliteAccess® customers, including those seated in First or BusinessFirst®, OnePass Elite and SkyTeam® Elite members, customers traveling on full-fare economy (Y) class tickets, or military personnel and their families traveling on official orders.

"Effective for travel on or after Jan. 1, 2009, OnePass members will earn the actual miles flown rather than a minimum of 500 miles per flight for tickets purchased on or after Nov. 15, 2008. This affects base miles and Elite Qualifying Miles on flights operated by Continental* and most OnePass airline partners**.

"Also effective for reward travel booked on or after Jan.1, 2009, reward travel mileage requirements will increase for customers traveling between North America and Tel Aviv (TLV) and between Hawaii and Tel Aviv.

"Effective for travel on or after March 1, 2009, Elite Mileage Bonuses will decrease for Platinum members from 125% to 100% and for Silver members from 50% to 25% for tickets purchased on or after Nov. 15, 2008. Gold members will continue to earn 100% mileage bonuses.

"Full details of all changes can be found at continental.com.

"We appreciate your business and look forward to serving you soon."

09-05-2008, 08:51 PM
I'm trying to remember the last time I had a decent meal served to me on the plane... let alone a point system that made sense...

09-05-2008, 09:23 PM
I'm trying to remember the last time I had a decent meal served to me on the plane... let alone a point system that made sense...

my experience as a vegetarian has not been altogether bad.

the best meal i ever had was at the virgin atlantic lounge in london's heathrow. i was so impressed that they offered a hot vegan meal at the lounge! their asian vegetarian meal served inflight was also very good.

air france also serves a pretty good asian vegetarian meal in business class.

air india's asian vegetarian meal in economy is very good. this does not make up for the other problems that airline has, however.

austrian's asian vegetarian is okay in economy.

lufthansa's vegetarian offering was pretty disappointing.

if you're flying in india, jet airways has excellent service and food. there was one time that i was flying from bangalore to delhi where we had an ant that had stowed away on my tray. i decided to pass on the meal at that point, and i understand that despite every precaution they take, these things can happen. i haven't held that against them. the incident was the exception and not the norm.

the absolute worst experience i had with dining inflight was on a united flight. we were flying from washington, dc to las vegas to visit my wife's sister, and we had our 2 year old son with us.

we were seated in row 22. they ran out of food in row 17 - that's about half way through the plane.

on another flight on the same route, they refused to serve me water after i had consumed a liter. i like to keep myself hydrated, specially when flying. it's not that they didn't have any more water.

to end on a more positive note, i had a great experience with air france. i changed my return flight last minute, and they did not have a vegetarian meal for me. it wasn't their fault because i did not give them enough notice. i was just happy to be getting on the earlier flight that i wanted.

they brought me a wonderful salad from business or first class (i was flying economy) and lots of fruit. they also brought me a pasta dish but they were unsure if the pasta had eggs, so i passed on it. but i appreciated everything they were trying to do to ensure that i was well fed :).