There was a good piece in the New York Times over the weekend about the difficulties of redeeming frequent flier miles these days. Some good tips, too.
I have usually spent my miles on big trips, planned well in advance. I start looking for seats as soon as they go on sale, which is 330 days out for the airline I use most. And even so it can take a while to get what I’m looking for.
Tom Parsons, in a piece in the Dallas Morning News, goes so far as to advise that passengers think less about miles and loyalty programs when buying tickets and book instead on whatever airline offers the best fare.
I gave a colleague similar advice recently. She was booking a business trip and found plenty of flights at low prices. The airline on which she holds her frequent-flier miles offered the worst itinerary, one that would have cost several extra hours of her time. She would have earned about 1,000 miles on that trip, but those miles would be worth $10 or $20, at most.
None of her airline’s partners had better fares or routes. So she took my advice and went for a better route on an unaffiliated airline. Several hours of her time are simply worth more than $20.