Winning at Points Miles Roulette: airline loyalty programs inequality
All miles or points are not created equally, as we showed in this post. Every time you look to book an award – free flight or upgrade – you need to play the game of ‘Points Miles Roulette'.
What is Points Miles Roulette?
I'm occasionally accused of being biased towards Etihad – rather than Emirates. Hopefully by explaining the imbalance between airline loyalty programs such as these, you will see why the term ‘Points Mile Roulette’ is quite fitting.
To illustrate this imbalance, let's take a comparative look at how much it's likely to cost in different airline loyalty schemes for a one way flight to the UK.
A route I regularly travel is Dubai (DXB) or Abu Dhabi (AUH) to Manchester, UK (MAN). Let's see what classes are available at short notice, say Thursday 1st September.
Points Miles Roulette: British Airways Executive Club (Avios)
Link here – select ‘Book With Avios' and enter search details in sidebar to the left of the screen.
*Note – the Thursday is showing as ‘Peak' , so will cost more Avios. Choose an ‘Off Peak' date to reduce number of Avios.
BA shows the sum total of one option – not even on any partner flights – and that's in First Class, for 80,000 Avios and £246 in fees/charges.
Checking routings from Abu Dhabi shows no availability on the 1st for any class of service.
Points Miles Roulette: American Airlines (AAdvantage Miles)
*Note – ensure ‘Redeem Miles' is selected, otherwise it will assume you are searching for a cash flight.
AAdvantage shows the results in a user-friendly calendar format, showing the minimum miles needed for each day of the month.
Green – coach/economy, Blue – Business, Pink – First Class
So by selecting the 1st window, it shows a Business Class flight on Qantas via London Heathrow (LHR). However, note the layover times – it arrives at 06:55 at offers a connection out at 06:45 the next day!
Checking from Abu Dhabi shows no availability on 1st, but Business Class on Sat 3rd via Royal Jordanian or Thu 30th First Class with BA for 62,500.
Points Miles Roulette: Etihad Airways (Etihad Guest Miles)
*Note – Click ‘Spend Miles' then ‘Book a flight with miles'
What we need to look for is ‘Guest Seat' availability – as this allows us to book Etihad Airways seats with partner airlines such as American Airlines AAdvantage.
In this case, there is no availability on either Etihad Business Class flight for Guest Seat level. Although there is availability at Business Flex, it's a whopping 435,098 Guest Miles!
However, it's very interesting to note that it shows availability on the 3rd for only 68,381 – which means there is Guest Seat availability (as it's pricing it a lower fare code – Guest Business).
Where this is even better news is this means I should be able to book this flight for LOWER miles by using a partner such as American Airways AAdvantage, as listed in this post
Points Miles Roulette: Emirates (Emirates Skywards)
Emirates is offering Business Class on an EK019 A380 for 62,500 Skywards Miles + 1,515 AED.
*Note – this is as at a fare code of Business Flex Plus.
However, by changing the search to Economy/Coach, two flights are showing as available. Cost is 38,750 Skywards Miles + 705 AED, at Economy Flex Plus fare code.
However, and this is why I'm not a big of Emirates Skywards – they can be hard work!
Not only do they not allow one-way flights at Saver level (thus needing less Skywards Miles) but take a look at this search done just a few minutes later.
So this shows us two things about Emirates Skywards:-
- By searching for return flights. a Saver reward flight costs 22,500 rather than 38,750 for Flex (just over 41% less Skywards Miles!)
- Availability is very, very limited (or for the conspiracy theorists – hidden!
Points Miles Roulette: Conclusion, and a hidden gem – Air Berlin!
So what have we learned from this article?
- Searching for award flights at short notice is hampered by lack of availability
- Emirates Skywards are not a good use for one way award flights, due to increased fare codes
- Etihad Guest and British Airways Avios are quite expensive compared to American Airways AAdvantage in terms of points/miles.
So, if I really needed to book an award flight, what should I do?
If this was the case, I would telephone American Airlines AAdvantage as they often have availability that isn't always shown or bookable online (e.g. Qatar Airways).
Alternatively, I would look for different routes – perhaps with a stopover – with better use of points/miles and/or less fees/charges/taxes. Air Berlin offer Business Class flights (as an Etihad partner, complete with chauffeur service) from Abu Dhabi to Berlin Tegel
Air Berlin offer Business Class flights (as an Etihad partner, complete with chauffeur service) from Abu Dhabi to Berlin Tegel (TXL)
On Sat 03 Sep, Air Berlin is showing availability for Business Class on AB7495 for 37,500 Avios and only £23 in fees/charges!
So this is a very good value redemption, especially with the Etihad partner benefits (chauffeur, lounge access etc.). It's easy enough to connect into Manchester (MAN) or Birmingham on Air Berlin or Flybe for less than £100. As an added bonus, who wouldn't take the opportunity to have a stopover night in a wonderful city like Berlin?
Which is your preferred airline loyalty program? How do you normally redeem your points or miles – free flights or upgrades?Let us know using the comments form below – we'd love to hear from you!
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