Why Airlines Pricing Award Tickets At One Million Miles Is Stupid

Some programs offer ‘saver awards only’. Award space is available or it isn’t. You get a ‘decent’ price, or no option to book at all.

Other programs offer last seat availability, or access to most seats for points. But when fares are exorbitant, the algorithms can lead to some absurd results, like over a million miles for a one-way flight on peak travel days. That makes the program look bad, and even if members like “last seat availability” offering these seats costs too much to the program’s reputation.

Years ago it was only Delta that priced awards like that, though they priced them at that level with regularity and not just on peak of peak dates. And even Delta’s business class saver awards can price like other airlines’ last seat availability offers.

I’ve heard from a number of readers concerned with the ‘massive devaluation’ of Air France KLM Flying Blue, but that’s not what’s going on here at all. Saver award pricing hasn’t changed. It’s just that on peak of peak travel days, when searching for more than one passenger, ticket prices are through the roof.

The program is offering to ‘buy that seat’ at a very low value per point. They expect the mileage passenger will displace a paying passenger and they’re not willing to do that at anything approximating reasonable value.

Yes, they offer last seat available at some price but these prices make the program look low value, even though saver awards still abound on less peak dates to numerous destinations.

The issue here is that a million miles is stupid.

  • No one is actually booking at that price
  • But it makes the program look worthless and inflated

So offering these seats at these prices is worse than not offering availability at all. It’s not actually helping members and makes the program look bad.

Now I think they’d be better off redeeming points at something closer to a penny apiece or even just 75 basis points. But they’d even be better off showing ‘nothing available’ and I think transatlantic business class for New Years that makes sense to people. Over one million miles does not.

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