Dubai: If you’re a frequent traveller who has been making use of air miles in order to save on travel costs, aside from the obvious benefits you’ve come across, you would have also been faced with instances that would have frustrated you – more often now than before.
This may be the lack of options available when you have lesser points or smaller miles balances, or even if your balances are flush with points, it may seem at times that the award rates are well beyond what seems reasonable to spend after you smartly saved up points and miles.
“All it takes is a little know-how to stretch your points or maximise your miles farther, especially given that more flights worldwide are implementing ‘dynamic pricing’ strategies which fluctuate ticket costs,” said Sophia Sanchez, travel planning manager at a UAE-based European tour operator.
When an airline introduces ‘dynamic pricing’ for awarding tickets, it simply means that the number of miles required to redeem for a ticket fluctuate based on supply and demand
What it means when flights adopt ‘dynamic pricing’
“When an airline introduces ‘dynamic pricing’ for awarding tickets, it simply means that the number of miles required to redeem for a ticket fluctuate based on supply and demand. Earlier, most airlines worldwide used what’s called an ‘award chart’ to set how many miles you'll need for a given flight.”
When you're looking to go from point A to point B, referring to the ‘award chart’ will reveal to you how many miles it should cost. It's a measure to make sure you're getting the best deal possible. With ‘dynamic pricing’, however, the airlines decide your miles based on your ‘mileage rate’.
For example, if you choose to buy a business class trip using your credit card, your ‘mileage rate’ indicates how many more points you’re credited as opposed to, let’s say, spending on an economy-class ticket instead.
Here’s an example. Let’s say it cost 126,000 frequent flyer miles for a roundtrip ticket in standard economy between New York and Rome between June 1 and June 8, during the peak travel season, but only 89,500 miles from October 1 to October 8, during the lower-demand season. This is due to 'dynamic award pricing'.
Get more value for your miles with ‘dynamic pricing’?
Irrespective of whether or not the costs of your tickets fluctuate in a given time, you can save in the long run so that you don’t have to shell out too many miles on flights or spend more points than necessary.
“Even with ‘dynamic award pricing’, it’s not right to say you can't get a lot of value for your miles. You can if you're flexible with your travel dates and willing to consider different destinations,” said Richa Dev, a Dubai-based travel agent and itinerary consultant.
“However, the loss of fixed ‘award charts’ does mean you may not know how many miles you'll need for a specific award until you are ready to book, which can be a problem if you're trying to earn miles for a trip. Without this chart, it's hard to plan ahead or create a strategy to earn the miles you need.”
How to stretch your travel miles with ‘dynamic pricing’
Whether an airline offers ‘fixed award charts’ or ‘dynamic pricing’, you'll be better off if you have more miles to burn, which is why you experts suggest looking for ways to earn more miles over time. Having more miles can be an insurance policy if you find that a flight you wanted to book got pricier.
There are workarounds that can help you get extreme value from your miles — regardless of whether there's an ‘award chart’ or not. According to Sanchez, here are a couple of saving strategies that can prove effective when travelling frequently.
• Pick up an airline credit card to rack up miles
You could pick up an airline credit card that lets you earn miles for each dirham you spend, while also looking for ways to cover other bills and routine expenses with your airline credit card. You could use airline shopping portals for some of your online purchases as well.
• Opt for off-peak rates when travelling on a budget
Airline loyalty programs often offers peak and off-peak award pricing, meaning the price varies on expected demand for certain dates. If you have the flexibility to schedule your travel for dates with off-peak rates, you can save considerably when it comes time to cash in points and miles.
Even though it's harder to get more value out of your points and miles when airlines use variable pricing, you'll still end up paying more for last-minute flights when using cash
Airline miles are rarely useful for those who want to travel but aren't sure they can. If you earn a ton of airline miles and don't find any time to use them, you could end up wasting them. Dev agrees that one of the best ways budget travellers can get the most out of their points and miles is to be flexible.
“In particular, try to be as flexible as possible with your dates of travel and even your destination. Flexibility also helps when it comes to redeeming fewer points, which helps you to get the most out of them, especially if you're sticking to a tight budget,” added Dev.
“Even though it's harder to get more value out of your points and miles when airlines use variable pricing, given that less valuable miles equates to less reason to collect them, you'll still end up paying more for last-minute flights when using cash. So frequent flyer miles can still be a great way to save money when your travel plans change.”