Frequent-flier programs’ rules spur boom in ‘mileage consultants’

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Miles/Points' started by rwoman, Feb 23, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. rwoman
    Original Member

    rwoman Gold Member

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    Washington Post - The Navigator: Frequent-flier programs’ rules spur boom in ‘mileage consultants’

    While I know we consult each other on redemptions here and on FT, I don't think I'd pay someone to figure out the best/cheapest way to use my miles.

    :)

     
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  2. MDDCFlyer

    MDDCFlyer Silver Member

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    Personally I don't think I will ever pay for this service - half of the fun for me is figuring out the options myself and checking them out. It is part of planning the trip which for me is an important part of the trip itself.

    I can see, however, how many will find the whole process daunting. Unfortunately, those will also be in disadvantage as using miles is only the last step in the strategic accumulation of miles (which program and how to fund it).
     
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  3. javacodeguy

    javacodeguy Gold Member

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    I really think more people should take advantage of the service. I've never had problems redeeming for flights that get me where I want and how I want. It's definitely not for most of the people on FT/MP though. I don't think any of us mind sifting through KVS/EF and calling in over and over to get the tickets we want.

    But for others I know it can be confusing. My family and a couple of my friends come to me for help when booking tickets for cash or miles. Maybe it's time to start charging them.... :p

    Truth is though, if more people could easily redeem, then airlines would have to make up the money elsewhere and redemptions would probably be harder for me to find. Something would have to change if everyone redeemed all their miles in a timely fashion instead of letting so many expire.
     
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  4. viguera
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    viguera Gold Member

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    I think it depends on the situation, and I remember there was a thread last year about using award booking services where some good points were made.

    My take is that if you're pretty new at this, you might not know the ins and outs of the game, and could potentially waste some money and/or quite a bit of miles by not taking advantage of things like permitted stopovers or open jaws.

    Without using "the wisdom of the crowds" (or a "consultant" if that's your thing :) ) you might book a perfectly fine award trip, but not maximize the overall experience -- such as not getting the best equipment out there, or you might book JFK-LAX-DPS on your way to Bali where you could have done JFK-HKG-DPS via the polar route and spend a couple of nights in Hong Kong instead of LA. :)
     
  5. ohianjo
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    ohianjo Silver Member

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    I like spending hours, days even working out the best routing, worrying about whether I have chosen the right carrier/product. Planning is half of the fun;)
     
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  6. MDDCFlyer

    MDDCFlyer Silver Member

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    You know the old saying about giving a fish or teaching to fish. I think it is the same. I have made stupid mistakes while booking award and paid for them - but you can be sure I'll never do them again. If someone pays for a service they will never learn how to do it for themselves. I guess for the one trip of a life time that would be good enough (unless something will go wrong), but for us, the "repeat offenders" knowing the in and outs is crucial - and yes, making mistakes and learning from them is part of the process.
     
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  7. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    I have too many specific likes and dislikes about schedules, aircraft types, seats, etc. that by the time I explained my preferences to a consultant I could almost do it myslef, plus I'd be more confident that the final result did indeed reflect my preferences as closely as possible.

    Some of these services are expensive and yet they're still not travel agents. I'd be very wary of using one that I didn't know a lot about. The routine seems to include giving them your FF numbers, passwords, and credit card numbers.
     
  8. viguera
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    viguera Gold Member

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    Agreed, but the thing is that unless you know that you made a mistake you really won't learn anything. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there that sign up for credit cards and get a few miles, then go after redemptions that "we" would consider wasteful... maybe a couple of domestic tickets from New York to Atlanta or Miami, or maybe even (gasp) exchange them on points.com at a ghastly rate.

    Point is that unless they know that those are not the best redemption options, they won't know any better and will probably make the same mistake again. That's one case where having someone else's knowledge will actually be useful, since they just don't know any better.
     
  9. MDDCFlyer

    MDDCFlyer Silver Member

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    I totally agree with that, although I doubt what one can learn from a paid service (which is in the end about making money and not telling the customer that their redemption is wasteful). By the time someone wants to book a ticket and approach those services it would be too late to tell them that domestic ticket in economy class is a horrible idea - because this is what the client want at that point in time.

    Any by mistakes I meant not such horrible ideas as you described (gasp, the horror), but more "sophisticated" mistakes as not using a stop-over, or open-jaw etc.'
     
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  10. LarryInNYC

    LarryInNYC Gold Member

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    The "big three" guys in this market space whose blogs I read more-or-less daily (Gary Leff, Ben Schlappig, and Brian Kelly) all seem to have a real passion for this kind of thing and I have no doubt that using them, or someone like them, would help in my miles earning and redeeming strategy. It would also probably be economical (I probably spent at least 10 hours booking award tickets for 4 to SE Asia this summer, I would easily have recouped the expense of a consultant if I'd dedicated some of those hours to billable programming).

    I may well use them in the future. What stops me is largely:
    • Cheapness — I ought to be able to do this myself.
    • Ego — in any normal group of people, I'm the travel expert!
    • Knowledge that I wouldn't be putting that lost time to good use but rather spending it reading more travel blogs, or whatever.
    Earning miles and, especially, redeeming them, is complex. I can easily see where someone who doesn't have the same hang-ups about doing it him/herself would be very, very happy if they got the kind of results Gary, Brian, and Ben describe in their blogs.
     
  11. Toula
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    Toula Gold Member

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    I can see how using a service would work for some people. Some people have busy schedules and would prefer to oursource where they can, I mean I wouldn't hesitate to hire someone to clean my house or tend my yard if I did not have much spare time so can't see how getting someone to do your reward bookings is much different.

    I've never done it myself, we have never had an itinerary that has been that complicated that I have needed outside help. However, I will never say that I will never use one of these services.
     
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  12. PedroNY
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    PedroNY Silver Member

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    I think I echo everything that others said. Some see it as a fun part of planning, others see it as an annoyance. Most people on MilePoint would not be the right target audience, but that goes without saying.

    Cheers,

    PedroNY
     
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  13. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    Remember that not everyone in this business is a Gary, Brian, or Ben and the examples they describe might not be typical. Based on some of the outright mistakes that one sees posted here, on TOBB, or in blogs, I think the average person who is very active here knows more than some of the supposed experts.
     
  14. General_Flyer
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    General_Flyer Gold Member

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    I don't think I've ever done a pure redemption booking before, especially the RTW or the kind that requires looking at availabilities for long periods of time.. It would be an interesting challenge doing it on my own, but then again, the complexity of those types of booking often times requires an excessive amount of time to complete..
     
  15. MLW20
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    MLW20 Gold Member

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    Interesting article but I have to agree that these services probably do not appeal to most on MP. The fees seem high and the point of an award booking is to save $.
    I am definitely not an expert on booking flights but have always found what I needed when trying to use miles. To me persistence and a bit of flexibility are keys to finding flights.
     
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  16. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    I think the fees are very reasonable for what you get, especially if you're using a "good one" and have a lot of e.g. amex points with lots of flexibility. Very easy to save on surcharges/fees or miles what you spend, and if you want a complex itinerary it can help to have someone who knows the routing rules very well.

    There are also a lot of people with large mile stashes, but not a lot of in depth knowledge of award redemptions (nor a desire to learn). Many of them even participate on forums like this - you can love frequent travel but still not want to focus on redemption. From the outside, the programs can be *incredibly* confusing to a degree that I think a lot of us forget. I think among those of us that know a lot of travellers, we all know a few smart, capable travellers who are completely lost in the woods regarding miles. On the other end, plenty of people are very reluctant to get involved in e.g. card churning (particularly without handholding) which can be extremely lucrative.

    It's not a service I'd use, but there is definitely huge value to a specific audience. I'd even say that much of that market is untapped and not at all sold on the value of their miles.

    Everyone who redeems for flexible travel at non-low levels is at least a candidate for such services, imo.
     
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  17. Steven Schwartz
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    Steven Schwartz Gold Member

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    The scary thing, and the part that drives my wife crazy, is that I'm 64 and forget everything. Never remember to bring the milk home - but I remember every single in-and-out of every program I deal with!

    I tried to remind her about my father. He died at 92 and when he was 90, he had some serious dementia issues. Repeated stories over and over. But put him at a card table playing bridge, and he was a wiz!
     
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