When is the best time to redeem frequent flyer miles for flights
Frequent flyer miles can help you save money. As avid travelers, we wanted to know whether there was a best time for using miles. With the help of And’s research assistant, we looked into this question with a particular focus on flights during the Thanksgiving holiday.
Americans return to the skies.
Travel in the U.S. is at its busiest the day before Thanksgiving.
The number of people screened by the Transportation Security Administration in 2019 was just short of the previous record of 2.9 million. The number of screenings dropped in 2020 due to the drop in demand, but it increased to 2.3 million last year. Should return to its pre-COVID-19 level this year.
Airfares are increasing due to a combination of factors, including the surge in demand and significantly higher jet fuel prices.
Many consumers turn to frequent flyer mileages – either accumulated through other travel or credit card purchases – to offset the higher costs.
The Thanksgiving holiday is the busiest time of year for travel. AP Photo/StevenSenne
Frequent Flying 101
Frequent Flyer Miles programs began after the Federal Government stopped regulating airfares in the late 1970s. Prior to the change, the federal Civil Aeronautics Board set the fares, schedules, and routes for all domestic flights.
Airlines responded by creating frequent flyer programs. Texas International Airlines and Western Airlines were the first airlines to introduce regular flyer programs.
Flying with a specific airline will earn you miles in the frequent flyer program. Credit cards are also a popular way to earn miles. These miles can be exchanged for free flights.
The frequent flyer program was designed to increase customer loyalty by offering a rebate for regular passengers. These programs are also designed to lock travelers into one airline since they receive a refund for flying with them.
The downside of business travelers is that they will go to great lengths to fly with their favorite airline, which increases the travel costs for their companies.
While airlines may use frequent flyer programs as a way to improve customer satisfaction, they often alter the rules and rewards. This causes customers frustration.
Researchers looked at the best time to purchase airline tickets in cash. They have found that prices tend to drop anywhere between two months and three weeks prior to the travel dates. The prices are the highest for people who book very early to lock in a price and those booking the last minute.
Compare frequent flyer miles.
We looked at one of the most popular routes in the U.S.: New York (JFK) to Los Angeles. Over a quarter million direct flights are flown on this route each month. About 30 nonstop flights are operated by different airlines every day.
We began collecting weekly data on these three airlines’ online booking sites about three months prior to Thanksgiving. We tracked both the number of frequent flyer miles required and the cost for each coach flight that was scheduled to occur within a week of Thanksgiving.
We needed an alternative measurement to compare airlines more directly, as miles aren’t interchangeable. We calculated the value of a frequent-flyer mile by dividing the required frequent flyer miles by the price of the ticket. The dollar value of 1,000 miles was then calculated based on the airline, the date the booking took place, and the flight.
The economic theory states that if there is a lot of competition, and the products are almost identical, the match should lead to all businesses charging about the same price.
It wasn’t the case.
Delta demanded 69,000 miles in mid-October to fly on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. American Airlines only asked for 33,000 miles to pass the same route. If you have a travel rewards credit card that allows you to use miles with different airlines, you should shop around.
It doesn’t matter if an airline charges a lot in miles; the price may still come down. Delta demanded 69,000 miles at the beginning of November to fly during dinner on the Tuesday prior to Thanksgiving. The price was reduced to 53,000 miles a week later. The price dropped to 36,500 mile a week later, almost 50% less in just two weeks.