Once upon a time, searching for flights on the Internet was fairly easy. You decided on a destination to which you wanted to travel and when you wanted to go, compared the schedules and cost of flights, selected the one you wanted, and then purchased it.
When SkyMiles are Worth Using
These days, perceived nefarious marketing practices can impede upon the ability to choose what you want quickly. The advent of such mechanisms — which are known with such euphemistic monikers as “ultra-low-cost” carriers and “basic economy” — seem to have intentionally been created to legally deceive potential customers, lurking and luring the ill-informed into thinking that they are getting a bargain…
…but once impediments in the form of ancillary fees surprise the budget-conscious at seemingly every step of the booking process, chipping away at that steal of a deal while simultaneously offering little more than basic transportation from origin to destination in return.
Before you know it, that cheap flight approaches the price of an economy class ticket — once such luxurious options as choosing a seat, ordering a meal, and carrying a bag are added to the cost of the ticket — and you might not be able to help but feel that you have done little more than waste your time.
Regardless of whether the search was performed three months or three weeks prior to departure, I was looking for a round trip flight between Atlanta and Las Vegas so that I may attend — and also speak at — ZorkFest 2018. Not all that long ago, finding round trip flights between Atlanta and Las Vegas for less than $200.00 total was not unusual during a typical sale — especially when your schedule is flexible.
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I am used to paying lower airfares — but because ZorkFest 2018 will occur later this month during Memorial Day weekend and because my schedule is tight both prior to the start of ZorkFest and after it concludes, I found myself in the unfamiliar situation of being inflexible with my schedule.
The initial results from a search using Google Flights suggests that a round trip flight between Atlanta and Las Vegas suggest a cost of $375.00 — which initially does not seem like a bad price for Memorial Day weekend…
…but after clicking on the Done button, the five best results are shown:
Flying as a passenger aboard an airplane operated by Spirit Airlines almost guarantees that additional fees will be added to the total cost of the flight. For example, here are the prices for baggage per one way flight:
Unless you are a member of the $9 fare club, the cost of a carry-on bag for the round trip itinerary is a minimum of $74.00 — which increases the total cost of the trip to $449.00. That is already more expensive than the $424.00 which Delta Air Lines charges…
…but those three flights of Delta Air Lines are listed are in Basic Economy class, which means that despite being able to carry on one bag and a personal item aboard the aircraft, checked bag fees will apply on all domestic routes and select international routes; and you will not be eligible for:
- Paid or complimentary upgrades
- Paid, complimentary or discounted Delta Comfort+
- Paid or complimentary Preferred Seats
- Same-day confirmed or same-day standby travel changes – regardless of elite level status
Dynamic Award Redemption Values of SkyMiles
When Delta Air Lines decided to do away with award charts back in 2015, gloom and doom prevailed in the frequent flier community, as the thought was that due to the lack of transparency, Delta Air Lines would surely raise redemption rates — especially to an unsuspecting public who will have no idea how much a particular SkyMiles award will cost.
In one way, that was true in my case: a one way flight from Atlanta to Las Vegas cost 25,000 SkyMiles, which is typically the number of SkyMiles needed to redeem for a round trip — yet then again, keep in mind that that was for travel on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend…
…but the return flight was a different story: the choice was to either pay $301.20 for a Basic Economy fare with the aforementioned additional restrictions; $331.20 for a Main Cabin regular economy airfare…
…or spend 13,500 SkyMiles — plus $5.60 — for a Main Economy class ticket.
Although the value was not the best when calculated from a strictly financial basis, the fact that I could fly back to Atlanta on the Sunday prior to Memorial Day for only 13,500 SkyMiles at a decent hour was worth redeeming the SkyMiles instead of paying cash for a slightly inferior product.
SkyMiles have been valued by various pundits at approximately 1.2 cents to 1.7 cents each. A revenue ticket in the Main Cabin is identical in terms of benefits as a SkyMiles award ticket; so when comparing them, the SkyMiles in this case is valued at slightly greater than 2.45 cents each. At first glance, that would seem overvalued — but when compared to the other options which were available for a busy time period like Memorial Day weekend, not so much.
The answer of when SkyMiles are worth using is not necessarily definitive. All factors and circumstances have to be taken into consideration — including time of year, destination, which credit card is used to pay for a revenue ticket, the cost of what the competition offers, and the product offered by competitors. Only then can the true value of when SkyMiles are worth using can be determined, which is subjective.
Want to talk about this some more in person? Please join me at ZorkFest 2018 on Saturday, May 26, 2018 at 5:15 in the afternoon Pacific Daylight Time for a discussion which I will be hosting called Miles & Points or Cash, deciding what makes sense, with which we will focus on both SkyMiles and Hilton Honors as examples.
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen
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