Columbus Airport Chairs my Michael Porter on Flickr
According to an article published in the New York Times, starting next month American Airlines will let you use your AAdvantage Miles online to book hotel rooms and car rentals. Delta and United are doing the same. Apparently, it’s a trend brought on by the fact that members of the airlines’ frequent flyer programs are having a difficult time redeeming their miles due to decreased capacity. Michelle Higgins writes:
Reward trips in the United States dropped 10.3 percent to 21.7 million last year from 24.2 million in 2008, according to the latest data compiled by IdeaWorks, a loyalty program consulting firm. And with airlines under continual pressure to pack flights with paying passengers, that free ticket will only become more elusive as travel demand rebounds.
“If consumers don’t see any potential reward at the end of the mileage-earning road then they’re going to start disengaging from these programs,” said Tim Winship, editor at large for SmarterTravel.com and the publisher of FrequentFlier.com. “When that happens the airlines lose the significant revenues generated from the sale of miles to all the program partners.”
Enter the chocolates. Alternative awards attempt to address “the perception that may exist among some travelers of difficulty in using their miles,” said Tom O’Toole, chief operating officer of Mileage Plus Holdings for United”.
I’ve personally never had a difficult time redeeming AAdvantage miles, even at the MilesAAver level, for the trips I’ve taken. So for me, the ability to trade miles for hotels and car rentals, doesn’t greatly increase my my already favorable opinion as to the value of AAdvantage miles, it’s will be nice to have the option. I don’t have much experience with United’s program so I can’t really comment on award availability, but with Delta’s Sky Miles, a program I’ve been a member of for a very long time, the miles are practically useless for travel, so being able to use them for merchandise or candy bars, will be a welcome improvement.