The eterneal dilema – Save money or Earn Miles?

One of the eternal dilemma’s faced by travelers is choosing between a low cost flight ticket and sacrificing the miles that one loses by buying that ticket, or buying higher fare tickets that will earn the full miles. Yes, you don’t always earn one mile for every mile flown.

Airlines sell tickets in different fare buckets. In the case of some airlines all fare buckets do not earn 100% miles. In fact, some fare buckets may earn no miles at all.

Cheap Fare buckets:

All airlines sell airline tickets in different fare buckets. Some airlines, like United, award at least 100% miles for every mile flown, irrespective of the fare bucket of your ticket. Others give lesser, including some airlines that even have fares that give no miles. No miles earned is more common with miles earned on partner airlines. When you fly on a partner, make sure what fare buckets award miles on your mileage program and what do not. For example, there are certain Korean Air fares that earn no miles on Emirates Skywards.

I have actually been awarded less than 1,000 miles for a 8,000+ mile trip on British Airways as I was on a low price ticket, so I have become very careful understanding fare buckets and the miles awarded. When I booked my flight on Emirates last year, I was earning my miles on United. The first thing I checked was how many miles I will earn. Fortunately for me, I earned 100% of the miles flown.Fare buckets.JPG

Bonus Miles:

The reverse is also true with most airlines giving bonus miles for full fare economy and upper class fares. These are typically 150% or in some cases like BMI, even upto 300% of miles flown on a First class ticket.

Fare Up:

The solution to this issue is to purchase tickets that are in fare buckets that award full miles. These can sometimes be very expensive compared to the low discounted fares. Based on the miles you will be losing, you will have to decide whether it is worth it to pay the extra fare.

Alternatively, you can also do something called a fare-up where you pay a fee to change your fare bucket from a lower to a higher bucket. Sometimes and I mean very sometimes, this fee can be smaller than the actual price difference in the original ticket price for the higher fare bucket ticket. No harm in asking what the up-fare cost will be. You may get lucky.

Upgradable fares:

Another area where low cost fare buckets come back to bite travelers is in the area of upgradable fares. Last November, when I was looking for cheap flights to Dubai, almost every affordable fare I was getting was in a non-upgradable fare. Despite having the miles in my account, I was unable to upgrade my United flight without needing to pay an up-fare fee. I chose not to pay the fee but at least I got full credit for the miles flown.

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