Frequent Flyer Award Redemption Pet Peeves: Unavailable Dates and Unexpected Fees Top List

By Jeremy Del Nero on 11 December 2013
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DSC_0450Frequent flyers accumulate thousands if not millions of points from their travels, which they typically want to redeem for additional trips for themselves or family members.  The system for redeeming miles or points, however, is far from perfect, and indeed was the basis of our newest pet peeves poll.

Close to 1,100 frequent travelers responded to our survey between October 14 and November 19, which was conducted in conjunction with FlyerTalk, the world’s largest online travel community.  Participants were asked to rank fifteen peeves regarding frequent flyer award redemptions.

The most cited peeve was something that almost everyone can relate to: desired dates of travel not available for redemption.  Once one’s date of travel is unavailable, all other peeves must take a back seat.

Additional charges, including taxes, booking fees, and fuel surcharges, came in second place while low-level award tickets not available ranked third.

Difficult to book partner awards came in fourth place, and was followed by poor search tools at number five.  Fees charged for telephone booking in cases where online booking was not available came in sixth.

Fees for changing the redemption ranked seventh and misleading advertising took eighth place.  Next was multiple seats on one flight not available, and mixed segment price at highest class rounded off the top ten list.


Frequent-flyer programs, which are intended to reward a traveler’s loyalty to a particular airline or alliance, are marketed as an easy means of obtaining free air travel, although redeeming miles or points for tickets isn’t always as straight forward as one would expect.

Last week, the policies with which frequent-flyer programs are managed reached the Supreme Court.  Hearing a case where Northwest Airlines, which merged with Delta in 2008, revoked the membership of a frequent flyer (who flew hundreds of thousands of miles a year), one justice voiced concern that an airline could act unfairly in administering its program and arbitrarily cancel a member’s account.

“I always thought that the way these agreements worked were that if I flew a certain number of miles on your plan, I was going to get a free ticket,” said Justice Elena Kagan. “If I knew that it was really up to you to give me the free ticket…I don’t think that I’d be spending all this time in the air on your planes. You know, I’d find another company that actually gave me the free ticket.”

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