Archive for the ‘discounts’ Category

Is Selling your Frequent Flyer miles to a “Mileage Broker” legal?

Friday, May 13th, 2011

The mileage broker market was once a thriving industry, buying frequent flyer tickets from people and then reselling them at a profit. Understandably the airlines don’t like this practice of monetizing their frequent flyer / mileage plus type systems. These are marketing tools and they arguably lose both control of things and lose paid tickets to free ones (though a mileage broker could make the argument that they are simply making the process more efficient by letting people turn one form of compensation – free tickets – into cash.

In any case this practice is still in play, but appears to be scaled down and risky for both buyer, seller, and especially for the airlines mileage brokers who can wind up in court.

A case that may set the new standards is Alaska Airlines vs Carey et al, where Alaska Air is suing mileage broker Carey (I think a small, husband and wife online business) for what they feel is an illegal resale of frequent flyer / mileage program tickets. I don’t think this case has yet resolved in the courts, though it may have by now.

It should actually be very cost effective to resell miles benefits at the 1.5-2 cent per mile rates we just reviewed at a mileage broker website assuming your travel plans are flexible. My rule of thumb is that miles are only worth about a penny. This calculation assumes you’ll have trouble getting a 25,000 mileage award and probably have to use 37,500 or even 50,000, and also assumes that a bird (cash) in the hand is worth more than a ticket in the bush (mileage award). A lot can happen to those miles in the new frenzied airline business where, for example, shorter – often only 18 month – mileage expiration time limits can easily kill your miles.

QuickAid at this time recommends you do NOT buy this type of ticket as the risks seem to outweigh the benefits, but we’re open to changing our minds depending on how the courts view the legality of mileage brokering.

Airline Tickets and Hotel Rooms – finding the lowest price.

Sunday, June 3rd, 2007
Airlines Tickets and Hotels- finding the lowest prices

How to get low airline and hotel rates are the most common questions I get as a travel internet guy. The short answer is to check Hotwire.com and Kayak.com. If their price seems good take it, otherwise wait a week and try again. Note that with Hotwire you will NOT know the specific location. This is usually fine for most major destinations, and Hotwire generally features nice properties.

Many think wrongly that contacting a hotels or airline directly leads to the lowest price for a room or airline ticket. This is often NOT true, though you should generally view the hotel or airline’s own website for the rate because an increasing number of hotels are offering price guarantees if you book via their sites. Note that generally this creates a large savings for them because they don’t have to pay a commission. Unfortunately booking via the hotel sites rarely saves you more than a few dollars of savings vs the lowest online rates.

There is NO magic bullet or specific website or simple technique for finding cheap rates, rather you need to to surf around and look for “consolidators” that are *usually* cheaper than the hotels or airlines themselves.

Hotels.com is a large and popular consolidator, but Travelocity, Expedia, and Priceline are also major consolidators and there are hundreds of smaller ones. In Europe, for example, any of those or Venere – a consolidator focused on European hotels – may find you a cheap room.

I have NOT used Priceline much recently because in the early days it was frustrating to work with and I found few rates that beat Hotels.com. My belief now is that Priceline is generally only a good choice for higher end hotels and then only if you have the time to search and wait for good rates and the flexibility to change hotels and plans as needed to get a good rate.

Kayak.com is an excellent service that allows you to search different airports and airlines quickly and easily. For example in June of 2006 I found Kayak’s American Airlines rate was lower than the airline and lower than all other consolidators. I’d guess Kayak had a special deal with American for this route.

Consider OneTime.com if you want to compare MANY different consolidators at once.

An example of the consolidator advantage: In early 2006 I used a small flight consolidator called cheapseats.com to book Delta to Boston and paid about $100 less than the cheapest fare Delta had online at the same time. This situation is common in travel because pricing is very market driven and surprisingly inconsistent both for flights and hotels.

As a travel publishing guy I know how some of the hotel deals are cut and it’s a very sloppy and counter-intuitive process where some consolidators will force properties to sell them blocks of rooms far below rack rate in exchange for a guarantee of selling those rooms. Hotels.com is notoriously unpopular with many hotels as the top consolidator because they tend to squeeze great deals from properties in exchange for guaranteed volume and lots of bookings. Good for you the consumer but hard on the profit margin for the properties.

If, at the last minute, the consolidator has a lot of rooms left they may sell them at rates far below what the hotel will charge if you call them. You especially see this in places like Vegas and big cities. During a November Vegas trip I got the Hilton through (Travelocity I think) for about $55 which I think was under their own website rate and under the rate at other places I checked. Yet during a March trip I found the best price for Oriental Palace at their own site – an excellent $65 nightly for a nice room in the middle of the strip plus some buffets. (though I did have to switch rooms due to noise from a room in the wing above Harrah’s, which features an outdoor rock music pavillion open until about 2pm).