Saved by an Award Ticket: Award Ticket Pros and Cons

Award Travel Pros and Cons


Award Tickets Have Saved Us Again. Many times, we focus on the savings of award tickets over equivalent paid tickets, such as booking Cathay Pacific First Class for 140,000 miles instead of $30,000. But another great reason, especially when it comes to non-North American frequent flyer programs that charge reasonable fees, is being able to change or cancel an award ticket with minimal grief.

Recently I was informed that one of our flights later this year, on a tiny regional carrier, would be departing from Denpasar, Bali over 4 hours earlier than our original tickets showed. That was a problem, since we wouldn't even have arrived from our international flight by that time.

Now, originally I'd considered a paid nonstop international flight into Denpasar from our origin elsewhere in Asia. If I had, those tickets would have been non-refundable, and I'd be out of pocket for the fares for three of us. I'm so glad I opted instead for a Singapore KrisFlyer award via SIN, as it allowed me to cancel out our SIN-DPS awards and replace these with SilkAir awards that get us to Lombok, for just $20 per ticket (note that starting tomorrow, March 1, KrisFlyer Will Charge Higher Fees for Changes, Redeposits and No Shows, although the fees are still far more reasonable than you'd pay with U.S. airline frequent flyer programs such as United MileagePlus and Delta SkyMiles).

Sure, SilkAir is Singapore Airline's low cost carrier and nothing special to fly even in business class, but getting to our destination on the day we're booked to arrive is much better than having to shorten our stay by a day and eating the cost of non-refundable tickets.

Award Ticket Pros and Cons

This brings me to another topic, often discussed with clients who are new to using frequent flyer miles and points for flights. While you could easily go more granular and consider the pros and cons of each frequent flyer program, let me summarize some of the main pros and cons to award tickets, vs. paid tickets.

Award Ticket Pros

  • Value: Potential to redeem your miles and points for as 5-10 cents or more per miles or point. You'll never find a 10% cash back credit card, so for those who value first class and business class flights, flight award tickets are by far the best use of miles and points.
  • Flexibility: Ability to change or cancel your award flight for far less than the cost of a paid ticket
  • Put It On Hold While You Decide: Only a few programs allow this, but if you use AAdvantage miles, you can put an award on hold 5 days while you figure out whether to ticket or not. Korean Air SkyPass allows about a month to put an award on hold before you have to pay and ticket it.

Award Ticket Cons

  • Limited Seats: Particularly for first class and business class, there can be very limited award seats, and no award seats at all for certain peak time periods or flights
  • Earning Miles: Not everyone wants to apply for multiple credit cards to earn signup bonuses, or maximize the spend bonuses they receive, meaning it can take quite a bit of time to earn the required miles and points for the desired flights
  • Fewer Benefits for Certain Awards: Etihad and Emirates do not offer chauffeur service for passengers who book Emirates First Class, Emirates Business Class, Etihad First Apartment and Etihad Business Class as partner award tickets. Etihad in fact has eliminated Etihad Chauffeur even for Etihad Guest award tickets, although Emirates so far still provides Emirates Chauffeur service for Emirates Skywards award tickets.

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