As a result of travelling extensively while I was still working, I amassed a significant number of points in a number of different programs including (but not limited to) plans from Aeroplan, Delta, American, Continental, British Airways, LatinPass, Hilton HHonours, and American Express Membership Rewards. I currently have more than 750,000 points in some of these programs. Karen has been collecting AirMiles for about 15 years, since the late 1990's. So far, she has about 100,000.
Decades ago, I found it pretty simple to use points. I went to Chile in 1993 without a hitch. We paid $34 for 2 return Business Class tickets to Australia in 1996.
But every time I have tried to use these programs in the last few years, it has resulted in an utter lack of success, or (in the best cases) utter abject frustration in the various processes. Some examples:
- I have tried to go to Maui repeatedly on points. Despite knowing I go there every October, there are "no seats available" even with over 9 months notice -- unless I want to go through Chicago. Calgary - Chicago - Maui? Really?
- I have tried to go to Montreal for the F1 Grand Prix. On 6 months notice, I can only get there by spending 150,000 points (plus taxes) and making multiple connections through cities with multiple hour layovers. Or I can buy a return ticket for $200.
- I have tried to fly to Europe, and can readily do it -- as long as I want to take a red-eye flight to Toronto first, then have a 19 hr layover.
- I have tried splurging huge numbers of points on Business Class flights, only to find that these seats are particularly unavailable.
- The cost of the programs are embedded in what you are buying, so you're paying for them anyway;
- Someone is getting seats, but it's not you -- so you're paying for something you won't get, because...
- You won't get very much for these points, no matter how many you have, and no matter what they say.