/ Money, Travel & Leisure

Have you used your air miles yet?

Boarding pass

Are you accumulating air miles in hope that they’ll whisk you away somewhere exotic? Guest author Derek Mott wonders whether these schemes are actually worth your loyalty…

We’ve been trying to use our Virgin air miles for a flight upgrade. But what we’ve found is all throughout the Virgin website it boasts and brags about air miles and their use, yet when you actually try to use them it’s a ‘no’.

So I’m left wondering – what’s the point of these schemes?

Computer says no

When trying to book for a flight upgrade, what I found is that the website tells you that you can get a flight upgrade subject to availability. Now I’d understand that to mean that if seats are available then you could upgrade to one.

Subject to availability is all over the site – but tucked away in the small print, it says that air miles seats availability is at the sole discretion of Virgin.

I take this to mean that in other words you don’t get to upgrade unless they say so, and I suspect that will usually be for a flight that they can’t sell the seats for.

Frankly I think we’re all being misled to believe we can use these loyalty points easily.

Are air miles worth your loyalty?

I wonder what’s happening to all of these miles? Presumably they’re accounted for somewhere, waiting to be used.

But if we’re not able to use them, only accumulate them, then are airlines like Virgin just profiting from our loyalty? And if so, what’s in it for us?

So have you ever booked a flight using some or all of your air miles? Or, like me, have you not been able to make use of these schemes?

Are air miles schemes worth your loyalty?

No (64%, 467 Votes)

Don't know (27%, 194 Votes)

Yes (9%, 69 Votes)

Total Voters: 730

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This is a guest post by Derek Mott, a community member on Which? Conversation. All opinions are Derek’s own, not necessarily those of Which? We chose Derek’s idea from the ‘Your ideas’ section on the website, make sure you share your ideas too.

Susan says:
7 May 2016

We lived in the USA for several years and were advised by a friend to join United’s MileagePlus scheme. I doubt if United can claim to be the world’s best airline but they have a huge network. After some transatlantic commuting we retired 12 years ago with over 1 million miles and have since had trips to South America, New Zealand, Hawaii (3 times) and Florida (several times). We still go to the USA 2 or 3 times a year and save the miles for when the fares are high. MileagePlus gives access to all Star Alliance airlines, where our preference tends to be for Lufthansa. You can see availability month by month on the MileagePlus site. The other major USA airlines have similar schemes and we have just used some miles on Delta.

Admittedly the scheme is not quite so good now, especially for collecting miles on a cheap ticket, but we still collect miles on some hotel bookings and car rentals as well as flights. You only pay the tax for an award flight and there’s only a small fee for changing the booking.

We have looked at using the miles we have accumulated on BA but the cost of a air miles flight to Florida is almost as much as a paid ticket and there’s never been good availability.

2dallies says:
24 May 2016

I’ve saved for three years for an upgrade with Virgin. They have just (unannounced), doubled the amount of points needed to upgrade – so I have to save for another three years before I can upgrade.
I use utilities, tesco club card points and virgin online shops to accumulate points, plus ONLY flying Virgin for the loyalty points!
What an absolute waste of time and money. It’s a rip-off, as I’ve seen premium economy flights cheaper than I can get my reward economy seats using my points and paying all the taxes!!?? How does that work????


2dallies- You are now experiencing the commercial ploy of changing the rules when they think they lose profit , in mid-stream of the offer . As can be seen in other Convo,s they are not alone ,they do it because they can get away with it because ,in reality , all they get is a slap in the wrist ,and as you say , its “unannounced ” . I take it you have read the –say it fast– T+C and does the small print allow for “changing circumstances ” or the dreaded “offer ” which in legal terms means zero liability or some other “legalese ” ? I can understand why you are so angry , I like you put faith in a company you think is massive, has high morals etc but are let down like a brick but the bottom line is profit and either a Board Meeting took place (secretly ) or the shareholders complained or another ploy -blame it on the governments “new ” regulations never fails.

dieseltaylor says:
11 June 2016

This is a very valid conversation and I hope Which? are going to be taking it forward. Comment from Virgin would be a nice idea. Or even a ” No comment” so we can see how responsive they feel.

The aspect of accounting to reduce tax by holding vast potential liabilities of Airmiles is worth investigating. Could Which? ask the Inland Revenue . We used to have two HMRC bigwigs as Trustees, and Mike Clasper was HMRC chairman so it should be make it easier for Which? to do this than anyone else.

Perhaps Which? are already on the case but it would be helpful to tell us what is going on.