Are You Joking? Redeeming Reward Miles Cost a Fortune!

Ron and I were planning on going to Quito, Ecuador for three months starting in December, but then Ron decided that he would rather spend winter in a cold environment for a change. Each year we have been spending winters in the southern hemisphere to avoid being Popsicles; it’s time for a change and married life includes compromise.

Now we are planning to leave mid-January, returning mid-April. I have been miserly collected frequent flyer miles from multiple airlines, but Delta has the most saved. There are close to 200,000 miles in my Delta American Express account with another 189,000 in a general American Express account. Still there is a stash in my Diners Club account, but I have not checked to see if they are partners with Delta. Rarely do I transfer miles until I am certain to cash them in. Knowing these tallies would be beyond sufficient, I ventured over to the Delta website to view possible frequent flyer flights.

First I examined the flights from Budapest to Quito for various dates. It would have cost 300,000 miles, which seemed excessive, but I have the miles to cover it. What you don’t realize when you think about using miles is the hidden fees of taxes and other made-up fees the airlines use to collect revenue. These can be exorbitant. Taxes and fees for this particular flight cost 244,000 Hungarian forints in addition to the 300,000 miles. At the exchange rate du jour, this ran to $1,100. No flight options were available from Budapest to Guayaquil, but did look at other alternatives.

Delta’s flight pattern is through Atlanta, one of their hubs. Trying another alternative, I explored flights from Budapest to Atlanta. Using frequent flyer miles it would’ve cost us 185,000 miles, but again the fees were excessively shown as 292,400 Hungarian forints. The exchange this time came to $1,317, more than going straight through and not getting us close to South America. Closer, yes, but still not close. So where is the benefit in frequent flyer miles?

In June, Delta is changing their frequent flyer program. They will no longer award miles based on mileage, but it will be based on the amount of money spent for the ticket. Remembering the good old days when flying from the US to Europe only cost 30,000 miles, it is now exactly that, a memory.

Where exactly are the ‘rewards’ here? It seems they give with one hand while carving out your heart and wallet with the other. All the while, they want you to be grateful.

It seems we will have to bite the bullet paying for our tickets, collecting more frequent flyer miles, and possibly using them in the future for some emergency need. Alternatively, we may use them for a stay at a nice hotel; generally this is not our modus operandi. However when we do go to Ecuador this time, we intend to rent an apartment rather than staying in a hotel, a B & B or a hostel.

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