Frequent Flyer Miles, Try to Use Them!

Screen-Shot-2013-01-30-at-5.30.48-PM Frequent Flyer miles,- try to use them.  Go ahead, I dare you!  Let me know how you make out.

I have lots of frequent flyer miles on United, American, Capital One, and American Express.  I am trying to fly from Newark to London or Dublin in April and use some of them.  The joke is on me.  Frequent flyer programs aren’t what they used to be.  Basically, you can’t use them.

Continental was a great airline. I flew everywhere from Newark directly – Switzerland, London, Paris, Rome, Prague, Budapest, and more.  Then the merged with United (the worst airline on the planet) and stopped taking American Express points for miles.  Well, I still had frequent flyer miles so I thought no problem! WRONG!  I couldn’t get a direct flight from Newark to either London or Dublin. There was a co-share with British airways that was 132,000 frequent flyer miles (just for the first flight!) and $699 for the co-share plus taxes.  Mind you, the price of the ticket was $750.

I have to mention a little side note about United.  You can’t even get a snack or watch TV unless you pay for it, not even a bag of peanuts (Jet Blue at least gives you a snack.)  Continental used to give you a sandwich and TV.  In fact, on the newer planes TV isn’t even an option because a flight attendant told me that is an after market addition and the planes would have to go back to have them installed. REALLY?  Then you have the surliest crew members. I think it’s a requirement that you be a truly miserable person to work for United. But here’s my very favorite thing about United……

They kept the Continental logo but changed the name to United after the merger.  When I inquired as to why, I was told United was more recognizable world-wide. ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? What marketing genius thought of this and who approved it? Why is United a more recognizable name? Gee, who doesn’t want to be reminded of 9/11 every time they get on board? Seriously, this is the most egregious marketing error in history! This airline needs to hire me as their new director of marketing.

OK, I digressed…..

American Airlines basically doesn’t fly anywhere from Newark.  The last time I used frequent flyer miles to fly to London I had to leave from JFK.  At the time I was able to leave my car at my brother’s house in Long Island, use 20,000 frequent flyer miles each way and it was easy. Now I can still get those flights, but since my brother wrote me out of his life with two vitriolic letters (a story for another day), I can’t get home from JFK.

Virgin Atlantic no longer accepts Amex points for frequent flyer miles and no longer flies out of Newark. British Airways will accept frequent flyer miles BUT the flights I found had layovers from 4-28 hours.  28 hours? Seriously? I’m going to spend 28 hours in Brussels after flying all night?  Shoot me.

So I thought I had the system beat when Capital One said I could use my miles anytime, any flight, etc. Score! Wrong again!  I have more than 60,000 miles on Capital One; however, they aren’t really frequent flyer miles – they are cash towards travel.  Apparently my 65,000 miles equates to $600 and the ticket has to be that price or less. They won’t accept the $150 difference if I’m willing to pay it.  I was told that I could use that $600 for rental car or hotel.

Take a look at American Express airline partners.  There are very few left.  I used to use Amex points for all my travel and even flew Air Mexico with them. Now the choices are few and far between. I have 200,000 American Express points.  Maybe if I get another 300,000 I can trade it in for a first generation Ipad.

It’s really a shame that these airlines tout these frequent flyer programs but fail to tell you you can’t use the miles for anything. Also did you know they expire? Oh yes they do!  If you don’t travel on that airline within a certain time frame, those miles are history.  I have an American Airlines credit card so I make sure I use it occasionally just to keep my miles from expiring.

All I want is a vacation.  All I want to do is go visit my friends in England and go see Ireland for a few days.  I have ff-program-newvacation time I’m going to loose if I don’t use it and now it seems my vacation is going to be spent at home cleaning the house or staining my deck if it’s warm enough in April!

So now what is one to do with all these unusable frequent flyer miles?

If you have any suggestions please let me know. Also if you live on Long Island and will let me park my car there for 10 days I can actually use American Airlines frequent flyer miles to get to the UK!