a group of airplanes at an airport
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

Why Miles and Points Cannot Be Measured With a Fixed Value

At least eleven reasons — not counting personal reasons — explain why...

Many reasons exist as to why miles and points cannot be definitively measured with a fixed value — but writers from mainstream publications to weblogs continue to attempt to assign a general static value to them anyway.

Why Miles and Points Cannot Be Measured With a Fixed Value

As one example, some people value SkyMiles from Delta Air Lines as worth 1.12 cents each. Others value SkyMiles at 1.2 cents each. A plethora of valuations between those numbers fly around the Internet with reckless abandon.

Delta Air Lines currently has a sale of sorts with both revenue tickets and award tickets. Scrolling down the list reveals that SkyMiles can fluctuate wildly in value. Of note is the following comparison on flights between Atlanta and…

a screenshot of a screen
Source: Delta Air Lines.
  • Cape Town costs either $2,062 or 196,000 SkyMiles plus $53 in taxes and fees, which is slightly greater than one cent per SkyMile.
  • Tokyo costs either $2,190 or 192,000 SkyMiles plus $51 in taxes and fees, which is slightly greater than 1.14 cents per SkyMile.
  • Auckland costs either $2,135 or 90,000 SkyMiles plus $97 in taxes and fees. When compared to Cape Town and Tokyo, Auckland represents a significantly better value at slightly greater than 2.37 cents per SkyMile.
  • Shanghai — which is not shown in the chart above — costs either $2,869 or 360,000 SkyMiles plus $42 in taxes and fees, which is almost 0.8 cents per SkyMile.

Factors which can affect the valuation of a mile or point include — but are not limited to:

  • The membership program of an airline
  • Availability
  • Origination airport
  • Destination airport
  • Time of year or season: peak versus off peak
  • Day of the week on which travel occurs
  • Class of service
  • Number of stops or connections on the itinerary versus a nonstop itinerary
  • Distance flown
  • Ease of earning a mile or point
  • Difficulty of earning a mile or point

Final Boarding Call

Take the fixed valuations that others place on miles and points with a grain of salt. The value they offer is minimal — if at all. Go by what you believe is the best redemption value for yourself…

…even if that means spending a premium price on the redemption of miles or points to attend a rare event, experience an important milestone, or see a loved one for the final time…

Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

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