As Air Berlin just announced their new promotional awards, I considered booking a domestic flight from Frankfurt to Berlin, but found that it’s actually cheaper to buy a ticket than to redeem miles.
While most frequent flyer programs in Europe levy high surcharges on top of the high airport and departure tax, promotional fares sometimes are exempt from fuel surcharges to be more competitive.
This way it’s not uncommon to see promotional fares for identical flights to be much cheaper than the taxes and fees alone when redeeming mileage tickets.
How does this look in practice? Let’s have a glimpse on what I tried to book using the current Air Berlin Promotion that John wrote about the other day (see here).
For my one way from Frankfurt to Berlin I wanted to use the advertised 1,500 Topbonus award.
The required mileage is a great deal with 6,000 miles less than usually required, but it still comes with 71.15 EUR in taxes and surcharges.
Compare this to the tickets available for straight out purchase:
As can be seen the difference is 18 EUR less for regular fares compared to a mileage redemption ticket. Purchasing the cheapest revenue based ticket will incur a credit card payment charge and one would have to pay for check-in baggage while the mileage ticket includes both.
Why the difference? The fuel surcharge is reduced to 1 EUR on the promotional fare.
Of course it goes without saying that if you need to check in baggage it’s not worth it to book the cheap ticket as you would end up paying more than 18 EUR in baggage fees. Both tickets require payment for seat reservations.
This case is common especially for domestic tickets in Germany, but in any case before you redeem miles you should always compare to the current revenue price. Especially Economy Class is often available for very low rates that are equal to what the frequent flyer program of your choice would charge you in extra fees beside wiping out your mileage balance.