I don’t know when it disappeared but it seems the chart for flight redemptions is gone from the Air Miles website. Whether this is temporary or permanent, or may indicate a devaluation, we’ll have to see. It’s always a little disconcerting when loyalty programs change something without giving members a heads-up first.
When did the flight reward chart disappear?
I believe the Air Miles website had a redesign some time in the latter half of 2020, but I feel like it hasn’t been that long since I looked at the chart so I think it was removed fairly recently. I know that not many of us are searching flight availability these days so who knows when it went away. I don’t recall any mention of it on forums where Air Miles are discussed.
What has the chart been replaced with?
Instead of a link directing you to the chart, or “flight map” as they called it, the Travel Rewards page now simply tells you to search for a flight and see what it spits out:
There is no longer any guideline as to the miles required for a flight reward except the statement that they start at 1250 Dream miles.
However, on the same page there is also this bit of info:
The reference to the flight map and the starting number of 1200 Dream miles (instead of 1250) appear to be remnants that have yet to be removed or updated. (I suppose it’s also possible that the 1250 is a typo and no change was intended?)
So has anything actually changed?
If you’ve redeemed Dream miles for flights in the recent past, you know that rewards were dynamically priced and it wasn’t always easy to find availability at the base levels displayed in the chart. If you’ve been a collector for long time, you probably remember what it was like before dynamic pricing and how hard it was to find any reward availability at all. The dearth of flights was a common complaint and the move to variable rewards was obviously introduced to rectify the issue.
Similar to Aeroplan’s recent changes, Air Miles members could now access many more flight options as long as they were willing to cough up the extra miles. Perhaps at that point the chart was superfluous at best and confusing at worst. As a long time collector, the “base” levels gave me something to aim for, although the best redemptions were during a special discount offer – either to a certain destination or targeted to status holders – when you could book for even fewer miles.
Most importantly, whenever you redeem Dream miles you should calculate the value of the redemption compared to the value of Cash miles. If you’re not exceeding the 95 = $10 valuation with your reward, maybe you should save your miles and pay cash. In that sense, the absence of the reward chart is arguably inconsequential.
Although Aeroplan has moved to a dynamic format as well, there are still fixed rewards for redemptions on partner airlines so a chart remains necessary. Still, it’s not unprecedented for a loyalty program to forgo a reward chart completely (see Hilton Honors, Delta Skymiles etc.).
The main unfortunate consequence of this move is that members who are not up to speed with the program no longer have access to a tool that could help them decide whether to book a flight with miles. These folks are typically the ones who get easily frustrated with points and miles for giving them poor value. Air Miles is definitely a program where you need persistence or flexibility (or luck) to score a good deal on flights with your miles.
Flight rewards starting at 1250 miles?
If there has been a devaluation, it seems the starting redemption has only increased slightly, going from 1200 to 1250. The lowest reward of 1200 was for a short-haul round trip in what Air Miles designated as low season such as a round-trip within Atlantic Canada outside of summer and Christmas/March Break time. The low season base reward from the Maritimes to as far south as Virginia or as far west as Chicago was 1500 miles which represented especially good value potential. Flights to Ontario began at 1700 miles round-trip.
The base reward for one-way flights was more than half the miles required for a round-trip but I have no recollection of a published chart for one-way rewards.
As I recall, the chart only changed once in the 10 years I was paying attention. A quick google search revealed this chart from 2007 if you’re curious about Air Miles history.
UPDATE: As of Jan. 4, 2021, one can still find flight rewards for 1200 Dream miles return. For example, Halifax – Gander (Sept. 18-25, 2021) is 1200 miles + $167 on WestJet when the cash fare is $578 (Air Canada is cheaper at $493).
Searching flight availability when you don’t have enough miles?
One of the the most inconvenient aspects of the Air Miles flight search is that it won’t display available flights if you don’t have sufficient miles in your account to book. There is a workaround as I explained in a previous post about various annoying quirks and I see it still works – but only on an old Safari browser (hit the back button and the results will load).
I guess I’m easily spooked at the thought of loyalty program devaluations. When I initially noticed the change, I immediately assumed the worst. I had earlier been searching Air Miles flights to New York City for November and results were on the high side. However, that’s not unusual when searching dates far in the future. Then, after checking a few destinations on earlier dates, I felt more at ease as it all looked pretty much the same as before including flight availability below the base levels to several cities. So, it doesn’t look like there have been any significant adjustments to flight rewards, at least for now.
I wonder if the pandemic caused people to unload their Dream miles for merchandise in greater numbers and switch to Cash miles. Or, did it prompt them to start hoarding Dream miles for a celebratory trip when leisure travel resumes? Anyway, it will be interesting to see how 2021 plays out in terms of what approach loyalty programs decide to take.