Are airlines points becoming “Company Scrip” or are they already?

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A bit before any of us, or anyone for that matter, were flying airplanes and collecting points there was a form of currency called Company Scrip. There was generally a company store, the only place where one could redeem the “money” printed by the company for merchandise.

There is so much dirty about this, but the basic gist is that the company decides what things cost and what you can buy and when you got paid. Does any of this sound familiar to you yet as a collector of points?

To me, airline miles are truly the new form of company scrip. Think about this. One of our main, and most frustrating gripes about our dear airline, is ability to redeem points the way we want. Delta tells us what a ticket costs in miles from point A to B. They tell us where we can fly and will award us miles as they see fit under whatever terms they want.

You may be saying, but this is just a silly comparison. We have a choice of airlines. Do you? Many readers are “Hub Captives” and have no real choice other than Delta. Much like the old days when you were free to go somewhere else if you could find a new place to live, work and on and on.

And then we go to the value of a Skymile. What is it? Do you know? You may have a number in your mind of what a point is worth to you – I know I do. In the old days of company scrip:

“Workers wishing to convert their scrip to cash generally had to do so at a discount.”

For us today, if we want to BUY Skymiles they cost 3.5 cents per mile plus fees. Also keep in mind, if we earn, buy or by what ever means amass points and tickets, at any time, Delta may suspend our accounts and even potentially revoke our award tickets!

If we have the CCC that is the “company currency converter”, a DELTA AMEX card, we can redeem the points at a discounted rate of 1 cent per point when buying a ticket and that can have some real value. But, if we plan to buy company merchandise, at the company store, the discount rate is much worse. For example if we want to buy a Kindle from the company store, the value of a Skymile goes down to just ½ a cent per point since you can obviously buy a new Kindle for $200 cash.

So is there a point to this post? Yes. We are all just a tiny bit obsessive over points and rightly so when we look at the places we get to go with our points. But at the same time, whenever we make choices to buy or fly or earn, let’s keep our wits about us and always remember we are ultimately getting paid with company money and it is worth whatever they say it is! – Rene

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5 comments

  1. Great post such ideas have been running through my head for long time given the general difficulty of redeeming awards at the low level.

    The one mitigating factor I have considered though is the advent of partner awards. As these awards in terms of availability are not controlled by the “company” because it is the partners that chose to open these seats not DL.

    However the company does ultimately hold all the cards because they could always increase the mileage amount needed for partner flights, im not sure there is anything that says it needs to be in parity with DL metal flights. Or like PMUA they could employ blocking of partner seats.

    At lease for now it seems partner awards if you can use them to reach your destination provide some independence from the vice like control of the company. Again this is based on the current rules, but as I said DL is the game maker so it could change the rules at anytime so holds all the cards. Eeeek :-<

  2. I think the comparison might be a bit harsh Rene.
    We aren’t exactly laboring for the points, underpaid or living on the company town

    We, you, do have a choice to not accept their terms, and go elsewhere.

  3. Yeah I’m with Mark, except I’m not going to be kind enough to say you’re being a “bit harsh.”

    You’re being absurd.

    Scrip was so terrible because the miners worked for the company and were poorly compensated for their toil by this fake currency. Their very lives could be held in the balance by a ruthless company.

    We are flying airlines and being rewarded for doing so. If we don’t like our options, we can go elsewhere. They owe us nothing except carriage on the flight we pay for

  4. I agree with the 2 previous posters – you are being harsh and absurd. But I have a feeling you don’t really feel this way. You are rarely so negative.

  5. @Mark, James & DL – txs for input. It is always good to balance our drive for points with understanding who has the power when it comes to points in the end. I love my Delta but they make all the rules as I showed today. – Rene

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