James Gilden's column regarding frequent-flier miles was excellent ("Playing the Awards Game for Rewarding R&R;," Travel Insider, Aug. 12). However (there's always a however, isn't there?), on long trips involving a potential change in plans, I would not suggest using frequent-flier miles to upgrade to business or first class after purchasing the least expensive ticket. I would suggest, instead, using the miles for the entire business-or first-class ticket.
Some airlines subject that upgraded ticket to the rules of the purchased ticket. So if you change your return flight, for instance, you may face change penalties on an upgraded ticket but not on a ticket "purchased" entirely with miles.
I never knew there was such a category as an "upgradeable" coach fare when one wants to use frequent-flier miles to upgrade from coach to business or first class. British Airways has always told me I must buy a full-fare coach to upgrade, and this usually is more than $2,000.
Another note: Not all charge cards that give frequent-flier miles have the same exchange of miles earned for conversion to airline tickets. My British Airways Visa requires 80,000 miles for a free business-class round-trip ticket to London. A friend told me his charge card requires more than 100,000 miles.
ROBERT F. BARRON