Happy Anniversary Frequent Flyers!
Posted 4/24/2011 8:00:00 AM
Posted 4/24/2011 8:00:00 AM
Next month marks the 30th anniversary of American Airlines' introduction of the first frequent-flier program. Since that time frequent-flyer and other reward programs have evolved from their original mission of building brand loyalty among fliers to billion-dollar revenue generators that lure non-fliers and are vital to an airline's profitability.
A USA Today analysis shows that the number of members who have signed up for U.S. airlines' frequent-flier programs exceeds 311 million. Air Canada’s Aeroplan has approximately 5 million active members in their program. In 2009, over 2.1 million rewards were issued to members including more than 1.5 million flights on Air Canada and Star Alliance carriers.
But apparently not all is well in the land of frequent flyers these days.
Travel industry experts who monitor the programs say the frustration level is at an all-time high. Many of the airlines' most important customers, frequent business travelers, are bothered by non-frequent fliers reducing the availability of seats on planes by earning miles with credit cards and in other ways that don't involve taking a flight. And they're annoyed by being unable to book a free flight at the lowest mileage-redemption levels.
A recent USA Today experiment took 13 attempts to book a free seat at the minimum mileage level on a Delta flight. Despite changing arrival and departure dates and the arrival city, USA Today repeatedly struck out trying to book a free flight at the lowest mileage threshold from New York to six European cities in August, a peak travel month.
USA Today also was unable to get a free seat for the minimum number of miles for flights during two off-peak months: New York to Los Angeles in September and New York to Omaha in October.
My latest use of reward miles was last December when my wife and I took a trip to Dallas. I used my Continental miles for one flight and VISA rewards for another. I was able to book 2 seats together almost simultaneously on 2 different rewards programs. I found it quite simple and easy.
I guess the ease of cashing in those points or miles just depends on the program. And there are certainly a lot of programs to choose from. Almost every credit card, airline and hotel offers some sort of incentive.
The website www.rewardscanada.ca offers some tips on how to maximize those rewards. They suggest things like focusing on a few programs but joining many, since joining most loyalty programs is free why not join anyway. They also say to put everything that you buy on your credit cards right down to the chocolate bar from the corner store. Every mile counts no matter where or how you earn it. Be careful not to run a balance however and ending up paying the extra high interest on those credit cards, those miles you earn will never be worth the money you lose in paying the interest.
And one of the best ways they suggest to rack up those points and miles is to double dip. Double dipping is the term coined for earning miles twice in one purchase or transaction. This basically involves your mileage earning credit card being used for a purchase where you also earn miles in the same program as the credit card. Buying gas at Esso? Using your Aeroplan Visa or American Express and then swiping your Aeroplan card ensures you are double dipping.
For a complete list of how to maximize those travel rewards see
And Happy Anniversary frequent flyers!