Are travelers giving up on loyalty programs?

It’s finally happening.

After years of putting up with blackout dates, broken promises and bait-and-switch games, American travelers — particularly air travelers — are saying “Enough!”

They’re refusing to play the loyalty-program game, jettisoning blind brand allegiance in favor of a more pragmatic view of travel. Price and convenience are trumping mindless devotion to an airline, a car rental company or a hotel.

In a recent survey, a plurality of travelers (38 percent) said that finding the best deal topped their list, a tectonic shift from previous years, when collecting credits in a frequent-flier or frequent-stayer program was more important. Only 9 percent of travelers will book their trips based on loyalty to an airline or hotel chain, according to the poll conducted by Wakefield Research on behalf of Capital One.

“It’s all about the bottom line,” says Nathan Richter, a partner at Wakefield Research. “Getting the best deal on a summer vacation is a priority for many consumers this year.”

Consumers in the past have been willing to endure the fine print and shifting goal posts that have defined most travel loyalty programs. They’ve looked the other way while program rules were quietly rewritten and their points expired, hopeful that they would someday get a “free” award ticket. But the latest reforms by such legacy airlines as Delta and United, which tied rewards to the amount that travelers spend rather than the number of points they earn, was a pill too hard to swallow.

So travelers are quitting.

April Thompson, a digital marketing consultant based in Atlanta, has been a loyal Delta SkyMiles member since she graduated from college in 2004. She discovered the value of accumulating miles and redeeming them through the airline’s expanding network of global partners — until the carrier decided to change the way it measured her loyalty, rewarding her based in part on how much she spends, instead of how much she flies. Those SkyMiles revisions, announced in February, will take effect on all flights departing after Jan. 1, 2015.

Related story:   After loyalty program changes, airlines brace for Million Miler march

“I will definitely be loosening up my allegiance to Delta,” she says. “Value and convenience are now my top priorities.”

Thompson has already allowed her elite membership to lapse, slipping from platinum level to gold, and she’s shifting her spending to an American Express card that allows her to redeem her rewards on multiple airlines so that she’s no longer tied to Delta.

“Buh-bye,” says Jim Dailakis, a New York-based actor, who says he’s ditching his United loyalty program. “I no longer see the point in being loyal to any of these airlines and their mediocre rewards. They’re like a partner who only wants to stay with you because you have a lot of money. I’m dumping them just like I would a materialistic girlfriend.”

United’s changes, announced in June, take effect next March and mirror Delta’s changes, rewarding customers based on the fare paid rather than the number of miles flown. The biggest losers will be leisure travelers, says Brian Karimzad, director of the loyalty program site “With average airfare around $300, you’ll earn fewer miles for that fare,” he says.

Ray Advani, founder of the money management blog, has watched the massive devaluation of loyalty programs and says that consumers’ behavioral changes make sense: It’s as if American travelers are slowly waking up from a three-decade slumber and realizing that the loyalty only ever went one way. Advani, who views this development as a consumer finance expert and a traveler, says that he’s changed the way he flies, too. “I’ve decided to focus on the actual prices rather than the rewards program when spending,” he says.

Related story:   It's the end of the airline industry as we know it

Most of these loyalty program breakups happen quietly, from the privacy of an office cubicle or a home study. But not all of them. Consider what happened to Ron Hingst, who works for a nonprofit agency in Brighton, Mich., and is an enthusiastic participant in La Quinta Inn & Suites’ Returns loyalty program. “When I travel on business, I usually stay near the airport, and there is usually a La Quinta there,” he says.

But on a recent stay, when he proudly presented his loyalty card at the desk, an employee delivered a little bad news: Because he’d found a discounted rate online, it didn’t qualify for points. “Silly me,” he says. “I’m trying to be loyal, and now we split hairs where you book.”

Hingst cut up the card right then and there.

The few remaining loyalty program fans have a ready answer for people like Hingst. Go ahead, they say. Throw out your card. That just means more “free” rooms and tickets for us. But their responses suggest that these holdouts are missing an unsettling truth: that they’re witnessing the end of loyalty programs as they know them. It’s an event that even their platinum cards are unlikely to survive unscathed.

It might be a positive change. If enough travelers can break the loyalty habit, then the corrosive effects of loyalty programs on the travel industry could be reversed. People will spend because they see real value, not because they’re slaves to their gold cards and perks. In time, the division between “haves” and “have-nots” might even narrow, and perhaps all passengers will get decent service, regardless of the color of their loyalty card.

Related story:   Are new airline fees anti-family?

As we move closer to the end of the year, expect more program breakups as travelers realize that their loyalty program never was, and never will be, loyal to them.

Too bad it’s taken so long.

Are loyalty programs a scam?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at

  • Jim

    Are they in the best interest of the consumer? No.

    Are they a scam? No, I’d say they are gimmicks slanted towards the company.

    Everything is laid out ahead of time in the fine print. Read up and you’ll know the pitfalls that lie in front of you with these programs.

  • backprop

    Good. More seats for the rest of us.

    It seems like a few people in the story still do not realize that signing up for a loyalty program != exclusivity to the airline. Sign up, fly the airline that best suits your needs, and maybe one day you might find that you’ve accumulated enough in one of your buckets for a ticket redemption.

    And if not, then you’re no worse off than when you started.

    They make it sound as though they’re selling their first born.

  • I was waiting for someone to say that.

    The few remaining loyalty program fans have a ready answer for people like Hingst. Go ahead, they say. Throw out your card. That just means more “free” rooms and tickets for us. But their responses suggest that these holdouts are missing an unsettling truth: that they’re witnessing the end of loyalty programs as they know them. It’s an event that even their platinum cards are unlikely to survive unscathed.

  • TonyA_says

    There is a tectonic shift going on.
    First you need to remember the two main parts of a Frequent Flyer Program (FFP) are:
    – Award Tickets
    – Elite Status.
    Devaluation in terms of how much miles you need to redeem Award travel has a different effect compared to how much harder it has become to achieve and maintain status. Of course less award seat availability hurts everyone.

    The big shift is in earning miles without flying. You become more loyal to your credit card that earns miles rather than with the airline itself. Since airlines have to think short term bottom line, then selling miles to financial institutions are extremely important to their profits. So consumers who spend with credit cards are now the big mile hoarders.

    This also changes the strategy to earning miles. People churn cards that offer those high mile offers. They complement this with some manufactured spend. Finally, if it still makes sense, they do a mileage run.

    For as long as you can ‘game’ the cost per mile to travel, people will find ways to lower it. That is the part of Economic Freedom that socialists can’t accept.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I wouldn’t call them a scam. I’d call them an “unreliable perk.”

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    not a scam.
    Most people we know earn points/miles thru credit cards(some put millions of dollars of business expenses on their cards every year & earn no or very few points from actual flying) & use those points to fly one airline, but when they have to pay 100% for flights they have no loyalty whatsoever, so it’s incredibly stupid to call them loyalty programmes.
    Just treat them as something free(if free you can’t complain about it) & you’ll never be disappointed again.

  • Mike

    Love early boarding but with branded credit cards offering that, loyalty programs become harder to justify. Still, I love the perks and do not consider them a scam. Their deficiencies are well-known.

  • Cathy_Disqus

    Chris – you missed backprop’s point in your response.

    I’m with you backprop. I’ve never chosen a flight based on loyalty programs, but I’ve always joined the loyalty club of every airline and hotel chain I do business with. I have miles on US Airways, Delta, AA and United. I’m flying anyway, so I might as well collect the miles on the chance that at some point I’ll have enough to get a free trip on some airline. That’s worked out very well for me, as I’ve gotten about one free ticket every two years. I’ve also used miles that would be expiring soon to get hotel rooms or room upgrades. I understand that these programs aren’t worth it to Chris, but they’re worth it to me.

    It’s also worth joining hotel loyalty programs because just being a member of some clubs can get you perks such as free wifi.

  • Joe Harris

    I agree. I have almost 500,000 United miles and very few were earned while flying. I charge almost everything on the United credit card and then pay it when I get home. No interest charges. I have booked free (plus fees) flights on United without a problem. Just need to be flexible. So it works for me, but if I had to actually fly to accumulate miles, I might have a different outlook on the program.

  • Stephen0118

    Even though I’m a member of several airline loyalty programs (and two hotel programs), I always look for the best fare. I rarely fly, but, as others said, I keep them just in case I do, if I have enough miles, then I’ll try to use them.

    The only one that I constantly get points with is my co-branded Hilton/Amex card. I use that card to buy gas and when I dine out. I get three points per dollar. I’ve gotten several free nights at a Hampton Inn because of those points.

  • backprop

    Great point in your last paragraph.

    And, before we hear it – I know we’re ostensibly giving up *something* for that “free” perk, nothing is free, and so on. But, the airline (in my case) already knows my full name, address, e-mail address, passport number, and travel history with them. So getting a frequent flier ID does not compromise the remaining shred of privacy I may have.

    In addition, as soon as I sign up for a loyalty program, I immediately opt out of marketing emails, before the first one hits the inbox.

    If the program goes away, so be it. I still won’t be any worse off for having signed up.

  • TonyA_says

    Perfect example where the cost per mile of your (award) travel is a lot less than that of (if you bought) a paid ticket. Some people just don’t want to believe.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    In the past 15 years, I have stayed at an Omni hotel three times; however, I joined the Omni Frequent Guest program since members receive free Wi-Fi.


    We do the exact same thing with our Alaska Airlines card. We’ve earned one free flight every year as well as one $99 companion fare each year. We do pay a yearly fee of $75 for the card, but we make that back easily with the flights. It’s worth it for us as our son just graduated from Seattle University and will be staying in Seattle. We have an easy, non-stop flight from where we are. We’ll be doing some renovations to our home this fall and will use the card for most of that and probably have another free flight by the end of the year!


    We’re members too. We get a small breakfast and coffee delivered to our room in the mornings when we stay at an Omni because we’re members. Small perks, no cost to us.

  • TonyA_says

    April Thompson, a digital marketing consultant based in Atlanta, has been a loyal Delta SkyMiles member since she graduated from college in 2004. She discovered the value of accumulating miles… until the carrier decided to change the way it measured her loyalty, rewarding her based in part on how much she spends, instead of how much she flies.

    I will definitely be loosening up my allegiance to Delta. Value and convenience are now my top priorities.

    Thompson has already allowed her elite membership to lapse, slipping from platinum level to gold, and she’s shifting her spending to an American Express card that allows her to redeem her rewards on multiple airlines so that she’s no longer tied to Delta.

    So she lives in Atlanta and wants to divorce Delta? Good luck. Unless AirTran is your idea of value and convenience then I’m afraid she is SOL.
    And earning points in AMEX Membership Rewards instead?
    Well guess what, to be able to use it from Atlanta, she will have to move points to Delta.
    If she will likely fly Delta, why not simply be a Delta Medallion and keep her Delta SkyMiles (AMEX) Credit Card?

    *** ADDED *** I have not done the math; but is this LW saying she can earn points in AMEX which can redeem more miles in Delta for the same amount in USD spending???

  • Vec14

    I wouldn’t say I go out of my way to fly one particular airline for the miles, but I do belong to a few frequent flyer programs and will admit that I try to be strategic about it. For instance, I like Virgin Atlantic so I collect miles from Delta and Virgin America for that account. I go to the UK every couple of years so it’s nice to redeem the miles for an upgrade to Upper Class. I know a few people have mentioned Omni’s program – even if you only have that one stay, joining makes sense for the perks they offer immediately.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    In regards to frequent flyer and frequent guest program (I don’t use loyalty because they are not), they are designed for travelers that frequently flies and travels. Yes, there are benefits for the ‘infrequent’ travelers but they are for the frequent travelers.

    If you are a frequent traveler (over 25,000 or 30 segments a year; 25 hotel nights a year; 20+ car rentals), I think that they have good value. If you are an infrequent traveler, there is a value to join them but you needs to understand the rules and need to have a low expectations.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    I am not aware of any other carrier (except for AirTran) that has Atlanta as its hub. If she is going to switch from Delta, she is probably going to add at least two segments to her flights since ATL will become a feederspoke for her not a hub. For example, she will have to fly to Charlotte to catch the US AirwaysAA flights.

    I used to live in a non-hub city for 14 years and it was a pain in the butt to travel. It was nice to collect two extra segmentsmiles for each flight but it made traveling hard especially when making day trips (the first outbound flight at 5:30 AM and the returning flight arriving back at 11:30 PM/midnight).

    When I moved to PHX, it is really nice to live in a hub city due to the direct flights. It has been America West, US Airways (America West buying US Airways) and American Airlines (US Airways buying AA).

  • bodega3

    It is like any other business partnership. You scratch my back, meaning fly/stay/drive with us and we will scratch your back with upgrades, nicer room amenities, gifts. Notice the companies that are on this site? Read Chris’ travel blog and see who he thanks for his travel needs? Seems to me he plays the business game, too.

  • Mel LeCompte Jr.

    I definitely bailed on my hotel loyalty programs. My favorite one was Hampton Inn/ Hilton. At first, they had a very reasonable point-range for free stays. A few years ago, they traded in a straightforward program for funny math, tripling the required points at my favorite locations, but offering promotions on ‘double points’ here or ‘triple points’ there.

    That has changed again, Now you can still get double points for your stay still — but at a cost. The ability to multiply your points used to be a freebie during certain times of the year/ certain locales. Now to get the same ‘double points’ promotions will tack on an extra $20 or so per night.

    So now when I travel and have to stay at a chain, I have my favorite three chains picked out and shop strictly on price between those. Sometimes there’s up to a $30 difference between my three favorite chains, so I figure if I can save $30 per trip, every four stays, I save $120 — the equivalent of a night’s stay most of the time.

    I like my math better than theirs.

  • TonyA_says

    This is exactly the reason why it’s not about loyalty.
    Where you live determines your ‘favorite’ airline.
    Where you go determines your ‘favorite’ airline.
    It’s hard to imagine that someone who lives in Atlanta would not be a defacto Delta flyer, SFO United, DFW American, PHX/PHL/CLT US Air, etc., etc.
    Most people who fly will still collect miles. Most people do it thinking it is good for maybe something. They are not that serious but collecting is harmless.
    What will change is the motivation to chase becoming an “elite” because it has become much harder to achieve.

  • bodega3

    I am ok with Hilton Honors. I have 5 reservations with them right now for the HX chain. Love them!

  • evantorch

    As a doctor who accepts these card, I have to PAY a higher percentage of the costs of affinity cards. Thus, the margins that say, United and Chase make are higher. Thus, the merchants actually pay a lot more and that means that the airlines/ hotel chains etc. still make a FORTUNE in income for free seats and rooms etc.
    Just to clarify, the cost of transaction fees may be 1.5% for a straight bank sponsored card and 3.5-4.0 for a Delta Reserve Amex card.
    All of you who are merchants eat this/ they make it as profit and it gives THEM extra income.

  • John Keahey

    I’ve gotten lots of “free” rides over the years by flying an airline offering the best price out of my airport. To my knowledge, I’ve never paid more to fly that airline out of “loyalty”. Best price, best routing. That said, I never figured they owed me a damn thing other than to get me from A to B as comfortably as possible. I played the game, flew “free” a lot, got upgraded a lot (on flights and in hotels). Now that it’s getting tougher — oh well. I’ll survive.

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    Loyalty programs are not for everyone. The information must be read carefully in order to determine whether they’re right for you. If you can’t earn enough points for a free tix or an upgrade, don’t bother. If you can’t earn enough points for status to enjoy a comp suite or executive lounge access, don’t bother. I wouldn’t give up my hotel and airline status for anything, I enjoy every bit of it … and if the perks decrease, I’ll still enjoy them.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    It has been my experiences that Amex has a higher transaction fee than Visa & MasterCard; therefore, your comparison may not be apples to apples. That is why a lot of companies do not accept AMEX or accept AMEX grudgingly.

    I had a client that wanted to pay their $ 250,000 bill with their AMEX…since there were no discounts on their bill we allowed them to pay but going forward, we changed our payments terms to limit the amount that could be charged on an AMEX card.

    The cost for the transaction fee is based upon several factors. For example, a web-based company usually pay a higher fee than a mortar-based company (less chance of fraud – refunds – chargebacks).

    In regards to your comments of “that store ownersmerchant are eating the fee” that may not be true for all merchantsstore ownersetc. There are businesses that adds all costs (i.e. credit card processing fees, product thefts, bad debts, damaged goods, etc.) into the determination of their prices.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    I think that the main problem with the frequent flyer and frequent guest programs is the unrealistic expectations of the traveler. They think that they can wait two weeks before Thanksgiving or Christmas and expect to find non-revenue seats available for redemption with their FF miles. Or think that they can book a hotel room during the week of the Super Bowl, Indy 500, Kentucky Derby, NCAA Final Four, Spring Break, etc. Or wait until the end of May or the start of June to book tickets to Europe during the high season.

    It blows my mind that travelers think that an airline or a hotel is going to give away revenue during a peak time to earn revenues. Maybe the reason for this unrealistic expectation is the fault of the FF or FG program. Or maybe the traveler doesn’t understand basic economics.

    Another thing that blows my mind is the travelers that expect a FF or FG to stay the same forever. The reality is that there will be changes and the changes are usually going to benefit the FF or FG program since these programs are getting too large.

    Sometimes they are mergers which causes changes to a FF program. When the acquisition of AA by US Airways was announced, I knew that Star Alliance will be going away…no need to pout, cry and etc…it is a fact of life. We are going to miss Asiana and Singapore on our future trips.

    I have cashed in over 1 MM miles for first class and business class seats for trips to Europe and Asia. The keys were 1) start early (i.e. 6 to 11 months); 2) be flexible with your travel dates, travel cities (i.e. I will check flights out of every international hubs on the east and west coasts), etc. 3) do your homework (i.e. I will put together the possible flights and airlines combinations) before you call the airline…I think that too many travelers expect the airlines to look for every combination and etc. and 4) be open to fly on international-based airlines instead of domestic airlines for international travel…personally, I think that international-based airlines such as Virgin Atlantic, Asiana, Singapore, etc. offer the best FC or BC products out there.

    We have traveled during peak times but by starting early, you can grab the non-revenue airline tickets and hotel rooms.

  • BMG4ME

    No they are not a scan. Any your article proves that more than 60% of people still value the programs. I know you don’t like them, but trying to kill them off by saying they are dead when they are not is not what I expect from you, it’s not the truth.

  • MarkKelling

    The Credit Cards require membership in the loyalty programs to get the early boarding. Without the frequent flyer programs, the card gives you nothing.

  • MarkKelling

    You can choose not to accept any brand card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, etc) if you feel their terms are unacceptable to your way of doing business as long as you do not accept any of that brand at all.

    Am Ex is the most expensive overall no matter what type it is. But Visa and MC also charge higher percentages on the cards that provide the best (i.e. most expensive to the card issuer) benefits to their users. It is unfortunate that the card companies have chosen to burden the merchants with the expense instead of averaging out the cost of these extra benefit cards through their entire offerings.

  • MarkKelling

    The traveling public is not saying “no” to the frequent flyer/guest programs. Memberships are at all time highs if you believe what the companies are publishing. Credit cards tied to the various programs are more popular than ever.

    Because of this, the various companies are changing the rules of their programs simply because there are too many people in the programs who reached the higher levels and the rewards have become so diluted that they are nearly impossible to get by anyone much less those who are really the frequent customers these programs are aimed at rewarding.

    The programs were created to reward the best customers of those companies. But over time that has changed to the point where anyone can collect a million points/miles simply by using the affiliated credit card and not even ever being a customer of the company! When everyone can get the airline credit card that gives you early boarding privileges and free checked bags and free upgrades to the “better” economy class seats, these are no longer frequent flyer benefits. So it is no wonder that the rewards are getting more difficult to achieve by having real world requirements that only the actual frequent customers can reach. Miles are no longer just miles. You have elite qualifying miles and redeemable miles which are completely separate things. You have spending requirements spreading through the airline programs. Most have requirements that you actually fly on their planes before you can reach top tier status even if you somehow collect the proper qualifying mileage through some other means.

    If all these changes mean a few customers who feel they were entitled to certain rewards leave (like those mentioned in the article), then so be it. The true frequent customers the programs are aimed at have no problem meeting or exceeding all of the new requirements. You will not be hearing anything from them as they continue to sit in 1st class enjoying the free booze and then passing out in the hotel suite they are upgraded into.

  • PsyGuy

    It depends how you define a scam. These programs are usually provided free of charge. You can join many of the most common programs without having to have an affinity branded bank card. Even if you’re an infrequent traveler, and you never get a reward, your not really out anything. Now the terms as they once were are changing and people consumers feel that their loyalty or purchasing behavior was guided by the program benefits provided in the past the consumer is saying “I’m going to use your brand over other brands because you’re promising at some future point to reward me for using your brand even if it cost me more to do so now” , then the brand turns around and changes their policies,leaving the consumer in a less advantageous position.

    The problem is the perception that these programs were loyalty programs and not seeing them as nothing more than membership programs, join them all, use the cheapest and if you get something at some point be happy.

  • Daniel

    I recently tried to book my flight from Toronto to Lisbon using my Aeroplan points and on top of the 60,000 points needed, I have to pay $740+ for surcharges and taxes. I have checked the same flight from Air Canada website and the fair would be under $950!!
    I tried to use my points to book business class international travel, all the flights available are in economy class for the international leg, and they would give a short business leg on the domestic connection, then the whole trip be charged for the business class points.
    Most of the flights available when you are redeeming points are not direct flights even though they are available. If you are lucky, you would only need 1 stop but a lot of time you would need to make 2 connections even for a short 4-5 hours flight.

  • Lindabator

    True! I have a client staying at a Kimpton hotel for a meeting, and being a member of the loyalty program will offer her free wifi and a $10 splurge at the minibar. Even if she never uses it again, the perks are worth it for this trip for her.

  • Lindabator

    True – and having a “Hissy” because you booked thru one of the discount sites (see the LaQuinta reference above) is just silly — you know the T&C, if you don’t like them, don’t book them. But don’t not follow the rules and THEN pitch a fit! Have used my perks multiple times, and travel with some “cheap” folks, so always opt for best rates in those cases. Getting something extra for just doing what I’d do is a cool perk to me. :)

  • Lindabator

    Very true – live in Detroit – Delta country. Hmm…guess who has best schedule, most options, best fares…..and YES, I have their FF card!

  • Lindabator

    Same with Fairmont and Kimpton

  • Lindabator

    Love them too. SOMETIMES just having expedited checkin (like during a large convention) is a great option. Can save me a boatload of time!

  • Travelnut

    Holiday Inn’s loyalty plan began free WiFi with membership starting July 1st. Didn’t help me when I checked in for one night on June 27th (most outrageous WiFi fees at that hotel that I have ever seen, by far), but it will be there next time.

  • Travelnut

    Simmah. I was blindsided by that too once. Just didn’t read the fine print, my bad I guess but I never would have expected it. I stayed a week at the Embassy Suites in Times Square. I think I booked it through Expedia. Discounted or not, that was a $hitload of money and when they told me it wasn’t eligible for Hilton points… yep, I was pissed.

  • DavidYoung2

    I think they certainly CAN be in the best interest of the consumer, if the consumer is smart. I was a loyal Delta customer until they changed the rules about SkyClub, then switched to Southwest. But my definition of ‘loyal’ is that it’s a preference. I won’t pay more or alter my schedule for Southwest. But if my schedule is flexible, and the price is about the same, I’ll fly Southwest.

    I also consider Southwest’s more customer friendly policies, so even if the price is more for Southwest, they’re usually still a better ‘value.’ A few weeks ago we changed three tickets on Southwest from Boise to Los Angeles to make it back in time for a World Cup party. Delta would have been $450 plus fare difference. With Southwest we ended up with a $61.00 credit to use against another flight. So booking with Southwest saved us $511. That’s the difference between value and price. Book based on value, and the programs really are just a freebie perk.

  • Travelnut

    In the good old days of AmEx Membership Miles, I think I got four awards tickets. Now, with hardly any airlines participating, I have well over 100K points accumulated and not sure what I am going to do with them. I’d like to use them for Virgin Atlantic, but the flight I would like to use them on, AUS-LON, had hardly any availability for months. I live in a city that’s not a hub but near hubs for UA and AA, so those are my two logicial choices for loyalty plans and I try to fly them both enough for my miles to not expire. Delta, I had to let go of.

  • sofar

    That’s what I do too. I’ve got a FF# for pretty much all the major airlines. I book whichever airline has the best price, and take 5 extra seconds to input my FF#. And I get a free flight every few years.

    I was able to fly home for a friend’s wedding using my miles last year — all because, over the past few years, I’ve put in a couple seconds to put in a FF# when I book a flight. Saved me about $300. For not putting any effort into chasing rewards/maximizing travel rewards, I’m happy with that.

  • spysea007

    chasing miles has now become stupid….

  • bodega3

    Then don’t do it but for others it works. Just used our miles for upgrades to first class. Works for me and if less people are doing it (which I really doubt) that means it will be easier to get the space for those who play the game!

  • bodega3

    You need to book well out. They limit how many per flight and they don’t release space on some flights until they have a certain number of paid passengers in that cabin confirmed.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    some people just don’t get it.
    Being in one of these programmes doesn’t mean you pay for fly on them to get points/miles.
    Get the points/miles through credit cards.
    If need to pay for a ticket from A to B & no frequent flyer tickets, then fly any carrier & don’t pay a lot more just for a few points/miles.
    & don’t hoard too many points. Plenty of big airlines close down & then those points are worth nothing. Use them or lose them.

  • Miami510

    There’s an explanation for the two, seemingly contradictory facts; loyalty programs are losing their “loyalty,” and more people are in possession of an airline loyalty card.

    I have cards on a number of airlines, but the shifting requisites for benefits and the absence of a level playing field, have tarnished what loyalty I had. Now I look for the best value flight to where I want to go. This value judgment is a combination of flight times, price and the least number of stops. Lost from the equation are mileage points. If I get enough for some
    benefit, of course I use it. Lately I prefer accumulating points with AMEX that can be used on multiple carriers.

    This is tough on the airlines, since they killed the goose that laid the golden egg; confining travelers to use their company by enticing them with points.

  • felixmk

    Gave up on airline loyalty programs 5 years ago. Could never get a decent international routing, blackouts at holidays, fees.. Better to collect cash rewards from credit cards and book paid seats at cheapest fares you can find that fit your schedule.

  • I think they’re great for business travellers whose company pays for the flights and who can then enjoy the perks of free flights for friends and family on holidays. For the rest of us who don’t travel more than three or four times a year it’s a bit of a waste of time.

  • bodega3

    I so disagree.

  • bodega3

    Never have had a problem. You have to know your market and how far out to book.

Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.