The Frequent Flyer program began in 1981 when airlines started giving “rewards” to passengers who flew the most. The miles would accumlate like a score card and when a certain amount would be earned, the passenger would be rewarded with a free ticket.
Over time, this grew into a major incentive program hosted not only by airlines, but by companies working with the airlines to provide airline benefits like credit card companies, hotels, car manufacturers, and banks. Airline miles became the currency of the traveler, collected through every possible resource as a bonus for spending money that would count towards that free ticket.
The programs and packages became more complex as competitors fought for your travel obsession. Mileage as currency can now be used to purchase a wide range of non-travel items. And the programs because diverse and multiplied.
With recent “trouble times” in the US domestic airline industry, you should know that all airlines agreements for frequent flyers programs include provisos reserving the right to modify or eliminate them at any time.
While airlines and other companies use these as incentives, they also seem to do their best to limit and control the choices you have when it comes time to redeem the mileage for tickets. Take care to read the fine print to see what your choices really are when it comes time to claim your miles.
Faced with bankruptcy, many airlines may expand or enhance their frequent flyer programs as a way to entice passengers to fly more, building up revenue. Airlines use air mileage by selling them to partners such as credit cards, hotel chains, and car rental agencies to add to their own incentive programs, This has brought in billions of dollars to the airline industry, which, unfortunately, continues to have troubles. But it is good for those with the Frequent Flyer miles as stopping those programs stops a huge inflow of cash to the airlines. If an airline folds and you are holding frequent flyer miles, some airlines may accept or convert frequent flyer membership. If not, all miles and membership priviledges are usually lost, though there are some changes in the future which might give these value.
If an airline has an agreement with another airline company, they will often honor their frequent flyer miles in a code-sharing program. This means that, depending upon the arrangement, frequent flyer miles from one airline can be used on another.
To help you handle some of the confusion about Frequent Flyer Mileage Programs, here are some resources:
- How Stuff Works: Travel and Frequent Flyer Rewards
- Aviation Consumer Protection Division on Frequent Flyer Protection
- Yahoo Directory of Frequent Flyer Travel Programs
- Inside Flyer
- Epinions – Opinions and Reviews by Customers of Frequent Flyer Programs
- About.com Air Travel Frequent Flyers 411 Guide to Frequent Flyer Programs
- Wikipedias Frequent Flyer Miles Information and Resources
- About.com’s Scoop on Frequent Flyer Programs
- Business Travel Frequent Flyer Programs List
- Frequent Flier
- Web Flyer
- FAA – International Aviation Online – Code-Sharing in the Airline Industry
- FAA US Government List of Code-Sharing Airline Relationships (pdf file)
- FAA and Department of Transportation Code-share Safety Program Guidelines (pdf file)
- Los Angeles Times – When it comes to arline code shares – buyers beware
- BootsnAll Travel – Code Sharing Between Airlines