First, let me start with a mandate - "Get miles for every single flight you take". Would you offer to pay the airline an extra $100 after purchasing your roundtrip ticket from NY to California? No? I wouldn't either. But if you take that flight without providing signing up for and using your frequent flyer account you are doing just that! (I will explain the math a little later)
Basically, some smart marketing person thought up the frequent flyer programs as the airlines affinity program to reward travelers, and to keep you flying with them. Make no mistake, this was a very shrewd move. The airlines are not giving much away, and in return the get some highly devoted business travelers that will bend over backwards to travel with their preferred airline.
If you are a frequent business traveller then you already know the game... but I will explain in brief for the general population:
First, let's say you only travel by air once or twice a year like most Americans. LA to Las Vegas for some good quality family entertainment for example. You may not think that your trips are even worth recording, because they are short, and because you don't travel very often. But don't you dare take a flight without getting miles.
True, your flight miles may not add up to much, but considering that most FF miles never expire, and considering that eventually you will be able to get something in return for them it would be foolish not to hold onto them.
Now let's say that your flight covers 500 miles each way. Assuming you are purchasing your ticket in coach class, you will receive 1000 miles on most airlines for that trip. Under most airline programs it will take you about 25 such trips (to accumulate 25000 points) to earn one free domestic (continental 48) trip in coach class. So if you do that trip only once a year, it will take you 25 years to earn a free ticket. Not much to look forward to, I agree.
However, after only 5 such trips (using 5000 points) many airlines will allow you to upgrade from coach to first class. Now you are sitting up front with the rest of us snobs. You get to get on first and get off first, and you don't have a stranger's arm hanging over your armrest the whole trip.
But believe me, if you earn only 1000 points a year the airlines aren't going to treat you any better than those drink carts that they bang around the aisles.
Now the real beauty of the FF programs comes for the "frequent" travelers (hence the name). On all major airlines there are tiers to the frequent flyer program. On Delta it's called "Medallion" (as are many of the pork meals served in first class). On United it's called "Premier". Whatever the name, the point is the same - perks, perks, perks!
The perks include: use of first class lines at checkin, early boarding (to get that luggage space), access to airline lounges, and bonuses on the mileage that you earn.
Flying a certain amount of mileage during one calendar year will gain you entry into this elite club of ultra-frequent flyers. Most airlines will allow you into the lowest elite level with around 30,000 paid miles per year (note that flying for free doesn't count). With around 50k to 60k you can get into the mid-level program, and with around 100k per year you will be the cream of the crop. Believe me, while I was "Platinum Medallion" on Delta they treated me like a king. My change fees were waived, I got all sorts of coupons, I was able to upgrade even the cheapest coach class ticket months in advance. It was great... but alas, travelling jobs don't last forever, and I am now sitting in back with the rest of you.
As another example, let's assume that I was still Platinum Medallion and I was purchasing a ticket from NY to SFO for sometime a few months down the road. I would shop around, watch for cheap coach class tickets, and I would buy one online from some place that offered me points or miles or cash back (often the airlines own website will give extra points). Usually If I shop around I could find such a ticket for around $300 roundtrip. I buy the ticket, online, and then before it is even mailed to me I call the special number given to me as an elite member (bypassing the wait on the phone) and I ask for my upgrade. As a Platinum Medallion, I had unlimited upgrades and I could do them any time in advance of the flight. Considering that the flight date months away it is likely that I will get the upgrade. So now I have myself a first class, coast to coast, round trip for $300.
Then the time comes to take the flight. When I go to the airport I don't wait for anyone! I go right into the first class line (which is usually slower than the coach line unfortunately) and check my bags (they don't care if they are overweight or if I have a few extra things to bring). The attendant politely smiles when she sees my platinum card, and she puts priority luggage tickets on my bags so that after they are shaken around and broken they will be the first to come out on the conveyor belt on the other side.
I head to the gate, but not to wait in the dirty chairs with gum stuck to them by the door, but in the posh airline lounge above the gates. I can watch TV, drink a few drinks (free booze), and use the facilities in private while waiting for the plane.
When boarding the plane, of course I get to board first because I am in first class... however, even if I had been unable to upgrade to first class I would still board before the average citizen because of my FF status.
Now, here is where the fun begins. On board I am sitting in first class on a ticket that is probably cheaper than many late comers paid for their coach tickets. Furthermore, because of my FF status I earn more miles for that same trip that those around me. Assuming a 3000 mile coast to coast trip, I will earn 6000 "base" miles for the round trip, plus 6000 bonus miles for my FF status. That totals 12000 miles for one $300 ticket with free first class, which roughly translates into 1/2 of a domestic coach FF ticket (assuming 25000 miles required). I would personally say that the 12000 FF points is worth around $240 (again, I will explain the math below). So net/net I have paid $60 for a first class coast to coast ticket. Cash outflow was $300, but I earned roughly $240 back in my frequent flyer account which I can use later.
If I had been travelling for business on an international flight it gets even better. Watch this:
Assume JFK to Tokyo = 8000 miles.
My company pays for business class.
For flying a round trip I will earn 16000 base miles (actual miles flown),
plus a 50% bonus of 8000 miles for the "paid business class ticket",
plus a 100% bonus of 16000 for my FF status. That's 40,000 miles just for taking one flight that my company paid for.
And this says nothing of the fact that I am also building up my mileage for next year's Medallion status.
One of the most important things to realize is sticking with the same airline. The trick to getting to these elite levels is to fly the same airline each and every time. If you travel 100,000 miles every year, but split it between two airlines, you will only earn the lowest level of elite status which will only give you a 25% bonus on your miles travelled. At the end of the year you'll end up with 125,000 miles in your account. If fly the exact same ammount on only one airline then you will end up with 200,000 points. Don't stray from your primary airline. Ever.
How much are those points worth - click here to read more!
Read this first - get miles for every flight you take and get points for every charge you make! It not only rhymes, it's good advice!
1 post • Page 1 of 1
1 post • Page 1 of 1
Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest