How do frequent flyer programs actually work?
If you are a frequent traveler you might have considered enrolling yourself in a frequent flyer program but you might be wondering how it all works. Put simply, these programs allow flyers to earn free miles of flight for every mile traveled.
These programs are somewhat easy to understand. For each mile that the airline customers travel, they earn a mile of frequent flyer miles. The catch is that they must travel on the airline that they signed up with. For example, American Airlines frequent flyers do not earn flyer miles if they travel on a Delta flight. This is why it is smartest to choose one airline and stick to it, rather than trying to accumulate air miles with numerous airlines.
The more you travel, the more miles you accumulate and the more you are rewarded. Many airlines have levels, such as silver, gold and platinum, to signify the status of frequent fliers. The more one travels, the higher in rank they will rise. If your airline is affiliated with a hotel or rental car service, miles may translate into points, which can be used towards airline tickets, rental car prices, or hotel stays.
Once you have accumulated a certain amount of miles, you will be able to redeem them for rewards. Airlines typically have an 800 number where customers can speak with representatives who are familiar with the frequent flyer program. This provides convenience for customers who are looking to redeem frequent flyer miles or for customers who may have a question or concern about the program. When redeeming miles for free airline tickets, each mile accumulated is the equivalent of a few cents. Therefore, in order to purchase a $200 airline ticket for free, a customer in a program where each mile is worth 2 cents would have to have 10,000 miles accumulated.
So how did the frequent flyer program begin? In the early 1980s American Airlines initiated the frequent flyer program by introducing a program that rewarded people for frequently flying on American Airlines. The airline used its database to track customers travel and keep track of how many miles were covered, this let them know when rewards were to be given. After beginning the program American Airlines teamed up with Hertz Rental Cars and Hyatt Hotels to make it even easier for customers to earn rewards. Soon after other airlines followed and competed with one another to have the most appealing frequent flyer program for its customers. This was beneficial to frequent fliers because it created competition between airlines to create the best program, making it better for customers.
After the programs became hugely successful in the United States, the programs expanded to international airlines as well. Some American airlines will team up with airlines in other countries to form alliances. This makes it easier for frequent flyer customers to travel abroad. If a frequent flyer is flying in a country where their airline is not available but their airlines partner airline is available, the customers frequent flyer miles can transfer over from the miles flown on this flight.