Frequent Flyer Programs Exposed

Frequent Flyer Programs Exposed

Most frequent flyer programs allow you to​ earn certain travel benefits based on the​ number of​ miles (or occasionally the​ number of​ trips) you fly on a​ particular airline. Typical awards include a​ free ticket or​ a​ free upgrade from coach to​ first class. Some airlines also offer "elite" programs, which provide check-in and​ boarding priorities, and​ "affinity" credit cards, which earn mileage credits when you use them for​ purchases.

In order to​ earn these benefits you must become a​ member of​ that airline’s program. This can often be done through a​ travel agency. There is​ no limit to​ the​ number of​ programs you may join. Before deciding which program(s) to​ join, compare them carefully. You don’t want to​ get "hooked" on one program by accumulating a​ high mileage balance, only to​ learn that another program offers superior benefits for​ your particular situation. in​ making your decision you should consider:

· the​ rate at​ which credits are earned.
· Minimum credits earned per flight (e.g. you are only going 200 miles but the​ airline always credits at​ least 500).
· Whether you are most interested in​ free tickets for​ yourself, "companion tickets," or​ upgrades.
· How much credit is​ needed for​ the​ awards you are interested in,
· Deadlines for​ using accumulated credits (e.g., in​ some programs miles expire after three years).
· Whether the​ airline serves the​ cities you would like to​ travel to, and​ whether it​ has tie-ins to​ other airlines (especially foreign carriers) and​ to​ hotels and​ car rental companies you would use.
· Whether awards are transferable or​ for​ the​ member’s use only.

Each airline’s program carries certain conditions and​ limitations. You should carefully read the​ promotional material and​ the​ "fine print" booklet that the​ airline should give you when you become a​ member. Also, pay attention to​ notices that you receive in​ the​ mail after you enroll. the​ airlines sometimes describe changes in​ the​ program.

Here are some other important considerations to​ keep in​ mind when comparing frequent flyer programs:

· Airlines reserve the​ right to​ make changes, often on short notice. This can include changes to​ the​ conditions and​ limitations and​ also to​ the​ awards and​ the​ rate at​ which awards are earned.

· Keep track of​ the​ mileage you have earned, and​ check it​ against the​ statement that the​ airline mails you. Keep your boarding pass and​ the​ "passenger coupon" portion of​ your ticket

· if​ the​ airline adds a​ new route after you enroll, especially an​ international one, you may be able to​ earn mileage on that route but not use awards there.

· Don’t plan to​ use an​ award immediately after earning enough credit for​ it. the​ airline needs time to​ credit the​ most recent mileage and​ then issue an​ award certificate or​ ticket.

· Availability of​ space on flights for​ frequent flyers is​ often treated in​ the​ same manner with many of​ the​ same conditions as​ deeply discounted air fares. This could include advance reservation requirements, blackout periods (generally during peak travel times, including holidays), length-of-stay limits, and​ limits on the​ number of​ frequent flyer seats on many flights (to as​ few as​ zero on some flights).

· if​ your award flight is​ canceled or​ greatly delayed, can you travel on another airline? if​ your own plans change after an​ award ticket is​ issued, can the​ ticket be used on another flight, or​ can the​ trip be canceled and​ the​ mileage re-credited to​ your account?

One special reminder: airlines often restrict the​ transferability of​ mileage earnings. Almost without exception, the​ sale (or even attempted sale) of​ credits or​ awards violates the​ provisions of​ the​ program and​ may result in​ the​ revocation of​ all accumulated mileage and/or termination of​ your participation in​ the​ program. However, awards can usually be given to​ others as​ gifts. Persons who buy coupons also run a​ risk. if​ the​ airline suspects that the​ bearer of​ a​ coupon or​ ticket is​ not the​ party designated to​ use the​ travel document, the​ airline may refuse to​ honor it​ and​ may even confiscate it. in​ such cases, the​ airline invariably disclaims any obligation to​ the​ bearer of​ the​ coupon or​ ticket; the​ purchaser’s recourse, if​ any, would be with the​ seller of​ the​ travel document.

Airline frequent flyer programs are not regulated by the​ government. These are matters of​ individual company policy. if​ you are dissatisfied with the​ way a​ program is​ administered, changes, which may take place, or​ the​ basic terms of​ the​ agreement, you should complain directly to​ the​ company. if​ such informal efforts to​ resolve the​ problem are unsuccessful, you may wish to​ consider legal action through the​ appropriate civil court.

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