How Do Frequent Flier Programs Work?

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One of the best ways to travel is, of course, for free.  Since not all of us can be published and paid travel writers, with free, first-class airfare and 5-star hotel accommodations as benefits, the majority of us constant travelers rely upon frequent flier clubs, air miles clubs and barter sites to obtain free airline tickets.  The good thing is that no matter where in the world you live, you have access to at least one type of frequent flier program.  Knowing how frequent flier programs work will work in your advantage, as you can obtain more free miles by following the major tenets of frequent flier programs.

The major tenets of frequent flier programs are;

1)    The more you fly, the more you get.

2)    The bigger the airline, the better the rewards.

3)    The better the aircraft, the more expensive the seat, and the more miles to fly in them.  Not all planes will charge the same miles for the same flight.  Ticket costs (the number of frequent miles charged) for an Airbus A400 or a DC-10 will vary greatly, as will business class and first class.

4)    You can get a lot more than just airfare.  You can get rental cars, hotel stays, all-inclusive resort cabins, guided tours and clothes.  The airlines have a lot of affiliated partnerships with other travel related industries, and they all help each other out.  Fly with one airliner, rent one of their affiliate’s rental cars, and stay with one of their affiliated hotels, and your frequent flier miles bonus will be a lot greater than just the number of miles flown.  And, if you are cashing in miles for a trip, a complete package can be put together, with hotel, rental car and guided tours all for a certain number of miles.

Frequent flier programs are for people who fly a lot, since they get compensated for the amount of travel that they do.  The more you fly, the more you get to fly for free.  With airlines flying gigantic new airplanes half the way across the globe with about half of the seats empty, they start to worry, and come up with ideas to fill the seats.  To keep fliers flying with them, airlines offer their fliers frequent flier miles, which they can cash in for future airline tickets, but with them only (not transferable to another airline’s clubs).  The catch is, of course, that there are always fees and taxes to pay, so the seats are not exactly free, but they are a lot cheaper than the sale prices.

The bigger the airline, the better the frequent fliers program that they have will be.  If you fly with a small, regional airline more often than a large, international carrier, then their frequent flier program will offer limited returns, most likely reductions in the cost of future airline tickets, on their airline only.  When you fly with a larger carrier, like Air Canada or Northwest Air, your options become more numerable and attractive.  Save up enough miles, and you could even have a 2-week, all inclusive holiday in the tropics!


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