How Do Frequent Flyer Miles Work

Emirates Airbus A380 crew member

In a highly competitive sector, any company which aims to maintain its market share, must come up with innovative ideas that keep customers interested in their product or service. One such out of the box idea, introduced in air travel sector is the frequent flyer program, which has enjoyed huge success in the domestic, as well as international sector.
When I think about frequent flyer programs, a picture of George Clooney as Ryan Bingham, from the 2009 movie ‘Up in the Air’ floats into my mind, as the character’s biggest motivation in life is to earn 10 million frequent flyer miles! There are many such Ryan Binghams out there, who literally live a life out of the suitcase and enjoy the exclusive status and facilities provided by airlines to frequent flyers like them.
How Does One Benefit From a Frequent Flyer Program?
The sole reason why a branded business survives over the years is the loyal customer base it maintains. As the competition in the air travel sector heated up, airlines needed to come up with new ideas to grab the customer’s attention. That’s what gave rise to frequent flyer programs. The objective of the program is to create loyal customer base, through awarding of free air miles, or ‘points’ for every flight that a customer takes with the airline. Number of points earned are directly proportional to flight distance.
The number of points or free miles earned can be ‘redeemed’ at a future date to get free air tickets or gain other privileges and discounts with associated services. The free miles or points earned per mile traveled, vary for every airline, but it’s typically one point for every mile traveled. Of course, the accumulated air miles come with an expiry tag.
They have to be redeemed within a fixed period of time, which also varies for every airline. Every airline has its own complicated formula for calculation of the points according to the air miles traveled. Every customer who signs up with such a program has a dedicated account with the airline, where he or she can check for the points accumulated.
When customers have earned a certain maximum amount of points (typically, 25,000 miles or more), they are provided with elite status, which provides them access to privileges like first-class lounge access, priority in booking tickets, special discounts on stays in hotels affiliated with the airlines, car rental services and other such perks. Most programs also offer air miles according to the usage of credit card for shopping, staying in affiliated hotels or for engaging in other business transactions. One can even directly buy miles from airlines, if his accumulated ‘Mile Pile’ is falling short of a flight destination by a small margin.
When redeeming the earned air miles or points, they are converted to dollar value, according to a fixed value for every mile. This value may vary from less than a cent to more than 2 cents per mile earned. The number of free mile points earned per traveled mile also varies according to the class of tickets you book. First-class tickets will earn you more points per mile than business or economy class tickets. For example, if the value of a point or mile is a cent, then 25,000 miles will earn you $250 worth free ticket travel. You can refer to websites like ‘Webflyer,’ which provides detailed information regarding the frequent flyer programs offered by domestic and international airlines. Till date, trillions of air miles have been accumulated by air travelers in the US.
All in all, frequent flyer programs are a win/win proposal for travelers and airlines. Of course, enrolling for them only makes sense if you travel quite frequently and widely. Read all the terms and conditions of the program carefully before signing up and look for hidden costs involved. Go for an airline that operates in your travel domain, which will let you benefit from their frequent flyer program. More the miles you travel, more are the miles you earn to travel free! Once you have accumulated enough points, cash in on the points or miles earned by gifting yourself a vacation trip absolutely free!

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