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ABCNew.com Column: How You Can Save Thousands (Seriously)

March 25, 2009 | Posted in: Airline News,Frequent Flyer,Sports | 2 comments

I’m not saying you WILL save thousands, but you CAN – if you join a frequent flier program.

If you don’t do it, you’re just leaving money on the table. Especially in today’s “sale” environment airlines are practically throwing bonus miles at members – for domestic and international travel.

That means more chances to easily reach “elite status” – and more chances for:

  • Free flights
  • Waived bag fees
  • Upgrades
  • First-in-line boarding privileges and more

Do you fly three times a year? If you typically check a bag, you’ve just saved yourself nearly 100 bucks! Read my weekly column on ABCNews.com for more.

I think a lot of people don’t join – because it involves some work. True! But I’ll bet you do more work on your March Madness festivities – and unlike those office pools, joining a frequent flier program is free.

In this economic environment, mileage programs are like “free money”. And who turns down free money? Not this travel guru…

Crazy Time: Look Out for Mileage Run Marathoners

December 30, 2008 | Posted in: Airline News,Frequent Flyer | 0 comments

It’s that time of year again, when frequent fliers head for the airports to do “mileage runs” — a way to earn the last few qualifying miles they need to keep their “elite” status into the New Year.

Back in June, I told you about a mileage runner named Karen whose adventures included a roundtrip flight to Singapore — a city she spent just 6 hours in.

Now the LA Times has come out with a fun read called, Hi, I’m a Frequent-Flier Addict”. The addict in question talks about a similar quick trip to Amsterdam — “just long enough to visit a coffee shop and see some Van Goghs”.

Of course, destinations aren’t the point — miles are – and all the good stuff those miles bring, such as free upgrades, moving to the head of the boarding line, and yes, avoiding those checked-bag fees.

Our friend Karen says she has all the miles she needs for this year, but she’s already got a head start into next year, because she got the best christmas gift ever from my hubby–a mileage run on any airline to anywhere in the world, as long as it’s under 5 cents a mile”. She plans to hit Singapore again early this coming year with some fellow mileage runners, and after that — who knows?

Crazy? I guess it depends on what’s important to you. I can say this — it makes me exhausted just thinking about it!

Using Frequent Flier Miles for Holiday Gifts (Instead of Flights)

December 9, 2008 | Posted in: Frequent Flyer,Holiday Travel | 0 comments

We all know it’s getting harder to redeem those frequent flier miles, and according to an article in the New York Times, some have found a solution by “spending” their airline and hotel miles on holiday gifts.

What can you get?

Well, over at Delta, you can find anything from magazine subscriptions to digital cameras, or “experiences” like white water rafting or driving a Nascar racer.

Some of these gifts cost a lot of miles (the NY Times cites a pair of tickets to “Saturday Night Live” for 4-million Hilton points), and some analysts say this may not be the most economical use of your miles or points.

But really, YOU are the only one who can say what’s “economical” or not, for yourself anyway.

And if cash is in short supply this holiday season, why not?

Attn. Frequent Fliers: Changes to Delta/Northwest Programs

December 5, 2008 | Posted in: Delta,Frequent Flyer,Northwest | 1 comment

Execs at the “new” Delta (now the world’s largest airline, thanks to its merger with Northwest) are tinkering with the two frequent flier programs. By late 2009, the programs will merge.

In the meantime, some changes: beginning next year, Delta and Northwest fliers can combine or transfer miles between programs. And, members in both programs can rise to “elite status” by flying a certain number of segments on Delta or Northwest flights — or reach that status simply by following the current mileage requirements.

And, Delta brags that it is alone among major carriers to allow all miles customers to earn the minimum 500 miles, no matter how short a flight is — and that will not change.

Get more information — on Delta’s website.

Okay, We Heard You! US Airways Returns Perks to Elite Fliers

November 20, 2008 | Posted in: Frequent Flyer,US Airways | 1 comment

I guess they got tired of all the screaming.

However, a US Airways official says the decision to reverse themselves and restore its bonus miles as well as the “500 mile minimum” for short hops – was merely prompted by “customer feedback”.

And mind you, it’s only being restored to the airline’s top-tier frequent fliers – though it is retroactive – which is a nice touch.

This announcement comes in the wake of first Continental’s, then United’s decision to restore that 500 mile minimum perk.

United: 500-Mile Minimum Restored to Elite Members

November 3, 2008 | Posted in: Frequent Flyer,United | 0 comments

First, United took it away - that 500-mile minimum mile accrual - now, it’s giving it back, to elite members of its Mileage Plus program. Even better, this change is retroactive to flights going back to July 1st through this year. The restoration begins Jan. 1st.

There are other changes, too: for example, starting in July of 2009, United is “generally reducing the mileage requirements and will be collecting a co-pay when miles are redeemed to upgrade an Economy ticket”.

Read more on United’s website.

ABCNews.com Column: What’s Going On with YOUR Frequent Flier Miles?

October 29, 2008 | Posted in: ABC Column,Frequent Flyer | 0 comments

In my latest weekly column, I talk about how frequent flier mile programs are getting “watered down”, that some airlines are talking about spinning these assets off, and, I ask the question — what if my airline goes bankrupt?

Short answer: your miles are most likely going to be safe.

True, they’re not worth as much anymore. You need more miles for trips, and now, American Airlines has now joined Continental and other in changing the rules on short hops – no more automatic 500 miles – you now get “actual miles flown”.

But airlines love these programs, since they are a big financial asset – and they’re not going away.

The questions is – is it worth it to YOU to keep participating? I say yes. And here’s why:

The aforementioned “actual miles flown” rule? That doesn’t apply to “elite” frequent fliers, nor do the baggage fees. Plus, “elite” status gets you onboard the plane first – the better to find room for your carry-on bag.

See my entire column here – and as a bonus, a quick history of S&H green stamps and that awful glue - no kidding.

American Joins Other Airlines in Removing 500 Mile Minimum – Impact?

October 28, 2008 | Posted in: Airfare News,Airline News,Frequent Flyer | 0 comments

I did a study on the impact of rescinding the frequent flier 500 minimum rule back in September (chart from 5-Sep-08 below, click the link for methodology) when Continental announced that they were changing their frequent flier policy to credit frequent flier accounts with exact flown mileage – instead of decades old standard of 500 mile minimum per flight.

American announced to non-elite flyers yesterday they will also only be credited with “exact flown mileage” making it more difficult for travelers to achieve elite status (normally 25,000 miles), which carries with it perks like priority boarding and waived checked bag fees:

This chart assummed putting all travelers on the “exact flown” rule (United, US Airways), Continental later changed it’s mind allowing elitesto maintain500 mile mimimum along with American — The new Delta/Northwest the lone holdout … for now.

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