Monday, September 6, 2010
Ever since American Airlines became the first major airline to introduce an airline loyalty program back in 1981, fliers have been hoarding miles. Within about a year, all of American’s biggest competitors, including Delta, United and British Airways, had rolled out programs of their own. And ever since then, most have been intrinsically flawed.
Originally the goal was to accrue free travel (American even considered lower fares for frequent fliers) but that has changed dramatically in today’s aviation landscape, and most frequent fliers these days are more interested in status than the occasional free ticket. Making an elite tier of most airline programs frees travelers from the increasingly onerous and divisive “us versus them” model that airlines have taken towards their passengers. “Regular passengers,” meaning occasional fliers in coach, are subject to all sorts of fees and annoyances, from checked bag fees (and in some cases even carry-on bag fees) to potato chips.
- Check the flight schedules for the cities you will frequently fly between. For example, if you're traveling from Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport to Albuquerque, you'll find many more flights on Southwest (southwest.com). On the other hand, United (united.com) and U.S. Airways (usairways.com) offer more flights to Boston. Finding the airline that offers the most flights lets you easily shop both for lower prices and more convenient times.
- Examine the hidden costs. Rarely do the quoted prices for tickets contain all the costs you will incur for travel. As airlines struggled financially in the early 21st century they began adding fees for things such as checked baggage and seat selection. Visit the websites of the airlines to research all of the costs involved.
- Research the customer service conveniences of each airlines. See who has fewer layovers on the routes you'll fly and who offers online check-in. Don't forget cancellation policies. Some airlines will charge a hefty fee for you to change your travel plans, while others, like Southwest, let you do this at no cost.
- ook into the frequent-flyer programs to see which would work best for you. The Huffington Post recommends American Airlines (aa.com) if you fly a lot because its top tier perks are the best. But if you fly less often, United might be a better choice.
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