I am a bit of a travel junkie, and if you pay any attention to the travel industry community and news, you’ll know it’s not uncommon to hear about the latest “devaluation” of program x or y; usually the program is removing various perks or charging more for award tickets. Does that mean there’s no reason to sign up for them any more? Absolutely not!
I will admit that someone who takes only a few flights will not get the same level of benefits as someone who flies all the time *coughcough* (raises hand), but there are still benefits to be had!
My top 5 reasons to join a frequent flyer program
- You can set up a profile
Once you are part of a frequent flyer program, you can set up your profile and indicate things like seating preference (window please!) or meal preference (VGML!) and in theory these will be applied to each flight you have with that airline. Of course, this doesn’t always happen, but that’s a topic for a whole other blog post.
- You can earn points
Every time you fly–either with that airline or with a partner airline–you can earn points (except for the deep discount fares on some airlines) to top off your balance. You can also usually earn points via hotels, credit cards, car rentals, and even restaurants. Each program has a different set of partners that earn you points for doing things other than flying (I got points for eating at Crossroads in LA! mmmmm chicken and waffles).
- You can use points
Use points for things like free flights! It might take a while if you don’t fly very often, but some short flights cost fewer miles that you’d think. Most airlines now also allow redemption of points for things like gift cards and products, or even as a donation to charities.
- You will be higher up on the “pecking order” even if you don’t have status
Most airlines will rank passengers for various things, like upgrades, by the status they hold on the airline. But just because you don’t have a lot of points in the system doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter; in the grand scheme of things you’re still above everyone else who doesn’t have an account with the airline. This can come in handy if they need to upgrade someone or your flight is cancelled and you need to be rebooked. Better to be at the bottom of the list than not on the list at all!
- Targeted promotions
Some airlines will only send out offers or promotions to people enrolled in their frequent flyer programs, or even a subset of their frequent flyers. This can be things like bonus points on certain routes (getting you that free flight faster) or maybe free checked luggage (so you can bring all those goodies from the local vegan store home with you).
Not all frequent flyer programs are created equal and you need to look at what benefits each program offers, what your travel patterns are like, and what your dream vacation might look like in order to choose what program is right for you; it’s probably not a great plan to sign up with Southwest if you dream of going to Japan.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask me!
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