This is somewhat of an open letter to my fellow travel bloggers, but applies to anyone. As someone who closely follows the changes in airline industry, I know that there have been a lot of changes to frequent flyer programs in the last several years. Some changes are announced weeks or even months ahead of time. Other changes give travelers no advanced warning. Some airlines are better than others at giving notice of a change. Even when there is no advanced notice of a change, most airlines will send emails and (usually) tweet it. Almost every time, there is at least one blogger that will write about it. If you fly at all, then you should be paying attention to the changes that airlines are making to their frequent flyer program.
Every time someone takes an airplane flight, the airline usually has a frequent flyer program. The airline might even have partners that you can credit the flight to. For example, you can earn United MileagePlus miles when you fly Air Canada. Also, if you prefer to accrue United miles, you shouldn’t discard the Ethiopian Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Dublin (and onward to Addis Ababa) – again, just an example. I can go on and on about this, so feel free to leave a comment if you have a question about airline partnerships.
Whether or not it is worth it to open a frequent flyer account on a new (for you) airline, there’s no right or wrong answer. In my opinion, that you should earn miles no matter what. It won’t cost you more for your ticket or make you be treated any worse than normal. You never know if you’ll fly that airline again and can earn more miles.
Airlines Like “Enhancement”
In order to remain profitable and competitive, airlines are constantly looking at their frequent flyer programs to make it more profitable for them while still seeming fair for their customers. As I mentioned above, airlines will almost always announce a change to their frequent flyer programs, especially for big changes. They know that the miles that people have are important to them. For that reason, they’ll send an email with a subject like “We’re enhancing your SkyMiles”. Dear airlines, you’re not fooling anybody! Generally speaking, that enhancement is a devaluation for the flyers. BEWARE WHEN YOU READ “ENHANCEMENT”.
Anything can be changed and the airline has full control over the program. The most typical change is a change
Why should this matter to you?
When looking at flights and keeping in mind where to credit the flight, you should be aware of recent changes to the program you’re crediting the miles to. Recently there have been a lot of changes with Alaska Air’s Mileage Plan – mostly regarding its waning partnership with Delta. If you are planning flights on Delta, then you should know that crediting the flights to Alaska Air is no longer an option. Your Delta flight had to be ticketed by December 19, 2016 to be able to earn Alaska Air miles. At least you have until the end of April to credit your flight, assuming it was bought before December 19. Keep in mind, this was announced on December 19.
This isn’t the only example of a change that could greatly impact the amount of miles you get from a flight. The big 3 US airlines (American, Delta, & United) have all moved to a revenue-based earning system. This means that the miles you earn are based on what you paid, not how long the flight was. The three airlines basically copied each other and a member without status would earn 5 miles per dollar spent. Earning increases with status – higher status tiers earn more. This could be disparaging if you bought a $450 round trip ticket from the West Coast to Europe (not uncommon these days). Instead of the 10-11,000 miles you thought you’d get, you only get 2,250 miles!
Not all changes are bad. Sometimes enhancements are truly an enhancement. Such is the case with earning on Alaska Air when flying most of their international partners in premium cabins. This change got my Dad almost 30,000 miles from a one-way flight on Emirates. He was going to credit his business class flight to another Emirates partner, but Alaska Air changed their earning on Emirates.
Changes an airline makes to their respective frequent flyer program can greatly increase (but typically decrease) the number of miles or points you’ll earn from a flight. If you’re aware of those changes, then you should be able to maximize what you earn. It is not longer safe to assume that you’ll always earn miles based on the length of the flight.
Time Travel Blonde