Frequent flyer programs were created to encourage repeat business from regular travelers. They are also set up in the hopes that a casual traveler will come back to the same airline, but they are confusing enough that few people actually redeem these miles for free travel. If someone takes an average of two flights per year, the odds are high that they will be (or they already are) eligible for an upgrade or free flight within two years. Whether someone has already signed up, or they are waiting to do it, there are few steps to take to make a frequent flyer account more effective.
Sign Up With Delta, American, and United
Even if a traveler does not use these airlines, it’s a good idea to sign up with their frequent flyer programs because they are the only airlines where miles can be earned with partner companies. Unfortunately, the process does not work in reverse, and while these alliances cover the major airlines, there are really no budget carriers from which to choose.
Redeem Free Flights in Advance for Travel During Peak Times
When reserving a flight with frequent flyer miles, be sure that seats are set aside at least 330 days before the flight. Around special events and during busier seasons, these seats go quickly, as airlines would rather they go to paying customers. Even a traveler without a plan can benefit from booking far in advance.
Call to Book
The airlines online booking systems are good for getting an idea of when free seats may be available, but they provide little information beyond that. A simple phone call to the mileage program will almost certainly uncover routes that are not available online, and if a flyer has elite status, it may be possible to have fuel surcharges and other fees waived.
In Some Cases, It’s Easier and Better to Pay for Flights
There are intricate connections within airline contracts that can leave passengers liable for hundreds of dollars in fuel surcharges, which make a free flight not free at all. Simply put, if the fuel charges are almost equivalent to the price of economy travel, it may be simpler just to pay for the flight and earn miles to use later. Visit Upgraded Points for additional travel tips.