What is the BEST frequent flyer program? This question is difficult to answer as it depends on how its measured and what you are looking for. In pure terms of the LARGEST flyer programs, it makes sense that the largest airlines, which also host the most number of flyers, have the largest membership. American Airlines holds this title, with United following in a close second. Does this mean it’s the ‘best’? Not necessarily. Tim Winship, author of “How to Choose the ‘Best’ Frequent Flyer Program breaks it down into 4 easy to understand variables; Mileage expiration, earning opportunities, redemption opportunities and elite perks.
Mileage expiration – Essentially, as long as there is account activity within a 3 year period, miles should not expire. This means you are either earning miles or using them. Pretty simple, considering the numerous way to earn miles outside of actually flying. Miles program credit cards offer the luxury of earning miles through purchases and there are a number of credit card options. However, not all airlines adhere to the three year rule, especially the smaller carriers. So be wary and read the fine print!
Earning opportunities – Again, most of the larger carriers (United, American Airlines, Delta) offer numerous opportunities to add miles to your account. Credit cards are an excellent way to gain miles, especially for business travelers who utilize credit cards. Some offer miles for any type of purchase, such as those associated with American, while others are more limited in purchases that earn miles.
Some rewards programs, such as those offered by Delta, offer the opportunity to earn double miles for each mile traveled once you reach ‘status’. Even when traveling on other partner airlines, many larger carriers allow you to earn miles for these flights.
Redemption Opportunities – Again, the larger carriers win out. The larger alliances with partner airlines allow a greater coverage area and options for mile redemption. Simply put, you can travel more places with less restrictions. In addition, miles can be redeemed for goods, such as home electronics. This is a good option for those who prefer to stay at home for vacation rather than hit the skies again.
Elite perks – From miles to seat upgrades, perks are what you earn for belonging to a frequent flyer program. Again, larger carriers win out offering a higher degree of options and make it easier to obtain seat upgrades and give the opportunity for free tickets, club entries and more.
While there may not be a program that fits any one person’s every wish, larger carriers certainly offer more benefits over smaller carriers and may carry less restrictions. Either way, if your goal is to earn miles, and you are a frequent flyer, it’s tough to go wrong. Do a little homework for yourself, check out Luggage Covers but use these variables to measure each and happy flying!