Redemption programs are a very effective method to appeasing customers that hospitality and transportation agencies throughout the world have picked upon throughout the years. Despite the bonuses given and the rewards that are earned for being frequent fliers, airlines often find that their business can improve the more they seek to pamper their more frequent customers, thereby gaining an assurance that they will in fact be able to keep the profits rolling in. Airline redemption plans are often a bit different than those used for hotels, but with some airlines the benefits can overlap as some hotels are known to work closely with selected companies that offer a decided benefit for both parties.
Much like hotels however, airlines can be somewhat limited at times as to what they can offer, which means that certain airlines will only offer their deals and benefits to those in their area. This is common among any company that deals in hospitality or transportation. Each company has their own specific region that they cover and as such will not often, if ever, stray outside of it. This might make such companies seem limited and even exclusive, but considering that any of them will seek to favor those who do constant business with them, it is not that much of a hindrance to earning a few added luxuries when flying the friendly skies. Here are a few airline redemption plans that stand as a good example of the benefits that come with being a frequent flier.
5. Virgin America Elevate
This program typically only benefits those who are traveling to and from the west coast, primarily cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco. Members that join this particular program have three tiers of membership offered to them, those being red, silver, and gold. Members of this program can earn points by using a credit card affiliated with the airline, flying with a partner of the airline, or staying at a hotel that is partnered with the airline. It’s very easy to accrue points with this program, and they can be used in a few different ways. Members can apply their points towards a hotel stay, a complimentary flight, or even just free cabin upgrades. Travelers are able to earn 5 points per dollar spent on this program, and since the cost of a flight tends to vary the number of points needed per flight can vary from around 8,000 to 32,000.
The only downside of this program is that the points can expire after a while if they’re not used after 18 months. Thankfully there are no restrictions on flight rewards with this program, which means that travelers will always be able to redeem their points when they so desire.
4. Delta Sky Miles
The range of Delta Sky Miles is a little greater as they tend to frequent cities such as Los Angeles all the way New York City. This airline typically operates well over 5,000 flights per day to over 300 cities in roughly 60 countries. This tends to give the frequent flier a much broader range from which to draw and a much better chance of earning a great number of points as they travel from one destination to another. There are only two forms of membership for Delta, which are the Skymiles membership and the Medallion elite membership. As seems to be standard in many airlines, those flying with Delta will earn 5 points per every dollar spent. These points can be spent on additional flights as well as cabin upgrades, and the average number of points that are needed to do this can vary from 19,000 to 25,000. Another bonus is that these miles can be accrued when using any other participating airlines that are partnered with Delta. These miles will not expire and members tend to receive an unlimited number of complimentary upgrades.
The only downsides really are that Delta has a limited amount of seating when it comes to cashing in for a complimentary flight, and the cost for reaching elite status is rather pricey.
3. Southwest Rapid Rewards
This program is really the best for those who are on a budget and are based primarily in the US. Southwest is known to fly nearly 4,000 flights a day and visits more than 90 locations on a regular basis. There are four tiers of membership to this reward program, and those are basic, A-list, A-list Preferred, and Companion Pass. The upside of this program is that there no blackout dates and like many redemption plans reward points can be gained by flying and staying at any affiliated hotels. The downside however is that when going outside the US, Southwest only services flights to Mexico and the Caribbean. This system is also a bit confusing despite its benefits, as the number of points required to redeem a complimentary flight tend to vary quite a bit. Also, it’s not possible to combine points and cash to cover the cost of a flight.
2. JetBlue TrueBlue
This program services those primarily located on the eastern side of the US and is beneficial since its points can be earned through different airlines that are partnered with JetBlue. Users can also earn points through the use of social media, and there are no blackout dates that might otherwise limit the redemption of points. The number of points possible range from 3 to 8 per dollar spent depending largely on what type of flight you book and of course how you book the flight. This means that if you book online you will typically earn more. These points can also be redeemed for hotel stays, purchases made with JetBlue credit card, and even car rentals.
The bad part of this program is that while there are no blackout dates with JetBlue, there might very well be blackout dates with other airlines that participate in the redemption plan. This program also offers fewer available destinations than other airlines, and there is only one tier of membership that is considered elite.
1. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
Alaska tends to service the west coast more often, but it will also travel to major hubs such as New York and Atlanta. The airline is partnered with several other participating companies so as to offer a decided benefit to its frequent fliers and afford them a chance to cash in on their redeemable awards. Aside from just earning miles during one flight after another, members can also earn miles by using the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card, and by staying with those hotels that have partnered with Alaska to benefit the constant traveler. The frequent flier can enjoy an astounding amount of flexibility in redemption options offered by the airline, but will need to be ready to deal with blackout dates when it comes to cashing in their miles towards airfare. Alaska is also unfortunately quite limited on how many locations they frequent despite visiting major hubs across the US.
The typical Alaska membership is divided into the basic membership and the MVP program. The MVP program is divided further into MVP, MVP Gold, and MVP Gold 75K. It also includes a specialized level that is exclusively reserved for Alaska residents. Members will typically be able to earn one mile per mile traveled or up to a total of 500 miles. On connecting flights it is even possible to earn miles for each segment of the trip, so a long journey could possibly earn a great number of points in a short time.
While it might seem that the limitations of each airline are quite profound, it bears reminding that for the frequent flier that uses this mode of transportation often, the benefits far outweigh the costs. The average frequent flier will earn more rewards in a given month than the casual flier will in an entire year. So no matter how restrictive it seems when speaking of the downsides of each program, those pros and cons are more applicable to those who fly infrequently, rather than as a part of their business or lifestyle.