Award Travel 101: In which Mr. Goodtrips explains the history of award travel programs, and initiates you into the ways of the frequent flyer.

Award Travel 101: In which Mr. Goodtrips explains the history of award travel programs, and initiates you into the ways of the frequent flyer.

The Golden Age of Air Travel

Actually, there is really no such thing as a “frequent flyer”, at least not in the way the term was originally meant.  Airline loyalty programs are nearly universal, and were designed to reward the most frequent and loyal customers. (The only airline we are aware of that lacks a loyalty program is North Korea’s national carrier, Air Koryo, also widely regarded as the worst airline in the world.)  Anyway, the frequent flyer system of yore was pretty simple- the more you flew with a particular airline, the more miles you earned to use towards future flights with that airline. You know, a true loyalty program.  As a result, passengers were committed to flying a single airline in order to pad their award mileage balances (in addition to other perks that came along with being a frequent flyer).

Although airlines still award miles for flying, these make up just a small portion of the award miles available to the public.  Airlines have discovered that they can make a lot more money by selling miles to banks and other third parties, who in turn monetize them for a range of spending activities, from credit card purchases, to car rentals and online shopping transactions.  While weary travelers might sometimes bemoan the decline in airline services, this is one area in which changes to airline business models actually benefit customers as much as they do the airlines.  You no longer have to be a frequent flyer to become, well, a frequent flyer.  Anyone can begin to accrue travel awards for the spending she is already doing, which changes the game for those of us who do not travel much for business.

Spirit Air fees
Spirit Air are the undisputed kings of add-on fees.

Sounds… simple, right?  So, why is it called the “mileage game”?  While earning miles is easier than ever, redeeming miles can be a seemingly endless labyrinth of rules, caveats, and hidden fees.  So, why bother?  For our family, a good working knowledge of the travel award system has allowed us to travel with a frequency and level of comfort that would be totally impossible if we had to spend cash for our flights and other accommodations.  With a bit of focus and commitment, anyone can begin earning travel awards for the purchases they are already making- even you!  (Just kidding, you’re great.)

So, readers- if you are ready to travel more and want to learn how to begin to accrue and redeem travel awards in order to do so, we’ve got you.  Over the next few posts, No More Bad Trips will be publishing a series of detailed tutorials to help you get started being a winner in the mileage game, and life in general.  Have a burning question right now?  Ask us in the comments, or reach out on Facebook.

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