The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Frequent Flyer Programs The FFP or Frequent Flyer Programs that airlines use to maintain customer loyalty appear to be in a state of confusion. They started out as a "good" thing that slowly started to go "bad", but we're about to see things get really "ugly" no doubt due to the high cost of fuel. THE GOOD. In the past, when FFP's were first introduced, the business traveler and families got a fair deal. For each mile you flew with the airline, you received a reward mile which is the equivalent of an air mile. When you reach a certain level, say 25,000 miles you receive a free ticket. If you flew often, as many business travelers do, you saved a considerable amount of money. It didn't take long for people to be loyal to a certain airline. All in all, it was a great marketing plan for the airlines. The credit card companies got into the mileage program using the same concept: use "our credit card" and we will give you the same points as the airlines. You spend $25,000 and we'll give you 25,000 miles or points to use on our partner airline. If you were loyal to us, just like the airlines, we'll reward you. The miles never expired and in most cases there were no block-out dates. Often you read stories in the news of people who accumulated millions of frequent flyer miles just for the bragging rights. THE BAD. Everything was fine until, like most good ideas, extreme competition move into the field. Today, every airline has a FFP and almost all credit cards have some type of reward program. So the concept of loyalty to an airline or credit card company is becoming less important. The airline rewards program is good for the consumer, but not nearly as beneficial for the airlines. Too many people were using their mileage for free flights, naturally, so the airlines started to make some rules by creating block-out dates (holidays and the busiest times of the year), restrictions on timing your flights, general confusion on making reservations, who can use the miles etc. The credit card companies also found that loyalty to their program wasn't working with the airlines as well as before, so they starting bringing in other business partners to reward their customers. It began with major retailers, hotels, car rental companies, and others but has now reached a point of overkill. Today, florists, art galleries, pet shops, you name the business, the credit card companies has a reward attached to it. The consumer doesn't really make out because in order to get the reward they need to spend the money, money that they would not have spent and paying higher interest rates along the way. That is the credit card companies operate and continue to grow, but the original frequent flyer programs for the airlines are about to change. THE UGLY. You may have noticed that your frequent flyer program now has an expiration date. Never use to. If you don't use it by a particular date, usually the last day of the year, you lose all of your points. (I have nine FFP account numbers and I recently lost 32,000 points with one airline.) Some of the airlines miles are now good for only two years. Which means that you need to fly 25,000 miles in two years to get a free ticket. That's about 10 flights from Los Angeles to Newark - assuming you want to go when there are available flights. With more passengers flying than ever before and fuel costs going through the roof, change is inevitable. The airlines are now charging extra for luggage ($15 in some cases) and for food on flights, while at the same time making seats smaller to fit more passengers. There are more mergers and bankruptcies than ever before. The airlines still lose money - a lot of money. How long do you think they're going to allow people to fly free? The Frequent Flyer programs will either go through a radical change or be eliminated altogether. The radical change may be a change in the number of miles required for a full ticket or reducing the rate at which customers acquire the points. Either way, we're in for a major change in the way airlines do business with their customers. Ken has created numerous start up businesses within various industries from import/export, food service, retail, computer technology, real estate, advertising, magazine publishing and others. He has been a consultant and corporate analyst for an even wider variety of industries as diverse as power plants and agriculture. You can receive further information at http://www.ProBusinessHelp.com for business info or http://www.BestCreditCardChoice.com for consumer information. He has published guides for business plans, financing and capital acquisition. Currently he is writing articles full time. .