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We always get suspicious when airlines start talking about giving customers "more control" and "more choice," since that usually means downgrading reward tiers and charging for things that used to come for free. Getting to choose whether to have food on a long flight or pay for checked baggage has never left us feeling particularly empowered. Nowadays pretty much any airline policy change is enough to get us nervous, and that's particularly true whenever they start to tinker with loyalty programs and elite status.
So naturally we've been anticipating with dread the details of how the American Airlines/British Airways/Iberia merger will affect their frequent flyer programs. So far so good, with the announcement coming out over the weekend that BA is increasing the miles that you get for Discount Economy tickets, from 25% to 100%. BA miles are also now good for AA upgrades, and vice versa. And the airline is even promising to upgrade some of their Executive Lounges.
US Airways just published a press release promising customers a new tier system for frequent flier purchases, the promise being that travelers will get "more choices and flexibility." Right now there are three kinds of award bookings you can make using your miles: off-peak, mileage saver, and standard awards. After January 6, 2010 there will be four categories: off-peak, low, medium, and high awards.
Essentially they've taken one of their awards tiers and split it into two. Fair enough. But now they get to rearrange what each rewards ticket costs into a 4-category system, and here's where things get interesting; will they use the new system as a cover for making everything more expensive?
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We all know that airline travel has been down due to the economic situation, and when you combine that with the fall travel season things become very slow. That’s why a few airlines have searched through their marketing box and have pulled out the double frequent flyer miles promotion. American Airlines and United have announced that they’ll be providing double elite-qualifying miles through the middle of December. Those are the miles that get you airline status, and fancy upgrades, but won’t help you add to your frequent flier piggy bank for that dream vacation.
Southwest Airlines usually isn’t a follower of such trends as they kind of pride themselves on going their own way, but they too are now offering a fall travel rewards promotion. It's not a true double Rapid Rewards bonus, because their business select passengers won’t get the full bonus. However, we never spring for business anyway, so we’ll be happy enjoying one bonus credit for one-way trips and two bonus credits for round-trip flights.
Maybe you're planning to fly one way and drive the other. Or you just don't have a return date in mind. Whatever your reasons, now you can save miles by using a One-Way Flex Award starting at just 12,500 miles for travel within the continental U.S.
The AAdvantage program is also allowing its members to combine their MileSAAver rewards and their AAnytime rewards to fly First Class to their destination and Economy for the return. Or however, you want to mix it up.
Like most mileage programs, the rules are confusing and we're always skeptical of such new changes. However, American has revamped their website to make it easier to book rewards travel and you can see a demo of that here. So far, we're intrigued but it always seems as if we never have enough miles to book the trips that we really want. Sigh. We'll keep waiting.
· American introduces one-way mileage award [Travel Weekly]