If you’ve ever done something for the miles, like Rick Brown has, you probably know the dilemma.
Should you shrug off a higher fare, a less convenient routing or consistently bad service for the promise of a “free” flight?
Brown, who runs a trading company in New York, has done all that — sticking with his preferred carrier, United Airlines, even when the airline struggled. He’s spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on airfares for himself and his family during his career, “more than on any other airline,” he says.
Research suggests many consumers are similarly seduced, and that the siren song of loyalty programs can lure them into booking a substandard product. The debate is particularly intense now, with United’s’ controversial loyalty program changes taking effect this month. It becomes the latest airline to reward customers based on money spent instead of miles flown. Read more “Do seductive frequent flier programs hurt competition?”
To fly from San Francisco to Paris last month, Kenneth Cook forked over 100,00 miles and paid a $194 fee 10 months before his scheduled flight. The routing wasn’t ideal — it sent him via Denver and Frankfurt, but for that, he was getting choice seats in the front of the plane.
The least he expected was the see his luggage at the end of the journey, and that if he didn’t, the airline would take care of everything.