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Straight From the Skies

Learn what's in store for frequent fliers.
April 1, 2006
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/84018

Itching to know what's new in the frequent-flier world? We asked Randy Petersen and Tim Winship, renowned frequent-travel-program gurus and authors of Mileage Pro.

What changes should frequent fliers expect over the next year? More online award booking tools, more and better credit card program tie-ins and bonuses, more ways to redeem miles for merchandise, and innovations like short-haul awards for just 15,000 miles.

What's the outlook for the new low-fare airline programs compared with the older "Legacy" carrier programs? Since 2001, at least four low-cost carriers have gone out of business, with all their members losing all their frequent-flier awards. None of this has happened to legacy carriers yet. The major low-cost carriers are a good long-term bet, but you'll never see London or Australia as an award destination. Also, keep in mind the points-expiration policies of most low-cost airline programs--some points expire after just 12 months and cannot be extended.

How can you get your money's worth? How can you get your money's worth? Don't waste hard-earned miles on a flight you can purchase for $99. Instead, use them for expensive flights or upgrades. And with hotel rates rising faster than airline fares, pay attention to your hotel program, and earn enough points to qualify for free room nights.

What are the biggest mistakes when it comes to choosing or managing program miles? People don't pick what they want from a program first--some are better for upgrades, others are better for award redemption, etc. Or they spread their miles and points among multiple programs, which may generate many miles, but in reality yields few actual awards. The antidote: Consolidate, consolidate, consolidate.

What's your best tip? Pick the right program, then stick with it. These are loyalty programs, after all, and loyalty is the way to earn free trips and elite perks. To get the book, see www.mileageprobook.com or call 800-DIAL-OAG.

Chris McGinnis is author of The Unofficial Business Travelers' Pocket Guide.