Miles Away

Are mileage programs at car rental companies running out of gas?
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the June 1998 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Getting frequent-flier miles for renting a car used to be a cinch. The incentives were offered for practically every airline under the sun--all you had to do was pick the program.

But times are changing. Hertz has severed ties with several mileage programs, including Midwest Express and Northwest. Avis bid adieu to Northwest, TWA and US Airways, and other companies are contemplating similar moves.

The reductions are part of an aggressive cost-cutting trend in the car rental industry, according to Warren Lieberman, director of travel and hospitality consulting at DFI-Aeronomics, a revenue management consulting firm in Mountain View, California. "Mileage programs were costly for the car rental companies and didn't provide them with a lot of value," says Lieberman.

So is this the beginning of the end of car rental incentives? That's unlikely. Many large car rental companies continue to offer miles with major airlines because it makes sense for them.

However, there may be a catch. On your next trip, you could pay for the privilege of collecting airline miles without realizing it. Hertz slapped a 36-cent surcharge on travelers claiming miles on American, United and Southwest, for example, and other car rental companies could follow suit.

Jim Haynes, president of the Commercial Travelers Association, an organization of independent business travelers based in Atlanta, doesn't think collecting miles on a rental is worth the trouble anymore.

"Forget miles," Haynes says. "They cost the car rental companies money. They cost us money. It's better to ignore the programs and shop for the best deal."

Road Notes

  • Kiwi International Airlines now offers nonstop service between Boston and Newark, New Jersey and between Boston and West Palm Beach, Florida. Call (800) JET-KIWI.
  • The newly renovated Cheeca Lodge in Islamorada, Florida, offers special summer midweek rates for business travelers. Call (800) 327-2888.
  • Holiday Inn's Holiday Hospitality frequent guest program offers 10 Priority Club Worldwide points for every dollar spent on a qualifying room rate at any Holiday Inn Express hotel. Members who automatically collect frequent flier miles with any of their seven North America-based airline partners will now earn 2.5 miles for every dollar spent on a qualifying room rate.
  • Avis is offering its Satellite Guidance computerized directions system at selected Florida airports. The system helps travelers find the most direct route to a destination.

Contact Sources

Commercial Traveler Association, (800) 538-2607, http://www.ctra.org

DFI-Aeronomics, 650 Castro St., #300, Mountain View, CA 94041, http://www.dfi-aeronomics.com

Runzheimer International, (800) 558-1702, http://www.runzheimer.com

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