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I am a few weeks behind but the USA Today had a story recently about frequent fliers (flyers?) and how pleased they are with the airline mileage programs. Three of the key points in the study that the article referenced:

  • Overall, a slight majority of frequent-flier program users — 53% — said they were generally satisfied with their primary carrier’s loyalty program and that they’d recommend it to a friend.
  • Nearly half (45%) of those surveyed say they earn more points from credits cards and other ground-based promotions than they do from actually flying.
  • Awards that cost more miles or points than expected was by far the biggest frustration among the survey’s respondents. That was cited by half the respondents — far more than the No. 2 complaint: suddenly changing rules.

So a slight majority of those polled are “generally satisfied”, meaning 47% are less than satisfied or didn’t respond. A good chunk of those same people earn most of their miles via credit cards and other promotion tools and yet they are upset with rewards that cost more. It seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, more miles in wild, the cost of the good being provided (a reward) goes up. To give you an idea of how the manufactured spend game works, take a peak at this article on Vice that focuses on Vanilla Reloads.

After United’s recent devaluation I am less inclined to amass large amounts of miles for “aspirational” awards on partner carriers, it just isn’t worth it. Sure, I’ll keep earning and probably burning for United business class tickets where I can find them but I am going to limit my aspirational type rewards to Starwood’s Starpoints. There is also a number of frequent fliers, in hopes of greener grass, jumping ship to American Airlines. After the merger with US Airways is complete I am sure that the American Airlines program will be degraded to some extent.

As Seth said, the frequent flier game has become a lot less fun. As a result, my attention is turning more to cheap fares and less to miles.