Some people like to fly. These people are crazy. The sane majority (of which I count myself a member) loathes flying. Fortunately, the frequent flyer ticket helps take away some of the pain. Which airline came up with the concept and how has it changed over the years? Here’s the scoop.
The concept of rewarding passengers for flying a particular airline was created by American Airlines in 1981. A well-researched (and loooooong) article from InsideFlyer.com explains that Bill Bernbach, then the CEO of Doyle Dane Bernbach (the ad agency for American Airlines), may have been inspired by banks that were offering its customers free toasters. He thought, why not do something similar for airline customers?
Originally, the plan was to give the airline’s best customers lower fares. But execs concluded that those lower fares would likely be matched by competition. After some brainstorming, they came up with the miles concept.
At first, airlines thought to reward their frequent travelers free upgrades to First Class. InsideFlyer.com explains that the “cost” of a free upgrade was originally 11,000 miles. Why? “Because American’s longest city pair at that time was Boston to Los Angeles, and they didn’t want travelers to be able to get a free upgrade after only two transcontinental roundtrips (10,444 miles).”
Things have, of course, changed over the years. The programs still exist, but airlines, pressured to increase profits, have added fees, black out dates, and other annoyances. Time magazine hosts an entertaining list of “20 Reasons to Hate the Airlines.” Number 5: “Frequent-Flyer Gimmickry.”
So, a question for all the travelers out there. Are you loyal to one particular airline because of their frequent flyer program? Or, do you go with whoever has the lowest fare, no matter what? Please leave a comment below.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in Coach,
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