To be a happy frequent flyer, you must belong to the program that fits you best. Status? Awards? Promotions? They are all there, you just need to know which programs offer what. This is the first part of a two-part series designed to get you thinking about the program you currently belong to and how close it comes to being your ideal program.
We hear from countless readers looking for things they simply won’t find with their current program of choice. Take, for instance, the hundreds of US Airways Dividend Miles members we heard from in the early days of that program, each and every one irate because they couldn’t use their miles to fly to Hawaii. If Hawaii is truly your award redemption goal, why oh why join a program associated with an airline that doesn’t fly there? (Of course, US Airways has, from time to time, partnered with other airlines that do fly to Hawaii, so many of those irate members eventually lucked out.)
There is no doubt a significant number of members of these programs belong as members of convenience, not members of research. It’s rare for a member to think about the reasons they belong to a particular frequent flyer program. Many pick a program because their company has a deal with an airline, and stick with that program long after they’ve left the company. Others simply fly the airline they always used to fly as a kid on family vacations. Whatever your reason for choosing your frequent flyer program, it’s never too late to re-evaluate the situation and start fresh if need be.
Being a member of any type of group or organization says something about you as an individual. If you belong to AAA, you are likely responsible and organized, for example. NRA members tend to be conservative and independent. Members of the PTA, practical and hands-on.
Frequent flyer program membership is no different. The program you belong to says something about who you are as a person, whether you like it or not.
Let’s begin this journey with a couple of fun personality quizzes.
Find the statement below that fits you and compare your answers to our “correct” answers to find out if the way you view yourself as a frequent flyer is on par with the way other frequent flyers view you.
And remember, this is all for fun.
- If you belong to the US Airways Dividend Miles program, you are:
A. Reliable, dependable, but perhaps slightly boring.
B. Vivacious, outgoing, in need of attention.
C. Reserved, cautious, slightly mistrusting of others.
D. Deranged, a danger to yourself and the frequent flyer community at large.
(Correct Answer: A – Dividend Miles plays it as safe as possible.)
- If you belong to the Southwest Rapid Rewards program, you want people to see you as:
A. Someone devoted to the earth.
B. Someone devoted to the accumulation of miles.
C. Someone devoted to making smart decisions.
D. Someone devoted to Kermit the Frog.
(Correct Answer: C – Southwest Rapid Rewards membership shows that you’re down-to-earth and reasoned, looking for a bit of free travel but really making the practical choice.)
- If you belong to the Delta SkyMiles program, you are:
A. Someone who is madly in love with himself or herself.
B. Someone who wants a little attention but is more interested in a pleasurable travel experience.
C. Someone who just wants to be left alone.
D. Someone who just wants a burger and fries when flying.
(Correct Answer: B — This program is certainly an attention getter, but not the flashiest of the lot. It signals a desire for benefits as much as, if not more than, a desire for awards.)
- If you belong to the Starwood Preferred Guest program, you are:
A. Someone who wants to tell the world how serious you are.
B. Someone who wants to tell the world how secure you are.
C. Someone who wants to tell the world about 1-800-Collect.
D. Someone who wants to tell the world how fun loving you are.
(Correct Answer: D — This is the program for someone who truly enjoys points, and is in it for the fun of it.)
- If you belong to the United Mileage Plus program and always ask about Star Alliance benefits, you’re telling the world:
A. Whatever I do, I do it up really big.
B. Whatever I do, I do for a good cause (hey buddy, can you spare a dime?).
C. Whatever I do, I do only after consulting my therapist.
D. Whatever I do, I do it for you.
(Correct Answer: A — This program is for those who refuse to think small.)
- If you belong to the JetBlue TrueBlue program, you are:
A. More interested in the color blue than in benefits.
B. More interested in being cared for than in the miles game.
C. More interested in baseball than football.
D. More interested in Christina Aguilera than Britney Spears.
(Correct Answer: B — This is a program for those seeking safety, security and service, but not necessarily the best benefits.)
- If you belong to the Silver Elite level of Continental’s OnePass, you are probably:
A. Really insecure and need to let everyone around you know how powerful you are.
B. Can enjoy the crushing wail of Metallica and the soothing sounds of Yo-Yo Ma on the same iPod play list.
C. Really vulnerable right now, but would prefer not to talk about it.
D. Think you were a silver baron in a former life.
(Correct Answer: A — OnePass is a program with a history of greatness, but Silver Elite almost says, “Just kidding.”)
- If you belong to Frontier’s EarlyReturns program, you are:
A. Trying to look economical, but you’re really foolhardy with miles.
B. Trying to look nonchalant, but you actually earn miles from dining out.
C. Trying to look like a High Flier, but you’re really a Mile Monk.
D. Trying to look smart, but are really a cheapskate.
(Correct Answer: D — Surely you could have at least tried United’s Ted, no?)
- If you belong to the Hilton HHonors program, you are:
A. Bubbly, but hiding a deep depression.
B. Suspicious of others, but trying to look open to new experiences.
C. Fun loving, but trying to relive the past.
D. Republican, but trying to look like a Democrat.
(Correct Answer: C — HHonors is an awesome program, but the past is still the past.)
- If you belong to AAdvantage Executive Platinum, Delta’s Million Miler program and United’s 1K program, you:
A. Delight in waving your status in other people’s faces.
B. Have far too many miles.
C. Never really understood the concept of “loyalty.”
D. Go to the limits to show your elite status to the world.
(Trick question — all the answers are correct. Now give it a rest, showoff!)
That was fun, wasn’t it?
Well, maybe more fun for some than others.
Now you have a little more insight into how your program reflects on you. Admittedly, it’s not much insight, but we never claimed to be Freud here.
But that still doesn’t tell you whether or not your current program of choice is best suited to your wants and needs. To do that, you’ll have to take our next, much more serious and scientific, quiz. Well, ok, it’s actually neither serious nor scientific, unless your idea of science includes a good bottle of wine and a Ouija board. Still, it’s fun, and if you complete it we can help you determine which program will make you the happiest.
- If 200,000 frequent flyer miles came to me unexpectedly, my first impulse would be:
A. To redeem them on awards I really want, including awards for others.
B. To save them for the proverbial “rainy day.”
C. To feel so overwhelmed that I’d put off making any decisions about their use.
D. Analyze their use to project the greatest value from them.
E. To give most of them away to charity and use them to make the world a better place.
- When it comes to dealing with my miles:
A. I make sure that they never influence my travel or spending decisions.
B. I enjoy redeeming them for myself and others, and enjoy traveling to destinations that will give me immediate pleasure.
C. I worry about them a lot and strategize how to make better use of them.
D. I hold on to them and enjoy thinking about what I can do with them some time in the future.
E. I try not to think about them, they’re just miles.
- My goals for my miles are:
A. To save enough of them so that I never have to worry about paying for travel later in life.
B. Unclear to me.
C. To have enough of them to ensure that I never fly in coach again.
D. To cover most of the travel costs of my next vacation, whenever that may be.
E. To earn as many of them as possible, as quickly as possible.
- When it comes to spending miles:
A. I hope I’ll have enough miles to take care of unexpected trips.
B. I enjoy spending miles, as long as I keep accumulating them at the same time.
C. I’d rather save my miles than spend them. Spending miles makes me nervous.
D. I don’t track where my miles go, and I don’t want to. I focus on more important aspects of my life.
E. I love spending miles, and I tend to spend more than I earn (zero statement balance).
- When it comes to saving miles:
A. I know I ought to be saving miles for emergency travel, but I never seem to get around to it.
B. I enjoy saving large amounts of miles and spend a lot of time and energy thinking about how to save more (my travel IRA).
C. I have trouble saving miles, and this bothers me sometimes.
D. I save miles only for absolute necessities.
E. Saving miles comes naturally to me. I am regular and consistent about it.
- When I’m feeling down in the dumps, redeeming my miles:
A. Is the last thing I would do; earning more miles might lift my spirits.
B. Always cheers me up.
C. Just makes me feel worse. Redeeming miles has nothing to do with happiness.
D. Is not what I think about to cheer myself up.
E. In large amounts, and hatching plans to earn more miles, makes me feel better.
- I worry about my miles:
A. Never. I worry about important things.
B. A little bit all the time. But I do all I can to manage them well.
C. Constantly. It’s the main thing I worry about!
D. Only when financial crises of the airlines strike.
E. Not very much. I just enjoy spending them.
- When I think about providing for my future travels:
A. I am quite concerned that I won’t have enough miles in my future, since it’s been so hard for me to earn them.
B. I have such a difficult time thinking about miles that all I can do is hope that my travel will take care of itself.
C. Since I make sure I have a lot of miles in my ‘mileage bank,’ the future will probably be fine.
D. Considering how systematic I’ve been about saving my miles, I feel reasonably confident about them.
E. I don’t think about the future in travel terms. I have more important concerns, such as my quality of life at home.
- If I won a million miles in a promotion, my first reaction would be:
A. To feel guilty, thinking about other frequent flyers who have far fewer miles.
B. To feel shocked, a little overwhelmed, and very relieved that my future travel plans were now secure.
C. To be totally overwhelmed — I would have no idea what to use them for.
D. To be very happy and pleased, and to immediately start thinking about how I could value my miles and use them for my own enjoyment.
E. To be wildly excited, realizing that from now on I could go anywhere in the world I wanted.
- To feel totally satisfied with my miles, this is what I’d need:
A. A few thousand more than I have now in my main program.
B. To increase my mileage earnings by a large amount every year — 50,000 a year more would be nice!
C. More miles, but I have no idea how many more.
D. Nothing. I feel pretty satisfied with what I have earned so far. A big increase would make me feel uncomfortable.
E. At least 500,000 to 750,000 more miles than I have total right now.
Were you able to answer them all? Great.
But you’ll have to wait for the results — we told you early on this was part one of a two-part series, remember?
In this part, you’ve learned a little about how the frequent flyer world views you and you’ve provided some information about what you want out of this whole frequent flying game. While we’ve had some fun in the process, you have hopefully learned a little more about what you want as a frequent flyer, and how that might differ from what you are currently getting out of your program. If you have noticed a disparity between what you want and what you have, don’t despair — it can happen to anyone and it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you, well not anything that can’t be fixed anyway.
In part two we’ll actually provide you with a scoring mechanism to match your goals with the features of a particular program, and you’ll be well on your way to a lifetime of frequent flyer bliss — at least, that is, until the programs make another round of changes, which may in fact happen before next month’s issue is published.
Sure, it’s frustrating now, but just imagine how exciting it will be when it all comes together and you meet, perhaps for the first time, the program that fits you like a finely tailored suit. And please, try to imagine all of this before you compile a hastily written letter to the editor complaining about the unfairness of making a reader take a quiz only to promise results in the next issue.
See you next month with the results.