Another reader who enjoys talking about her start with collecting miles — way back in 1981.
How did you get started?
I was fresh out of college when it all started; I was traveling on Delta almost every week. But those days were so different. The gate crew knew me; the flight attendants knew me. Delta and Avis had a partnership. Avis in Indianapolis knew me so well that they had my car waiting for me at the curb. Here I am 22 years old, fresh out of college and working with General Motors, and I walk down one Monday morning and there is this big navy-blue Cadillac. I remember I was in a navy-blue suit, and I will never live that down with my clients. I’m a packrat — I just looked at my Delta file — I have the old coupons that you had to send in, when it was all done by paper.
I have a little cardboard card that they sent that says you have a remaining balance of 20 segments. It’s handwritten on this little cardboard card. I also have the very first automated statement where they changed the segments into miles.
At 22 years of age, what peaked your interest with these programs?
I think I showed up at the gate for my regular flight and noticed they had introduced some sort of a reward program. I had a copy of a letter from November of 1982 that I had already earned two-and-a-half free tickets. It was segments then, and you earned segments with Avis rental also.
I flew American back then, too.
What was your favorite award?
Europe. I’m the queen of bargain travel. I save the awards for international trips. I still have 60,000 of the original Delta Frequent Flyer miles.
Any usual memories you have?
I do recall the SkyMiles conversion as being painful. I traveled a lot early in my career and I travel a lot now, but there was a period that I did not travel, and I lost a lot of miles. So going to mileage expiration was painful for me. I’m a Southwest girl today. I like to say I’m a Southwest Diamond. I get extra peanuts.
How would you grade 25 years of frequent flyer programs?
I would say the programs themselves get a B+. But the best programs in the world aren’t going to make up for the surly flight attendant. Loyalty only works if you’re treating me well.
Would you call yourself a mileage junkie?
No, I would call myself a free-ticket opportunist. But my sister flies with United and is very loyal. I went with her to Hawaii and we walked into the Red Carpet Room, and they said, “Hi Laura, welcome back from Hawaii. I hope you and your sister had a great time, your flight from Minneapolis has been cancelled but I rebooked you on the next one. Go and have a drink.” I thought, wow, where do I get in that line!