http://www.smartertravel.com/travel-advice/frequent-flyer-miles-thirty-years-later.html?id=7761431 I first became aware, painfully, of airline mileage programs in the early 1980s. At the time, I was a junior member of the North American marketing department of a Southeast Asian airline. And despite my employer's poll-verified service superiority and comparable fares, Pan Am was somehow winning more than its fair share of the lucrative business-traveler market. They were eating our eggrolls. The reason, I soon discovered, was WorldPass, Pan Am's loyalty program. It was doing exactly what it was designed to: give them a tie-breaker edge with repeat travelers. It was several years before the airline I worked for finally established a relationship with one of the dominant U.S. programs, allowing us to add frequent flyer miles to our selling proposition and level the playing field. But I'd learned first hand just how powerful loyalty programs could be.