Newbie Guide: Picking a Frequent Flyer Program

Discussion in 'Newbies' started by misman, Feb 25, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. misman
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    misman Gold Member

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    A common question seems to be "I'm new; which program is right for me?" Many of us have gone through and answered that question for ourselves and other multiple times, so I thought it might be helpful to have a central thread where the question can be posted.

    First though, I think we need to have a list of necessary questions that each requester needs to have an answer for to allow us to answer. To that end, I'm hoping some veterans can help me determine the necessary questions. These are the ones I can think of.

    1. What is your origination city/airport?
    2. Where do you tend to travel?
    3. What is you goal for the frequent flyer program (status, upgrades, rewards, etc.?)
    4. How much do you travel in an average year?
    5. Do you fly for business, pleasure, or a mix?
    6. How much of your travel is paid by someone else?
    7. How much control do you have of choosing flights, airlines, etc.?
    8. What days of the week do you typically travel?
    9. Can you book flexible fares?
    10. If you are likely to qualify for elite status will it be miles or segments?
    11. Do you have a preference or imposed requirement of hotel/rental car/credit card partners?
    12. Can you get extra miles from credit cards, surveys, other partners?
    13. How would you like to use your miles for awards? (Intl F & C trips, domestic flights, other non flight awards).
    14. What benefits do you hope to receive for elite status?
      1. upgrades: free, with instruments, paid
      2. lounge access: domestic vs international travel
      3. premium lines for check in
      4. premium security lines
      5. IROPs handling (How are you treated when things go wrong?)
      6. elite phone line
      7. early boarding
      8. free bags
      9. OPUPs (Upgrades without fees, miles, or upgrade documents)
      10. last minute flight availability
      11. fee waivers
      12. free same day confirmed/standby flight changes
    More questions, please.
     
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  2. wanderlust
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    wanderlust Silver Member

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    How much do you travel in an average year?

    Do you fly for business, pleasure, or a mix?

    How much of your travel is paid by someone else, and how much control do you have?

    Questions like these seem like they'd be helpful.
     
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  3. misman
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    misman Gold Member

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  4. Mackieman
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    Mackieman Gold Member

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    What days of the week do you typically travel?
    Can you book flexible fares?
     
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  5. misman
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    misman Gold Member

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  6. Exiled in Express
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    Exiled in Express Gold Member

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    If you are likely to qualify for elite status will it be miles or segments?
     
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  7. misman
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    misman Gold Member

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  8. elkur

    elkur Active Member

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    just wondering: what influence do the days of the week you typically travel have on the choice of a Frequent Flyer Program?
     
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  9. Exiled in Express
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    If you are primarily a leisure traveller, meaning weekend travel and vacation destinations you will have a much different upgrade experience as a low level elite than the same level elite going to/from business destinations on Mondays/Fridays. Leisure traveller would find unlimited upgrades beneficial where the business traveller may prefer AA where upgrades have a cost and thus there is less competition.

    Mackieman may have more to add.

    for misman:
    Q10: Do you have a preference or imposed requirement of hotel/rental car/credit card partners?
     
  10. Tiki
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    Tiki Silver Member

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    Can you get extra miles from credit cards, surveys, other partners?
     
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  11. misman
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    misman Gold Member

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  12. misman
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    misman Gold Member

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    Fear not, elkur. While this may or may not influence YOUR decision in picking a program, it may influence the input of the experienced traveler. If upgrades are not important to you (or not your goal,) then this would not be a trigger for you. However, most of us value, not only the miles we earn, but the class in which we fly (while paying coach.)
     
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  13. elkur

    elkur Active Member

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    Thank you Exiled in Express and Misman for the explanation! I get how it can influence the decision now[​IMG]
     
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  14. gba
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    gba Silver Member

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    I'd expand on the "goals" question a bit...I think part of the question is are you concerned more about status/upgrades or earning/burning miles, but assuming you pick miles, I think where you want to go (and what class you want to travel in) is an important sub-consideration.
     
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  15. leeivan86
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    leeivan86 Gold Member

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    IMHO, the most fundamental question should just be question 3 which the OP has posted.

    "What is your goal for the frequent flyer program (status, upgrades, rewards, etc.?)"

    90% of the time this would determine your choice.
     
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  16. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    What benefits do you hope to receive for elite status?
    upgrades: free, with instruments, paid
    lounge access: domestic vs international travel
    premium lines for check in
    premium security lines
    IROPs handling
    elite phone line
    early boarding
    free bags
    OPUPs
    last minute flight availability
    fee waivers
    free same day confirmed/standby flight changes
     
  17. misman
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    misman Gold Member

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    Added; thanks.
     
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  18. JasonH
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    JasonH Silver Member

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    Since this is a newbie specific thread you might want to spell out the acronyms we are so familiar with. Specifically IROPS and OPUP otherwise a newbie won't really know whether those are important to them or not.
     
  19. Tenmoc
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    Tenmoc Gold Member

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    I would also suggest asking which programs are most accessible. For example, AA challenges. Do you already have an airline status that if you call and ask will get you a hotel status. Those kinds of things.

    Sometimes the best choice is the one that is easiest to get until you get going.

    I would assume most people here have dipped elsewhere before settling into their current programs.

    Also. Does the program have lifetime status and is it easier (aa) or harder (ua) to earn.

    Do you by chance have miles or points already sitting around that may put you closer to a lifetime status?
     
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  20. Sam
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    Sam Silver Member

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    When we have a wiki, this should go there
     
  21. samonyc
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    This might be true in markets where no single carrier dominates, but if you live in a fortress hub city, the benefits of not picking the dominant carrier could be outweighed by the inconvenience of connections for most of your trips.
     
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  22. JasonH
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    JasonH Silver Member

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    But that would mean more miles! And that means higher status! [​IMG] [​IMG]

    In seriousness that was one reason I flew DL out of DEN. Then I got tired of having to play 90 questions with Canadian Immigration and Customs agents who have no idea what NAFTA really is or means. After spending all day traveling it became too much, so I went to UA and their direct flights.
     
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  23. Funtodoimpossible
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    How would you like to use your miles for awards? (Intl F & C trips, domestic flights, other non flight awards).
     
  24. Lyssa
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    Lyssa Silver Member

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    So what do they mean? I still don't know. :)
     
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  25. Mackieman
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    Mackieman Gold Member

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    IRROPS = Irregular Operations; IRROPS occur when the airline has a problem, either due to crew, WX (weather), or MX (a mechanical problem with the airplane or other equipment).

    OPUP = Operational Upgrade; the illusive upgraded handed out by the airline gate agent in order to free up space in Y (economy/coach) for more pax (passengers).

    :)
     
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