Frequent-flyer program

A frequent-flyer program (FFP) is a loyalty program offered by an airline.

Many airlines have frequent-flyer programs designed to encourage airline customers enrolled in the program to accumulate points (also called miles, kilometers, or segments) which may then be redeemed for air travel or other rewards. Points earned under FFPs may be based on the class of fare, distance flown on that airline or its partners, or the amount paid. There are other ways to earn points. For example, in recent years, more points have been earned by using co-branded credit and debit cards than by air travel. Another way to earn points is spending money at associated retail outlets, car hire companies, hotels, or other associated businesses. Points can be redeemed for air travel, other goods or services, or for increased benefits, such as travel class upgrades, airport lounge access, fast track access, or priority bookings.

Frequent-flyer programs can be seen as a certain type of virtual currency, one with unidirectional flow of money to purchase points, but no exchange back into money.

Although United Airlines had tracked customers far back as the 1950s, the very first modern frequent-flyer program was created in 1972 by Western Direct Marketing for United. It gave plaques and promotional materials to members. In 1979, Texas International Airlines created the first frequent-flyer program that used mileage tracking to give ‘rewards’ to its passengers, while in 1980 Western Airlines created its Travel Bank, which ultimately became part of Delta Air Lines’ program upon their merger in 1987. American Airlines’ AAdvantage program launched in 1981 as a modification of a never-realized concept from 1979 that would have given special fares to frequent customers. It was quickly followed later that year by programs from United Airlines (Mileage Plus), Delta (Delta Air Lines Frequent Flyer Program, which later changed to SkyMiles), Continental Airlines (OnePass), Air Canada (Altitude), and in 1982 from British Airways (Executive Club).

Since then, frequent-flyer programs have grown enormously. As of January 2005, a total of 14 trillion frequent-flyer points had been accumulated by people worldwide, which corresponds to a total value of 700 billion US dollars. Tom Stuker is the world’s most frequent flier having logged over 18 million miles with United.

The Supreme Court of the United States has held “good faith and fair dealing” claim about frequent-flyer program preempted by the Airline Deregulation Act.


Most larger airlines around the world have frequent flyer programs; each has a program name, and policies and restrictions regarding joining, accumulating, and redeeming points.

The primary method of obtaining points in a frequent-flyer program until recent years was to fly with the associated airline. Most systems reward travelers with a specific number of points based on the distance traveled (such as 1 point per mile flown), although systems vary. Many discount airlines, rather than awarding points per mile, award points for flight segments in lieu of distance or the amount paid. For example, a number of airlines in Europe offer a fixed number of points for domestic or intra-European flights regardless of the distance (but varied according to class of travel). With the introduction of airline alliances and code-share flights, frequent-flyer programs are often extended to allow benefits to be used across partner airlines.

Bonus points
Most, if not all, programs award bonus earnings to premium-cabin passengers and to their elite-status members based on tier status; earning an extra 25%-100% of miles flown are common bonuses. While these bonus points don’t count toward ascension to (or retention of) elite status, they count toward the member’s total balance for normal redemption purposes.

Minimum credit guarantee
Some programs award a full 500 points (or a similar minimum credit guarantee) for non-stop flights spanning less than 500 miles. An airline’s program can either award this guarantee to all members regardless of elite status, or they can reserve this privilege only for their elite members.

Credit card purchases
Many credit card companies partner with airlines to offer a co-branded credit card or the ability to transfer points in their loyalty program to an airline’s program. Large sign-up bonuses and other incentives are common. Accruing points via credit cards bonuses and spending allows infrequent travelers to benefit from the frequent flyer program.

With a non-affiliated travel rewards credit card a cardmember can buy a positive-space ticket considered “revenue” class, which can earn the passenger points with the airline flown.

Other purchases
Frequent-flyer programs may offer points through other means, such as purchasing food or merchandise sold by an affiliated company. American engineer David Phillips became known as the “Pudding Guy” in 2000 for purchasing $3,140 of Healthy Choice pudding that awarded him 1,253,000 AAdvantage miles.

Elite status
Occasionally, airlines may offer double elite-qualifying mile (EQM) promotions, which speeds up a member’s status ascension (or retention) by reducing flight mileage requirements.

Some carriers also require frequent flyers to spend a set amount of money on tickets before they are eligible for elite status. This is in addition to the miles-flown requirements that are already in place. Delta switched to revenue-based elite status requirements in January 2014, United in March 2015, with American Airlines the last of the three US legacy carriers to switch on August 1, 2016. This has led to some frequent flyers devaluing those programs over others, as the changing model can be less rewarding to frequent flyers.

After accumulating a certain number of points, members then use these points to obtain airline tickets. However, points only pay for the base fare, with the member still responsible for the payment of mandatory taxes and fees.

Related Post

Although a controversial topic and a source of frustration among frequent flyers, award flights are still the primary commodity purchased by members using points. While alliances and partnerships have facilitated the redemption process for some programs, award seat availability is still subject to blackout dates and seasonal fluctuations, as airlines utilize statistics, yield management, and capacity-control formulas to determine the number of seats to allocate for award booking.

This lack of availability has since been alleviated by non-airline rewards programs, such as certain credit cards (see above) and other corporate programs (Expedia Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest) by allowing a member to use points to search for and purchase revenue tickets as if using cash.[third-party source needed]

Products and services
Depending on an airline’s program, members can also redeem points toward cabin upgrades, hotel stays, car rentals, and purchase of various retail items. On American Airlines’ AAdvantage program for example, it is possible to pay for a complete vacation package solely with points.

Value of points
Travelers frequently debate on how much accumulated points are worth, something which is highly variable based on how they are redeemed. An estimate is approximately 1-2 cents per points based on discount (rather than full fare) economy class travel costs.

The author of an economics PhD thesis published in 2014 at Monash University, in Melbourne, Australia, examined the cash-equivalent value (purchasing power) of loyalty points, the impact of FFPs on consumer behavior and surplus, and the taxation issues surrounding FFPs. Unlike most previous research on FFPs, this research used data from an actual FFP. The cash-equivalent value of a loyalty point in 2010 was estimated to range between AU$0.0066 and AU$0.0084. This range however excluded the value of status benefits to the status member. The loyalty point gained by a FFP member per flight equated to an in-kind discount on an average airfare of 3.3% for lowest status members, 3.96% for medium status members and 4.63% for premium status members. A detailed survey undertaken in 2010 among a representative sample of over 3300 members of that specific FFP showed that a large proportion of leisure and business travelers admitted a willingness to pay a higher fare – a FFP premium – to fly with the sponsoring airline because of their FFP membership. The average FFP premium was estimated to be around 8% and was statistically different between leisure and business travelers. The cash-equivalent value of a loyalty point as encapsulated in the FFP premium was estimated to range between AU$0.0108 and AU$0.0153, depending on the FFP status of a member.

The airlines themselves value points in their financial statements at less than one one-thousandth of a cent per points.. That loyalty points undoubtedly have an estimable monetary value is also reflected in the fact that some programs allow for the donation of frequent-flyer points to certain charities.

Accounting and regulatory issues
Business travelers typically accrue the valuable points in their own names, rather than the names of the companies that paid for the travel. This has raised concerns that the company is providing a tax-free benefit (point-based awards) to employees, or that employees have misappropriated value that belongs to the company, or even that the rewards acts as a kind of bribe to encourage travelers to choose one particular airline or travel unnecessarily. Most companies consider the miles earned by their employees to be a valuable personal perk that in part compensates for the daily grind of frequent business travel, though some governmental organizations have attempted to prevent their employees from accumulating miles on official travel.

Although it has long been recognized that FFP rewards earned on employer-funded business flights should be subject to either income or fringe-benefit taxation, this is currently not taking place in the vast majority of countries – a notable exception however being Germany. One of the main arguments against the implementation of taxation is the lack of a monetary tax base. It can however be argued that since the cash-equivalent value of loyalty currency can be reasonably estimated with public data, this value is appropriate as a tax base. Hurdles preventing the taxation of FFP rewards are generally less related to the technical issue of valuation, but have more to do with legal constraints (e.g. “who owns the points”) and often a lack of political will (e.g. “who would lose out due to taxation”). Australian and German public servants are not permitted to redeem points accrued from official travel for private purposes. The Australian example occurred in the 1990s when Qantas and the now-defunct Ansett Australia competed for the Australian federal government travel contract; this was put forward as a system requirement for the competing companies in order to win the contract.

In the US, the General Services Administration has regulated, “frequent traveler benefits earned [by federal employees] in connection with official travel, [which] may be used only for official travel, see 41 C.F.R. § 301-1.6(f).” Frequent flyer program contracts are not generally regulated.

Climate and environmental issues
Frequent-flyer programs have been receiving scrutiny because of the prevalence and rapid growth of air travel, in terms of both the frequency that individuals fly and the tendency toward longer distance travel. There have also been calls for an end to frequent-flyer programs. An increase in the number of hypermobile travelers has been identified as a particular aspect of the issue because of the highly disproportionate contribution of this class of individuals to aviation greenhouse gas emissions, and frequent-flyer programs are a contributing factor.

Precedent exists for ending frequent-flyer programs. In 2002, Norway established a ban on domestic frequent-flyer programs in order to promote competition among its airlines, and lifted the ban in 2013 when the competitive situation changed. In 2005, Morten A. Meyer, the Modernization Minister asked the competition authority to consider extending the Norwegian ban on frequent flyer miles to include all of Scandinavia. In the U.S. in 1989, a vice president of Braniff said the government should consider ordering an end to frequent-flyer programs, which he said allow unfair competition.

Mileage runs
A “mileage run” is an airline trip designed and taken solely to gain maximum frequent-flyer miles, points, or elite status. If a traveler has already achieved some sort of elite status, then that traveler will earn bonus award miles or points on top of his or her actual flight miles or points. Depending on the program, that traveler will reach their goal sooner if the miles they accrue are elite qualifying miles. A mileage run may allow a traveler to (re-)qualify for a beneficial elite level, which requires a minimum number of miles to qualify. Some airlines have changed their frequent flyer rules to award miles based on ticket expense rather than absolute distance traveled, which may remove the incentive for mileage runs.

Status challenge
A status challenge can be an often unpublicized offer to accrue a certain amount of flying within a certain very short timeframe (usually 90 days), to earn elite status. The higher status may or may not be given immediately if it can be seen that qualifying travel (particularly travel that is non-refundable) has already been booked before the challenge was offered, otherwise higher status will be conferred once the challenge is officially completed. In some instances, a fee for a challenge may also be charged. Status challenges are employed by other types of establishments, as well, such as casinos and hotels.

Status match
Some airlines will “match” status with that of a competitor upon application, usually to airlines outside of any alliance that the airline used to match status with belongs to. This enables travellers to switch their travel more easily from one carrier to another (e.g., when the traveller’s employer switches carriers due to a new travel contract’s being signed). It does so by maintaining equivalent elite benefits with the new airline, without the need for time to pass whilst the traveller “earns” the benefits; this also has the side effect of retaining elite benefits with the previous airline, in order that one does not have to be given up for the other to allow for a more gradual transition. Status matches are employed by other types of establishments, as well, such as casinos, cruise lines, hotels, and rental car companies.
North America
Air Canada – Aeroplan & Altitude
Air Canada Express – Aeroplan & Altitude
Air Canada Rouge – Aeroplan & Altitude
Air Creebec – Aeroplan
Air Inuit – Isaruuk Rewards
Bearskin Airlines – Aeroplan
Calm Air – Aeroplan
Canadian North – Aurora Rewards
First Air – Aeroplan
Porter Airlines – VIPorter
WestJet – WestJet Rewards
AeroMar – Club Premier & Mileage Plus
Aeroméxico – Club Premier
Aeroméxico Connect – Club Premier
Interjet – Club Interjet
United States
Alaska Airlines – Mileage Plan
American Airlines – AAdvantage
American Airlines Shuttle – AAdvantage
American Eagle – AAdvantage
Cape Air – AAdvantage & Mileage Plan & Mileage Plus & SkyMiles
Delta Air Lines – SkyMiles
Delta Connection – SkyMiles
Delta Shuttle – SkyMiles
Frontier Airlines – EarlyReturns
Great Lakes Airlines – MileagePlus & SkyMiles
Hawaiian Airlines – HawaiianMiles
Island Air – Island Miles
JetBlue Airways – TrueBlue
Ravn Alaska – FlyAway Rewards
Silver Airways – MileagePlus & TrueBlue
Southwest Airlines – Rapid Rewards
Spirit Airlines – FREE SPIRIT
Sun Country Airlines – Ufly Rewards Plus
United Airlines – MileagePlus
United Airlines Express – MileagePlus
Virgin America – Mileage Plan
Central America & Caribbean Region
BahamasAir – BahamasAir Flyer
Cayman Islands
Cayman Airways – Sir Turtle Rewards
Costa Rica
Avianca Costa Rica – LifeMiles
Sansa Airlines – LifeMiles
El Salvador
Avianca El Salvador – LifeMiles (previously Distancia)
Air Caraïbes – Préférence
Avianca Guatemala – LifeMiles
Avianca Honduras – LifeMiles
Air Jamaica – 7th Heaven
Copa Airlines – ConnectMiles
Puerto Rico
Seaborne Airlines – Airmiles
Trinidad and Tobago
Caribbean Airlines – Caribbean Miles
South America
Aerolíneas Argentinas – Aerolíneas Plus
Austral Líneas Aéreas – Aerolíneas Plus
LATAM Argentina – LATAM Pass
Azul Brazilian Airlines – TudoAzul
Avianca Brazil – Amigo
Gol Transportes Aéreos – Smiles
LATAM Chile – LATAM Pass
LATAM Express – LATAM Pass
Avianca – LifeMiles
Copa Airlines Colombia – ConnectMiles
LATAM Colombia – LATAM Pass
Avianca Ecuador – LifeMiles
LATAM Ecuador – LATAM Pass
TAME Airlines – TAME Millas
LATAM Paraguay – LATAM Pass
Avianca Perú – LifeMiles
Aeropostal – Aeropass
Aserca Airlines – Privilege
Avior Airlines – Avior Plus
Austrian Airlines – Miles & More
Belavia – Leader
Brussels Airlines – Miles & More & LOOPs (since 25 October 2009 – previously Privilege)
Bulgaria Air – Fly More
Croatia Airlines – Miles & More (previously FF Club)
Czech Republic
Czech Airlines – OK Plus
Scandinavian Airlines – EuroBonus
Sun Air – Executive Club
Nordica Airlines – Miles&More
Faroe Islands
Atlantic Airways – Eurobonus
Finnair – Finnair Plus
Aigle Azur – AzurPlus
Air Corsica – Flying Blue
Air France – Flying Blue
Chalair Aviation – Flying Blue
Corsair – Club Corsair
HOP! – Flying Blue
Open Skies – Executive Club
Twin Jet – Flying Blue
Wijet – Flying Blue
Condor Airlines – Miles & More
Eurowings – Miles & More
Germanwings – Boomerang Club & Miles & More
Lufthansa – Miles & More
Lufthansa CityLine – Miles & More
Lufthansa Regional – Miles & More
Aegean Airlines – Miles+Bonus
Olympic Air – Miles+Bonus
Wizz Air – Wizz Discount Club
Icelandair – Saga Club
Aer Lingus – AER Club
Air Dolomiti – Miles & More
Alitalia – MilleMiglia
Alitalia CityLiner – MilleMiglia
Meridiana – Meridiana Club
airBaltic – PINS (since March 2014, October 2009 – March 2014 was BaticMiles, before October 2009 – Euro Bonus)
Luxair – Miles & More
Air Malta – Flypass
Air Moldova – Air Moldova Club
Montenegro Airlines – Vision Team
KLM – Flying Blue
KLM CityHopper – Flying Blue
Nordic Regional Airlines – Finnair Plus
Norwegian Air Shuttle – Norwegian Reward
Scandinavian Airlines – EuroBonus
Widerøe – EuroBonus
LOT Polish Airlines – Miles & More
TAP Portugal – Victoria Miles
TAROM – Flying Blue
Carpatair – Frequent Flyer
Blue Air – My Blue Air
Aeroflot – Aeroflot Bonus
Globus Airlines – S7 Priority
Nordavia Airlines – Golden Mile
S7 Airlines – S7 Priority
Ural Airlines – Wings
UTair – Status
Air Serbia – Etihad Guest (as Jat Airways formerly A Flight More)
Adria Airways – Miles & More
Air Europa – Suma
Air Nostrum – Avios
Binter Canarias – Binter Más
Iberia – Avios IBERA PLUS
Iberia Express – Avios
Vueling – Avios and Punto
Scandinavian Airlines – EuroBonus
Braathens Regional – BRA Vänner
Edelweiss Air – Miles & More
Swiss Global Airlines – Miles & More
Swiss International Air Lines – Miles & More
Ukraine International Airlines – Panorama Club
Dniproavia Airlines – Bonus Club
UTair-Ukraine – Status
United Kingdom
Aurigny – Frequent Flyer
BA CityFlyer – Executive Club
British Airways – Executive Club
Flybe – Avios
Jet2 – My Jet2 Travel Club
Virgin Atlantic – Flying Club
Middle East
Ariana Afghan Airlines – Ariana Miles
Kam Air – Go Orange
Safi Airways – Saffron Rewards
Azerbaijan Airlines – AZAL Miles
Gulf Air – Falconflyer
EgyptAir – Egyptair Plus
EgyptAir Express – Egyptair Plus
Mahan Air – Mahan & Miles
IranAir – SkyGift
El Al – Matmid Club
UP – Matmid Club
Royal Jordanian – Royal Plus
Royal Wings – Royal Plus
Kuwait Airways – Oasis Club
Middle East Airlines – Cedar Miles
Oman Air – Sindbad
Qatar Airways – Privilege Club
Saudi Arabia
Saudia – Alfursan
Flynas – Nasmiles
Syrianair – SyrianAir Frequent Flyer
AnadoluJet – Miles & Smiles
AtlasGlobal – AtlasMiles
Onur Air – Onur Extra
Pegasus Airlines – Pegasus Plus
SunExpress – SunPoints
Turkish Airlines – Miles & Smiles
United Arab Emirates
Emirates Airlines – Skywards
Etihad Airlines – Etihad Guest
flydubai – OPEN rewards
Yemenia – Sama Club
Biman Bangladesh Airlines – Biman Loyalty Club
NovoAir – Smiles
Druk Air – My Happiness Reward
Royal Brunei Airlines – Royal skies

People’s Republic of China
Air China – Phoenix Miles
China Eastern Airlines – Eastern Miles
China Southern Airlines – Sky Pearl Club
China United Airlines – Eastern Miles
China West Air – None (previously Fortune Wings Club, stopped on Jun.8 2013)
Chongqing Airlines – Sky Pearl Club
Dalian Airlines – Phoenix Miles
Donghai Airlines – Seagull Club
Fuzhou Airlines – Fortune Wings Club
Grand China Air – Fortune Wings Club
GX Airlines – Fortune Wings Club
Hainan Airlines – Fortune Wings Club
Hebei Airlines – Jiying Club
Jiangxi Air – Jiangxi Club
Juneyao Airlines – Juneyao Air Club
Kunming Airlines – Zunxiang Club
Lucky Air – Fortune Wings Club
Okay Airways – Xiangyun Club
Qingdao Airlines – Tianhaizhiyun
Shandong Airlines – Phoenix Miles
Shanghai Airlines – Eastern Miles
Shenzhen Airlines – Phoenix Miles (previously King Club, merged on Nov.29 2012)
Sichuan Airlines – Golden Panda Club
Spring Airlines – Spring Pass
Tianjin Airlines – Fortune Wings Club
Tibet Airlines – Phoenix Miles
Xiamen Airlines – Egret Club
Yangtze River Express – Fortune Wings Club
Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific – Asia Miles, The Marco Polo Club
Cathay Dragon – Asia Miles, The Marco Polo Club
Hong Kong Airlines – Fortune Wings Club
Hong Kong Express – Reward U(previously Fortune Wings Club, stopped on Oct.26 2013)
AirAsia India – BIG
Air India – Flying Returns
Air India Regional – Flying Returns
Jet Airways – JetPrivilege[1]
JetKonnect – JetPrivilege
Vistara – Club Vistara
Spice Jet – Spice Club
Batik Air – Batik Frequent Flyer
Citilink – Citilinkers
Garuda Indonesia – GarudaMiles
Indonesia AirAsia – BIG
Indonesia AirAsia X – BIG
Lion Air – Lion Passport
Air Japan – ANA Mileage Club
Air Do – My AirDo
AirAsia Japan – BIG
All Nippon Airways – ANA Mileage Club
ANA Wings – ANA Mileage Club
Amakusa Airlines – AMX Point Card
J-Air – JAL Mileage Bank
Japan Airlines – JAL Mileage Bank
Japan Transocean Air – JAL Mileage Bank
Jetstar Japan – JAL Mileage Bank/Qantas Frequent Flyer
Solaseed Air – Solaseed Smile Club
StarFlyer – Starlink Members
Air Astana – Nomad Club
Air Bishkek – Belek Bonus
Lao Airlines – Champa Muang Lao
Air Macau – Phoenix Miles (since 01 January 2015 – previously Privileges)
AirAsia – BIG
AirAsia X – BIG
Firefly – BonusLink/ Enrich
Malaysia Airlines – Enrich
Malindo Air – Malindo Miles
MASWings – Enrich
Aero Mongolia – Sky Miles
Hunnu Air – Hunnu Club
MIAT Mongolian Airlines – Blue Sky Mongolia
Air Bagan – Royal Lotus Plus
Myanmar Airways International – Sky Smiles Club
Yangon Airways – Elite Club
Cebu Pacific – Getgo (previously Summit Club)
Cebgo – Getgo
PAL Express – Mabuhay Miles
Philippine Airlines – Mabuhay Miles
Philippines AirAsia – BIG
Pakistan International Airlines – PIA Awards Plus+
Airblue – Blue Miles
Air Indus – Indus Miles
Jetstar Asia Airways – Qantas Frequent Flyer
Scoot – KrisFlyer
SilkAir – KrisFlyer
Singapore Airlines – KrisFlyer PPS CLUB
South Korea
Air Busan – Fly & Stamp
Asiana Airlines – Asiana Club
Jeju Air – Refresh Point
Korean Air – SKYPASS
Sri Lanka
Cinnamon Air – FlySmiLes
SriLankan Airlines – FlySmiLes
China Airlines – Dynasty Flyer
Mandarin Airlines – Dynasty Flyer
EVA Air – Infinity MileageLands
UNI Air – Infinity MileageLands
Bangkok Airways – FlyerBonus
Thai AirAsia – BIG
Thai AirAsia X – BIG
Thai Airways – Royal Orchid Plus
THAI Smile – Royal Orchid Plus
Nok Air – Nok Fan Club
Uzbekistan Airways – UzAirPlus
Vietnam Airlines – Lotusmiles
Air Algérie – Air Algérie Plus
Ethiopian Airlines – Sheba Miles
Ivory Coast
Air Côte d’Ivoire – sMiles Program
Kenya Airways – Flying Blue
Afriqiyah Airways – Rahal
Air Madagascar – Namako
Air Mauritius – Kestrel Flyer
Royal Air Maroc – Safar Flyer
LAM Mozambique Airlines – Flamingo Club
Air Namibia – Reward$
Air Austral – Capricorne Program
RwandAir – Dream Miles
Air Seychelles – Etihad Guest
South Africa
Comair – SkyMiles
Mango – Voyager
Sourh African Airlink – Voyager
South African Airways – Voyager
South African Express – Voyager
Precision Air – PAA Royal
ASKY Airlines – ASKY Club
TunisAir – Fidelys
Air Zimbabwe – Rainbow Club
JetConnect – Qantas Frequent Flyer
Jetstar Airways – Qantas Frequent Flyer
Qantas – Qantas Frequent Flyer
Qantas Link – Qantas Frequent Flyer
Tigerair Australia – Infrequent Flyer
Virgin Australia – Velocity Frequent Flyer
Virgin Australia Regional Airlines – Velocity Frequent Flyer
Fiji Airways – Tabua Club
French Polynesia
Air Tahiti Nui – Club Tiare
New Caledonia
Air Calin – Flying Blue
New Zealand
Air New Zealand – Airpoints
Air New Zealand Link – Airpoints
Papua New Guinea
Air Niugini – Destinations
Virgin Samoa – Velocity Frequent Flyer
Solomon Islands
Solomon Airlines – Belama Club
Air Vanuatu – Qantas Frequent Flyer

Source from Wikipedia