Not so long ago, frequent flyer programs were all about miles. The more miles you flew, the more points you earned. Those points you could then be used to get free or discounted tickets, lounge access or early boarding..Simple, yet efficient. However, frequent flyer programs tend to look a lot different in 2023.
Mileage has become less important – instead, it’s about how much money you spend. The more you spend, the more perks you’ll earn, which is meant to make you loyal to one or two airlines in order to earn as many points as possible. Ticket sales account for almost nothing when it comes to an airline’s yearly profit, according to the Conversation, instead it is the rewards credit cards, add-ons, such as luggage fees, and frequent flyer programs that take the lead.
What frequent flyer programs do, however, is give you the illusion that you’re saving money and earning great perks. But those perks are directly linked to traveller numbers. The less travellers there are, the better the loyalty programs as there is enough space in airport lounges and priority boarding isn’t an issue. The more travellers there are, the harder airways tend to make it to earn points and benefits. If it would be too easy to gain lounge access, those lounges would be as packed as normal airport terminals. And if everyone got priority access, there wouldn’t be any point to them.
Therefore, many airlines have made it easier during the pandemic and shortly thereafter for travellers to earn frequent flyer status. But now that traveller numbers are going up once again, they have to tighten their policies in order to make those frequent flyer programs exclusive enough to deal with the greater number of passengers. All in all, earning frequent flying status and benefits through your travelled miles alone is harder than ever before and chances are – unless you travel all the time – that the airline is benefiting more from you using that rewards credit card than you are.