Thinking About the Future of Miles and Points

I owe a lot to miles, points, a lot of like-minded flyers, and Randy Petersen. The truth is that I have been able to travel in a style that I could not otherwise afford because I have been able to maximize miles and points earning (and burning) through things that I have learned at FlyerTalk and Milepoint, both creations of Randy. Those like-minded flyers that participate in these forums have shared a lot, and I’ve leveraged that shared knowledge more times than I could count. While there have been ups and downs along the way, for the most part the things I learned when I first started toying with mileage programs have carried me right on through to now. That, I’m afraid, is about to change, or perhaps a better word would be evolve.

Someday soon, a big, likely Atlanta based airline program, is going to announce the second edition of itself. Miles will be earned based on dollars spent, and you’ll spend those miles mostly based on the going rate for airfare in a particular market. Others will follow. AAdvantage may be the last to go, but that does not mean they won’t eventually become revenue based. It’s very likely we’d already be looking at a revenue-based Dividend Miles program if the merger opportunity with AA hadn’t popped up.¬†Managers at the new American may wait for the merger with Dividend Miles to roll out an all new program, but that day will eventually come and we’ll be looking at an almost totally revenue based landscape. Will Alaska MileagePlan remain an outlier? Only time will tell.

I’m an airline operations guy at heart, and counting beans, tweaking the loyalty program, and revenue at the margin are not my cup of tea. I appreciate a good airline, but a good airline should be accompanied by a good loyalty program. Can a revenue based program be good for anyone or anything? Maybe. Only time and experience will tell.

When this change finally happens there will be a lot of angst, anger, venom, etc. I say fret not. People still fly Southwest and earn/burn Rapid Rewards last time I checked, and for that matter, they fly JetBlue and Virgin America too. Rather than give up, I expect all those like minded travelers I owe so much to, and yours truly, will adapt and move on. New rules, new methods, new anything just means new challenges. I embrace challenges. We’ll figure out the new world of miles and points together just like we always have.

-MJ, July 19, 2013

About Marshall Jackson

Marshall Jackson is a former airline pilot, grounded by diabetes. After spending several years in operations management, he exited the airline business for a more stable career. But that hasn't dampened his interest in airplanes, airlines and travel in general.

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  1. @Robert, it’s Stockholm Syndrome if the rest don’t follow along and I continue to tolerate it. I am not above looking at a 30 minute flight to CLT as a cost of doing business.

    It’s just that I think that eventually, they all look the same. If I’m wrong, I will admit it here.

  2. I suspect that the coming changes at DL won’t be as draconian as we all fear. It just doesn’t make sense that the cost of premium cabin awards will double or triple overnight. I already regularly pay 80k for domestic F awards and use 25k miles r/t to confirm all my transcon upgrades (even with DM status). How much worse could it get?

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