How to score a frequent-flier ticket
Frequent-flier programs are supposed to take the sting out of some purchases. Leisure travelers are finding it easier to accumulate award points, thanks to credit cards, a boon if you're not a business traveler. The ease of accumulating points is the blessing and the curse of loyalty programs: You can earn points without getting on a plane. But so can everyone else.
Chins up, points people. Our frequent-flier-points gurus say you can still get an awards ticket for almost nothing. Here are three rules they shared with me:
• Pick up the phone and call, says Tim Winship, publisher of FrequentFlier.com, which offers news and advice for frequent fliers. You may be charged a fee, but, Winship says, it's important that travelers “don't allow themselves to be stymied by the inability to book on the airline's website. ... Airlines have done a masterful job of discouraging us from picking up the phone and calling, (but) you may well find that a reservations agent can figure out something for you.” Getting people from Point A to Point B is what agents do, he says. Their expertise and itinerary creativity will cost you, but in the end, it can also end up saving you big bucks.
• Not getting an answer you like? Hang up and call again. (You won't be charged the fee unless you book.) This bit of wisdom comes from Brian Kelly, whose ThePointsGuy.com counsels people on finding ways to outwit what stands between them and an awards ticket. He reminded me that one should remain calm, be polite, say thank you and then hang up and call back. Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, but Kelly and others say they often do get a different result; it's the repeated phone calls that may make you crazy.
• Book early or late but not in between. Try booking the minute the tickets become available or at the last minute, which is when Kelly says he has the most success. If you have the flexibility or you're a gambler at heart, this could work well.
Most of all, patience, flier friends. Airlines for America, an industry trade group, says 210 million of us will take to the skies between June 1 and Aug. 30, a six-year high. Crowded, expensive and uncomfortable? Yes, yes and yes. But a free ticket might help ease your pain.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.