In an effort to encourage customer loyalty, most major airlines these days have called a “frequent flyer program”. These programs reward customers with points, or “miles”, as they like to call them, which can be redeemed for free flights, upgrades and other good perks. As you can probably guess, miles are earned by flying on the carrier of the program. Most programs give you one “mile” for each actual mile spent in flight. There is usually a minimum number of miles you will earn per segment, which will apply to small puddle jumper flights. When you buy a first class ticket, you will still usually earn more points.
Major flyer programs in the US are American Airlines AAdvantage, United Mileage Plus, Northwest Worldparks, Delta SkyMiles, Continental OnePass and US Airways Dividend Miles. Frequent flyers are free to join the program. You can usually fill out an application when you check in for a flight. The best schedule for anyone depends on a number of factors, such as where the carriers are at your local airport or the airports where you most frequently arrive. For example, if you lived in Detroit, where the center of the Northwest is, it would make sense to join the program for Northwest Worldparks. It is best to join a program and make your flight on the carrier of that program. The reason for this is that you generally cannot transfer the mileage you earn from one program to another.
There are many things you can do to maximize the number of miles you earn. For example, intentionally booking itinerary with more segments, in some cases you may find little or no difference in the price of tickets. Booking a trip with connections that are further away can also make a difference. In addition, be sure to use your frequent flyer account on business trips; Although the boss is paying, you are still the one who earns the miles.
One final piece of advice: be sure to check your program’s termination rules carefully.