Always sign up for frequent flyer programs when purchasing airline tickets or present your frequent flyer membership number to the travel agent. There is no charge for the program that builds points towards free travel. The flight miles are credited to your account at the completion of your travel. Extra points can be earned when you use businesses that have a strategic alliance with the airline. Present your membership number at the time of the reservation or after travel has occurred contact the airline to determine what you need to do to have your account credited. For example: renting a car through Hertz® when traveling with American Airlines® will allow you to receive frequent flyer miles only after notifying American Airlines® about the car rental with Hertz®. A list of the business alliance partners will be supplied to you upon starting a frequent flyer program. A disadvantage with the frequent flyer miles is that the points may expire before you can ever redeem them. Although, some airlines allow you to receive gifts if you "cash-in" some of your miles before they expire or you can donate the miles to a nonprofit organization to possibly receive a tax deduction. Another disadvantage with frequent flyer miles is that the airlines limit the number of seats assigned for individuals redeeming flight miles. Therefore, your free flight options may be limited and restrictive. You may not be able to travel when you want or you may have to make extra layover stops on the way to your final destination.
Another problem with frequent flyer miles is that non-airline related companies might charge a fee or a tax to have the miles applied to your account. Therefore, be sure to question any charges on your bill and remove the frequent flyer number as necessary to avoid the extra charges.
Several airlines sponsor credit cards that allow you to earn frequent flyer miles for every dollar you spend. The points can increase quickly depending on your spending habits. Realize the cards typically have an annual fee requiring you to evaluate if the cost of the card is worth the benefits.
Typically airlines over-book their flights requiring them to embarrassingly ask passengers to give up their seats, yet with compensation. Over-booked flights most frequently occur in the morning and late afternoon on weekdays due to the frequency of business people traveling. The airlines anticipate cancellations; therefore they over-book to ensure a full plane. The compensation will typically be a coupon for a free or a discounted round trip ticket for future travel anywhere in the continental U.S. If you do not need to be at your destination quickly, consider being bumped to receive the discounted ticket. Also ask for a meal voucher to be used anywhere in the airport since your stay at the airport is extended. Also, keep in mind the initial offer by the airline for passengers to give up their seats may not be the best. Wait several minutes because you may discover the airline may offer a better deal (assuming the number of passengers required to give up their seat has not been reached). The closer to the departure time requires the airline to make a better offer to entice the passengers to give up their seats. If no one volunteers, then the airline will randomly bump passengers at the last stated compensation amount.
Some airlines may have a priority list of passengers willing to give up their seat if a flight is overbooked. Check with an attendant at the gate or when checking baggage to have your name placed on the list. The list allows you to be one of the first people offered compensation for being bumped. The disadvantage is that a greater compensation amount may be offered if more seats are needed even after accepting your original compensation amount. Although, you may ask the attendant to increase your original compensation accordingly.
Another option to receive highly discounted or free travel to destinations around the world is to fly as a courier escorting packages or documents. Travel occurs on major airlines, but usually requires an additional item to check as luggage or to carry-on the plane. Look in the yellow pages for courier companies, http://www.courier.org, or http://www.couriertravel.org to offer your services. Some courier services require a membership fee to join, but the fee would be a small price for the savings received for the plane ticket.
Return to Travel Topics.