Airlines renew effort to reward their most profitable customers

Dollars & Sense

November 09, 2003|By CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Robert Cullen and Allie Buttgereit have tickets to fly first class from San Jose, Calif., to Barcelona, Spain next summer for their honeymoon. The tickets typically cost about $20,000. Their cost: less than $1,000.

The couple did not win a sweepstakes.

They simply joined the ranks of frequent fliers earning miles without spending much time on airplanes.

It has never been easier to rack up big mile balances without flying. Thanks to credit card deals, restaurant incentives and other promotions, a new brand of frequent flier has emerged: the frequent buyer.

Although airlines love the new business that such programs build, they try to make sure loyal customers receive more perks when booking flights than people who earned miles through loyalty to a credit card.

Now airlines are bestowing preferred status more quickly on their most profitable fliers - people who pay the most for tickets, or who fly frequently enough to put them on equal footing with high-paying customers.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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