Don’t Miss Out on $4.2 Billion in Unearned Points – Register for Frequent Flier Programs

After being very surprised to find that I was the only passenger of four seated around me to be participating in the Skymiles Frequent Flyer program on a recent Delta flight, I decided to take a very unsophisticated approach to estimating the total number of Frequent Flyer miles that go unearned by ambivalent passengers.

The AAdvantage program by American Airlines was the first airline loyalty program

I’ve told you about my high school government teacher who paid for new running shoes by picking up pennies as he ran… not willing to overlook even the slightest presentation of value.  But these are not pennies these people are missing out on – they’re dollars.  Big dollars.

The Airline Data Project by MIT says that US Domestic Airlines (I’m limiting the scope) fly somewhere between 650 and 750 billion seat miles each year – we’ll use 700 billion.  The load factor over the recent future hovers around 80% (up from 70% in the 90s), so really there are only passengers in about 560 billion of those seat miles.

Despite my anecdotal measure above, everything I can find says that somewhere around 54% of passengers are participants in the loyalty programs – startling is the fact that a small fraction of those don’t register their FF # when flying (I know, I gagged, too).

Let’s say, then, that 50% of those occupied seat miles go without earning Frequent Flyer rewards… that means that 280 billion loyalty points go unearned every year. With a tear in my eye, I’m calculating the value at a rate of 1.5 cents per mile (probably underestimated), and finding that roughly $4.2 billion in free travel benefits are overlooked by people unwilling to give their name, address, email, and phone number to the airline in a 30 second online registration.

The silver lining in this non-scientific appraisal is that those of us who wouldn’t dare let a single mile slip by will reap the benefits from the unbelievers.  There’s no way the airline companies (or the credit card offerers, for that matter) could be nearly as generous as they are if 100% of us were bloodthirsty point-mongers like those of you who wanderlust with us.

If you find yourself in the shameful camp of having traveled without earning miles, let me give you just a bit of advice – first, inquire about the possibility of re-acquiring miles which you might have earned earlier this year.  Most programs have a method for you to go back and recapture them if you were in the program but didn’t give them your number.  Oh, what’s that you say? You weren’t in the program? You didn’t have 30 seconds and an internet connection? Ughh… I’m sorry.

There is NO reason not to register for at least the major US carriers.  You’re going to want to go to our Using Air Miles Page – which is not exhaustive, but will get you started in getting registered for each program.

If you took a flight without getting miles and weren’t registered for the program, maybe you’d like to get them back by scoring some free bonus miles when you get the Gold Delta Skymiles Card and meet the minimum spending requirement.

Gold Delta SkyMiles®

Gold Delta Skymiles up to 30,000 Skymiles


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