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Cheap travel options such as cheap airplane tickets, discount travel deals, and cheap vacation packages, are becoming all the more important as airlines make changes to their frequent flier programs which make it harder to the average flier to earn reward points.

Many airline loyalty programs are changing such that what fliers pay matters more than how much they fly. Delta recently became one of the first legacy airlines to announce its rewards system going forward will be based on the cost of tickets vs. the miles flown.

Although many Delta loyalty members are unhappy with the airline's new approach to award miles, Delta claims that its program is equitable. Delta changed some of its upgrade availability at the beginning of the year based on "extensive feedback from our customers."

A recent survey found that many passengers feel that the changing loyalty programs are disloyal to them. Increasingly air travelers do not trust airline programs to deliver on their promises. The programs are viewed as less trustworthy than banks, cable, and telephone companies. Passengers have long singled out Delta's frequent flier program as the hardest one to redeem miles.

Reward programs create major revenue for airlines, generating billions of dollars yearly with the sale of miles to banks and other partners. Consumers in turn indirectly purchase these miles via their choices to earn them over other rewards.

Airline experts are not surprised by the changing trend on how frequent flier miles are earned. Airlines have come to realize that they had to fix their incentives because they were not really rewarding their best customers.

Also, programs based only on miles flown have proven to be too easily manipulated. Some fliers have been able to earn first class tickets by buying pudding boxes or US Mint coins while actually paying as little as possible for their seats.

United Airlines has switched to a hybrid approach that rewards loyalty members based on a combination of miles and money spent. More airlines are expected to follow with changes to their frequent flier reward policies.
The following are ways to continue to earn significant miles while purchasing airline tickets that award miles based on the cost of the tickets:

• If you purchase expensive tickets, you should participate in an airline's frequent flier program. Remember most reward programs going forward are rewarding the biggest spenders not the most frequent fliers.

• Focus on a single program. Do your best to give a single airline most, if not all, of your business. The most recent changes do not reward disloyal fliers.

• Go out of your way to earn points, particularly via airline affiliated credit cards (or cards that earn points that can be used to purchase airline tickets) and make a point of using them to make as many of your purchases as possible.

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