Thursday, October 15, 2020

Frequent flier programs during the pandemic slowdown in air travel

 It turns out that frequent flier programs get a lot of their income from credit cards that reward purchases with miles. So they are one of airlines' big profit centers, that hasn't suffered so much from the slowdown in air travel.

Here's a NY Times story:

Airline Miles Programs Sure Are Profitable. Are You the Loser? United and Delta have been boasting to lenders about fat margins in frequent-flier mile programs. Time for customers to pay a bit more attention.  By Ron Lieber

"Even as the coronavirus pandemic has sapped the ability and desire to travel, miles programs are a winner for the airlines. In the first half of 2020, Delta’s passenger revenue fell 60 percent, but the cash the airline got from American Express’s purchases of miles for its customers fell less than 5 percent. ...

"United puts a different but no less illuminating set of words and numbers to our mile lust. It goes into granular detail in its pitch about its ability to “nimbly” control its mile redemption costs on “peak days.” That explains why it’s so hard to use your miles to get a great deal during school vacations, Mardi Gras or other occasions."


Here's Market Watch:

Airlines are using frequent flyer programs to sell debt. Here’s how it works  By Sunny Oh

"In essence, miles are sold to credit card companies who offer them as part of their reward programs to their customers. The revenues earned from selling the miles are much higher than the cost of any flight travel redeemed by passengers,


"In a June filing, United Airlines valued their MileagePlus loyalty program at $21.9 billion which is around double the total market capitalization of the company itself."

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