Pet Peeves: What Really Bugs Travelers About Frequent Flyer Programs

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1.)       Dates not Available

“Too often it is I who must adjust or accommodate my dates of travel,” said member Tpa-flyer.  This about sums up frequent flyer program members’ general feeling towards their respective programs.  Too often the available dates are ones that are inconvenient for travel, and incompatible with a traveler’s schedule.  While earning the miles may be easy, spending them certainly is not.

2.)       Taxes, Booking Fees, and Fuel Surcharges

The fees that airline frequent flyer programs tack on to a so-called “free” ticket are equally as annoying as dates being unavailable, and even more insulting.

It’s as if someone is offered a free ice cream cone on his fifth visit to an ice cream shop, but upon receiving the “free” cone, he is charged a fee for operating the soft serve machine as well as surcharge covering the employee’s commute to the store.  As FlyerTalk member Canarsie commented, “In my opinion, it is absolutely petty when an airline charges me a fee simply to use the frequent flier loyalty program miles which I have earned.”

While these first two pet peeves are quite frustrating, it’s the third peeve on our list that has the potential to cost travelers a good deal of time and cause a lot of unnecessary stress.

3.)       Poor Search Tools

In an age of Information Overload where too much information is available at the click of a button, people are used to search tools that display results, indeed lots of them.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case when it comes to most searches for travel awards.  Complaints about these tools include the fact that they miss many flights, especially ones with connections, and that flights on partner airlines (which are supposed to show up) frequently don’t surface.  Luckily, most travelers have recognized that agents at an airline’s call center have access to better tools and can typically find the flight you are looking for, presuming it exists.


Airlines created frequent flyer programs with the intent of building customer loyalty and, in many respects, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.  With that success, however, came some problems.

An airline passenger joining and participating in a frequent flyer program sees this as a kind of contract or promise:  I fly your airline and, in return for my financial support and loyalty, I get certain perks and bonuses.   When something goes wrong, or when that promise is broken, no one wins.

Yes, airline frequent flyer programs have come a long way since they were first conceived of in 1979.  But as airlines have added more and more features and benefits to their programs, they have also raised the bar for themselves – and created more potential for customers’ disappointments.

Granted, many flyers are quite happy with their frequent flyer programs, these pet peeves notwithstanding.  But the people who participated in this poll, who represent some of the airlines’ best customers and most frequent travelers, have spoken, and one hopes that their voices will be heard.


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