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JetBlue Airplane in Sunset (Photo: JetBlue Airlines)

Selling frequent flyer miles to travelers is a big business for the airlines. And a very profitable one.

But buying miles at the prices typically charged by the airlines is generally a lousy deal for consumers—they're just too expensive. Which probably explains why so many airlines so routinely find it necessary to discount the price of their miles.

While not as lucrative as the 100 percent buy-miles bonuses we've seen from US Airways and Delta, JetBlue's current 50 percent bonus certainly trumps the 25 percent bonuses regularly on offer from other airlines. And it's the biggest bonus I've ever seen from JetBlue. So if ever there were a time to buy TrueBlue points, this is it....read more»

Question mark sign (Photo: Index Open)

I receive a lot of press releases, most of which have little or nothing to do with my primary focus, loyalty programs.

Occasionally, however, a news release is relevant not so much for its headline content as for a point made in support of its main topic.

Among the claims made in a recent release announcing Priority Club's global relaunch, for instance, was the following, allegedly based on consumer research:...read more»

Credit Card: Fan of Cards (Photo: iStockphoto/Stefan Klein)

There's never been more interest in travel rewards credit cards.

That's at least in part because the card issuers have never before offered such rich incentives to lure prospective cardholders into applying for their cards, and into using them.

Capital One, for example, gave away more than 1 billion miles in just 25 days to spur applications for its Venture card.

And Chase has reprised its 100,000-mile bonus for new holders of the British Airways Visa card. The offer remains in place through May 6....read more»

Beach chairs facing the Gulf of Mexico (Photo: Andrew Nokes/tStockphoto.com)

So far, for the next three or so months, we've seen new hotel offers from Best Western, Hilton, and Hyatt.

We'll be reviewing an upcoming Priority Club Rewards offer from InterContinental soon (it doesn't start until May 16).

But for now, Starwood's "Stay Three, Getaway Free" promotion can be added to the list. And it may be the best of the lot....read more»

<H2>The View From Coach</h2>

This is the view most people will have aboard a Virgin flight, and it's not a bad one. The seats are comfortable and roomy, despite an unspectacular <a href="http://www.seatguru.com/airlines/Virgin_America/Virgin_America_Airbus_A319.php" target="_blank">32 inches of legroom</a> (12 Cabin Select seats have 35 inches). The seats are designed to be lower to the ground, which pulls your knees away from the seat in front of you. The onboard entertainment system is robust and fun to use, ordering meals from your seat is convenient, and the mood lighting (if that's your thing) lends a unique and soothing atmosphere to the stylish cabin. 

Still, I couldn't help but think that all these bells and whistles were merely distractions from the fact that hardly anything onboard is complimentary. Meals, snacks, and drinks cost between $3 and $10, movies are a hefty $8, and in-flight Wi-Fi sets you back $9.95 for flights under three hours and $12.95 for longer trips. Of course, how much you want to purchase is up to you, and the cabin <i>is</i> really cool.

(Photo: SeatGuru/Erin Liszewski)

Virgin America's Elevate program sure has come a long way.

In its early years, the program was hobbled by a lack of earning opportunities and points that expired after just 18 months. The program has been steadily adding earning and rewards partners—the roster now includes a small but meaningful collection of hotels, rental car companies, an online mileage mall, and so on. And in March 2010, finally, they adopted an industry-standard points-expiration policy: Any earning or redemption activity automatically extends all the points in members' accounts by 18 months.

Where the program has remained notably weak is in the area of promotions. When the airline launched new flights linking Dallas with Los Angeles and San Francisco late last year, for example, there were no bonus miles on offer to jump-start sales.

That's rare—most airlines routinely promote new services with limited-time mileage bonuses—and a sign the airline's loyalty marketing is stuck in low gear.

While this new promotion, an award discount, is a step in the right direction, its somewhat stingy terms suggest the company remains ambivalent about generosity in the service of loyalty....read more»

Credit card on keyboard (Photo: Index Open)

As reported earlier this week, American's 30th anniversary promotion, Deal 30, consists of 30 frequent flyer deals, one every weekday, through May 27.

That's too many offers to review in these blog posts. And no doubt many of them won't be blog-worthy anyway.

But over the next five weeks, I'll be highlighting those Deal 30 offers that are either especially easy or unusually lucrative.

This one falls neatly into the "easy" category....read more»

American Airlines aircraft front (Photo: American Airlines)

Next month will mark the 30th anniversary of American's AAdvantage program, and hence of frequent flyer programs as we know (and pick one: love or hate) them.

No doubt we will be seeing a flood of special offers and promotions on the themes of 30 and anniversaries.

The word "celebration" will be bandied about ad nauseum.

Never mind the crass marketing. Because amid the drivel and dross, there are bound to be some worthwhile bonuses....read more»

Photo: Best Western

As the hotels' winter promotions come to a close, the first of the spring promotions are upon us.

Best Western's second-quarter promotion, called Jump Start to Summer, is a messy affair, with more moving parts than a 747. It's really three different offers, plus a sweepstakes, with extras thrown in for new program members and Best Western credit card-holders....read more»

Dollar bills on a line (Photo: Index Open)

Beginning June 15, most Mileage Plus members will have to pay a $75 fee to book awards within 21 days of travel. The new policy undermines the value of United miles....read more»

Photo: Index Open

New offers from American provide both a bonus for signing up to use their eShopping mall, and a bonus for making purchases at eShopping merchants....read more»

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