I've long been a vocal critic of the mileage expiration policies of the discount airlines' loyalty programs. Requiring customers to earn enough miles (or points or credits) for a free flight within one or two years simply isn't reasonable, especially for leisure travelers—who make up the bulk of the low-fare carriers' customer base.
So AirTran's change to its credit expiration policy, effective November 13, caught my eye. Replacing the previous rule—credits disappear one year after they were earned—is a new policy allowing A+ members a full two years to use their credits before they expire.
Two years is still too little time, in my view, since the life of AirTran credits cannot be extended by account activity as they can in other programs, including AirTran's archrival, Delta.
But the new two-year policy, it turns out, only applies to elite members. And elite members—high-frequency flyers by definition—are the ones least in danger of losing their miles and therefore least in need of a more liberal expiration policy.
So the change will be of little value to those who will enjoy it; and it will serve as a reminder to AirTran's non-elite members that the policy governing their credits is nasty and punitive.
Prior to the change, there was plenty of room for improvement in AirTran's program. And after the change? There is still plenty of room for improvement in AirTran's program.