As airlines scramble to keep their seats filled even as demand for travel continues to deteriorate, there are two dominant themes to the latest bonus-mile promotions.
One approach is to offer bonuses for travel on specific routes where travel is particularly weak. Examples are American's bonus—up to 15,000 miles—for flights between Chicago and Shanghai, and JetBlue's buy-two-get-one-free offer for Boston flights.
The other tactic is to use elite-qualifying miles (EQMs) as the incentive. American, for instance, last week began offering double EQMs for all flights, through June 15. United and Continental quickly matched, and I expect Delta to do the same.
The first tactic is a straightforward traffic-generator—anyone and everyone qualifies and benefits. The second specifically targets business travelers—the small number of high-frequency, high-yield flyers who account for a disproportionate share of airlines' profits.
The latest from Midwest combines the two approaches, offering redeemable bonus miles for flights on specific routes, but also making a specific additional pitch to road warriors.
Between April 1 and August 31, Midwest Miles members will earn 1,000 bonus miles for round-trip flights between Milwaukee and Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York (La Guardia), Orlando, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle/Tacoma, or Tampa. The bonus may be earned up to five times, for a total of 5,000 bonus miles.
And for those to whom elite status is a priority, qualifying segments (but not miles) flown during this promotion will count twice toward the segment qualification threshold for elite status. So the maximum of five round-trips would translate into 10 of the 25 elite-qualifying segments required to reach Executive status.
This is a reasonably rich offer. And the promotion will remain in effect for a full five months, giving travelers plenty of time to take advantage of it.