Q: What is a frequent flyer program?
A: A frequent flyer program is an incentive program operated by a given airline to reward customers for their loyalty. In most programs, members earn one mile for every mile they fly on the airline that operates the program and its partners. They can also earn miles for hotel stays, car rentals, credit card charges, and many other travel and non-travel transactions.
When using services linked to the program, members provide their frequent flyer number or show their card, and the miles are recorded and tracked automatically. Once earned, the miles reside in a frequent flyer account until they accumulate to a level at which they may be redeemed for an award. The majority of awards are free flights, although some programs offer other award options. In most cases, the "cheapest" award (and, not coincidentally, the most requested), earned at 25,000 miles, is a free round-trip coach-class ticket for travel anywhere within the continental U.S.
The first modern frequent flyer program was American Airlines' AAdvantage program, launched in 1981. Since then, all major airlines in the U.S. and in most other countries have introduced their own programs.