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"Scamming" airline miles?

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...Over the years, airlines have gutted their FF programs because they became such liabilities. With the changes that went into effect in 2014, it's very hard for anyone who isn't flying a lot on full-fare tickets to get much value from the FF programs.

Partly true, FF programs have gutted and increased the mileage requirement for award tickets, but the quality of the “comfy ride” sections has significantly improved. When I took my first award trip to Thailand on UA, the comfy bus class section from DCA-ORD-NRT-BKK in 1999, it cost me 90k FF miles w/seats reclining about 150 degrees, whereas today it will cost you 160k UA FF miles but you get a fully flat seat/bed in the comfy section. But AA program is still a bargain since it cost 110k for a bus award ticket and 135k for FC using partner Cathay to fly US-Thailand,


But even if one does not fly a lot on full fare tickets, anyone can play the FF mileage game by reading and applying flyertalk information. Thanks to flyertalk, I have taken 18 of 20 US-Thailand trips using FF miles with 16 trips in the comfy section. The term FF miles is a misnomer because I earned +95% of my FF miles since 1996 without flying. There are many ways to earn FF miles without flying by being creative and taking advantage of promotions like the pudding guy or the many who bought US $1 coins.

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It's crucial to distinguish between schemes that involve: 1) exploiting loopholes in FF offers from airlines and other companies; and 2) making fraudulent purchases with a credit card to gain FF miles. There's nothing illegal about 1), but 2) is, although it might be rare for the credit card company to pursue the matter. A bigger risk of 2) is having your credit cards cancelled and your credit rating wrecked.


The Pudding Guy and the baht run took advantage of oversights in the wording of specific FF promotional offer or the rules of the program itself. For example, the Pudding Guy's idea wouldn't have worked if the company (ConAgra) had placed a limit on the number of miles it was possible to accrue through the offer. Had it wanted to, the company could simply have refused to accept his claim and forced him to sue.


Over the years, airlines have gutted their FF programs because they became such liabilities. With the changes that went into effect in 2014, it's very hard for anyone who isn't flying a lot on full-fare tickets to get much value from the FF programs.




I don't see any evidence of gutting or illegality by those in question. For the average traveler, booking in advance is how one gets FF award flights, always has been. The mythical "upgrade just because there is room up there" has been reserved for business travelers with high miles on that particular airline since as long as I have been around.


My old man is in his 70's and still traveling internationally as a contractor. Back in the "old days" he was a Delta million mile, top 5% of their customers, they gave him anything. But no other airline cared unless he had miles with that particular airline. Now every airline needs an alliance to share expenses with because they would rather give you miles to change mortgage companies, buy wine every month or open more credit cards.


If anything has changed the awards system it is awards credit cards and getting emails every day to buy this or that for xxx $$/mile. Opening a Chase United business, personal and explorer card will get you enough miles for a saver award, first class, anyplace. Float hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in business expenses will get you a lot more, without ever stepping on a plane. What it won't do is get you the upgrades and favoritism that serious business travelers get.


I have a small, very, very small side business. This month, so far, I have wracked up nearly 11K in miles, all in legitimate expenses. That's a lot of domestic air miles for the average business traveler who might fly domestic six times a month. Credit cards and related financial awards are why these folks don't get the upgrades they used to.


And even more to the point, I rarely carry a balance on these cards so the banks make the same from me if I was 'scamming' 11K miles a month or purchasing things. They make the fees either way. Don't you wish you could make 2% on your money every time you loaned someone money for 30 days or less? Then charge the people on the other end 2% per month plus fees for carrying a balance? Hell I'd be buying people first class tickets too! :)


Anyway, it's an interesting conversation...

Edited by Sailfast
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