Frequent flier programs are a lot like Lucy holding out the football for Charlie Brown–just when you’re about to take off, the airlines go and take them away, leaving you flat on the ground.
Frequent flier programs (think AAdvantage, SkyMiles, MileagePlus) have been around in one form or another since the 70’s. Through the years, the airlines have made ongoing (and often controversial) changes to their programs. These frequent policy changes, coupled with the airlines’ promises of free trips to fantastic destinations, makes frequent flier programs an oft-scrutinized topic in travel.
Most recently, the series Adam Ruins Everything took a look at frequent flier programs. The series, which airs on truTV but is also widely viewed on Youtube, is known for ruthlessly dismantling any topic it makes the subject of an episode. In the case of airline points, host Adam Conover calls them “funny money,” due to the fact that “airlines control how and when you use them.” Furthermore, he says that because “59 percent of Americans” don’t know how frequent flier miles work, (and the programs are designed to keep it that way), “major airlines generate an estimated 10 billion dollars in revenue a year” just from these programs. Conover concludes the informative skit by quipping, “Your points and miles aren’t free. We’re all paying for them.”