Would Frequent Flyer Programs That “Just Work” Ruin Everything?

It seems the Information Age has rapidly morphed into the Intuitiveness Age. What good is it to have access to endless information after all if you have to read a 200-page manual to learn how to use the tool to access said information?

Sure I would like all of the world’s gold and riches – but not if I have to RTFM.

And so it is that we all have exceptionally powerful micro-computers that can also be used to make telephone calls – and we just turn them on and they work (Out of curiosity, how many of you have read the manual that comes with your smartphones?). We download app after app on our phones and tablets, launch them and immediately begin interacting – no studying required.

And then we navigate over to our favorite airline site to book a ticket using miles.


The airline websites are about as unintuitive as you will find online. And if you haven’t diligently studied your frequent flyer program terms and conditions AND kept up to date with your favorite miles and points bloggers and forums, well, you’re probably getting screwed – or at the very least you probably aren’t getting much value out of the program.

Which brings us to an interview with Lorenzo Stoll, the director of SWISS – listened to and summarized for us by FlyerTalk’s Concerto.

One of the questions the interviewer poses is about how complicated the company’s frequent flyer programme is and whether, in these days of over-simplified apps, this aspect was desperately behind the times. Stoll mentioned that SN Brussels Airlines recently developed their own programme but whether SWISS would launch their own programme he did not say, but added that SWISS has to improve in the mid-term.

While at first blush one might think that FlyerTalker’s of all people, wouldn’t necessarily want to see frequent flyer programs simplified – part of the fun is learning the ins and the outs of the program so as to gain maximum advantage. But on the contrary, the general consensus seems to be supportive of the idea that the programs have become overly complex.

Ordinary people (not major frequent flyers, but those who fly a few times a year at most, mainly for leisure) often speak of the time when it was possible to collect miles on their few trips and eventually have a free trip somewhere in Europe. I was the same myself when I started out with Qualiflyer and TravelClub. Now people say how rubbish and pointless the programme is with its high taxes and simply turn to easyJet and others. ~Concerto

Hurray, exactly what LH group needs, after “status stars”, Miles&More Selections, terrible 4U integration (weder Fisch noch Vogel), *A punishments when you fly the “wrong” *A airline (in the eyes of LH), further status de-evaluation, further decrease of miles given out etc. – too many things to mention.


And then they’re complaining why people switch to alternatives. ~YuropFlyer

As for the happy *A family it also seems to be getting increasingly more complex.


Want an F award on Swiss? Not possible with all *A memberships.
Status miles? 75% less if you fly on TK.
Select Miles? Only on LH and specific partners metal.
HON Miles? Only on LH and specific partners metal in C or F.
Stars? Yes but only related to years of status M&M membership.
Award miles? Expire for some, but not for all.


Increasing complexity with terminology, with earnings, with requalification. And for what reason in the end? ~TRAVELSIG

The glorious StarAlliance feels like a glorious Japanese battleship around April 1945. ~weero

Fantastic analogy weero.

What do you think? Do frequent flyer programs need to evolve with the times and become simpler, more intuitive? Or would doing so necessarily remove most of the value of the programs for the truly frequent traveler?

And what would become of BoardingArea, FlyerTalk, Milepoint, etc, etc if all of the programs went to a simple “Fly 10, Get One Free” model (gasp!)?

Read the thread in its entirety: SWISS creates own FFP?

RTFM-Second-draft_2kpx_002” by Gabriel David. CC BY-SA 2.0.


  1. The greatest threat to our “hobby” is computer systems that work really well. It would end glitch fares, holes in award charts, extra stop overs, mfg. spending, you name it. It would help the average guy on the street use his/her miles they gained over 10 years to fly that one trip from Cleveland to see aunt betty in Montana but would hurt those of us that are trying to hack or game the system. The airlines know about it and would love to stop us but it’s too time and cost consuming.

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