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Desirability Of Airline Subscription Programs
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Most travelers prioritize finding cheap travel deals, such as cheap airplane tickets, discount hotel rooms, and cheap vacation packages. Recently airlines have started coming out with subscription deals to “save” customers money.
Examples of such deals are:
• United Airlines introduced this summer yearlong baggage subscriptions where members can check up to two bags on all United flights within the continental United States, starting at $349.
United also introduced Economy Plus subscriptions for passengers desiring more legroom on all of their flights where such seats are available, starting at $499.
• Delta started offering a subscription program in September called “Smart Travel Pack” which for $199 provides fliers features such as priority boarding and preferred seats on each flight taken through January 5th.
• American Airlines in 2012 started bundling amenities, such as no change fees and in flight beverages into a variety of “choice” fares.
The following are ways to figure out if signing up for an airline subscription offer makes sense for you:
• Review you present and future flying patterns to determine how much value you will get out of a subscription. Remember purchasing a subscription largely commits you to flying the same airline. You need to find out if that airline regularly flies to and from future cities you expect to visit and whether the seat you would be paying extra for are actually available. For example, most regional jets do not offer seats with additional legroom.
• Consider signing up for an airline credit card instead of a subscription. Paying (mind you most credit cards wave their first year fee) for an airline co-branded credit card tends to provide many of the same benefits as a subscription, including priority boarding and a free checked bag. Another plus of airline credit cards is that typically a lot of bonus miles are awarded when signing up for that card.
• Make certain that you read the fine print before selecting an airline subscription. Regional aircraft tend not to have seats with extra legroom. If you will primarily fly on Delta Shuttle flights, you should be aware that the airline does not offer priority boarding on those flights. Seats with additional legroom often cost more on international flights. On United, a “global” Economy Plus subscription costs $200 more on top of its $499 annual fee. Sometimes it makes more sense to try to achieve a higher elite frequent flier status with an airline thereby qualifying for the extras you desire.
• If you have earned elite frequent flier status, but not enough to receive regular upgrades, consider switching the airline you usually fly on instead of purchasing a subscription. Some airline frequent flier programs are more generous than others.
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