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Airport Frequent Flier Perks Improving

By Expert Author: Steve Robinson

While most people look for cheap travel options such as cheap airplane tickets, discount hotel rooms, and cheap vacation packages, travel rewards are no longer only being provided only by travel providers such as airlines, hotels, and car rental companies.

Airports are increasingly incentivizing travelers to use their airports by offering discounted parking, exclusive lounges, and bonus airport miles for purchases made in their terminals.

The reason airports are offering such incentives is that they are competing against each other as airline consolidation shifts routes and increases prices. Fliers tend to select flights and airports based on convenience, price, and schedule. Often fliers are willing to drive an additional hour to reach an alternative airport if the reasons for the extra drive are attractive enough.

Airport perks are more typically found at small regional airports which often are less appealing than major airports. Local airports tend to lose traffic to larger airports that offer more service and thus cheaper prices.

Airport reward programs tend to vary. For example, in July the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, CA introduced an airport wide loyalty program through affiliate “Thanks Again.” Travelers who register an existing debit or credit card with the program can then earn additional miles with their choice of airline when they use the card at airport retailers.
Since December of 2010 Thanks Again has launched 43 airport wide reward programs and has participating retailers in another 128 U.S. airports. Airports are trying to motivate travelers to stay and shop and/or eat at its facilities.

Florida’s Jacksonville International Airport offers a frequent parking program (for a $20 price) which allows members to earn discounts at airport businesses and points on parking that can be redeemed for free parking. Gainesville Regional Airport in Florida sponsors a free Ultimate Road Warrior Club whose perks include a separate lounge.

Regional airports are often at a disadvantage because larger airports usually offer cheaper fares, as well as fewer connections which is desirable given increasing flight delays and cancellations. In the first six months of 2013 slightly over 79 percent of flights left on time, a steep decline from over 84 percent during the same period in 2012.

Travelers need to keep in mind that by bypassing local airports for larger ones this may lead to the elimination of service at the smaller airports if there is not enough demand. Customers need to carefully weigh the advantage of saving $40 to $50 per ticket vs. the possibility of losing the availability of local air service.

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