Makes you wonder why more frequent fliers don't just walk away from these programs. But the airlines don't seem too worried about this, maybe because they know their frequent flier programs still have something passengers really want.
Actually, that would be a couple of things fliers want, including -- speed. More and more "elite" frequent fliers are given first priority boarding, and even the egalitarian Southwest has announced it is setting up separate check-in lanes at some airports to allow its best customers to breeze through security.
Then there's the matter of bypassing all those fees. Most of the checked-bag costs are waived for elite frequent fliers, which can save a two checked-bag United passenger $130 round-trip. Maybe that doesn't seem like much of a savings if your ticket costs $900, but what if your airfare was, say, $260? It's a deal.
So, if you ask me if frequent flier programs are still worth it, I'd have to say, sure -- if only for the perks I mention above. I do not expect to see these programs go the way of dinosaurs, or, for that matter, the way of green stamps.
Actually, even green stamps haven't gone away. They live on, as digital "green points" on a Web site. No glue or licking required.
This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.
Rick Seaney is one of the country's leading experts on airfare, giving interviews and analysis to news organizations, including ABC News, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, The Associated Press and Bloomberg. His Web site FareCompare.com offers consumers free, new-generation software, combined with expert insider tips to find the best airline ticket deal.