Unlike recent look-backs, a review of the loyalty program highlights of 2010 is likely to hearten travelers for whom miles and points are a priority.
Although there were some negatives -- chief among them the increasing difficulty in redeeming miles for restricted awards -- the year's most significant developments fell mostly on the positive side of the ledger, suggesting a generally consumer-friendly trend.
Some of the following are genuinely new, while others are developing trends, newly solidified. No attempt has been made to rank them according to their importance; their order is arbitrary.
1. British Airways' 100,000-Mile Card Offer
After a prolonged period of retrenchment following the meltdown of the financial sector, credit card issuers are back in the business of aggressively signing up new customers.
The industry standard among airline-affiliated cards is a welcome bonus of at least 25,000 miles, enough for a free round-trip domestic award ticket.
But British Airways -- and Chase, the card issuer -- quadrupled that with an unprecedented 100,000-mile bonus after spending $2,000 during the first three months. It was the most generous credit card bonus ever offered.
More recently, American also upped the ante for its Citi-issued AAdvantage credit card to 100,000 miles, but with a much higher qualification hurdle: 50,000 bonus miles after charging $2,000 during the first four months; an additional 25,000 bonus miles after charging $10,000 during the first year; and yet another 25,000 bonus miles after charging at least $10,000 during the second year.
2. US Airways' 100 Percent Bonus on Purchased Miles
Over the past year, US Airways has revived and extended its 100 percent bonus for purchased miles so many times it began to feel like a permanent feature of the Dividend Miles program.
With the bonus, travelers could buy enough miles for a business-class award ticket to Europe for $1,375 -- a deal with a capital "D."
Unfortunately, the promotion is just that, a limited-time offer. And with the exception of one semi-comparable offer from Delta -- same 100 percent bonus, but only on miles purchased using a SkyMiles-linked credit card -- it hasn't spurred much in the way of counter-offers from other mainline carriers.
3. United's Award-Travel Discounts
While US Airways was making its mark as the industry's preeminent discounter of miles, United was busy establishing itself as the industry leader in award discounts.
In just over a year, United discounted award travel in selected markets no fewer than 12 times.
United also introduced weekend saver awards -- 30 percent discounts on selected award flights, announced on Tuesday for travel the following weekend. Although it was a great idea, and a feather in the cap of United's program, the airline suspended the weekend saver awards without notice or comment.
Honorable mention in this category goes to British Airways, which offered Executive Club members the opportunity to book premium coach award trips for the price normally charged for regular coach awards -- a 33 percent mileage savings for flights between the U.S. and London.
4. Hotel Promotions
Never before have there been so many hotel promotions offered continuously over such a prolonged period.