The Flight Deal wants you to know that the way you've been booking your flights is all wrong.
In the race to dodge airline fees, be it $30 to check a bag or $10 for in-flight meals, consumers have lost sight of what truly matters, and that's scoring free flights.
"They look at flying on a transaction-by-transaction basis, hunting for the cheapest possible airfare," the experts told Business Insider.
"This is a trap. They should be thinking, 'OK, I am a United flyer and I travel between New York and San Francisco twice a year. That’s 10,000 miles. If I fly five times from New York to San Francisco, I will get a free domestic trip.'
"In the long run, loyalty and miles will save more than just looking for the cheapest airfare. Miles are the best way to fly for free or for very little money."
The seasoned travelers at Flight Deal, who avoid all fares that "don't credit 100% mileage to either American, Delta, United or US Airways," aren't alone in treating miles like free money. U.S. News reporter and frequent BI contributor, Daniel Bortz, agrees that frequent flier programs give travelers an edge.
"If you're an elite member of the airline's frequent-flyer program or if you have a credit card that's tied to the airline, you automatically have a leg-up on other travelers," he wrote in April.
The idea is that building a relationship with your favorite carrier helps travelers score perks like free upgrades and checked bags, while providing more opportunities to rack up those coveted miles. Loyal fliers not only hear about flight deals before everyone else, they're also more inclined to pounce on fares simply because they enjoy the airline.
"We like American because their mileage program allows us to travel to some awesome destinations for next to nothing," said Flight Deal. "We used AA miles to fly Business Class to Bali with their partner Cathay Pacific for $80, and we’ve flown to Phuket and Hong Kong for $35 in First Class using AA miles with their partner Cathay Pacific."
Beyond being loyal, Flight Deal said consumers should examine all sides of a fare, from its initial going rate to whether or not its price will rise over time. Bing Travel's price predictor is one way to do this, or customers can make a habit of checking the airline's site frequently, especially on Wednesday and in the morning when prices tend to drop.
Finally, be proactive in deciding when to splurge and save miles. Some deals might seem too good to pass up, and others will be OK, but not worth the chance to earn extra miles. Plug your flight into Milewise just to be sure.
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