Press Room :: Frequent Flyer Facts
  • Jan. 2006 - As the year began, the world's frequent flyer programs boasted more than 180 million members, 120 million of whom were U.S. residents. In the accounts of those members: almost 10 trillion outstanding miles.
  • Approximately 27 - 28% of all members are active.
  • American AAdvantage is the largest frequent flyer program in the world. It began with 283,000 members in 1981 and has grown to more than 46 million members. More than 11,000 new members enrolled in the program each day in 2001 -- 20 years after the program started.
  • Loyalty programs grow at a rate of 11% percent per annum.
  • The fastest growing segment of these programs are "mileage consumers," not frequent flyers.
  • The Lufthansa Miles & More program has 1.1 million members in the United States.

Earning Miles

  • Without bonuses (class of travel bonuses and bonus promotions), about 54% of miles earned are not from flying.
  • Credit cards are the number one way to earn miles without flying.
  • There are about 92 frequent flyer/guest programs in the world.
  • The average active member of a frequent flyer program earns 11,364 miles per year.
  • It is estimated that some 307,000 frequent flyers have earned at least 1 million miles in their programs.
  • In the first 20 years of frequent flyer programs, there has been a cumulative of 9,769,300,000,000 miles earned by members of these programs. This includes miles banked within credit card and hotel programs that historically will be exchanged for miles. That's 9.77 trillion miles!
  • In 1998, 32% of the miles/points earned by members of the Star Alliance were not automatically credited to the member's accounts. This dropped to 15% in 2000. In a full 50% of these cases, the mileage went uncredited because the member's frequent flyer number was not included in the reservation.

Award Redemption

  • There were 20 million free award tickets given away in 2004.
  • Approximately 4 million free award tickets were given away in the Japan, Pacific, Australia and Asia (JPAA) area in 2001.
  • There are over 9.7 trillion miles in current liability among all frequent flyer programs.
  • Because much of the travel from the JPAA area involves long-haul travel to Europe and the Americas, there is a higher average liablilty per program than in other parts of the world. The current contingent liability of programs in the JPAA area is estimated to be some 990 billion miles/points/kilometers.
  • In a typical year, about 500 billion frequent flyer miles are earned by members (leftover after redemptions).
  • The current record for the largest number of frequent flyer miles in one account is just over 23 million miles.
  • In 1998 around 62 billion miles expired unused (as of 1999 most major US programs no longer have expiring miles).
  • Wonder how many awards ever get redeemed? Over time, an average of 82% of all awards earned will be redeemed.
  • What does an award cost an airline? Approximately $23.93, which is an estimated incremental cost for a passenger based on food, beverage, fuel, reservation liability insurance and miscellaneous cost such as denied boarding compensation. This cost does not include any contribution to overhead or profit. (With fuel costs increasing this statistic is climbing.)
  • In 2000, More Than 350,000 rewards were redeemed from the Six Continents Priority Club. Seventy percent of the awards redeemed were for hotel stays. Among the top non-hotel choices for Priority Club members: certificates from Home Depot & Best Buy. And the Marriott Rewards programs gave away more than 1.2 million free nights to members in 2000.
  • In 2001, more than 1.4 million roundtrips were redeemed for free travel on Air Canada and its worldwide Star Alliance partner airlines.
  • More than one third of all awards redeemed in the United Mileage Plus program in 2002 were Upgrade Awards. The total number of Upgrade Awards issued in 2002 equaled 1,406,716.
  • In 2003, American AAdvantage members used approximately 122 billion miles to claim more than 4 million awards to over 850 destinations worldwide (evidently, not EVERYONE is going to Orlando and Hawaii).
  • According to the AwardPlanner service, 25% of people who redeem awards make a change to their itinerary during the planning process, and 10% request a change after the award has been ticketed. Of that 10%, only 3% are actually able to get a ticketed award changed.
  • On average, members of the Lufthansa Miles&More program redeem 20 percent of their awards for merchandise.


  • Between 82% and 87% of frequent flyers have Web access.
  • Total number of miles donated by SkyMiles members to SkyWish charities as of February 2006 = 1,212,981,729
  • Almost $2 billion of miles were sold last year to various partners of frequent traveler programs.
  • What's a mile worth? To quote MasterCard: Priceless. For airlines, a mile is worth about 1.7 cents in revenue. For members of such programs, the value of a mile depends on how the award is used. Generally accepted to be valued at two cents, a mile can vary from one cent to eight or nine cents. With advanced planning, an upgrade has a higher value than a coach award in the U.S.
  • As of December 2000, the Varig Smiles program maintained partnerships with 139 companies, including hotels, car rental agencies, restaurants, etc. All told, these partnerships earned revenues for Varig in excess of US$55.1 million in 2000, an increase of 37% over 1999 partnership revenues (US$40.1 million). This illustrates just how profitable frequent flyer programs can be for the airlines -- even relatively small airlines.
  • Approximately 150 employees currently (2006) staff the Delta SkyMiles program. In 1981 the number was 24.

Statistics compiled by Randy Petersen, Publisher/Editor Inside Flyer magazine.


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