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AirTran launches new frequent flyer program

Reward plan counts trips rather than miles, includes tickets on other airlines

Airtrans logo March 16, 1998
Web posted at: 5:34 p.m. EDT (1734 GMT)

ATLANTA (CNN) -- Low-fare carrier AirTran Airlines announced Monday that it was launching a unique frequent flyer program that counts trips taken rather than miles flown in the quest for flight credits -- and offers an option of earning free travel on airlines other than AirTran.

The former ValuJet's new "A-Plus Rewards" program, which begins Tuesday, provides coach passengers with two flight credit vouchers per one round trip, and business class passengers with four per round trip. Three business class or six coach class round trips are good for an AirTran ticket .

"We have the fastest and most innovative reward program in the industry by offering free travel to just about anywhere in the continental U.S., not only to the 38 cities we serve," said AirTran senior vice president of sales and marketing Ponder Harrison. "It takes up to eight times longer to earn free travel on other carriers."

"A-Plus Rewards revolutionizes traditional frequent-flyer programs as they are currently structured," he added.

Flight vouchers may be earned on AirTran through December 31, 1998, and must be redeemed by December 31, 1999. Trips must be taken by December 31, 2000.

Restrictions for free tickets on other airlines:

  • Flights only to cities not served by AirTran
  • Must be non-stop or direct flights to or from Atlanta, Orlando, Washington Dulles, Washington National, or Baltimore-Washington
  • Round-trip flights only
  • Must include Saturday night stay
  • Lowest published, advance-purchase excursion fare

The 14 airlines:

America West, American, American Trans Air, Continental, Delta, Eastwind, Midway, Midwest Express, Northwest, Reno, Southwest, TWA, United, US Airways

Go where AirTran doesn't

Fast rewards is not AirTran's only innovation in the frequent flyer department. The airline is also offering to buy travelers the lowest cost seat on one of 14 other airlines to or from cities not served by AirTran. The reward requires a Saturday stay, is only good from or to certain cities, and costs double the flight credits: six business class or 12 coach class credits.

CNN business travel consultant Chris McGinnis said the tactic may "reel business travelers in."

"It's different because it offers to buy you a cheap seat on a major carrier," he said. "That's a first."

But the key is that it would give travelers the opportunity to earn tickets to cities not served by AirTran -- like Seattle or San Francisco -- by flying the low-cost carrier. The move, McGinnis said, shows "that AirTran is serious about courting business travelers-- something that ValuJet never did."

ValuJet merged with AirTran Airways, becoming AirTran Airlines, last fall, and promptly announced its new, roomier business class for $25 above the airline's walk-up fare. ValuJet was temporarily grounded following a 1996 crash in the Florida Everglades that killed all 110 people aboard the airplane. A subsequent investigation showed that safety procedures had been compromised.

The latest FAA inspection of AirTran showed only minor infractions, many of a clerical nature.

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