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Executive Travel : Frequent-Flier Program Launched by Travel Agency

October 20, 1994|From Reuters

Business travelers who think that just about every idea in the frequent-flier world has been tried might want to check this out.

Travel Network Ltd. of Chicago has started its own frequent-flier program for tickets bought through its 334 travel agencies--opening the way for double, perhaps even triple, mileage credit for frequent travelers.

The company says this is the first time such a promotion has been tried nationally.

Here's how it works:

Each time a traveler books a flight through one of the agencies, he or she is credited in a separate account with the number of miles flown on the trip. Once the account reaches 25,000 miles, the customer can collect a free round-trip coach ticket to any of about 200 major cities within the 48 contiguous states.

The tickets are not certificates like those the airlines offer, but actual tickets from Travel Network's inventory. They are good on any of eight airlines: American, America West, Continental, Delta, Northwest, TWA, United or USAir.

The program's mileage is separate from that earned for the same trip by members of frequent-flier programs on those or other airlines.

There's the possibility of turning the transaction into a high-flying triple play if the traveler buys the ticket with a credit card offering one of the increasingly common affinity programs that earn additional mileage, or if the customer rents a car or hotel room during the trip from vendors who offer additional mileage credits.

The program doesn't stop at 25,000 miles. When the traveler's account reaches 40,000 miles, he or she has earned a round trip to any major destination in Mexico; at 65,000 miles, to Alaska, the Caribbean or Honolulu; at 80,000, to South America; at 90,000, to Europe and, at 120,000 miles, to Asia or the Pacific Rim.

Michael Brent, president and chief executive of Travel Network, said the response has been "fabulous" in the program's initial weeks, with more than 2,100 callers seeking to enroll.

"The advantage we have is that as a chain we can purchase bulk-rate tickets. We have the where-withal to promote it and to set it up. We have an edge," he said.

Brent said Travel Network will record about $1 billion in gross ticket sales this year.

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