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Screen shot from the very first frequent mile program

by on Sun September 1, 2013 • No Comment

The very first modern frequent flyer mile program…it’s usually credited as being American’s AAdvantage in 1981, but it was actually Western Airlines in 1980 with its ‘Travel Pass’ program, according to Western’s  vintage anniversary video from 1986. Texas International Airlines created a mileage based program in 1979, but it was short lived, while Western’s Travel Pass survived to become part of Delta Air Lines’ program when the two merged in 1987.

There are some great anachronistic gems here (starting at 4 minutes, 30 seconds), as well as some things that feel the same, like…

  • Adding Delta, Air New Zealand, and Japan Airlines as its first redemption partners – so you can get international travel
  • Promoting more first class awards than any other program, because that is what “business men” prefer
  • Double miles on every Western flight in 1986 – Starting April 1st
  • An agent saying he thinks the program is successful because he’s seeing more and more flyers get upgrades with their ‘stickers’
  • A screen shot of a member’s frequent flyer account. He had 19,566 miles in his account, flew to and from Billings a couple times – getting the minimum 500 miles, and earned 5,000 miles for completing a Western Airlines survey (even then flying on its own wasn’t the only major way to earn miles)

This was just before the advent of travel credit cards. Delta acquired Western a year later, and it’s now all part of the SkyMiles program. Which we can sadly say today doesn’t claim to have the most first class award seats.

Screen Shot 2013-09-01 at 4.48.41 PM

Screen shot of a Western Airlines frequent flyer’s account – he hasn’t redeemed any miles yet!


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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Miles dont expireas long as card is open
Learn more

Partner Offer

50,000 bonus points

Intro Offer

$0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $95

Annual Fee


Foreign Transaction Fee Waived

Yes - transfer to United MileagePlus, Southwest Rapid Rewards, Marriott Rewards, and more

Points Can Transfer to Airline Miles ?

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