When people are used to coming into your store, you don’t have to offer as many lures, and that rule of retail is certainly the case when it comes to airline websites. Used to be, the carriers would give people extra frequent-flyer points just for booking on the airline’s own website instead of taking their business to a walk-in agency or an online travel agency or ‘OTA’. That is ending. United ended its policy of giving miles to united.com bookers the other week, and Continental and US Airways both ended their online bonuses late last year, following Delta and Northwest. Now American is the last of the network carriers to offer a bundle of bonus miles for booking at .com. Well, not exactly a bundle. Used to be, American would give 1,000 miles for booking on line, but that largess has dwindled to 250 miles.
American’s the last big guy with the bonus, though JetBlue will give double points in its True Blue plan for booking on line. Southwest trimmed its online booking bonus a year or so ago. Most airlines still have a lowest-price guarantee, meaning that their website will give you the lowest price and so you needn’t make your fingers do the walking to the OTAs such as Orbitz, Expedia or Travelocity. People have learned to go the store.