Online booking bonuses going the way of free airline food


Today is the last day United will give bonus miles to customers for booking flights on its website. With that, American becomes the last of the six big traditional airlines to still offer bonus miles as an incentive for fliers booking on its website. Two other big carriers -– Continental and US Airways –- also ended their online booking bonuses late last year, according to officials from those airlines. Delta ended its booking bonus this past summer while Northwest’s ended more than a year ago. Officials at AA would not commit to keeping its bonus going indefinitely, but spokeswoman Marcy Letourneau tells Today in the Sky “we are the only major carrier still offering the bonus and we do currently promote it.”

And it’s not only traditional carriers that have cut back on their online bonuses. Discount giant Southwest previously had one of the most generous online booking bonuses, offering customers double-credit for every flight booked on its website. That essentially meant customers got one free flight for every four booked on the carrier’s website. That promotion ended in 2005, though that move was eventually followed with one to extend the lifespan of Southwest frequent-flier credits to two years, up from the previous one year. There are some exceptions. JetBlue, for example, continues to offer double points for flights booked at

Airlines had used the bonuses to entice customers to use their own websites instead of sites such as Orbitz or Travelocity. The costs for an airline to sell tickets on its own website are less than selling fares through other channels. But as the percentage of customers booking on the airlines’ own websites has risen over the past years — and as online travel agents have added booking fees –most airlines now say online mileage bonuses are no longer needed to draw customers to their websites.