EDITORS NOTE: In 2024, I’ve introduced Guest Post Saturdays. If you’re interested in contributing, please reach out! Today’s guest post from community member Hank, who’s least memorable travel experience was flying 70 hours of AA economy with an unknowingly broken kneecap.

Continuing our “study the past to know the future” theme lets see how the miles world has evolved over the last 15 years.

  • Affiliate marketing payouts. Banks pay hundred of dollars per credit app a website can lob their way. That’s actually quite new. Historically there wasn’t any money in blogging, so the tiny crowd in it did so as a passion project. Ben was a broke college kid with an insane tolerance for mileage runs.  Brian Kelly was still a marketer at Morgan Stanley.  Gary was…. pretty much exactly the same.

    Because there was no financial incentive to spell out deals they lasted years, not weeks or days. There were no spoon feeding mega blogs, just arcane hints on Flyertalk. There were under 1% the current number of people in the miles space because everything was smaller…
  • Scale. Back then earning 1.2 million miles got you written up in the WSJ and a movie deal https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Phillips_(entrepreneur) For some people nowadays that’s a bad month. The highest signup bonus was 20,000 miles, not 200,000. All that means…
  • Award space everywhere. There were 20+ interesting ways to go to Asia every day. Cathay Pacific had 6 daily flights from NYC by itself, usually with F award space. No one had any miles. That means if you did you likely enjoyed some amazing travel experiences because…
  • Things were harder to monetize (a good thing). If you had 120,000 US airways miles you were heading to Hong Kong in first class for lunch because there wasn’t anything else to do with them. They’d be devalued in a year, award space was plentiful and liquidation wasn’t a serious option.

    Now that same trip is costing you 300,000 Amex or Chase points. Those have real cash value, at minimum $3,000. Would you spend that on a lark for weekend lunch? A passionate hobby has evolved into a successful business, but as is often the case the magic and allure sadly begins to fade.

– Hank

“A duck looking sadly back at a small pond with a Lufthansa first class duckie in it, while a giant ocean filled with dollar signs fills the background.”