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Travel: Tickets To Ride


You don't have to be a corporate giant to get volume discounts from major airlines. With the large carriers still in a slump, most stand ready to repay your company's loyalty with free upgrades and flights.

The mechanics of most airline rewards programs are similar: Reach certain spending thresholds, or send employees on enough flights, and your company accumulates upgrades and free tickets. Businesses that spend $5,000 with United Airlines (UALAQ) within three months get a free upgrade via the airline's Perks Plus program; $20,000 in expenses buys a free round-trip coach ticket. Alaska Airlines' (ALK) EasyBiz lets companies spending at least $5,000 a year receive miles for use toward flights to and from the airline's Seattle hub. Participants still get to bank miles in their own frequent-flier accounts, and the airlines offer Web sites to help track spending online.

As for the new discount airlines, travelers on United offshoot Ted get credits toward the parent company's program, and Song travelers can participate in Delta Air Lines' (DAL) SkyBonus. Hotshot JetBlue Airways (JBLU) is conspicuous in its absence. JetBlue spokesman Gareth Jones says the airline does not offer corporate discounts because its fares "are already the lowest on offer." Fair enough. But don't you deserve just a little more?

By David Kaufman


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