Virgin America Elevate
Fliers fed up with fees who can still remember when flying was a luxury are flocking to airline perks programs to get that "friendly skies" feeling again.

The ranks of airline rewards seekers have grown 17% from little more than 277.4 million in 2008 to 325 million today. Take it all the way back to 2006 and loyalty program membership has soared 28% since that time.

Bigger airlines may have VIP lounges and smaller outfits offer low-cost upgrades, but if you're lucky enough to live in a Virgin America destination, you can get a free flight for as spending as little as $500 -- a pittance to a holiday flier. More importantly, Virgin Atlantic vows that said flight won't be subject to blackout days and keeps that claim free of the nasty little asterisks that can muck up an otherwise fine offer.

Perhaps the best part is that, much as with other airlines, fliers don't have to actually fly to earn their Virgin America points. The airline converts American Express ( AXP) Membership Rewards points, tacks on points for stays at Hilton, Morgans Hotel Group ( MHGC) and Wynn ( WYNN) hotels and gives away points for flower purchases at FTD.

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