Hoping to score some free travel? You could sign up for a branded credit card, cash in your existing frequent flier miles or win a contest or other travel promotion.
Or you could focus your efforts on flying airlines that attract people who are rich, generous and looking for love (or a reasonable facsimile thereof).
And which airline offers the best odds? In the U.S., that honor goes to Delta Air Lines, which, according to a new survey, attracts more love-starved millionaires than any other carrier.
The survey is the latest offering from Brandon Wade, the online dating entrepreneur behind the websites SeekingArrangement.com, SeekingMillionaire.com and the recently launched MissTravel.com, which promises to connect wealthy travelers with attractive but disadvantaged companions.
According to Wade, the survey polled the sites’ millionaire-members about their flying and, shall we say, philanthropic habits. Tallying the 50,000 responses, it revealed:
- The airline that offered the best chance of meeting a millionaire: Delta, which was the choice of 24.1 percent of respondents, beating out United (20.5 percent), American (17.5 percent) and Southwest (14.7 percent).
- The airline that flew the most generous millionaires: American as respondents who chose it reported providing their companions an average monthly allowance of $4,511, more than any other carrier.
- The airline that attracts the highest net-worth millionaires: United, with an average net worth of almost $4.7 million.
- The airline that flew the cheapest millionaires: Southwest. Apparently, millionaires who fly the airline are rather stingy. Despite reporting an average net worth of almost $4 million, respondents only gave their companions a paltry $2,644 per month.
According to Wade, one reason Delta scored so high is that the company also operates a private jet service that caters to deep-pocketed travelers. As for Southwest’s chintzy showing, he said, “A lot of millionaires are, in fact, quite cheap. That’s one of the reasons they’re able to hoard so much money to begin with.”
Not surprisingly, perhaps, the honorees didn’t respond to msnbc.com inquiries or declined to comment.
Nor is it surprising that some observers find the idea of conflating love and money distasteful. When Matt Lauer recently asked a panel of experts about MissTravel, Rosie O’Donnell called it a “veiled escort service” while Star Jones referred to “the ick factor.”
Donny Deutsch, on the other hand, noted that people in all walks of life factor financial security into their relationships. “Who are we to sit and judge?” he said.
TODAY's Professionals, Star Jones and Donny Deutsch, along with Rosie O'Donnell discuss a controversial website called Miss Travel that pairs "attractive" and "generous" single travelers for international trips for free
As for the suggestion that the new survey essentially names the best airlines for gold diggers, Wade maintains that’s not the case and that he’s not alone in putting a transactional spin on love and companionship.
“It’s become part of popular culture through shows like ‘The Bachelor’ and ‘Millionaire Matchmaker;’ everybody’s fantasizing about meeting that millionaire bachelor,” he told msnbc.com. “Being as direct as we are, people find it controversial but it’s what’s happening in our society today.”
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Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.