Bad news: There isn’t one single frequent-flier program that stands above the rest. Nor is there a single tried and tested plan for getting the best out the system. There are just too many airlines, too many loyalty schemes and too many variables – one size simply doesn’t fit all.
You can, however, follow these basic rules to increase your chances of securing airline perks and discounts.
Rule 1 – Pool your miles
The No. 1 rule is to make every flight count. That means making decisions that allow you to pool miles in one program during a calendar year. In short, it’s not use choosing a different airline each time you fly.
Rule 2 – Figure out which airline(s) suits you best
This is the hardest part. Ask yourself:
- Which airline(s) do I most like to fly with?
- Which airline(s) flies from my city to most, if not all, my regular destinations?
- If my airline doesn’t fly to all my destinations, is it allied with another carrier that does?
- Does this airline have a credit card? We will return to credit cards later.
Rule 3 – Signup to one program per airline alliance
Many airlines throughout the world belong to one of the three big airline alliances – Star Alliance, SkyTeam, oneworld. Find the airline that suits you best in each alliance and signup (see rule 2). Sign up to alerts for specials and bonus point opportunities too.
Rule 4 – Focus on one program
Fly with your chosen airline…wherever and whenever possible. If that means spending a little more on a ticket, or taking a less convenient flight, so be it. Commitment pays in the long run.
Rule 5 – Don’t use miles for anything other than flying
Frequent-flier miles have more ‘value’ when claimed against flights. Resist the temptation to cash them in on a gadget.
Rule 6 – Sign up for your chosen airline’s credit card
Use the card and it will reward you with bonus miles. Buy a flight on your chosen airline with that card, and often you’ll receive a bonus of three or five times the miles. Some travelers take this rule to the extreme by ‘credit card churning’ – learn about credit card churning on our blog.
Rule 7 – Keep miles alive
Take advantage of offers to keep miles that are due to expire active.
Rule 8 – Go for gold…silver…platinum…elite
Put simply, achieving ‘elite’ status is necessary for the best perks. Some frequent fliers actually take flights purely for the purpose of retaining their elite status – for them the rewards secured for the next year outweigh the cost of that flight. Within reason, make choices that’ll help you retain that elite status. Follow the first seven rules and you’re more than halfway there.
Written by insider city guide series Hg2 | A Hedonist’s guide to…
(Image: Robert S. Donovan)