How to make airline frequent-flyer programmes work for you

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Follow these basic rules and you’ll increase your chances of securing airline perks and discounts

Bad news, there isn’t one single frequent-flyer programme that stands out 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. However, follow these basic rules and you’ll increase your chances of securing airline perks and discounts.

The excellent featured image is by Robert S. Donovan.

RULE 1 – POOL YOUR MILES

The number one rule is to make every flight count. That means making decisions that allow you to pool miles in one programme during a calendar year. In short, it’s no 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 local airport 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 – SIGN UP TO ONE PROGRAMME PER AIRLINE ALLIANCE

Many airlines belong to one of the three big airline alliances – Star Alliance, SkyTeam, oneworld. Find the airline that suits you best in each alliance and sign up (see rule 2). Sign up to alerts for specials and bonus point opportunities too.

RULE 4 – FOCUS ON ONE PROGRAMME

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-flyer 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 travellers take this rule to the extreme by “credit card churning” – learn about credit card churning with our blog.

RULE 7 – KEEP MILES ALIVE

Take advantage of offers to keep miles that are due to expire active.

RULE 8 – GO OR GOLD … SILVER … PLATINUM … ELITE

Put simply, achieving “elite” status is necessary for the best perks. Some frequent-flyers 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…

How to make airline frequent-flyer programmes work for you was last modified: June 26th, 2019 by Brett Ackroyd
Author: Brett Ackroyd (631 posts)

Brett hopes to one day reach the shores of far-flung Tristan da Cunha, the most remote of all the inhabited archipelagos on Earth…as to what he’ll do when he gets there, he hasn’t a clue. Over the last 10 years, London, New York, Cape Town and Pondicherry have all proudly been referred to as home. Now it’s Copenhagen’s turn, where he lends his travel expertise to momondo.com.