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Loyalty programs & how to work the system - Mirage - 12-16-2012

Considering many of us currently are travelling or aspiring to travel, I figured a bit of info guide should be made for working the system to your advantage. I used to hate flying, until I started to get some status and now flying is something which I really enjoy.

Loyalty Programs (Airlines & Hotels)

If you are not signed up to a loyalty program for every airline and hotel you use, you are missing out on valuable rewards and airline/hotel status. Most airlines have some form of rewards program which is linked into their airline partnerships (this is very important).

Why does one want to improve their frequent flyer status?
Benefits, benefits and more benefits.

- Airline Club Lounges (valuable for those trips with the dreaded 3 - 6+ hour layovers) Often but not always, free booze, free food, free internet and in the bigger lounges shower's and other things that make you more comfortable. Once you start using club lounges over the cattle class lounges you will never look back.

- Upgrades, yes cattle class is almost always a horrible experience and I come in at a minor 5'5, I would hate to be 6'+. I found that by Gold status with one network, I was now getting comp upgrades 2/10 flights which is better than nothing. Now platinum and at least 50% of my economy sectors are upgraded.

- Preferential Seating, on those flights where an upgrade is not always possible, you are at least guaranteed the best economy seats in the house, the ones which are blocked on the online checkin for everyone else. A bonus which is not always possible is that they also will block the seat next to you so that you have a bit of extra space (always a bonus).

- Preferential Checkin, Online checkin has removed a lot of the problems here but it is still nice not having to line up for long to bag drop (if checking bags). Express security and customs passes are by far the best benefit here, saves so much time.

- Baggage Allowance, in the day and age of increasingly expensive baggage allowances, status will get you good allowances usually starting on the first tier up (silver or equiv). Gold or higher and you can expect the same as business class, even flying on the cheapest economy ticket.

I find that these benefits make travel far more enjoyable. Most of these benefits are attainable simply because you fly often, all you have to do is sign up and start clocking up the points/status, yet so many people are too lazy to even do that.


How to work the system?
Once you understand the system, you can play the system.

- Credit Cards, link you reward scheme to your most used frequent flyer program. All of my expenses go onto my Amex, my amex earns 1.75 points for every dollar spent (I started putting business expenses through my own amex and then reimbursing myself, nothing like getting points for stuff that you technically did not even pay for).

- Flight Upgrades vs Reward flight, Always use frequent flyer points for upgrades, that is by far the best value you will get out of them. Buying a flexi economy ticket for a few hundred dollars and then going for the upgrade is something you will get used to very quickly. Once you fly business you will not want to look at an economy cabin ever again.
Complete flight rewards on points are restrictive and you still have to pay cash for the taxes, not good value for money.

- Try to stick to one airline and hotel network, if the price is right, it is the way to go. I'd prefer to pay a small amount more to travel within my frequent flyer network and make use of my perks than to skimp. Do the numbers, often there is only $50 - $60 difference for a domestic flight and a $200 - $300 difference for long hauls to keep you within that network.
This will make more sense once you have the higher status, you will spend the little extra, no questions asked for the benefits. (See benefits above)

Airline / Hotel Networks
A lot of people don't know where to start because they travel on so many different airlines, especially if you are travelling internationally. Here is some basic overviews.

- Your airline frequent flyer program is going to give you the perks across the airline's alliances. Just because you fly many different airlines does not mean that they are not a part of an alliance, you status will still have value.

- Star Alliance - This is one of the larger alliances
Star Alliance Member Airlines

- One World - Second Biggest
One World Member Airlines

- Virgin shares amongst their own group airlines and also Etihad, Singapore Airlines, Air NZ and a few others. This network is growing but it is still not comprehensive.

Hotels

- Accor

- Club Carlson

I am less picky with hotel programs and now prefer apartments, although I have found the two above to be exceptional. Have had plenty of upgrades as a high tier Accor member.


Conculsion

Many of these benefits are very simple to obtain if you travel frequently, try stick within a single network and you will build status very quickly. If you can push your credit benefits to a particular network you will find that you never are short of frequent flyer points to use for upgrades. You are already spending the money on flights and accommodation, work it to your advantage.

[Image: 218749_10151138648982236_980296604_o.jpg]

[Image: 416508_10151138649487236_1968488682_o.jpg]

^ some photos from the Business Class cabin on a domestic flight within Australia, I was flying this route twice a month and upgraded either comp or with points 100% of the time. $450 return for business class, compared to $2400 to buy the tickets!

Enjoy your travels!


RE: Loyalty programs & how to work the system - RockingForever - 12-16-2012

I've never gotten round to signing up for loyalty programs on any of the airlines I use frequently, very silly really as obviously missing out. Have still managed to get a couple of free upgrades to business class on long haul over the years which was nice. Makes going back into cattle class difficult though and there's no way I'd pay the price to fly business.


RE: Loyalty programs & how to work the system - steve jabba - 12-16-2012

Clever! I like it!

Cool