I’ve said it before and i’ll say it again: if you’re not earning miles you are indeed a moron. It’s free money! I believe in rewarding loyalty in all walks of life. If my local coffee shop thinks that me coming in ten times is worth a free coffee on the eleventh, thanks, it means a lot and you bet i’ll be back. If all the sudden that coffee shop thinks that I am a free loader and ten is far too easy, I might just find a new place to get a cup of coffee. In fact, I might just make it myself. When it comes to airlines things are slightly more complicated. A lot more goes into a successful loyalty program choice than you might have considered.

a map of the world

The Route Map

If there is an airline with a superior frequent flier program that does not serve your route yet has partners who do, why not take the road less traveled, credit the miles to your desired program and fly the partner. You might never set foot on the airline you are an elite with but you’ll earn the most miles, have all the benefits with the partner and find the best uses for your hard earned frequent flier miles. In the best case the partner you end up flying might be the nicest in air experience of all, they just might have a lousy frequent flier program. You’ll still get lounge access, fast track and all the other goodies, you’ll just earn miles through the best airline frequent flier program. More miles, more upgrades and more ways to use them! I like it.

Example: I regularly fly London to Singapore and because Singapore is the best airline on the route I earn miles through them. Well, other airlines fly the route and even if I still want to fly Singapore I might do better crediting my miles to another Star Alliance airline who has more availability or requires less miles for the same seats. It’s not an opinion, just an example. 

a man holding a dollar bill

The Earning Proposition

As with my coffee, If I take a certain number of flights or spend a certain amount of money I’d like a sign of gratitude for my business. After all, everyone offers some form of gratitude, some are just kinder than others. Your ability to earn at least one mile per flown mile is essential. Essentially, if a flight from Los Angeles to New York is 2500 miles, you should earn AT LEAST 2500 miles. As an elite you are often entitled to a small or large multiple of miles flown with a staggering towards tickets up front the more “elite” you become. Before choosing a loyalty program I highly suggest doing some simple calculations of how many miles, tier points or elite qualification you might earn amongst your contenders before pledging business. If airline A offers 100% of miles flown for economy and 300% of miles flown for business and airline B offers 50% of miles flown for economy and 250% for business I know where my money is going!

Example: If I fly to Australia regularly it’s a long way. Duh. Some airline award miles based on the price of ticket rather than distance flown. If I am buying economy tickets, United who offers miles based on price is going to offer far less miles than Qantas. As always, just an example for thought sake, not an opinion.

a screen on the side of a plane

Friends With Benefits. Big Benefits.

What good is all that flying if it just gets you a shot of paint thinner vodka and a better economy seat. By god I am spending good money and I want the best rewards. If you know the amount of flying you do regardless of bonuses, why not compare the benefits of each program at each tier. Being a 75,000 mile a year flier with one airline is going to prove far better than others and being a 100,000 mile flier on some is better than being a 125,000 mile flier on others! How stupid will you feel if someone is doing the same or less flying and getting access to better lounges, more worldwide first class upgrades and a better check in experience. Just like buying a car, comparison shop. 

Example: If American and Delta both offer similar miles for the same flying it comes down to benefits. If I reach 100,000 miles with American I receive eight world wide upgrade certificates. For 125,000 miles of flying with Delta, I would reach “Diamond” but only have four upgrade certificates. Double for me please!

a room with a television and a tv on it

The Redemption, You Work Hard For Your Miles…

I can’t help but chuckle on this one. I don’t collect many frequent flier miles from flying but I have never ending respect for those that do. Most of my miles come from targeted credit card bonuses and promotions. For those of you that rely on butts in seats it’s even more important to get the most value for your miles. Recently many programs have sent the number of miles needed for any flight or cabin you might want to take into orbit. Not everyone though. If you have a dream vacation in mind and the only way you’ll be able to do it in luxury is with miles make sure you’ve picked the program that requires the least miles and the least money to achieve your dream. 

Example: Etihad requires a hell of a lot of miles for using their own mileage program for one of their nifty First Apartment seats. Using partners like American you might be able to snag the seats for a fraction of the miles bringing the whole family on vacation in a style only known to royalty. Every program is different. It’s on you. 

an aerial view of airplanes at an airport

If people took their flying as seriously as they did buying a car or buying a house, heck, even a cup of coffee travelers would be happier. Many people book travel last minute or dread the experience simply finding the cheapest ticket, getting on the plane and forgetting about it. Even if you are buying the cheapest ticket you are a moron if you’re not earning at least some free magazines in return. It doesn’t take much and if executed well, you could travel like me ; )

As Always, Get in Touch: GodSaveThePoints@gmail.com

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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