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How Airline Miles Will Bring You Smiles

Your guide to airline memberships and how loyalty programs work

Got your card-holder stuffed with membership cards from your most visited stores?

How excited are you when that card is all stamped and you get the ninth donut free?

Isn’t your inbox flooded with coupon codes waiting to be used?

Well, that’s the magic of membership programs, which introduce us to a whole new world of money-saving techniques!

The airline industry is just the same; but on a relatively larger scale.

1. How Airline Membership Programs work:

Airline Membership Programs work in a very systematic manner. Most airlines allow you to indulge in their Frequent Flyer Programs that enable their customers to accumulate points. The points are obtained by flying a certain distance. These points get accrued over time based on the class, frequency and miles you travel. After you have gathered enough points, you may choose to redeem them in the form of complimentary upgrades, cheaper or sometimes even free flights to your desired destination.

2. What are the benefits of the Airline Consortium?

While every airline has its own unique loyalty program, many also form a part of an airline consortium, wherein you can gather all your flyer miles into one, irrespective of the airline you travel in and redeem them in the same way. You can enjoy the same benefits across all airlines that are a part of these alliances.

Star Alliance, OneWorld and SkyTeam operate some of the best airline membership programs globally.

3. Simplifying the concept of Flyer Miles:

Think of this as a game. The objective of the game is to earn as many points as possible, by flying often with a particular airline or allied airline. The game has multiple levels, wherein you accumulate a set number of miles and upgrade yourself into a higher tier, which has more perquisites than the previous one. Ultimately, you reach the apex and reap the luxuries of your frequent travels.

These airline membership programs ideally work best for the suited and booted strata of the business world who start their week in Tokyo and end it with a drink somewhere in Manhattan. Globetrotters and adventurists also revel in the perks of these loyalty programs. However, airline memberships also prove to be very helpful for occasional flyers.

  • Pampered and how!

Depending upon the tier status of your airline membership program with any airline or network, you will be spoilt with privileges. Priority check-ins, fast-track security, excess baggage allowance, priority boarding, pre-reserved seating, in-flight privileges will become a part of your life that is free of waiting in long queues, and fighting for the aisle or window seat.

  • Plunge to the lounge

Imagine you’re travelling to Canada, with a connecting flight from Hong Kong. The gap between your journey is about 6 hours. Agreed, that the Hong Kong International Airport is like another world in itself waiting to be explored, but you are exhausted and the armchairs in the lobby are almost breaking your back. What do you do?

Based on a specific upper-tier membership program you hold with an airline, you get an access to a private lounge that personifies luxury. From complimentary food to an open bar, relaxing massages to an attendant who wakes you up on time for your flight, these lounges are undoubtedly a boon. As you climb up the membership miles ladder these privileges only get better.

  • Family-friendly

A majority of airlines encourage Family Pooling, a feature that allows a flyer to group their family member’s points all into one account. Pooling serves to be a genius solution for earning more airline miles in less time. The benefits of this also spill onto redeeming bigger rewards.

Speaking of family, how can we leave out our cuddly pets? Select airlines stretch themselves far beyond and allow your pet to earn flyer points too.

  • The Redemption

Here’s the fun part of the game!

After having traveled relentlessly from one city, country, continent to the other, your cluster of points will make all the jet-lag worth it.

There are numerous was to redeem your airline miles. For the purpose of understanding, think of these points as a form of virtual currency. Each airline has their own independent and variable value for their points.

– Fly free

Once you are satisfied with your flyer miles count, you may choose to redeem them through a free or partially free flight. Most often than not, the ‘free flights’ cover the base fare and the flyer has to pay for the taxes. However, if you are one of those lucky ones who has been hopping onto a plane every now and then, your points may be enough to land you an absolutely free of cost flight. It is to be noted that the availability of such award flights are subject to blackout dates, mostly during peak seasons.

– Upgrade

That’s the glorious moment when your points are sufficient to move you from a premium economy class to a business or first class. The miles will be deducted from your account, as you sip on that glass of bubbly champagne.

– Shop

Picture this. You were out on a hectic trip and forgot to buy a little something for your husband. You realise this while you’re 40,000 feet up in the sky. Here’s where in-flight shopping comes to your rescue, as it offers you a catalogue filled with off-the-shelf products and novelty items, making it an interesting way of redeeming your points.

– Hotel stays

The hospitality sector, though competitive, is very inter-connected. Airlines and hotels enter a tie-up, where you can earn extra flyer points by checking into their partnered hotels and redeem them for a discounted stay package.

– Charity

Many times, travelers have a points-heavy balance, but no occasion to use it. After a certain period, these points get lapsed and become unredeemable. In such cases, the best option is to donate your flyer miles to someone homesick who could use a trip to meet their family. Charity foundations use these donations for sick children to fulfil their travel dreams, making this a benevolent way to utilise your unused points.

  • Bonus Bonanza

Airlines often come out with schemes on select destinations and dates that award you with bonus points above and beyond what you may already earn. The bonus helps you to amp-up your overall points and even achieve a higher tier membership.

Some times, if frequent flyers share their grievances or causes of inconvenience with the airlines, as a form of gratis, they receive a certain number of compensatory points.

Frequent Flyer Membership Programs are an absolute win-win situation for the passengers as well as the airlines. The flyers experience class and comfort, along with a certain elite status that comes with all these high-end privileges. The airlines and consortiums on the other hand have a loyal member for life who would choose their flight over their competitors’. So the next time embark upon an aerial journey, sign-up for a good loyalty program that best fits your bill.

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