8 reasons you should join a frequent flyer programme
As someone who flies quite regularly and usually long-haul, I often get asked if it’s worth it to join a frequent flyer programme. My answer to this would usually be yes, unless you exclusively fly short-haul around Europe with budget airlines. Even if you only fly once or twice a year with one of the major airlines, you can still get some perks from being a member of their frequent flyer programmes. These often save you money one way or another so it’s definitely something worth considering.
1. Air miles
You’ll collect air miles any time you fly with any airline that’s part of the group you’ve chosen as your frequent flyer programme. The main programmes are Oneworld, Star Alliance and Sky Team. Within these three programmes, you have the majority of airlines covered that fly from the UK. Although a lot of people think you can only reap rewards from airlines if you’re putting in significant flying time, that’s not necessarily the case. The points that every member collects, regardless of status within the frequent flyer programme, can be used to upgrade flights, buy flights, redeem for experiences abroad, used for car hire and hotel stays and even be used to purchase wine!
2. Business Class/First Class check-in and fast-track security
If you’re flying regularly enough and/or flying in premium cabins, you’ll start to accrue enough points to progress to the next status level in your chosen frequent flyer programme. One of my favourite benefits of this status is being able to use Business Class or First Class check-in and fast-track security. Unless you’re particuarly fond of queuing in airports, this benefit is worth its weight in gold. There’s minimal hanging around as significantly fewer people are eligible to use these check-in desks and you’ll be able to speedily make your way to:
3. The lounge
This is what every member of a frequent flyer programme aspires to. If you know you’ll be earning enough points to achieve the coveted status that gives you free lounge access whenever you fly, you may want to consider which airport you’ll be flying from and the airlines you’ll be flying with so you can choose the programme that gives you the best deal in terms of lounge access. Fortunately, my local airport is Heathrow, which has lounges for all major airline groups but if you’re flying from a more regional airport, there may not be such a big choice. In the lounge you’ll get free food and drink (usually including alcohol) so I find this is a great money-saver as I never need to buy food at the airport. Other freebies include magazines, newspapers, and wifi. And don’t forget the handy charging points for your electronic devices while you wait for your flight in a much more comfortable environment than the general departure area.
4. Extra baggage allowances
So come on, who agrees with me that a standard 23kg allowance for your 2-week work trip or holiday is pushing it? Do these people have any idea how much a pair of shoes weighs?! Once you start making your way to a higher frequent flyer status, you can get perks such as a heavier baggage allowance and an extra checked bag free of charge. This is great for me when I’m travelling for work as I often have to carry a lot of marketing materials in my suitcase, and paper is not light.
5. Priority boarding
There are some fellow travellers I know who would rather wait until their name is literally called on the tanoi before boarding their flight, but I’m more of the priority boarding school of thought. I nearly always have a carry-on suitcase with me as well as my handbag and I get paranoid if I can’t put it directly above me in the overhead locker. Locker space can be a premium on some flights, but priority boarding eliminates this issue. Additionally, you get more time to settle down in your seat. If you’re in Economy, there aren’t usually a lot of people boarding first so you have a lot of space to sort your things out before the rush. I also usually choose a window seat so I prefer not having to climb over people to get into my seat last minute.
6. Free seat selection when you book
This is an amazing benefit of having some kind of status in your frequent flyer programme, especially if you’re desperate for a window or aisle seat. Seriously, I know no-one who would rather sit in a middle seat. Once you reach a certain status, airlines will often let you pick your seat at the time of booking rather than waiting for the rush to book seats 24 hours before your flight. Some airlines will also allow elite members to book preferred seats (e.g. emergency exit row) free of charge, when it could otherwise cost anywhere up to £100 to book this seat.
7. Dedicated customer service hotlines
We all hope we’ll never need to use these, but if you’re a frequent flyer there are always going to be occasions when you have to call your airline because your bag is in Tel Aviv instead of Toronto or your flight has been delayed for whatever reason. Most airlines will have a dedicated number that you can call if you’re a certain status in your frequent flyer programme. I’ve always had my queries dealt with very quickly whenever I’ve had to contact my airline but I know that other people have had issues with the same airline if they haven’t held a frequent flyer status.
8. Share the love!
Once you’ve collected all your points, have coveted lounge access, priority boarding and a free magazine, you’re all set for a great airport experience. Most frequent flyer programmes will allow you to have one guest, who can take advantage of your status right from check-in through to boarding, providing they’re on the same booking as you.
What’s your favourite perk of being in a frequent flyer programme? Let me know in the comments below!