Frequent flyer rewards packages have become a major staple of the aviation industry and an important method for airlines to encourage loyalty in the customer. As well as discounted flights and seat upgrades, the fashion for additional perks and incentives has led to increased competition between these rewards programmes to offer the greatest benefits.
Simultaneously, airlines are increasingly working together under umbrella schemes like Oneworld or through partnership agreements to ensure that passengers can collect frequent flyer miles from a greater number of flight providers. As with many things in life, the virtues of a given passenger reward programme rather depends upon what the individual or business in question wishes to receive in return for brand loyalty. This article provides a selection of what is currently on offer in the marketplace.
Beginning with one of the most lauded and well-advertised airlines, Skywards is the name given to Emirates Airline’s frequent flier reward programme. The airline offers a host of commercial partners that make earning and spending your frequent flier miles much more attractive. Alternative airlines such as Easyjet and Qantas allow Skywards members to collect miles, although there are limits to the number of miles that must be collected before the credit can be redeemed. Another benefit of the programme, particularly with business users, is the opportunity to earn additional miles at hotels and through car rentals associated with Emirates.
Typically members will spend their miles on full cost of flight, partial payment of flights and class upgrades. To supplement this, Skywards and their commercial partners allow miles to be redeemed on partner airline flights, luxury hotels, car rentals and even tickets to events.
Oneworld is the frequent fliers programme employed by British Airways, Japan Airlines and a host of other airlines across the globe.
Due to the number of international airlines, the programme is able to boast a high-level, integrated service across almost 1000 destinations and 150 countries. A fact that cannot be overlooked by businesses in the era of global enterprise.
Avios is the name given to the reward currency used by Oneworld and others, and the programme offers a fairly comprehensive list of options for spending your hard-earned reward vouchers. Just as with all the others, reward flights and upgrades are a standard option for spending your Avios. One notable addition to the portfolio is the British Airways partnership with Marks and Spencer to provide on-flight food for flight to and from Heathrow and Gatwick, with executive club members able to spend their Avios on-board.
A recent convert to the Avios currency (but not the Oneworld alliance) is Irish carrier Aer Lingus. AerClub is the frequent flyer programme recently-launched by the airline to replace their Gold Circle Club. Aer Lingus promotes AerClub as a means for all travellers to collect loyalty points which can be used for reward flights and tier benefits. One of the key benefits to using AerClub is the programme’s partnership with United Airlines which will enable passengers flying to the US to receive a relatively high return of miles in comparison to British Airways, for example. However, the pool of participating airlines may be a significant drawback for AerClub, particularly for businesses booking large numbers of flights to several destinations yearly. The scheme is not a part of the Oneworld programme with only British Airways, United Airlines, Qantas and Cathay Pacific participating.
Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club and Singapore Airline’s KrisFlyer offer similar tier-based systems. With Virgin Atlantic miles are earned on the basis of distance of flight, ticket and tier-membership. Depending upon which tier they reside in, members can avail of a rather impressive range of rewards and can even use their points to glide from one tier into the next. The three tiers are red, silver and gold. The red tier allows users to spend their credit on further travel options such as stays at Hilton Hotels or a ticket on the Eurostar whereas the gold tier pampers passenger with spa treatments and access to luxury airport lounges.
The three tiers of the Singapore Airline’s programme are the basic Krisflyer tier, Kriflyer Elite Silver and Krisflyer Elite Gold. As well as the anticipated differences in rewards available, the different tiers offer different access to additional benefits. For instance, the Elite Cold tier enables access to over 1000 luxury lounges throughout the world.
One of the core benefits of the KrisFlyer programme is the number of ways, aside from flying, that you can earn your air miles. The programme website boasts that miles can be earned “…whenever you use your credit card. Book a hotel. Hire a car. Even when making a phone call.”
It is good to know exactly how to earn those frequent flyer miles but it can be a lot more fun deciding how to spend them. Alongside all the usual methods for spending reward miles, Singapore Airlines offer customers the opportunity to convert their miles to Shangri-La Golden Circle loyalty points. With Golden Circle points can be used for rewards such as spa and dining vouchers, as well as upgrades at several global hotel chains.
One of the interesting things about these frequent flyer programmes is the level of cooperation between airlines with regards to allowing passengers to collect points. Almost all reward schemes allow passengers to collect miles with multiple carriers so identifying the pool of carriers associated with a given frequent flyer programme is as important as determining which airline is likely to be the most used. This is certainly the case in the business world where regular flights to various locations is likely to require the services of several different airlines.
As stated at the beginning of this article, deciding which airline has the best rewards package really does depend upon what the customer requires from the service. So, the mantra for consumer advice applies…it pays to shop around.