If you spend a lot of time flying, then you will have heard of airline frequent flyer schemes. The idea of these loyalty programmes is that they encourage you to continually book with the same airline, enabling you to collect points for each mile you fly. These points can later be exchanged for benefits, such as discounts on fares and free upgrades.
Benefits of frequent flyer schemes
By signing up to an airline loyalty programme, you can gain many benefits. The airline itself will gain continued loyalty from you, as a returning customer, but you will also gain some benefits in return.
The benefits, or perks, can include free or discounted flights, airport lounge passes and airplane seat upgrades. Additionally, if you are a loyalty card holder, you will be more likely to receive an upgrade from the airline at check in.
The frequent flyer schemes themselves tend to be free to join, meaning there is no real reason that you cannot sign up for a number of them, even if you believe you will not often fly with that airline.
How do frequent flyer points work?
Frequent flyer programmes encourage loyalty to a specific airline or group of airlines. Airlines will tend to work on a points per mile or a points per pound basis. This means that the further you fly, or the more you spend, the more points you will earn.
Nowadays, it is not solely through miles flown that you can earn points. You can earn points through using airline-branded credit cards (read more here), or shopping online at high street shops, accessed through the airline’s dedicated shopping page or estore (we look at this in more detail here).
What can you spend your points on?
Most points are spent on flights, however they can also be spent on upgrades, hotel stays, car rental, or shopping with brands that are affiliated to the airline. It is best to shop around, allowing you to search for the best value for your points. As an example, two flights may cost the same number of points, however if you were to purchase them individually, they may differ in price. This makes the more expensive of the two the better option to redeem any points on, as it will be better value.
A key thing to note is that whilst points can be used to pay for flights, this will not include taxes, which must be paid for. Taxes make up a large proportion of economy flight prices, but a smaller proportion of business class prices. As a result, business class seats are a more attractive option to spend your points on, with the additional bonus of enabling you to fly in business class!
British Airways Executive Club
British Airways Executive Club allows you to earn and redeem Avios points on all Oneworld member airlines, which includes American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Qatar Airways and Iberia. The number of points granted will depend on the airline, how far you fly, which cabin you can fly in, which ticket type you purchase and what membership tier you are.
If unsure, there is a good Avios points calculator available on the British Airways website here.
If you are an Executive Club Gold or Silver member, or book a First or Business Class ticket, you can access the Oneworld lounges too, along with other benefits. Points can be redeemed on flights taken with Oneworld airlines, either in part or in full, along with hotels, car hire, experiences, and wine.Read more about British Airways and Avios here.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club allows you to earn a percentage of the number of flown miles as points, with higher percentages for more premium cabins and ticket types. Flights can be booked and points earned with Virgin’s partners, which include Delta, Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand and South African Airways. You can also use points earned through American Express, Tesco Clubcard, Hilton Honors, World of Hyatt and Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG), towards your Virgin Atlantic flights.
Points can be used to buy flights, or upgrade your cabin, and you can even gift miles to friends. Points will also be accepted with Virgin’s partners such as eBay, Virgin Holidays, or Tesco.
One thing to note - with the British Airways network being more extensive than Virgin Atlantic’s, especially when you take into account the Oneworld partner routes, you will have a greater choice of routes available with the BA scheme.Read more about the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club here.
Other airline loyalty schemes
Other frequent flyer programmes to note;
Flying Blue - the shared programme from Air France and KLM. This offers you four miles per Euro spent from when you sign up. Read more here.
Etihad Guest - working with Air New Zealand, Alitalia, American Airlines and Virgin Australia.
Emirates Skywards - allows you to earn points on all Emirates and flydubai flights and spend them on hotel stays, days out and tickets to sports events around the world.