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When I was an Executive Assistant and used to book business travel for high-flying execs, I quickly realised the almost sacred level of devotion and obsession the execs gave to certain airlines and frequent flyer alliances.
For a while, I was puzzled about the rigorousness with which they would check that their frequent flyer cards were inside the flight booking and that they had been credited with the relevant air miles and status points after each flight. To be honest, I thought they were a little loopy: who cared if a flight here or there was missing from their statement? It became an eccentricity that I just had to work around to get them from point A to point B.
However, when it came to my turn to start flying for business (alas, not in business class), I quickly gained an appreciation for just what those little silver and gold or even platinum, if you’re very lucky, cards could do. Now I want to share their magic with you.
There are three main global frequent flyer alliances:
Star Alliance: made up of airlines such as Singapore Airlines & Thai Airways, as well as Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Ethiopian Airways, Eva Air, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, South African Airways, Swiss, Turkish Airlines and United Airlines
Sky Team: made up of airlines such as KLM, Air France, Alitalia, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Czech, Delta, Kenya Airways, Korean Air, Vietnam Airlines and Xiamen Air
oneworld: made up of Malaysia Airlines, Air Berlin, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, JAL, Qantas, Qatar Airways and Royal Jordanian
In fact, the only major airlines (relevant for Asian business travellers, anyhow) who aren’t part of the alliance are Emirates and Etihad Airlines who have their own frequent flyer schemes and at this moment don’t seem to want to join the crowd.
So what’s the magic of frequent flyer cards that I mentioned earlier?
Quite simply, as your status progresses you’re entitled to more perks: not only the obvious, in being able to fly for free, but in other ways too which are essential for business travellers.
1. Access to the lounges
Usually once you hit silver status, you can use the lounge of that alliance (so long as you’re flying with a partner airline), regardless of whether you’re flying economy or business. And as any business traveller who’s ever been into a lounge can tell you, it’s not just the free food that you can take advantage of. Free wifi, power plugs and even showers make travelling long-haul that bit more bearable.
2. More baggage allowance
Again, once you’ve hit silver, this can mean an additional 10kg of baggage. Handy if you need to bring some presentation or conference materials with you or just want to indulge in a bit of post-conference shopping.
3. Greater chance of being upgraded
You may have dressed up for your flight in the hope that your blazer will impress the check-in counter staff, but the truth is that the check in counter staff have a long list of criteria when it comes to who gets that upgrade. Oftentimes, it comes down to holding a frequent flyer card with the right status. And to prove this isn’t just an urban myth? My boyfriend still brags about the time he got upgraded on an Emirates flight from Dubai to KL, just because he was silver status with them.
4. Better looked after if something goes wrong
Your flight’s cancelled, you’ve missed your connecting flight… life is that bit easier if you have a status card to flash around at the check-in staff, who are keen to treat their repeat customers like precious jewels.
5. Priority screening & boarding
Always in a hurry on business trips? Frequent flyer schemes give you more flexibility when you board the plane or as you’re rushing through the airport.
So with which airlines should you sign up? Don’t fall into the trap of signing up to every frequent flyer scheme you can get your mouse on. Instead, be strategic. After all, you don’t want to waste those already wasted hours flying.
Pick one key airline from each alliance that covers a country you frequently fly to/ from. A good choice is always your national airline, as chances are that they’ll be the one you use the most, whether for business or leisure trips.
So for Singaporeans who often head to Europe, the best combination might be Singapore Airlines (Star Alliance)/ Qatar Airways (oneworld)/ KLM (Sky Team). If instead you head over to Australia and Japan more, then you might swap Qatar for Qantas (you can also earn Qantas points when you fly Jetstar) and KLM for Korean Air.
Once you’ve signed up, try to only use those cards, no matter which airline you fly. That will help you to amass enough status points on each card to qualify for the next tier and, as a bonus, enough to earn those oh-so-tantalising mileage points to get your leisure tips for free.
And as for me? I’ve got one more flight before I hit silver status with Emirates. Already, the mirage of the business lounge at Dubai Airport and potential upgrades to business class are shimmering before my eyes, taunting me as they get ever closer. I think I finally understand the obsession and fascination those execs felt.
Image cover source: caribb
Guest post by Hannah Pearson: Hannah is the marketing and community manager for Sedunia Travel, a travel agency based out of KL. Originally from the UK, she has also lived in France and China, giving her a truly international outlook. Hannah loves to give travel advice to all travel newbies and swap stories with the travel pros. LinkedIn. Google+.