Photo Credit: Halfeez
Because of all the traveling that I do – have done over the past eight years in particular – I finally (yeah, like, “finally”) figured that I really ought to be taking advantage of airline frequent flyer miles. I’d already traveled half way around the globe – back and forth – about ten times, and yet hadn’t even bothered to concern myself with the accumulation of air miles or points.
That’s kinda stupid! Providing you have a little bit of savvy on your game plan, you can easily grab a bunch of free flights on an annual basis. And potentially, possibly, maybe one or two of those flights could even be on business class or first class.
Frankly, I’ve only ever traveled business class one time in my entire life, and that was when I was upgraded on a flight from Moscow to Heathrow on Aeroflot way back in the day. Add further to that good fortune, and I was sat beside a beautiful young Russian lady (a part-time model, no less) who could speak English fluently and, as it turns out, we really hit it off (I wonder why…?).
But to get back to the point of the matter at hand…
Why did I not spend a bit of time and make a little effort to save a whole lot of money through the accumulation of air miles?
I can’t answer that, but what I can say is that I’m pursuing this line now. And, if you’re a frequent or even a non-frequent flyer, I suggest you do the same.
I mean, why on earth would you do otherwise, right? Basically, you’re getting a whole lot, and it’s entirely free of charge. You just have to know what you’re doing.
Well, to this end, I figured that while I teach myself, I can also teach you, too. If you have the notion for it.
That said, let’s get started…
What are Your Travel Goals?
If you don’t yet know what your travel goals are, then now is the time to give it some consideration.
For me, well, I’m currently in the U.K. (where I originally come from – Edinburgh in Scotland, to be more precise) and I would want to get back to the Philippines where my son and partner are (my partner is Filipina, my son is, like, half Brit/ half Filipino). So that makes for an obvious destination.
And my plan is to station myself there and make it a base so that I can be with them. In the meantime, I’ll bulk up my air miles and by doing so, can fly around to those alternative destinations that I’ve been considering going to but not yet been to. Such as Japan, for example.
So, how about you? Where do you want to go? For what reason? Do you want to live someplace other than where you are now? Do you wish to take your family on holiday and travel in ultimate style? What are your travel goals?
Once you’ve made a decision or a few decisions about where you want to go, you need to tightly focus on those goals. And dump all the other info available to you. Focus only on what you need and nothing else.
Let me explain what I mean by that.
Almost all airlines, hotel chains, and car hire companies have loyalty programs. So, imagine if you are intent on collecting a bit from this carrier, a few from that hotel chain, and some for a couple of hire companies.
Basically, after a while of doing this, you’d have bits of this and bits of that, but no real concrete plan of how you’re going to be using those points/ miles. Add to this, you’d possibly not have enough points/ miles to get you anywhere, since your “collection” would be made up of all sorts.
So, say you’re in New York. And say that your dream destination is Thailand. You’ve read some blogs about Thailand and you know that there are many other North Americans who go there, either as a holiday destination, or to reside there for some time. Lucky them!
You have a pretty good idea now of what you need to do, don’t you?
That is to figure out what airlines will take you from New York (La Guardia, John F. Kennedy, or whichever airport) to… Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Let’s presume the scenario is that it’s you and your partner that are traveling. And you figure that you’d like to travel business class.
Which airlines offer business class between those two destinations?
That’s the first, and key question to ask.
There are a few choices of airlines, inclusive of PIA (Pakistan International Airlines), Sri Lankan Airlines, Thai Airways, Gulf Air, and Finnair.
You can now get together some dates, and figure out which airline you want to travel with, perhaps based on customer feedback about the airline, and/ or based on the dates you wish to travel and how those dates fit in with the carrier.
Incidentally, with respect to customer feedback, and in terms of the very best airlines to fly with, you can find out more information about that on this website:
At the time of writing, the current top scorers globally are as follows:
- Air Canada
- United Airlines
- Turkish Airlines
Air miles cannot be combined from one program to the other.
You can break the rules here (through what is referred to as flexible reward programs), as you can also break the rules with respect to numerous aspects to this “business.”
Well, more on that later on. But for now, let’s just assume that it’s not possible to do, since it keeps things more simplistic. And to begin, it’s wise to aim to keep things as simple as we can since otherwise, the concepts may seem somewhat complex. Once you get the hang of things, and you will, it’s pretty straightforward.
The Airline Alliances
There are three airline alliances in all. And you will find that almost all of the major carriers belong to one of these three. Not all, but the vast majority.
It’s likely that you’ve heard of at least one of these alliances. But the question arises, why should you care about them?
Well, it’s because you can’t swap air miles from one alliance over to the other. So, you ought to stock your miles with either one or possibly two alliances, or maybe all three, depending on how often you wish to fly and who you wish to fly with (to which destinations).
Those three alliances are inclusive of the following airlines:
The oldest and largest alliance, which currently includes some 28 full member airlines (see the table below for the listing of those). They fly to over 1,320 destination airports in 193 destination countries.
The youngest airline alliance, though the second largest after Star Alliance. SkyTeam includes 20 full member airlines (see below), which fly to a total of over 1,050 destination airports in 177 destination countries.
The third largest alliance, inclusive of 15 full member airlines (see below), which travel to over 1,000 destination airports in 155 destination countries.
|STAR ALLIANCE||SKYTEAM ALLIANCE||ONEWORLD ALLIANCE|
Air New Zealand
South African Airways
Swiss International Airlines
China Southern Airlines
Middle East Airlines
Saudi Arabian Airlines
Sri Lankan Airlines
It’s worth noting that (did you note?) no budget airlines are listed under these three alliances.
Fact is that budget airlines or no-frills airlines, if you prefer, have a tendency for their own mileage/ points programs.
If you do use budget airlines quite often, it’s worth joining up with their individual programs. There are too many of them to provide links to here, so I suggest you do a web search for something along the lines of “[name of airline] points program”.
Let’s be Clear…
What you’d very likely want to do is to select one partner (affiliated to a particular airline or airlines) from possibly two or three different alliances, depending on your needs/ desires.
Why just the one?
Well, that’s because you can credit your points/ miles from that partner to flying with alternative airlines within that same alliance. Is that making sense?
If not, then consider the above table.
Say you want to travel with American Airlines and British Airways to reach your destination by way of first class travel.
If you build up your points/ miles with American Airlines, you can use them to travel on American Airlines and British Airways, given that they are both part of the Oneworld Alliance. Is that clear? I know it can be a little confusing when you’re first starting out.
So, again, keep in mind that you cannot (or rather, it’s difficult to do) swap miles/ points between partners that are in different alliances.
Thus, it’s a tricky proposition to, say, for example, swap your points over from Delta Airlines, which is in the SkyTeam Alliance, over to Singapore Airlines in the Star Alliance setup.
Another thing that we have to be clear about, and it’s worth mentioning here, is that if you prefer to opt for a one-way flight, as opposed to a round trip, you need to make your selection of an airline that does not make a demand for round trip redemptions.
This information, along with the other terms and conditions, is available in the small print on the partner website.
Question: Which airline is the best one for you?
Depends on where you wish to go. And, where you are traveling from.
Also depends on which airline you wish to travel with. Again, if you are seeking out the most highly-rated airlines, you should check out
In the U.S., the airlines are said to be… not so great. It is said by many that a business class flight on the likes of Delta Airlines is similar, in many respects, to an economy flight on the likes of Singapore or Qatar Airlines.
Well, sure, that’s great and all. However, in the U.S. (and Canada) the points/ mileage offers trump all other countries.
Thus, let’s say you reside in Europe – or somewhere outside of the U.S. Then you’d be well served at aiming to earn many/ most of your points/ miles with a U.S. carrier, then transferring those points to a different airline in the same alliance, if need be. This way, you’ll likely be able to accumulate more points in a shorter time frame.
There’s a small problem that must be got around here: If you do wish to register for a mileage program that is U.S.-based, you’ll need a U.S.-based address. For Canadians, that’s likely not the case, and you can continue to use your Canadian address, but for everyone else who is not resident to the U.S., well…
Hey, no problem! For a U.S.-based address, you can sign up to an online company such as this one:
Costs US$10 to set up and there’s no monthly fees or any other fees involved.
This is a lot to divulge if you’re as yet still unfamiliar with the territory. So, I’ll finish there for now.
Coming up in the next post:
- How much are points/ air miles actually worth in terms of $? (This is well worth knowing!)
- How to earn points/ miles (and putting your bum on a flight seat isn’t necessarily the best way to go about this).
- How to go about managing your miles so you are always aware of your totals to date (mismanagement leads to wastage).