What is a Frequent Flyer Programme?
A Frequent Flyer Programme (FFP) is a benefit programme offered by airlines to reward people for using their services. It’s a kind of incentive to encourage customers to continue to fly with them. In 1981, American Airlines introduced the first mileage-based FFP in the world called AAdvantage. Under this programme, initially customers were given rewards such as upgrades from Economy Class to First Class for flying 12,000 miles, and a 20% discount on a roundtrip ticket for flying 20,000 miles. Just a few days later, a competing airline, United Airlines announced its own Frequent Flyer Programme, Mileage Plus. And in order to be one-up on its competitor, it offered an enrollment bonus of 5000 miles. As expected, soon other domestic airlines in the US joined in the fray. The battle for air miles had begun.
Today, different airlines across the world have their own loyalty programs. There are over 130 airline FFPs worldwide, each of them offering customers a range of benefits depending upon the sectors and the number of miles flown or flights taken. For example, an airline could offer its Frequent Flyer Programme members a free international flight on completing a certain number of domestic flights. Across the world, business and other frequent travellers are capitalizing on the many benefits of FFPs. But due to low awareness levels, the popularity of FFPs has yet to gather pace in India. So, if you often travel by air or even if you don’t fly too frequently, it would be to your advantage to understand the significance of enrolling for these programmes, specially considering that reaping the rewards has become even easier nowadays. So read on to find out how.
Groups of airlines have now joined to form alliances so that the FFPs of the different member airlines can be integrated. This means that if you enroll for the FFP of one airline in an alliance, you could earn “points” or benefits even when you fly with any of the other member airlines in the alliance. So, each time you fly with any alliance member, you collect “points” in your account even though the different alliance partners may have their own FFP. However, although you could join more than one FFP within an alliance, remember that some alliances may not allow you to club the “points” or “miles” earned in each of these FFPs to redeem rewards. Therefore, it is advisable to enroll for a single FFP within an alliance, preferably the FF program of the airline you’re likely to fly with more often. That way all the miles you earn while flying with any of the member airlines will accrue into a single account and not be dispersed into several FFP accounts, thus diluting your benefits. Some of the main alliances include: Star Alliance, OneWorld, and Skyteam Alliance.
Collaborations with Non-airline Partners
Nowadays you can benefit from Frequent Flyer Programmes even when you don’t fly! According to The Economist, more than half of all FFP points are earned on the ground. If you’re wondering how this could be possible, here’s how it is done. Airlines today are entering into partnerships not just with other airlines but also with organizations not in the flying business, such as hotels and banks. Today, many credit cards are linked to airline FFPs. Which means you could be earning rewards even while you’re engaged in mundane activities like shopping. In other words you could add “miles” to your FFP account even when you’re buying a pair of shoes, filling petrol in your car, or dining out.
What are Frequent Flyer Miles?
All established and top airlines offer their FFP members mileage points or air miles as well as tier or status miles; and there’s a big difference between these two types of airline Frequent Flyer Miles. You earn air miles by flying as well as buying services from the airline’s partners. These air miles can then be collected and later redeemed for free air tickets or other rewards. However, you collect status miles only by actually flying. Most Frequent Flyer Prrograammes offer tiered membership plans – some have two tiered or three tiered membership levels while some may even have five tiers. Once the total number of airline frequent flyer miles you have flown reaches a certain limit, you become eligible for moving to a higher membership level within your FFP. The higher your membership or status level, the greater the number of perks you enjoy. Although the status level rewards may vary among the different FFPs, and many of the travel benefits may not apply to the lower tiers, here are some of the main benefits you can enjoy by earning status miles:
Free or discounted upgrading to a higher class while travelling
Priority reservations waitlisting
Priority airport standby
Priority airport check-in
Priority baggage handling
Extra baggage allowance
Access to business and first class airport lounges even with an economy class ticket