Rack up more frequent flyer miles on your card to redeem them for free upgrades, vouchers and more.
In the 2009 film ‘Up in the Air’, the corporate downsize expert Ryan Bingham played by George Clooney hopes to earn ten million frequent flyer miles with American Airlines. But not every business traveller can afford to be a ‘mileage runner’, someone who travels to score more points. But if you exercise a small amount of circumspection, you can accrue enough points to make the summer family trip to Paris an all paid one.
Sign Up, It’s Free
Siddharth Reddy, CEO of Country Club and a gold member of a frequent flyer club, is on the road for at least 15 to 20 days in a month. “During international flights, you have to check in early. Even for domestic travel, you lose at least 4 to 5 hours in delays and commute. So I utilise the lounge access offered by the club to shower and arrive fresh for a meeting.”
Business travellers are easily the most frequent flyers among frequent flyers. Every time you get onto a plane, you earn more miles on your frequent flyer card – and then, there are the miles you earn when travelling on your airline’s codeshare and partners airlines.Membership is free, and you have nothing to lose.
Know What You Are Getting Into
The core focus of any frequent flyer programme is to promote customer loyalty and repeat purchases by rewarding members, explains K. Swaminathan, Deputy General Manager (Corporate Communications) of Air India, which has over 5,00,000 members in its frequent flyer programme, Flying Returns.
A member can earn miles on both flying and non-flying activities. The latter includes purchases at partnered hotels, restaurants, car rentals, online boutiques, and more. “The idea is that when a customer spends money, a percentage of the money comes back to him or her as rewards points. These points are then converted into tangible benefits such as online purchases and travel voucher,” explains Vijay Bobba, CEO, imint, the rewards programme that has partnered with Air India, Jet Airways, Kingfisher and MakeMyTrip.
“The intention of the airlines is to use aspirational value, and offer frills like upgrades, exotic holidays and lounge access that otherwise would cost a lot of money.”
The number of miles you accrue depends on the sector and the class you are flying in. At a time when ticket fares can unpredictably shoot up, free tickets that these miles can be redeemed for are of high value, says Shushant Gombe of the Partners & Alliances department at Jet Airways’ frequent flyer club, JetPrivilege. “These miles can be earned and redeemed also across the 23 partner airlines of Jet Airways.”Most clubs have different tiers of memberships, and the benefits also differ accordingly.
Carry Your Card With You
K Subramanian, CEO of Audi Chennai, travel about eight times a month within India and once in two months to other countries. A member of Kingfisher Airlines’ King Club, JetPrivilege and Star Alliance, he makes sure he quotes his frequent flyer number at the time of being issued a boarding pass.
You never know when you might end up in a place that lets you earn miles on making a purchase, and it would be a shame if you lose out on them just because you had left your card behind.
Get The Right Co-branded Card
Frequent flyer clubs offer co-branded credit cards with firms like American Express, ICICI, Citi, Standard Chartered, HSBC and HDFC. If you do choose such a card, please read the fine print carefully, and consider if the card’s annual fee and interest rates, and cap on mileage rewards are worth it.
Know Your Partners & Alliances
When you join the loyalty programme, you receive a welcome kit, and also frequent emails. These are usually deleted unread but a cursory glance is helpful to know how to add miles to your account. The sectors you have to watch out for to earn miles are hotels, restaurants, financial services, car rentals, online boutiques, publishing, lifestyle destinations, holiday packages and telecom partners such as Uniconnect, Clay, Travelling Connect, and Matrix. The latter usually have roaming rewards programmes to earn miles for calls, SMSes and data transfer. Even riding an EasyCab or buying office solutions might earn you miles.
Once you are aware of your club’s partners and alliances, you can be smart to earn more points with just one single transaction using multiple partners. Bobba gives an example, “If you book an Air India flight on MakeMyTrip using an ICICI card, you will earn miles for the ticket, the portal and the card itself separately.”
Most frequent flyer clubs offer the ‘triple dip’ facility where travellers earn points with their individual airline programmes, companies earn points towards free tickets with their corporate airline programmes and companies earn rewards points when they pay vendors with co-branded cards.
Keep Track Of Your Miles
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. But for most business travellers, miles are incidental and not the objective. Mustafa Parvez, the National Sales Head of George P Johnson, says, “I travel too much to keep track of the miles. I have seen instances where points have not been updated. I also do not earn points when I stay at partnered hotels. However, when I go on an international flight, I make sure that the points are credited.”
Some clubs like AAdvantage of American Airlines offer Mileage Maximier, which allows users to calculate mileage-earning opportunities. In India, the onus mostly lies on the frequent flyer. Explains Bobba, “The West is a mature market and it is natural for each customer to be asked if he or she is a part of a loyalty programme. Most premier stores in India also do this but overall, there is a problem perhaps because of inconsistent training and attrition.”
Hence, a routine check on the miles sitting in your account is advisable. If you find that some of the trips have not been accounted for in miles, contact the customer care immediately.
Another good idea would be to use Points.com, where you can supervise all your loyalty programmes at the same time. You can also share, swap, and trade points between existing rewards programmes, and other members here.
Look Out For Special Promotions
“Every six months, I receive an email with special offers such as free flights and upgrades. That is when I usually redeem the miles,” says Reddy. Keep an eye out for these since you might find a promotion that matches your plans. Remember these are time-bound and hence, it has to be seen and acted upon at the earliest.
Save Miles For A Rainy Day
If the flight you have planned to take is a great deal, there is no point in redeeming miles to pay for the ticket. Use the miles to redeem tickets when the rates are really high.
Good things don’t last forever. Your miles expire after a stipulated period. Some clubs do offer reactivation options at a special charge sometimes but it is an unnecessary process. And remember, wasting miles is equivalent to wasting money and as businesspersons, that is not something you can condone.