One of the biggest travel questions, especially among infrequent travelers, is whether it is important to maintain loyalty to one airline or an alliance. Some people say no, but there are a number of advantages to sticking with an alliance. Business travelers and those who fly over 100,000 miles a year, like myself, can attest to the benefits and importance of sticking with one airline and alliance.
Wondering how to choose an airline or alliance? Look at your travel habits or what your intended trips are for the future. Do you live near an airline’s hub? Is there an alliance that better services a part of the world you plan to visit?
Even if you only travel a couple times each year, trying to maintain status with one airline and utilizing other partners in the alliance can eventually save you money and give you some added perks that will make future travel a little bit easier.
The easiest and most obvious benefit is booking a future flight with miles accrued. And no, you don’t have to fly all the time in order to rack up a lot of miles quickly. Once you decide on the airline that you will be flying with most, get a credit card from the airline. Look at online shopping options. Everything from groceries to gas can quickly accrue miles. And many airlines offer online shopping services that can earn you up to 5x the miles for products and services you already use.
With baggage fees on the rise, having an airline credit card can save you hundreds of dollars on just one trip alone. Many airlines allow you to check an extra bag or waive the initial baggage fee for everyone (up to a maximum) traveling on the same itinerary.
One of the biggest reasons to maintain loyalty to an alliance is the ability to earn miles on the airline you have a frequent flyer card with when flying on partner airlines. Alliances like Sky Team and Star Alliance continue to add worldwide airlines, making options to accrue miles much easier, no matter where your travels take you.
Wondering whether reaching elite status on an airline is really worth it? I can answer that with a resounding yes. From priority check in, extra luggage allowances, expedited security to lounge access and free upgrades, the benefits are invaluable if you travel often. And many of these perks are reciprocal with partner airlines within the alliance. I’ve managed to nab a number of international upgrades to business class, and on a 13-hour flight it change your whole outlook on travel.
Some savvy travelers utilize mileage programs to accrue a high number of miles to save for the “vacation of a lifetime” which often includes stops in different parts of the world. You can save money and miles by looking into “Round the World” tickets that allow you to stop in various parts of the world on the same itinerary. By sticking with an alliance, you have much better access to codeshare flights and options for booking a round the world ticket that can save you both cash and miles depending on how you plan to book.
While you might say that every customer should be treated equally, the truth is we all know that isn’t the case. Customers who display long-term loyalty to an airline and/or alliance can reap the benefits when something goes awry. If two travelers have the same bad experience during a flight, who do you think the airline is going to be more likely to bend over backwards for – the elite status passenger who has been a member for 10 years or the first time passenger with no frequent flyer number. It’s not just airlines, but companies in general tend to provide better dispute resolution to customers who have shown their loyalty and have a vested interest in continuing to do business with that company.
Do you have a favorite airline loyalty program? What do you recommend?
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Erin is a travel and food writer who currently splits her time between the Netherlands and Belize. She's traveled to 60+ countries on 5 continents with a passion for culinary travel, luxury hotels, and all things Disney. Her writing has appeared in numerous online outlets including Gadling, BootsnAll, CNN, Art of Backpacking, TravBuddy, CBS, and more. She was the major author of Belize's official visitor magazine, Destination Belize 2013; wrote the official AFAR Guide to Belize; and is also AFAR Magazine's local Belize expert.. In addition to writing for other publications, Erin maintains several blogs, Our Tasty Travels, No Checked Bags, Pooh's Travels, and the brand new Caye To Belize. Follow Erin on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google Plus.
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