Being a frequent flyer rewards member gives you a chance to earn points and fly for free, but there is a world of other benefits once you get upgraded from a “standard” membership.
The key to getting elite frequent flyer reward program status is, of course, to favour the same airline as often as possible – both through flights and partner programs, such as those offered with a frequent flyer credit card. With that in mind, we thought it would be good to look at the top benefits offered by frequent flyer programs that are already popular in Australia.
Whether you have memberships with all or just a few of the following airlines, knowing what the best reward benefits are could help you choose what program to focus on so that you get the most out of your frequent flyer membership.
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Velocity’s Platinum membership offers a wide range of benefits to make Virgin’s top-tier customers even more comfortable both on and off planes. For starters, Platinum members are entitled to up to four complimentary fare upgrades per year, from a Flexi Fare to Business Class on domestic flights.
Other “Before You Travel” benefits include point upgrades from Saver and Flexi fares to Business class, priority seat purchases and priority waitlist status for booked out flights. You can also get a complimentary 12-month membership to Secure Sentinel, including a loss and theft assistance service that helps you “protect your identity, financial cards, passport and mobile phone”.
Airport benefits for Velocity Platinum members include priority boarding and baggage (at destination), Virgin Australia lounge access for you and up to three guests (plus two children), up to 20kg of extra baggage and complimentary partner memberships with selected hotels and car hire services.
Virgin Platinum members also get 100% point bonuses when booking flights in the Virgin Australia network or with travel partners, personalised baggage tags and economy reward seat guarantee options to make it easier to redeem points for flights at any time of the year.
The Qantas Freqyent Flyer program has four levels of membership, with Platinum One the most premium option. Qantas describes this membership tier as “the ultimate level of personalised service”.
Some of the biggest perks include complimentary Frequent Flyer Platinum status for your partner, a 100% points bonus on flights with Qantas, Jetstar, American Airlines and US Airways, no booking fees, access to the Qantas MCA Lounge in Sydney Harbour, invitations to special events and exclusive privileges with MONA in Tasmania.
Platinum One Frequent Flyers also get a lot more flexibility with flights. As well as thijngs like priority seating and upgrades, Qantas says you get “more freedom to fly” sooner.
You also get access to express immigration wherever possible and lounge access with Qantas and Emirates lounges, extra baggage, priority baggage, express security lane access and priority check-in and boarding.
Airpoints Elite and Gold members get a wide range of special privileges, including Star Alliance Gold status that paves the way for even more comfort on international flights with a wide range of airlines.
One of the best features of Airpoints is actually available for Elite, Gold and Silver members: discounted business award fares. These redemption rates are often cheaper than actual business class fares you book and pay for.
A business class Award Fare ticket from Sydney to Honolulu, for example, costs 2130 points, with one point equal to a dollar. In contrast, a standard booking flight from Sydney to Honolulu costs around $2300 (more in peak season), which means you actually save at least $170 on a business class fare by using points.
But for Airpoints Elite members, there is a wide range of other exclusive benefits, including no expiry on Airpoints, status points rollover, complimentary hotel or car hire upgrades in Australia and New Zealand, complimentary valet parking, priority check-in, boarding, baggage and more.
The Emirates frequent flyer rewards program has four tiers, with Platinum at the top of the list. The airline says this level of membership is “carefully designed to make every moment of your journey extraordinary”, coming with all the perks of other tiers plus more. Some of the highlights of Skywards Platinum membership include:
Platinum members can also redeem Skywards points for a Business Class or Economy Class “Flex Plus” reward tickets, even on high demand flights with restricted availability.
As Emirates explains, these tickets “carry extra benefits, such as no fees for changes, and can be upgraded for less Miles”, so the ability to get one even on a popular flight is a huge advantage for Platinum members.
The KrisFlyer frequent flyer program’s highest membership level is known as Elite Gold and also offers “the full complement of Star Alliance Gold privileges on all Star Alliance airlines.”
With Elite Gold status, you get a 25% bonus on miles flown with Singapore Airlines, SilkAir or Virgin Atlantic, priority check-in, boarding and baggage collection, lounge access and priority waitlist status.
Singapore Airlines also offers Elite Gold members “priority airport standby”, so that if you need to fly at the last minute but do not have a booking, “you will be given priority on airport standby lists for flights on Singapore Airlines, SilkAir, Star Alliance partner airlines and Virgin Atlantic.”
But arguably one of the best perks of Elite Gold frequent flyer status is the savings you can make on your bookings. As well as complimentary additional baggage and point bonuses, you can get waived and reduced fees on a wide range of services. This includes a 50% discount on the usual fees, as well as free replacement member cards and walk-in services.
Frequent flyer reward programs can be a great way to get more out of flying with a particular airline. Whether you do a lot of domestic travel, or find yourself heading overseas frequently, there are a lot of benefits to joining these reward programs.
The more you favour one particular airline’s loyalty program, the more elite your benefits become – as the examples above clearly show. But it’s important to realise that the perks we look at here are really just the tip of the iceberg. As you become a more frequent flier, airlines will look to offer more customised services based on what you want.
For example, if you are someone that likes to get in and out of airports with as little hassle as possible, then your frequent flyer program could highlight perks such as chauffeur services, priority security screening, boarding and baggage services. On the other hand, if you are someone who likes to have a little luxury when you fly, complimentary lounge memberships and upgrades are likely to come your way.
So the benefits outlined here are just the foundations of what is on offer, and if you have the points and status to be considered an elite frequent flyer, now could be a great time to find out what other perks you can get in exchange for your airline loyalty.
If, on the other hand, you have just a basic or mid-tier membership, these benefits could be an incentive to focus on flying with one particular airline so you can become a more elite frequent flyer member. Even if you don’t fly often enough to be eligible for a status upgrade, there are other options.
Many frequent flyer credit cards, for example, offer similar high-end perks regardless of the frequent flyer membership status. Take the American Express Velocity Platinum credit card, for instance. With this card you get a bonus 50,000 bonus points (when you apply by 30 June 2015), a complimentary return domestic flight on Virgin Australia each year, two complimentary Virgin Australia lounge passes each year and complimentary domestic and international travel insurance.
The Emirates Citibank World MasterCard, on the other hand, comes with 40,000 bonus Skywards Miles on your first spend, two complimentary lounge passes per year, a free chauffeur service two and from the airport, and up to two Skyward Miles per $1 spent on the card.
Although credit cards are not technically the same as elite frequent flyer status, what the two examples above really show is that sometimes the benefits you get from a credit card can be just as good for flying. Plus there are usually additional benefits like complimentary insurance and points for everyday spending.
Elite frequent flyer status is not always easy to earn or hold on to, so while it is great to know what the benefits are, it is also important to consider other options. That way you can get access to perks that you want even if you don’t have a “frequent flyer” lifestyle right now.
Founder of Creditcard.com.au. Roland has extensive knowledge about credit cards in Australia. Known as a credit card expert, he has been featured on tv and in various publications. Some popular offers on our site right now include the ANZ Low Rate. Ever popular with no annual fee first year, low purchase rate and 0% balance transfer. Have a look also at the 0% balance transfer HSBC offer with no balance transfer fee, plus an annual fee waiver each year you meet a spend criteria.