Frequent flyer programs can offer great rewards but, unfortunately, it can be difficult to know which program to choose and how to use it to the best advantage. In this Q&A article, UNIGLOBE experts provide the inside scoop on which mileage program to join and how to earn and redeem miles effectively.

Q1. My job requires me to travel frequently. I am planning to register for one or two frequent flyer programs but not sure of which program works best for me. Can you help me in identifying a suitable frequent flyer program and also guide on how to use these miles most effectively?

UNIGLOBE Expert Answers: Whether you’re seeking a free flight or elite status, the only way you’re going to get there is by racking up the miles in a single program. Having a handful of miles in several different programs isn’t the best solution.

Pick the airline that you fly most often, or that you can fly most often, especially if you regularly go to the same destinations. If you live near a ‘hub’ city like Delhi or Mumbai, become a frequent flyer on the hub airline. Look for the program that will give you the most flexibility and the greatest purchasing power. The program that gives you a lot of miles quickly may not be the best choice if all the rewards you’re after will cost you more miles than in a competing program.

Awarded travel tickets aren’t the only benefit travelers look out for. Elite level status is often worth more to the regular traveler than an occasional award ticket. Most of our clients want to achieve an ‘Elite Status’ that can confer a variety of perks including preferred check-in, free use of airport lounges, preferred or discount upgrades and special travel deals.

Like most travelers, if you too target the ‘Elite Status’, you might want to talk to a UNIGLOBE Expert to find out more information about what miles count towards an Elite status, before selecting a program yourself. In some programs, miles earned through purchases don’t count toward earning elite status even though they can be used for award tickets.

Q2. How can I earn my way to bonus miles?

UNIGLOBE Expert Answers: Most major airlines have a credit card tied to their frequent flyer program and may have hotels or retail partners that will enable you to earn miles for rupees you spend with them. The key to racking up miles quickly is to ‘double dip’ as often as you can. If a hotel gives you 500 miles for a stay at their property and you also charge the bill on your frequent flyer program credit card, you can easily double the miles you earn.  

Q3. Do frequent flier miles expire?

UNIGLOBE Expert Answers: Yes. Most mileage programs now have expiration dates to limit the liability that airlines need to carry on their books. Monitor your expiration dates closely and know what you have to do to keep your miles current. Some programs require you take a flight, others may allow you to make a purchase on an associated credit card in order to keep your account current.

Q4. How can I calculate what my miles are worth and make redemption decisions?

UNIGLOBE Expert Answers: As a general rule of thumb, use miles to purchase the most expensive tickets. You can assign a rough value to miles based on the cost for you to purchase additional miles in your program or the mileage cost of an award ticket. As a simple example, say that an air ticket to Chennai costs either Rs.18,000 cash or 25,000 miles. Weigh that against the trip to Europe you’re planning for which the ticket costs either Rs. 54,000 (in cash) or 50,000 miles. In this case, the cash price of the ticket to Europe costs 3 times as much the domestic ticket, while the mileage cost is only twice as much so it would probably make sense to save your miles for the trip to Europe.

The final word …

With uncertain airline inventory, complex miles calculation and varying airline frequent flyer rules, it becomes all the more difficult for travelers to track and action at the right time to avail frequent flyer benefits.

Call your UNIGLOBE Expert to make sure your profile is updated with your frequent flyer membership details. Once these details are included in your profile, you can be rest assured that all your frequent flyer programs will be automatically accessed and applied to all your travel reservations.

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