“ An interactive community that provides up-to-date information on travel-related loyalty reward programs „
It is undeniable that the European air travel market has been revolutionised by the advent of the low cost airlines in the last ten to twenty years. Flying is no longer the exclusive activity of the wealthy; anyone with an internet connection can, with a bit of patience and careful de-selection of 'optional extras', get a single digit air fare from the UK to the sunnier corners of Europe.
But some perks of the old world of air travel remain. Frequent flyers on Ryanair and Easyjet are told that low fares make loyalty points redundant. But virtually every full service airline still maintains a Frequent Flyer Programme (FFP). And if you have any cause to fly long haul on a scheduled airline, you should find out more about these, because they and other associated earning opportunities can reward you with valuable points or 'miles' that can be used to purchase flights, car hire, hotel stays and more.
But which programme to choose? And how to get the best out of it? That's where FlyerTalk, the invaluable internet forum of truly frequent flyers, can help. FlyerTalk is a free to join and easy to use internet discussion board, structured by category (airline, hotel, car hire) and airline into a wealth of informative boards. In each you can enquire or consult handy 'Frequently Asked Question' (FAQ) threads to discover how to maximise your 'earning and burning' potential.
A case in point: a few years ago I moved to Northern Ireland. Frequent trips over to London meant I had a couple of airlines to choose from. But a promotional credit card offer from BMI (formerly British Midland) landed me with 20,000 'destinations' miles to spend with BMI and their Star Alliance partners. FlyerTalk told me about this special offer which gave me a head start to earning miles to redeem for flights, and also how to earn more miles just by flying with BMI or other Star Alliance carriers.
FFPs are complex entities, and it helps to know them inside and out. Certain fares don't earn miles, while others (such as business class) can earn double or even triple miles. And most programmes will allow you to earn two kinds of points: those that can be redeemed for flights, and those that reward frequent patronage with 'status'. Even as a student making occasional trips and annual or twice-annual long haul flights, using the inside information and tips on the friendly FlyerTalk boards, I was able to carefully choose flights that - without costing more than the best fare I could find - soon earned me the 'silver' BMI status to access business lounges and other priority perks.
In addition, many of the detailed queries you would have trouble finding answers to on the airlines' own websites can easily be answered here. The BMI Diamond Club forum, for instance, has well maintained FAQ threads with information on in flight menus, aircraft configurations, lounge availability and extensive discussions about the future of the programme following Lufthansa's acquisition of the majority stake in BMI. The Hertz forum even has a thread detailing what iPod and CD compatibility you can expect in most Hertz vechiles
If you fly with any of the non low cost airlines more than twice a year, or if you make any long haul trip, head to FlyerTalk and see if other flyers can help answer your questions about maximising the perks you could be earning.