A Guide to Airline Frequent Flyer Schemes

07 Dec 2018

If you fly a lot, then you’ll have heard of airline frequent flyer schemes. These loyalty programmes encourage you to book with the same airline time and time again, collecting points for each mile you fly which you can later exchange for benefits, such as discounted fares and free upgrades. 

What are the benefits of frequent flyer schemes?

Signing up to a loyalty programme brings many benefits. Of course, as the name suggests, the airline gets continued loyalty from you, but what do you get in return? Perks include free or discounted flights, lounge passes and seat upgrades. Furthermore, if you’re a loyalty card holder, you’re more likely to receive an ad hoc upgrade from the airline at check in. Frequent flyer schemes are usually free to join so there’s no reason not to sign up for a few of them, even if you think you won’t fly often enough.

How do frequent flyer points work?

Just like coffee shop loyalty cards, where you get a stamp for each coffee you buy and the 10th is free, frequent flyer programmes encourage loyalty to a specific airline or group of airlines. Airlines either work on a points per mile or points per pound basis. So the further you fly, or the more you spend, the more points you earn. These days, you don’t just earn points from miles flown either – points can be earned by using an airline-branded credit card or shopping online at high street shops through the airline’s shopping page.

What can you spend your points on?

Most points are spent on flights, but you can also spend them on upgrades, hotel stays, car rental, or even shopping with brands affiliated to the airline. A good idea is to shop around to find the best value for your points. For example, two flights may cost the same number of points, but if you were to buy them individually, they might be different prices. This makes the more expensive of the two the better option to redeem your points on, as it's better value. Don’t forget that while points can be used to pay for flights, this will not include taxes, which must be paid for. Taxes make up a large proportion of economy flight prices, but a smaller proportion of business class prices – making business class seats a more attractive option to spend your points on (plus you get to fly in business class – bonus!).

British Airways Executive Club

BA’s Executive Club allows you to earn and redeem Avios points on all Oneworld member airlines, which includes Cathay Pacific, Iberia, Qantas, Malaysia Airlines and Qatar Airways. The number of points granted depends on the airline, how far you fly, which cabin you fly in, which ticket type you buy and what tier of member you are. If you’re not sure, there’s a handy Avios points calculator on the British Airways website. If you are an Executive Club Gold or Silver member or book a First or Business Class ticket, you can access the Oneworld lounges too, among other benefits. Points can be redeemed on flights with Oneworld airlines, either in part on in full, as well as hotels, car hire, experiences and wine.

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Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club

Meanwhile Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club allows you to earn a percentage of the number of flown miles as points, with higher percentages for the more premium cabins and ticket types. Flights can be booked and points earned with Virgin’s partners, including Delta, Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand, South African Airways and Jet Airways. You can also use points earned through American Express, Tesco Clubcard, Hilton Honors, World of Hyatt and Intercontinental Hotels Group towards your Virgin Atlantic flights. Points can be used to buy flights, or upgrade your cabin, and you can even gift miles to friends. Points will also be accepted with Virgin’s partners such as ebay, Virgin holidays or Tesco.

As the BA network is more extensive than Virgin, especially when Oneworld partner routes are taken into account, you’ll have a greater choice of routes with the BA scheme.

Other airline loyalty schemes

Other notable frequent flyer programmes include Flying Blue, the shared programme of KLM and Air France, which also includes Kenya Airways. This offers you four miles per Euro spent from the moment you sign up. Alternatively, try Etihad Guest, which works with Air New Zealand, Alitalia, American Airlines and Virgin Australia among others, or Emirates Skywards, which allows you to earn points on all Emirates and flydubai flights and spend them on hotel stays, days out and tickets to sports events around the world.


Whichever airline you want to fly, Speak to one of our Travel Experts about loyalty schemes today.


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Angela Griffin

Born with a severe case of itchy feet, I’ve tried to appease my perpetual wanderlust by selling high-end safaris, dabbling in guidebook writing and more recently travel writing and blogging, but to no avail. A life-long lover of the great outdoors, I’m at my happiest when hiking up a mountain, or skiing down one.