Each airline or a alliance (group of airlines) has a frequent flyer program. Depending on several factors, it may be interesting to pick your frequent flyer program wisely. Why? Because a status in a frequent flyer program can give you many additional benefits.
You have three main alliances in the aviation industry:
- Star Alliance
- SkyTeam (Air France, KLM, TAROM, Delta and many more)
- OneWorld (British Airways, Finnair, Iberia and others)
I will only go into detail about Star Alliance, the largest alliance and the one that is mostly relevant for my own main hub BRU (= Brussels Airport).
Some airlines have a frequent flyer program on their own, while some airlines are collaborating with each other. The most important and interesting thing is that a status with any star alliance frequent flyer program will give you benefits with all star alliance flights.
Why bother earning a status?
Usually you have two types of tiers (= statuses). Silver status will give you some benefits such a limited lounge access and a small chance to get upgraded to a higher class cabin. Some airlines even offer upgrade vouchers. However, your way of travelling changes drastically when you manage to earn Gold status. Gold status will give you following guaranteed benefits on all Star Alliance flights:
- Priority Airport Check-in: a separate check-in desk is open for business passengers and Gold status holders.
- Airport Lounge access: enjoy free drinks and food in a dedicated area for business passengers and Gold status holders + invite one guest when flying on Star Alliance flights.
- Priority boarding: board the plane first or choose whenever you prefer to board the plane.
- Extra baggage allowance: get an extra luggage for free
~ restrictions apply for the cheapest economy fares such as GoLight on Brussels Airlines.
~ Always check the rules by the operating carrier for luggage allowance.
- Priority Baggage Handling: Your luggage will be tagged with a priority label.
- Priority Reservations Waitlist Airport Standby: when the flight is overbooked you’ll be one of the last passengers (including other status holders and business class passengers) to get bumped or rebooked to a next flight. In case of a full cabin where economy passengers have to be moved to business class, status holders will be prioritized to be upgraded for free before other passengers.
Some frequent flyer programs offer their own extra benefits. Typical additional benefits are upgrade vouchers to upgrade yourself to business class, extra accrual factor of award miles and so on. Trust me, gold status makes travelling a lot less stressful and much more enjoyable.
Relevant frequent flyer programs
The easiest way to earn a frequent flyer status depends on several factors. Which airport is your main hub? Which airline do you usually fly? Do you fly for work? All these factors will influence which frequent flyer program you should choose. I will list a few of the relevant programs.
Miles & More
Miles & More is the biggest of Europe but in my opinion the hardest to get Gold status with. Silver status however may be easier for some Belgian citizens. Miles & More is owned by Lufthansa Group and works with LOT, Swiss, Brussels, Austrian and Lufthansa. Silver status is called “Frequent Traveller” whereas Gold status is named “Senator”.
The silver status is not really that hard if you fly a lot as the qualification to get this status is to fly 35.000 status miles with any Star alliance airline or 30 segments with Lufthansa Group members. The requirement to get 30 flights on Lufthansa Group is the most easiest way in my opnion. This status will give you access to the Lufthansa Group lounges and some other benefits.
Gold status is pretty difficult to achieve with Miles & More unless you fly business class on occasion, as you will need 100.000 status miles to achieve this status each calender year.
Take into account that Miles & More may be great for you to earn silver status and its benefits, but it is less interesting to earn award miles, the miles you use to book a free flight. Award miles are earned according to the price you paid for your flight ticket on Lufthansa Group flights. This is called revenue-based mileage earning. The distance you physically fly in miles is usually used to calculate the award miles on other frequent flyer programs. However, with Miles & More, revenue-based mileage earning does only apply on Lufthansa Group flights and not on non-Lufthansa Group Star Alliance flights. Status miles however are always calculated according to the physically flown distance in miles.
Conclusion: Miles&More can be interesting for some, as silver status is relatively easy to achieve when you fly a lot in economy for work. You’ll enjoy lounge access, one of the best benefits you can get for air travel. The moment you achieved your airline status in a calender year, it is best to book Star Alliance but non-Lufthansa Group airlines to maximize award miles during the rest of the year. Keep in mind that award miles have a validity of only 36 months, meaning that you don’t have much time to accumulate miles. If you already have a status or a Miles & More American Express card, your miles won’t expire. Therefore, I only recommend this program for people who manage to get Silver status or higher or if you own an American Express by Brussels Airlines credit card. As miles can be earned relatively easily with this credit card as Belgian citizen, the Miles & More monthly promo awards can give you some great deals such as 55.000 miles for a long haul business class return flight (taxes + fees excluded) on “meilenschnaeppchen.de“.
To understand award & status accrual better, I recommend you to read the Miles & More webpage about how you earn miles on Brussels Airlines, one of the Lufthansa-Group airline members of Miles & More.
Another interesting frequent flyer program is Asiana Club. It may sound weird to join an Asian frequent flyer program but you don’t even need to fly Asiana Airlines to get a status on this program.
Asiana’s Club tier names may be confusing. Asiana Club Silver is an account without any status. Asiana Club Gold is equivalent to Star Alliance Silver status and Asiana Club Diamond / Diamond Plus and Platinum are similar to the Star Alliance Gold status.
The most interesting part about this frequent flyer program is that you have 24 months to accumulate miles to achieve your status. The moment you achieve your status, your status will be valid for the remaining months of your qualification period plus 24 months. This is pretty unique and puts less pressure on you to attain the status. For example, if you register an account at Asiana Club and take 1 month to acquire the status, your status will be valid for 23 months plus 24 months, that’s almost 4 years. Therefore, the moment you register your account at Asiana is very crucial: create your account right before your flight.
For Asiana Club Diamond, which is equivalent to Star Alliance Gold status, you will need 40.000 tier / status miles on Star Alliance flights or 50 flights on Asiana flights (the latter is probably not interesting for EU citizens). Keeping the status is easier than acquiring it for the first time, as you’ll need 30.000 miles on Star Alliance flights or 30 Asiana flights.
Please take a look at their extended chart to check how much miles you earn depending on the airline you fly.
Conclusion: Asiana Club is another great way to get a Star Alliance status with long validity and depending on the airlines you frequently travel with.
Read more here about Asiana Club.
My personal favourite frequent flyer program is Aegean Miles+Bonus. When you register with Aegean for the first time you get a Blue status and 1,000 award and tier miles for free. Award miles on the Miles+Bonus program do not expire as long as you keep your account active. You have two types of status: Silver & Gold. The status is not the easiest to earn, but it is the easiest to retain. Travel enthousiasts use Aegean frequent flyer program as an excuse to fly to Greece in business class with their upgrade vouchers every year to keep their status. Who doesn’t want to have a yearly obligatory getaway to the Greek islands?!
To earn silver status when you’re blue status you will need to:
- Earn 24.000 tier miles
- Fly Aegean or Olympic Air twice AND earn 12.000 tier miles
Important: each segment can be counted. For every flight, you get award miles and tier miles added to your account. A round-trip from Athens to Santorini will give you 2 segments.
Note: During registration, you receive 1.000 miles for free meaning that you’ll only need to earn 11.000 tier miles. The two Aegean flights will also earn you miles.
Retaining Silver status
If you achieved the status you have 12 months from the start of your silver status to keep your silver by
- Earning 16.000 tier miles
- Flying Aegean or Olympic Air twice and earn 8.000 tier miles
The most important benefits are listed below:
- Earn 10% more award miles with Aegean and Olympic flights
- 2 coupons to upgrade to Business class on Aegean and Olympic flights (if seats available and only when you’re not flying in GoLight booking classes U, T or P)
- 4 entry vouchers to access any Aegean Lounge in Greece
- Create a together account so you can collect award miles with friends or family (important: read the rules before starting this)
- Priority reservations waitlist and airport standby (Star Alliance Silver status benefit)
To earn gold status when you have silver status you will need to:
- Earn 48.000 tier miles
- Fly Aegean or Olympic Air four times and earn 24.000 tier miles
Retaining Gold status
If you achieved the status you have 12 months from the start of your gold tier to keep your gold by
- Earning 24,000 tier miles
- Flying Aegean or Olympic Air four times and earn 12,000 tier miles
It is therefore much easier to retain a tier than to earn it.
The benefits for Gold status are listed below:
- Earn 20% more award miles with Aegean and Olympic flights
- 4 coupons to upgrade to Business class on Aegean and Olympic flights (if seats available and only when you’re not flying in GoLight booking classes U, T or P)
- Access to all Aegean Lounges and Star Alliance Lounges if you’re flying with a Star Alliance airline + one guest travelling on a Star Alliance flight
- Access to fast lane security control and passport control and priority airport check-in (Gold Track)
- Special baggage allowance: 1 extra piece of baggage, within the maximum allowed weight limit of your ticket’s booking class
- Personalized luggage tag and priority baggage handling
- Create a together account so you can collect award miles with friends or family
- Priority reservations waitlist and airport standby (Star Alliance Silver status benefit)
For Europeans, it is much easier to earn Aegean tier as you can fly a promo ticket from almost any European city to Athens and back. There you have your two segments with Aegean Airlines and a certain amount of tier miles. A return flight to the Greek islands with a transfer at Athens Airport will get you 4 segments. You still need to earn something between 8,000 and 9,000 tier miles, depending on your earnings from the Aegean flights. The easiest way to do so is with airlines that give 100% accrual factor.
- Ethiopian Airlines (100% in Economy)
- SAS (100% in Premium Economy)
- Singapore Airlines (100% in Economy)
Some airlines will only earn you 25% or 50%. Brussels Airlines and Lufthansa flights, depending on their booking class will earn you 0% miles, even when flying business class. Lufthansa’s booking class P is notorious for that.
Business class flights (depending on the airline flown) can give an accrual factor of 150% to 200% which makes it extremely easy to gain status. That’s where exceptional deals come in handy!
Note: always look at the booking classes before confirming a ticket and check the booking class on the website Aegean – How to earn to check whether you earn miles or not.