Are you loyal to a specific airline or airline alliance? Is it always best to go with the cheapest ticket on the cheapest flight? I think it depends, but here are some reasons airline loyalty may be worth looking into! Everyone’s travel needs are different, but these are some of my husband’s and my favorite benefits of loyalty with United and the Star Alliance.
9. Kinder Service
I don’t know about you, but I like it when people are nice to me. Not that first time fliers with zero loyalty status should be treated badly, but I know I’ll be greeted with a smile and an “I see you’re 1K, Mr. and Mrs. O’Halek. Thank you for your loyalty,” when the flight attendant takes my meal order before a long flight. Once a flight attendant even offered to rinse out my travel mug when I asked for hot water for a tea bag that I’d brought with me. People can get very testy and snarky when they travel, so for an airline employee to be just a little bit kind, it goes a long way toward helping me be kind to others when frustrating things happen.
8. Early Boarding
This one comes in most handy on small planes with extremely limited carry-on space. They who board first receive their pick of overhead bin storage! While the people boarding later are checking bags plane side and then waiting for those bags on the jetway, early boarders have everything within reach during the flight and get out and on their way faster–which is also helpful with making tight connections!
7. Talking to a Live Person–Immediately, the First Time
With higher status often comes a magic number. This phone number that leads you to a real, live person who is given your name and can access your account to answer questions, book difficult itineraries, and make changes for you when you missed your flight or your flight gets cancelled. This has saved us several times, but most notably that time we had to escape an “exploding” volcano!
6. Knowing the System
This one is so crucial in making the most of your travels. If you know an airline’s system and how they fit into their alliance, you can use all of that knowledge to your advantage. For example, my husband and I know how many award miles are due to us after a flight, and we know that sometimes you have to call to make them hit your account. We also know when upgrades are generally available on long flights (like DC to Tokyo) and how to use “Expert” mode to search for flights we want, even if they don’t pop up with our first search attempt. Knowledge is power!
5. Free Checked Bags
Baggage fees are out of control these days. You could be paying $25-$100 per piece of luggage, and more if it’s oversized, oddly shaped, or over weight! Luckily for us, our loyalty earns each of us up to three (3!) checked bags up to 70 pounds free. Being frequent travelers, we like to pack light and go carry-on only most of the time, but having the flexibility to check bags (or a friend or family member’s bags) has come in handy more than once!
4. Lounge Access
If you have Gold status or higher within the Star Alliance and are traveling internationally, you, too, can enjoy food, beverages, free wi-fi, a hot shower, and maybe even a sleeping room in any of the other Star Alliance lounges! It really makes long layovers better, and it never hurts to have an extra sandwich from the lounge in your bag in case you get the mid-flight munchies. This is a HUGE perk, especially the shower!
3. Free Meal in Economy
Most airlines have stopped giving away free meals or even a light snack with beverage service on domestic (and some shorter international) flights. That stinks because I get hungry and I’m too cheap to buy food on an airplane! But recently our status has earned us a free boxed meal in Economy on domestic flights! And actually, it was pretty good and very hearty! I got hot food and saved myself $10–go me!
2. More Award Miles
Almost every major airline offers a frequent flyer program–the more you fly with them, the more miles you accrue to use for “free” flights (meaning you don’t have to pay for the flight, but you do have to pay for the taxes). Some airlines, however, also offer extra Award Miles the higher status you have with them. That means more miles coming in faster, earning you free flights more often!
1. Free Upgrades
I’ll illustrate this with a story: On a marathon flight experience coming home from Bali last summer, my husband and I planned on several Economy Class seats on a series of long flights. We were looking forward to enjoying Business Class on the last leg of our journey, but being unable to sleep sitting up myself, I was dreading the leg of our journey between Bangkok and Vienna–nearly 13 hours!
We got to the gate, and our tickets set off an alarm. It was late, we’d already been traveling more than 10 hours, and we were exhausted. We stood aside wondering if we had gotten booted off somehow, but it was just the opposite–we got upgraded to Business Class because they had oversold Economy! Because of both our 1K statuses, we spent 13 glorious hours enjoying sleep, two excellent meals, cozy blankets, large TV screens, and friendly service–not to mention seats that fully reclined! If not for our 1K Status with United (flying 100,000 miles per year) and their Star Alliance relationship with Austrian Air, we would not have been upgraded, and this girl would have been extra cranky!
What do you think? Are these things worth considering?