Updated April 2020.
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. What do you think?
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-haul 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. That’s above and beyond!
People can get very testy and snarky when they travel. When an airline employee is just a little bit kind, it goes a long way! Don’t forget to be nice to your airline and its employees, too!
Keep reading: Why It Pays to Be Kind to Your Airline
This one comes in most handy on small planes with extremely limited carry-on space. Those who board first receive their pick of overhead bin space! While the people boarding later are checking bags plane side and then waiting for those bags on the jetway after arrival, early boarders have everything within reach during the flight and get out and on their way faster. This is also helpful with making tight connections!
Never panic about overhead bin space again!
How to Pack the Perfect Carry-on
Talking to a Live Person Immediately
This has definitely been the benefit that has saved us most often in our travels. While others are waiting in the customer service line or spending time on hold (both if they’re smart), customers with loyalthy status are already talking with someone who can actually help them immediate.
You see, with higher status often comes a magic phone number. This phone number leads you to a real, live person who knows 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. We’ve been rescued by this loyalty perk when we had to escape an exploding volcano in Quito, Ecuador; were stranded by Hurricane Harvey while visiting Easter Island, Chile; and when we missed our connection in San Francisco enroute to New Zealand!
Don’t let your epic trip be ruined in an emergency!
What to Do When Your Flight is Cancelled
What to Do When You Miss Your Flight
Knowing the System
This one is crucial in making the most of your travels. If you know an airline’s system and how they fit into an 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 show up in your account.
We also know when upgrades are generally available on long flights (like D.C. 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. And when we call that magical 1K loyalty phone number, we know just what to ask and how to phrase our quesitons so that we get the exact information we need. Knowledge is power!
Want all the insider informaiton?
Tips and Hacks for Flying United Airlines
Free Checked Bags
Baggage fees are out of control these days. You could be paying $25-$100 per piece of luggage, or more if it’s oversized, oddly shaped, or over weight! Luckily for us, our loyalty earns each of us up to three (3!) FREE checked bags up to 70 pounds! 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 check bags for a friend or family member traveling with us) has come in handy more than once!
Packing not your favorite? I have a few strategies for you here:
My Ultimate Packing Resources
I love this one with a fiery passion, y’all! If you have Gold status or higher within the Star Alliance and are traveling internationally, you, too, can enjoy complimentary food, beverages, wi-fi, showers, and maybe even a sleeping room in any of the Star Alliance lounges! It makes long layovers infinitely 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!
Read all my airline lounge reviews on my Air Travel Page!
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. Not that airline food has ever had a positive reputation anyway, but still. That stinks because I get hungry in-flight, and I’m too cheap to buy food on an airplane! However, those with high loyalty status earn a FREE meal or hearty snack in Economy on domestic flights! These meals and snacks range from a burger to a Mediterranean-inspired bento box, and from savory to sweet snacks!
Need more airline food in your life? I have a whole section dedicated to it on my World Foods Page!
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 award flights more often! As 1K Members with United, we earn up to 11 Award Miles per mile flown!
Hop on the Award Mile bandwagon!
Beginner’s Guide to Earning and Redeeming Airline Miles
I’ll illustrate this with a story: On a marathon flight experience coming home from Bali, my husband and I planned on sitting in several Economy Class seats on a series of long flights (over 30 hours of travel). 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 for that flight alone!
We got to the gate, but our tickets didn’t scan properly. It was late, we’d already been traveling a while, 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 our loyalty status, we spent 13 glorious hours enjoying sleep, two excellent meals (served by a chef in a chef’s hat), cozy blankets, large TV screens, and friendly service. Not to mention our seats fully reclined for an incredible night’s sleep!
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!
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