Loyalty plans go an extra mile
Airlines and their partners are making it easier for customers to accrue points, as well as redeem them
TO KEEP THEIR loyal customers happy, airlines are increasingly widening the appeal of frequent flier programmes beyond free flights.
Continental Airlines' programme offers complimentary upgrades, which are available to elite members travelling not only on the airline's domestic flights within the United States, but also on domestic flights with Northwest Airlines.
Platinum members can receive upgrades five days prior to departure.
The same goes for gold members three days before departure and one day prior to departure for silver members.
OnePass platinum members receive 125 per cent bonus miles accrual, compared to 100 on competing programmes. Elite members are also entitled to priority check-in, security screening, baggage handling and boarding.
'In order to provide more value for passengers, we consistently review OnePass' attractiveness to accrue miles and also to 'burn' them,' said Bessy Hui, Continental's marketing manager.
OnePass also has many non-airline partners for members to accrue mileage in their day-to-day life. 'Last year, we introduced OnePass Online Auction for US domestic and international members. Items include concert tickets, tickets to sports games, electronic goods, and so on. Feedback is very positive from members.'
Lufthansa's Miles & More programme is one of the largest in Europe, with about 10 million members. It allows members to collect and redeem miles with more than 100 partners in many ways. Miles can be accrued by staying at partner hotels, travelling by train, taking a cruise, hiring a car, shopping, using mobile phones and so on.
As a founding member of Star Alliance, Lufthansa's frequent fliers can also 'benefit from miles even if they fly with other members of Star Alliance', according to Hans DeHaan , Lufthansa's general manager for southern China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau.
The same is true at Cathay Pacific. Lavinia Lau, manager of communications and market development at Cathay Pacific Loyalty Programmes, said: 'Apart from flying, members can also earn Asia Miles through a variety of everyday activities - spending on credit cards, staying at hotels, dining, shopping, using telecoms services and much more.'
Rewards are being extended beyond upgrades and free flights. '[Skywards] members can earn miles by travelling with Emirates and Sri Lankan Airlines, or even our partner airlines,' Edwin Lau, regional manager of Hong Kong, Greater China and Northeast Asia for Emirates, said.
It offers rewards such as free air tickets to more than 100 destinations, free upgrades and other leisure benefits.
'With Skywards, it's not just about earning and redeeming miles. It's about managing your journey, going beyond the travel experience and enjoying the real privileges of a more rewarding frequent flier programme,' he said.
Skywards offers three tiers of rewards: blue, silver and gold.
'At the airport, Skywards silver and gold members enjoy priority check-in and exclusive lounge access, and, when they arrive at their destination, services such as priority baggage delivery will help take the stress out of travel,' Mr Lau said.
A Skysurfers programme for junior travellers earns normal points and gives them access to a website tailor-made to suit their interests.
United Airlines' award-winning Mileage Plus is dishing out triple bonus miles to its frequent fliers travelling between Hong Kong and Ho Chi Minh City before March 31. That means 6,468 points for first-class passengers, 6,006 for business class and 5,544 for economy class on a return.
This will be more than enough for the 5,000 points required for redeeming an upgrade from full economy class Y or B to business class on United flights from Hong Kong to any Asian destinations under the programme.
'[Mileage Plus] is also well known for its generosity,' said Wyn Li, general manager of sales and marketing for United Airlines, Hong Kong.