PASSAGES, Asia's first frequent-flyer programme, claims to have signed up about 150,000 ''members'' since its inception. Formed last July by Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines, it expanded in September to include British Airways, Swissair and Austrian Airlines. Silkair joined in January and more airlines are due to register an interest in the next two years. Their combined force ensures travellers benefit from an impressive network of routes across the world on internationally recognised carriers. The purpose of the ''club'' was to extend existing privileges like priority baggage-handling and special airport lounges to include free airline tickets. Under the scheme's terms, only first-class and business-class passengers can earn points for free flights, upgrades and companion tickets. Points can be also earned by staying at certain hotel chains like Hilton and Hyatt, taking out car hire with specific operators like Hertz, and using charge and credit cards which are affiliated to the scheme. Once a passenger has accumulated 40,000 kilometres, he or she can start collecting points for free flights. Typically, if a traveller took two business-class round trips to London from Hong Kong amounting to over 46,000 km, he would earn enough kilometre credits to claim a free, economy-class round trip of up to 3,000 km. Peter Buecking, general manager of Asian Frequent Flyer, the company set up to oversee Passages, said: ''The name Passages was chosen for the scheme because it encompasses the image of airlines who represent high quality, Asian-style service standards. ''The art deco typeface was chosen to conjure up the emotional side of travel. It harks back to a golden age of travel and helps create an appropriate, upmarket image.'' Cathay Pacific marketing director Rowland Cobbold said: ''By working as a partnership, we are able to offer a highly attractive product. ''In Asia, we offer an unbeatable number of destinations. Outside the region, we have a global presence covering every main market that feeds into the Asia-Pacific region. ''And the airlines offer world-famous standards of service that, from the outset, position Passages as the quality frequent-flyer programme - the Rolls-Royce of mileage schemes. ''It adds up to an attractive choice for the customer. We are also pleased that other airlines are participating in the programme, enhancing further the opportunities for Passages members to accumulate points.'' Asian Frequent Flyer, the company which oversees the Passages programme, hopes it will sign up 200,000 members by the end of its first year, 350,000 by the end of the second year and 500,000 by the end of the third. Membership is open to anyone over the age of 12 and there is no joining fee. A maximum of six people, such as relatives or close friends, can be nominated to take up the free flight offer.