Getting the Most Out of Frequent Flyer Schemes

Frequent flyer schemes are slippery beasts. Just as you’re ready to start planning a trip to Iceland the goalposts are moved. Rules change. Your points are devalued – or declared invalid over ice floes. More likely you discover that no flights are available.

Relax, we can show you how to put your business seat into recliner mode and enjoy your flight. Maybe you won’t be rubbing shoulders with Bjork and unwinding in an outside steam bath as the snow falls around you. Never mind. You will be able to bask in the satisfaction of knowing you’ve spread your wings while others have had theirs clipped.

Not all points are created equal

* Airlines run frequent flyer programs, so it’s not really that surprising to learn that flights tend to represent the best value for your points when you redeem them.
* Shopping deals, hotel rooms and car hire are the worst value because the points are traded by airlines with other businesses.

A good upgrade is hard to find

* Upgrades to business or first class have traditionally represented good value (after all, the airline is merely letting you have an otherwise empty seat). The problem is that they’ve become harder to find – especially on international flights – as planes are now running on average 80 per cent full and the number of premium seats has been trimmed.
* Register for an upgrade when you book and ask your travel agent to check availability regularly. The higher your frequent flyer status, the more likely you are to be upgraded.
* Try for an upgrade when you check in. A last-minute cancellation could work in your favour.
* If you’ve booked a discount ticket it’s highly unlikely you will be eligible fro an upgrade.

Flights: go for less popular destinations and dates

* Sydney to Melbourne and other popular domestic flights are always difficult to find. You are more likely to have success getting a seat to Adelaide, Perth, Hobart or even Darwin.
* The same applies to international destinations. Obviously Melbourne-London will be far more difficult to find than Melbourne-Kuala Lumpur, so try for somewhere slightly less popular.
* Avoid peak travel times and book well in advance – at least six months if you can. You may also be able to get last-minute domestic flights on less popular routes.

Platinum Members

* If you’re lucky enough to be a platinum member of the Qantas Frequent Flyer program, you should ring the call centre direct rather than booking online.