Don’t Be a Cheap Traveler, Airline Loyalty Pays

September 10, 2012

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Over the last 15 plus years, I estimate I have cashed in 40 free flights saving thousands of dollars.

Do I have your attention?

This week on NoSuperHeroes, I will be sharing some of the travel wisdom I have acquired through the years. I have taught classes on this in the past with our fellow volunteer workers. Check back to read more about finding the best deals, avoiding the middle seat, and racking up frequent flyer miles .

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I’ve been working in the missions/volunteer worker sector for 21 years. Donation based occupations must worry about the bottom line. Consequently, we often seek the cheapest airline fare.

Let me be a testament to loyalty paying off more in the long run than saving a few dollars here and there. Do not be a cheap traveler!

I have been a Gold Level flyer (50K status miles per year) with Star Alliance for the last four years. This year I will qualify for 1K for the first time.

I routinely will pay a bit of extra money to stay within in the Star Alliance network.

Here are 8 reasons why from the moment you arrive at the airport:
1. Priority check in lines – Hate waiting in line? Well, when you are Gold or above you have a dedicated check-in line. I rarely wait more than 5 minutes in line

2. Luggage fees – I have NEVER paid a bag fee. Most airlines will give their silver flyers (25k miles/year) two free bags and gold level flyers (50k miles/year) three free.

3. Luggage limits – Gold flyers on United and other airlines receive an extra 20 pounds per bag free. When you get three bags, that is an extra 60 pounds!

4. Priority Security line – Minimize the dreaded security line wait.

5. Lounge Access – On international flights or same day domestic connections from an international flight, you are able to enter an airline lounge with one guest. This makes those long layovers enjoyable. Domestic lounges are pretty lame, but the international ones have free food and beverages. Oh yes, a free shower after a long flight makes you feel human again. These lounges usually have free internet access.

6. Priority boarding – You get to board first giving you access to the elusive overhead space with more people bringing carry-ons.

7. Preferred Seating / Free Upgrades – Most airlines give priority seating to their frequent fliers. United offers the excellent Economy Plus seating with several inches of extra leg room. Also, the higher in status you climb, the more complimentary upgrades you receive

8. Mileage Accrual (Gold 1.5 miles, 1K double miles)- The more you fly, the more you fly FREE! At each level of status, the airline gives you more redeemable miles(not status miles). The miles add up fast this way

Loyalty not only gets you perks, it can save you money.

Take a look below (if you don’t like stats, skim to the bottom for the conclusion 🙂

Savings per year (based on 7 round trips/year on Star Alliance/United checking 2 bags, 1 heavy bag)
Extra free bag you would pay for: 1 Bag at $25, 2nd at $35 = $60 = $420
Extra weight in luggage ($100 per bag) = $700
Lounge Access ($50 per visit per leg) = $700
Not buying airport food ($20 per way per trip) = $280
Preferred Seating (min. $39/leg=$78/round trip) = $546
Mileage – (based on achieving gold status, you receive an extra 25,000 miles which can be converted to one free ticket) –   $400

Total savings for 7 trips = $3046

Divide that total savings by the 7 trips.

Loyalty means I can spend an average of $435 more per ticket to be loyal.

I would never spend $400 more for a certain airline. But therein lies the point.

Spending $20, $50 or even $100 more to be loyal pays in the long run.

 

Bottom line with no stats or math:

Find an airline alliance that serves your home market and most frequent destinations well.

Stick to it.

I recommend Star Alliance, as it is the largest alliance on earth with 26 partner airlines. Of all its members, Turkish and Air Canada seem to have the most favorable rules to acquire Premier or Elite status. I use United primarily with Turkish as a “back up”

What airline do you prefer?
What perks do you enjoy as frequent traveler?
Are there any travel questions you would like to see me address this week?

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Remember to check back to read more about finding the best flight deals, avoiding the middle seat, and racking up frequent flyer miles this week.
 This is not a sponsored post, all opinions are my own and have not been solicited. 

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Chris

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A missionary teacher for 24 years currently living in South Africa. I am a recovering superhero, daily in need of the grace of God