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Why you should join an airline loyalty program – especially in Dubai

By Eat Drink Stay Dubai / February 4, 2016
Etihad A380 First Class Apartment

Why should you join an airline loyalty program?


If you are not a member of an airline loyalty program, you are missing out on a raft of benefits and there are several reasons why you should join:-

  1. Dubai has a high number of travellers and expat residents, many of which would normally be frequent travellers.
  2. The Gulf carriers have both exceptional airline loyalty programs and many different co-branded credit cards, which make earning Frequent Flyer points or miles simple and convenient.
  3. Most workers have flights home as part of their contracts, so they may as well be getting the benefits whilst they travel.
  4. No airline loyalty program charges a fee to join – so you’ve nothing to lose even if you don’t fly.
  5. Points and miles can be earned by spending other than flying such as hotels, car hire, shopping etc.
  6. Members of an airline loyalty program will always be the first to hear of any promotions or offers, and often will receive member-only deals the general public won’t.
  7. Airlines regularly offer discretionary upgrades when economy seats are overbooked, and they will upgrade their airline loyalty program members first.
  8. As if the 7 previous points haven’t convinced you, look at the Etihad A380 First Class Apartment I flew in last July by cashing in Etihad Guest miles.
Etihad A380 First Class Apartment available on Etihad Guest or American Airlines AAdvantage airline loyalty program

Etihad A380 First Class Apartmentht


What benefits are there to joining an airline loyalty program?


There are generally two main reasons for joining an airline loyalty program:-

  1. STATUS – the more your travel, the greater your status and the greater your benefits (such as lounge access, dedicated check-in, increased baggage allowances, preferential treatment and most of all – you’re more likely to be given a discretionary upgrade).
  2. EARN MILES – the further you travel, especially at increased fare levels, the more miles you will earn – which can then be redeemed against upgrades, free flights, hotel stays, car hire etc.

Which airline loyalty program should I join?


In order of priority, we’d recommend :-

Whilst we will cover each airline loyalty program in more detail in later posts, for now here is a quick brief about why we recommend these.

Emirates Skywards

Although not the best airline loyalty program in our opinion, the fact remains most Dubai residents use Emirates for flights. As it’s therefore the most popular airline in Dubai, it makes sense to be maximising them flights towards status and/or miles.

Emirates also partners up with SPG, Uber and Emirates NBD to provide more options to earn Skywards Miles and benefits to Dubai residents.

American Airlines AAdvantage

Whilst this may sound strange, anyone interested in an airline loyalty program should have an American Airlines AAdvantage account.

By collecting American Airlines AAdvantage miles (even by transferring from other airline or hotel loyalty program), you can redeem at preferential rates on partner airlines such as Qatar Airways, Qantas, Etihad Airways, British Airways etc.

For example, 30,000 AAdvantage miles will get you a business class one way flight from Abu Dhabi to UK, including a chauffeur collection/dropoff at each end. To redeem Etihad Guest miles for the same flight, you would need between 35-70,000 (depending on fare level) – which is ridiculous and extortionate.

Etihad Guest

The reasons for joining the Etihad Guest airline loyalty program are similar to Emirates Skywards – not the best value miles, but useful for status, benefits, upgrades and also many people fly through business or leisure.

How you should use your airline loyalty program

Use Emirates Skywards & Etihad Guest for STATUS, especially with a co-branded credit card, as you should get instant Silver status.
Silver Status should give you:-

  • Dedicated check-in at business/first class desks at Dubai and other airports.
  • Increased baggage weight allowance on some flights.
  • Lounge access at Dubai and other airports.
  • Priority boarding – usually after Business but before Economy, so no fighting for overhead bin space for your luggage.
  • Additional carry on capacity for number of bags on some flights.
  • Increased mile earning rates.
  • Priority for discretionary upgrades.

Use American Airlines AAdvantage for mile earning on hotel stays, car hire, shopping etc. unless you are flying on American Airlines partners such as Qatar Airways or British Airways.

Are you a member of an airline loyalty program? If so, which one – and how is it for you?

Please let us know using the comments below, and feel free to ask any questions or advice.

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