Travellers often make the mistake of thinking that they need to be frequent flyers to benefit from loyalty programmes.

Loyalty programmes are often dismissed as being too much effort for too little reward, but they can add significant value to a trip and come at no extra cost. 

In some cases, there are also more than just free flights to gain. Global search and travel platform Cheapflights.co.za takes a closer look at the various loyalty programmes associated with airlines in South Africa, and provides some tips into making them work the best.

 “Travellers often make the mistake of thinking that they need to be frequent flyers to benefit from loyalty programmes. While it’s true that the odd flight here and there won’t earn enough points to be jetting off to Hong Kong in first class anytime soon, frequent flyer schemes have changed in recent years and now offer great deals to those more infrequent flyers. What’s more, you can earn points on day-to-day spending – not just flights,” says Phil Bloomfield, Cheapflights Global Head of PR and Communications.

Earn more with your family

Some airlines offer more points are often awarded for multiple family members traveling together, operating ‘household accounts. These accounts pool all the points together in one account and even children over the age of two can collect points, meaning it’s much faster to rack up rewards.

Make use of airline alliances

More often than not, it is not necessary to fly with the same airline to collect points. For example, as a frequent flyer with SAA, you can still collect points on a Mango flight because they are owned by the same group. In the same light, British Airways allows you to earn with Kulula and is part of the airline alliance, OneWorld. This includes Iberia, Qantas, Qatar Airways, American Airlines, Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific, among others. This effectively means that wherever you’re flying to, there’s an opportunity to scoop up those points. 

How to earn points with Cheapflights

It is easy to ensure that flights rack up loyalty points even without booking directly with the airline. “Search for flights on Cheapflights.co.za, using the filters to filter out any unwanted airlines or airlines that don’t have loyalty programmes. And be sure to sign up for the loyalty programme with the airline that you intend to fly with. Every time you find a flight through Cheapflights, you’ll be able to collect your miles from your frequent flyer’s portal by entering your booking reference number once you have clicked through to your chosen flight,” explains Bloomfield. 

The best way to spend points

Loyalty programmes have changed quite a lot in recent years, and there are a great deal of benefits associated with these programmes over and above free flights. “Let’s use Avios, which is linked to British Airways, as an example; the easiest way to spend Avios is called ‘part pay with Avios’. It allows the traveller to redeem their points for a cash discount on their next flight booking – even if they aren’t the passenger. Avios tickets also come with a free luggage allowance so there isn’t anything more to pay unless you want to select a seat in advance” says Bloomfield.

For example; a family of four flying from London to Los Angeles in Premium Economy would earn enough Avios for the whole family to have a weekend in Amsterdam or Paris – and still have enough Avios left to get a cash discount on another booking. It’s a no brainer. 

Flyers can also redeem Avios for flights with other airlines in the OneWorld alliance. If travelling in Asia, for example, redeeming Avios on Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines is a good way of hopping from country to country.

Buy more than just flights 

Not everyone flies on a regular basis, but that doesn’t mean that there is no value to be gained from earning points. SAA Voyager Miles for examples can be spent on more than flights. Spending options include car rental, spa vouchers and retail awards. Travellers can also spend points online. Mango Airlines allows you to send your points at Avis, Tsogo Sun, Edgars and Shoprite. Kulula, in association with British Airways allows you to earn and spend Avios. 

Flying isn’t the only way to collect points

Many loyalty programmes have partnerships with other companies, which allow travellers to collect points to top up their balance. 

Discovery Medial Aid offers discounts on Kulula flights and a credit card with huge associated benefits. FNB offers an eBucks programme which can be used on Kulula too. American Express offers a card which is free for the first year (you can cancel at any point) and gives you American Express Membership Rewards points as you spend, which can be converted into Avios points.

Search for flights connected to loyalty programmes on www.cheapflights.co.za