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Old Mar 30, 11, 7:07 am   #1
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
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New Job Requires Frequent Travel; What programs should I sign up for?

Hi,

After 6 years of hauling you fine folks around in those RJ's that everyone loves to hate (E145), I finally decided to take a job flying heavy freight in 747's.

Luckily, my new company buys us airline tickets to and from work. This means I'll be eligible to reap the benefits of various frequent flier programs and will be taking airline flights between 2 and 8 times per month.

My main question stems from the overlap in frequent flier programs of airlines in the same "alliance". For example, I live in Houston so I've already signed up for Continental's OnePass. Should I sign up for USAirways' and United's programs as well, even though they're all in the Star Alliance? What about AA and Alaska, etc etc.

So far I've only signed up for AAdvantage, CO Onepass, and DL Skymiles. If I plan on flying on all the US majors from time to time except southwest (company doesn't use them), are there more I need to sign up for? Will AA cover Alaska Air?

Are there any other gotchas or "wish I would've known that" for someone just starting out as a frequent flier? I haven't traveled as a regular passenger in years, since I previously got unlimited standbys when I was a passenger pilot.

Thanks,

747freightPilot
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Old Mar 30, 11, 8:43 am   #2
 
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Typically you wanna bank all miles flown in a particular alliance to one airline within that alliance. The 3 you have look like a good start. Ideally you'd take all your flights within one alliance and one carrier to get max benefits and status with them.
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Old Mar 30, 11, 8:52 am   #3
 
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I'd stick to 1 StarAlliance FF program and try to get status. Sticking with CO is good for all 3 (while there are 3) and probably the best as you're Houston based. As for AA & Delta if you'll only be flying them every so often and not able to build up status with them you might want to sign up for Alaska's program and credit AA and DL flights to that. This will maximize your award ability on them and maybe allow for Alaska Status which "could" help when flying on those other 2. Good luck.
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Old Mar 30, 11, 8:59 am   #4
 
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Welcome to FT!

Good advice above. Just to expand on that a bit, if you have any say in which airlines you fly, try to concentrate your miles on one airline and one alliance as much as possible, since it will give you status that can help with upgrades, accumulating bonus miles, better treatment in the even of irregular operations, etc. Since you're based in Houston, I suspect that airline will be Continental, which as you know is in the process of merging with United.

Beyond that, many people (including me) feel that US is the worst of the legacy carriers, so you might consider steering clear of it to the extent possible (though if you do concentrate on Continental and it or United do not fly to a given place, you can accrue CO miles by flying US since they're both Star Alliance). And many people (including me) feel that the American frequent flyer program is better than Delta's, to the extent you ever have to choose whether to fly one or the other. But you may well get different points of view on these matters from other folks.

In addition, think about credit cards affiliated with the airlines as ways of accruing additional miles. They often offer bonuses of at least 25K or 30K miles for signing up and some initial spending. Check the Miles Buzz or Other Credit Card forums for more info on that stuff.

And the Starwood American Express card is great if you either want to accrue points for hotel stays or convert them into airline points...though, unfortunately, the conversion rate for United isn't good. I'm not sure about the current conversion rate for Continental, but in any event that will become irrelevant when the two airlines fully combine.
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Old Mar 30, 11, 9:54 am   #5
 
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Thanks for the above advice.

Using a single Alaska account to accumulate status on both American & Delta simultaneously is an interesting strategy that I hadn't considered.

Either way, I'll limit myself to one account per alliance and stick with those.

The way it works with my employer is that we can pick whatever airline and flight we want to take as long as it's no greater than $100 more expensive than the company's pre-selected flight. I'll try to focus on CO (eventually UA) for sure, since that will usually mean no connections for me.

Unfortunately, US is often the cheapest by more than $100 so I have a feeling I might end up on them more often than I'd like.

I might look into credit cards at some point but I already have a bunch; my coworkers seem to imply that we come close to maximum status without needing to use credit cards, but they might be exaggerating; time will tell.
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Old Mar 30, 11, 10:23 am   #6
 
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FYI, CO and United have merged and are in the process of becoming one airline (example, note United's new logo). You can now earn status & mile on both programs:.

See this post by lucky (thepointsguy)
http://thepointsguy.com/2011/03/majo...w-combineable/
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Old Mar 30, 11, 10:31 am   #7
 
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Welcome to FT!

With your eperience I am sure you will quickly reach most valued member status very quickly!

Quote:
Originally Posted by 747freightPilot View Post
Using a single Alaska account to accumulate status on both American & Delta simultaneously is an interesting strategy that I hadn't considered.

The way it works with my employer is that we can pick whatever airline and flight we want to take as long as it's no greater than $100 more expensive than the company's pre-selected flight. I'll try to focus on CO (eventually UA) for sure, since that will usually mean no connections for me.

Unfortunately, US is often the cheapest by more than $100 so I have a feeling I might end up on them more often than I'd like.

I might look into credit cards at some point but I already have a bunch; my coworkers seem to imply that we come close to maximum status without needing to use credit cards, but they might be exaggerating; time will tell.
Couple of minor misunderstandings here.

1. The Alsaka account doesn''t get you status on AA and Delta, though there is some reciprocity on benifits. The status will be on Alaska. If however you fly on AA or DL you will get status points with Alaska.

2. Flying on US, UA and CO wil get you status on whichever you decide to be your primary carrier. So if you choose CO, you can fly UA or US and credit status miles to CO. Once you reach elite status on CO you will get most of the same bennies on the other two, as far as priority check-in, elite security lines, priority boarding, free luggage, etc. Upgrades? YMMV, but only count on getting upgraded with the carrier you have status on.

3. If US will be your primary carrier, just use their program. (See 2) They aren't THAT bad.

4. A couple of credit cards will get you some qualifying miles. BUT your co-workers obviously are not members of FT! Trust us.

Credit cards will get you redeemable miles, with a good size bonus at sign-up. Those miles will jumpstart your account so you can be that much closer to an exotic trip, upgrades on a long flight, etc.
For example, last year I got an AA credit card that got me 100K miles. That's enough for the DW and I to fly a TransCon in J, or for me to fly to Europe in J.

The Starwood card transferes into AA at 25K miles for every 20K miles moved. You get 1 starpoint for every dollar spent, plus if you are staying at a SPG property you score bonus points. (Going to SAT for a week, guess which card I'm using on my SPG matress run?) I cuurently have 40K Star points, which equals 50K AA miles. As said above, check which airlines give you the best transfer rates.

You can also use the card to buy US dollar coins direct from the US mint for $250 for 250 coins, instant 250 points. No shipping or handling. Those are great for paying tolls, buying a drink at the corner store, etc. Some people buy them by the truck load, deposit them and pay their credit card off instantly. (I'm not quite that hard core.)

Another interesting bennie, IIRC, I just saw an offer with the Chase brand CO card that will get you 1 year membership to the CO President's Lounge.

Fact is, the right card/s is/are indespensible for your travel life.


Last piece of advice. Read this site, alot at first. There are tons of bonuses, (I just popped on FT to get the Avis 3000 AA miles for a 3 day rental code) opportunities for free miles, discount hotels, etc that pop up on here daily. The first month I was a member here I spent hours a day just figuring it all out. That was critical because I went from flying 20K miles a year to flying about 160K over the next 10 months. I'm back to my normal 20K now, but this board was invaluable to giving me a great travel expirience and has changed the way I will forever look at traveling.
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Old Mar 30, 11, 3:06 pm   #8
 
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How many miles will you be flying per year? Since you are out of houston, I would recommend getting status on United (I'm counting CO and UA as the same airline), if only at the base 'premier' level because they are going to offer non-stop flights to lots of convenient places. Even if you are top tier with US and fly US mostly, you can't get the UA benefits like Econ Plus and Free Domestic Upgrades with a high level US status when on United. If you think you will be flying US exclusively due to price, then this makes no sense, but the convenience of non-stops when you fly a lot might make sense to spread the status out to a couple of airlines, especially if you fly enough to hit top tier on one airline also get status on another.
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Old Mar 30, 11, 4:59 pm   #9
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
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There's really no way to know how many miles I'll fly per year.

On average I would suspect 4 domestic legs per month. I'm sure there will be an occasional business class international long-haul flight too, maybe one every second or third month (they have to give us business or better on int'l).

My primary goal is to get upgrades on domestic legs. I can still jump seat on any carrier domestically in my leisure time so I'm not so worried about free tickets.

I'm going to make my first objective to get status on Continental. If they end up booking me on airways more than everyone else I'll look at going with them instead later.
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Old Mar 30, 11, 8:21 pm   #10
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 747freightPilot View Post
There's really no way to know how many miles I'll fly per year.

On average I would suspect 4 domestic legs per month. I'm sure there will be an occasional business class international long-haul flight too, maybe one every second or third month (they have to give us business or better on int'l).

My primary goal is to get upgrades on domestic legs. I can still jump seat on any carrier domestically in my leisure time so I'm not so worried about free tickets.

I'm going to make my first objective to get status on Continental. If they end up booking me on airways more than everyone else I'll look at going with them instead later.
I'd go w/ the CO as well.. Keep in mind, remember to use your Onepass FF # when booking on the US flights so it credits properly. I prob fly as many or more US flights on my CO. I've heard from many that rewards avail on US vs. CO is absolutely horrid. I can't say I've ever had any trouble finding reward availability on CO.

Only downside is no upgrades on the US w/ my CO status and same day changes cost me $50 on US vs $25 as Gold on CO.(depending on airport - the smaller ones it seems like both airlines rarely charge me a penny when I ask nicely for a no change-fee) Once you achieve Gold on CO you also get the double bonus on miles which US as *A Gold will only give you 150% bonus.

I short haul so the difference is 750 miles credit per segment on US vs the 1000 I get per segment on CO. Sounds like you will have longer hauls and may have a more significant difference.
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Old Mar 30, 11, 9:30 pm   #11
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Wirelessly posted (BlackBerry8530/5.0.0.601 Profile/MIDP-2.1 Configuration/CLDC-1.1 VendorID/417)

If lounge access is important to the OP, I would at least consider crediting the first 20,000-25,000 miles flown on CO/UA/US to Aegean's frequent-flyer program. Aegean gives Star Alliance Gold status after 20,000 credited miles in one year. (Note that some discounted CO/UA fares only earn 50% credit on Aegean.)

The big benefit of Star Alliance Gold earned through a foreign carrier like Aegean is that it permits U.S. lounge access, even on domestic flights. The downside is that crediting the first bunch of miles to Aegean will delay earning status on one of the other carriers that might result in upgrades on those carriers. But the domestic lounge benefit might outweigh that factor.

Last edited by guv1976; Mar 30, 11 at 9:33 pm.
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Old Mar 30, 11, 11:00 pm   #12
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by guv1976 View Post
Wirelessly posted (BlackBerry8530/5.0.0.601 Profile/MIDP-2.1 Configuration/CLDC-1.1 VendorID/417)The big benefit of Star Alliance Gold earned through a foreign carrier like Aegean is that it permits U.S. lounge access, even on domestic flights.

Are you sure about that? My ex was denied access as StarGold (BMI) to domestic Presidents Clubs when not flying internationally. Luckily her Amex gave her access.
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Old Mar 30, 11, 11:18 pm   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by armattheus
Quote:
Originally Posted by guv1976 View Post
Wirelessly posted (BlackBerry8530/5.0.0.601 Profile/MIDP-2.1 Configuration/CLDC-1.1 VendorID/417)The big benefit of Star Alliance Gold earned through a foreign carrier like Aegean is that it permits U.S. lounge access, even on domestic flights.

Are you sure about that? My ex was denied access as StarGold (BMI) to domestic Presidents Clubs when not flying internationally. Luckily her Amex gave her access.
Yep. Here are the *Gold lounge-access rules:

http://www.staralliance.com/en/benef...access-policy/

Given the differences in domestic lounge-access policies between CO/UA/US *Gold members and foreign-airline *Gold members, it is probably a good idea for foreign *Gold members to carry a copy of the policy with them.
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Old Mar 30, 11, 11:27 pm   #14
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by guv1976 View Post
Wirelessly posted (BlackBerry8530/5.0.0.601 Profile/MIDP-2.1 Configuration/CLDC-1.1 VendorID/417)Yep. Here are the *Gold lounge-access rules:

http://www.staralliance.com/en/benef...access-policy/

Given the differences in domestic lounge-access policies between CO/UA/US *Gold members and foreign-airline *Gold members, it is probably a good idea for foreign *Gold members to carry a copy of the policy with them.
Yeah I can see that it'd be good to have a copy of the rules for Star but on Continental's page it says as requirements for *Gold:
OnePass Platinum or Gold Elite Card
Photo ID
Departing international Star Alliance boarding pass
So it might be a difference in rules...like SQ with just about everything.
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