Thursday 21 September 2017

Make those air miles pay off

EVEN frequent travellers are often unaware of how exactly airlines' loyalty and premium services work, and what you can get for your membership.

As the only Irish long-haul operator, Aer Lingus probably has the most-used such system for business travellers based here.

The airline's flagship loyalty programme is its Gold Circle Club. Passengers can apply to join the club free online but to qualify you must first earn 2,400 points in a one-year period.

One flight to the UK earns 100 of those points while a flight to Toronto earns 300. However, business-class transatlantic passengers are automatically awarded a 1,000-point bonus per flight, so if work takes you to the US or Canada even just once or twice a year you may well qualify for the scheme.

Once those points are reached, the passenger becomes a certified member of the Gold Circle and can start spending their points. Points can be used toward flights, upgrades or on products with certain corporate partners. Points expire after three years.

The game doesn't end at 2,400 points. The next level up is Gold Circle Prestige, reached by earning 4,800 points in a year, while the top of the chain is Gold Circle Elite, which requires 8,400 points. The benefits get increasingly more luxurious as you move up the levels but all include free access to Aer Lingus executive lounges.

Travellers can still gain access to executive lounges and other perks without membership of the Gold Circle programme. Business travellers on transatlantic flights automatically have access, as do customers travelling on "flex-fare" tickets. These tickets offer business-class perks on short-haul flights – for example, passengers can change their flight for free – even though short-haul flights don't provide separate business-class seats.

It makes sense to offer this kind of ticket on short-haul flights because these are the routes that most of Aer Lingus business travellers fly. About 15pc of the airline's passengers – 1.6 million people annually – are business travellers, mainly flying between Ireland and the UK.

Passengers can also purchase a once-off pass to the lounges for €25, either online or at the airport. Those with a Bank of Ireland Gold Visa Business Card also have free access.

Irish Independent

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