Why a Gold Card With Your Airline Matters
These are lean times and for many of us, this means no more business class travel. The airlines know this and rarely even give out upgrades anymore unless they absolutely have to. However, for very frequent travelers who are lucky enough to stick to the same airline or alliance of airlines, help is potentially at hand. If you fly enough of the right kind of miles, you might just be lucky enough to have a gold card land on your doormat. This doesn’t come without effort though and for starters, you must have a frequent flyer card with your airline of choice.
Choosing a Frequent Flyer Card
Now this is a bit Europe centric but most of what I’m about to say applies to anywhere. There are many reasons for choosing a specific frequent flyer card and if you’re a business traveller, you may not always get to fly with your preferred airline. Here are a few general guidelines:
If you’re flying a lot of economy class short haul within Europe, a frequent flyer programme that has sector based qualification is probably a good idea. A good example is Air France/KLM’s Flying Blue programme which can get you a gold card with thirty one way flights.
If you’re flying a moderate amount of long haul economy then you might want to look at those programmes that have lower qualification targets. Two examples are BMI (16000 miles to Silver plus a further 38000 miles to gold and then 38000 miles per year re-qualification thereafter) and Air Canada. Note: BMI is about to be swallowed up by Lufthansa so you don’t have too long to take advantage of this.
If you’re flying long haul to the extent that you pretty much live on the plane (not very healthy) then you might want to try for Lufthansa’s Senator card (100000 miles but you get to keep the Gold/Senator status for two years and can re-qualify for the following two years by getting 100000 miles in one of your two years of Gold status).
If you travel from Europe to Australia a few times a year or visit the Middle East a lot, Emirates is probably a good idea (and they often come out as one of the cheaper options if you’re under price pressure).
The Benefits of a Gold Card
Should you manage to obtain a Gold card, what you get is a package of benefits that amount to business class but without the comfy seat (sorry, you have to pay for that):
- You get speedy business class check in
- At some airports you also get the priority security line (Sydney even gives you priority immigration and customs on arrival and departure)
- For those long waits in the airport (especially between flights), you get access to the airline’s lounge (and I mean a proper lounge, not like one of the BAA lounges in Manchester Terminal Chav where you can watch holiday makers drinking free Stella at six in the morning)
- You get priority boarding (yes, you get a space for your sensible hand luggage before the idiots board)
- Some airlines will give you one of their extra legroom economy seats towards the front
- When things go wrong, sometimes, you will get treated like a human being (lounge hounds get help, advice and priority in the event of cancellations and delays).
As an example of how a shiny bit of plastic can help when things go wrong, I had to fly from Manchester to Dallas last year with a colleague. Our route was MAN-ORD with BMI and ORD-DFW with UA. While in the MAN BMI lounge, we were told the long haul segment from MAN-ORD had been cancelled. Here is what happened to the people in the lounge:
- A wedding party from Scotland who absolutely had to get to Las Vegas that day were given priority and other flights for the same day were arranged
- The rest of us in the lounge were simply put on the same flight for the following day (and given this flight was often full, I’m guessing some people got bumped the following day)
- They even honoured the upgrade vouchers I’d used, getting us both nice comfy seats.
As for the passengers without status, they were simply found space on whatever flight/whatever route with whatever airline the following day.
So, all in all you get a package of benefits that can save you, you’re employer and your clients time and money.