International travel is a pricey passion. Luckily, airlines are getting better at giving back to those who use their services regularly. Not only are these frequent-flier programmes free to join, but they’re packed with rewards and benefits that you can take advantage of as soon as you sign up.

AIRLINE: British Airways
PROGRAMME: Executive Club
BENEFITS: Executive Club operates on a currency dubbed “avois”, which are earned every time a member flies with British Airways or a Oneworld alliance partner. They can be used to unlock rewards like hotel stays and car hire while Tier Points (also earned by flying) can help members earn benefits such as priority boarding and access to exclusive lounges. Also good to know, avios only expire if your balance is inactive for three years.

AIRLINE: Turkish Airways
PROGRAMME: Miles&Smiles
BENEFITS: Turkish Airways serves 122 countries worldwide – more than any other carrier in the world – and offers a straightforward, attractive rewards program. Members of Miles&Smiles can use their miles in a number of ways – from ticket upgrades to products like luggage sets and electronics on the Shop&Miles online store.

AIRLINE: United Airlines
PROGRAMME: MileagePlus
BENEFITS: United Airlines makes it easy to earn benefits; by connecting to a partner credit card, MileagePlus members can acquire bonus award miles by making daily purchases (along with booking flights through United or a Star Alliance member). Miles can be used to upgrade your flight – think extra spacious seating, priority check-in and complimentary beverages.

AIRLINE: American Airlines
BENEFITS: American Airlines was the second airline in the world to launch a frequent-flier programme – nowadays, they also have the most members, with over 100-million people worldwide signed up with AAdvantage. The airline offers unique awards like joint flight and hotel packages, allowing customers to make the most of their spending habits.

AIRLINE: Emirates
BENEFITS: Emirates works with its sister airline flydubai to offer Skywards Miles to dedicated customers. Along with hotel discounts and in-flight upgrades, members can spend their miles on tickets to sporting and cultural events all over the world – check out the online miles calculator to see how valuable your next flight will be before you fly.

AIRLINE: Air France and KLM
PROGRAMME: Flying Blue
BENEFITS: Both Air France and Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM) use Flying Blue as their frequent-flier programme. Miles can be used to pay for unique experiences or extra services on board; they don’t expire (provided you take a flight once every two years). The programme also releases promo reward tickets on the first of each month – which may make that dream holiday a little more attainable.

AIRLINE: Singapore Airlines
BENEFITS: Singapore Airlines is constantly praised for its state-of-the-art design, phenomenal service and luxurious on-board features. Of course, this comes along with a massive price tag – so members-only deals and discounts are a welcome perk. Along with accommodations and extra in-flight services, members can spend miles on KrisFlyer Spree, an online shop with products from over 2,000 brands from all over the world.

AIRLINE: Lufthansa
BENEFITS: German-based airline Lufthansa uses Miles & More – Europe’s largest travel-loyalty service – as their frequent-flier programme. If you fly with the airline frequently, climbing up in membership status comes with some great benefits – for example, members in the top tier get the highest priority on flight waiting lists and four free bags when they fly First Class.

AIRLINE: Virgin Atlantic
PROGRAMME: Flying Club
BENEFITS: Taking a Virgin Atlantic flight may be the quickest way to earn rewards as a Flying Club member, but there are a number of other ways to stack up that mileage. With a VA credit card, you can earn .75 miles for every £1 you spend – and if there’s a reward that you’re dreaming of but your mileage isn’t quite there, you can buy miles in increments of 1,000 to top up your balance on Virgin Atlantic’s website.

AIRLINE: Qatar Airways
PROGRAMME: Privilege Club
BENEFITS: Qatar Airways is almost always at the top of every “best airlines” list, and the airline’s frequent flier programme is designed to make a customer’s experience better than expected. By booking online, members can earn bonus Qmiles, which can be used towards features like cabin upgrades and complimentary flights. Qatar Airways’ Family Programme gives families the option to pool their Qmiles in order to earn rewards quicker.

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The Carry On: March 2019

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