Choosing a frequent flyer program can have many variables to choose from. In the scheme of things, with all programs being not being equal, what is the essential frequent flyer benefit for business travelers?
Mohammed Akbar, from Kuwait, writes, “I am searching for the key benefits of joining a frequent flyer program as a business traveller, besides earning free flights. My travel is increasing and I am certain I will attain upper level elite status in a matter of months with any airline I choose. We do not have the option of easy unlimited upgrades with the local airlines, so what are the key benefits to being an elite if any?”
Mohammed, you point out an aspect that many people seem to ignore, not all airlines offer their elite frequent flyers upgrades. Unlimited upgrades is most commonly found in North American programs, and almost never offered for long haul travelers. So, as a traveler you need to decide what is most important to you in a program. As you are not interested in free flights as your primary benefits, we can skip investigating accrual and redemption options and jump to the top two benefits I have found when traveling on business.
The top two benefits I have found are lounge access and priority access security checkpoint lines.
After years as an elite frequent flyer with airlines in the United States, I switched to European carriers for the single benefit of worldwide lounge access with their partners, something not offered by U.S carriers. I was a long time elite with BMI for Star Alliance lounge access worldwide, having now attained elite status with British Airways for OneWorld lounge access. A lounge is a haven, a quiet place to sit, eat, work, relax and if you need to change flights, missed a flight or have the chance at an upgrade, the lounge staff are usually the best option for helping elite frequent flyers.
For business travelers, showing up at the airport late, or at peak times, happens more often than not. With airport security lines often being long and slow during peak travel times, access to a priority airport screening lane can mean the difference between making a flight and standing in line aggravated because you have missed a flight. Priority access security lane access has saved me from missing flights more times than I can even remember.
So Mohammed, I’m sorry I can’t cite the single frequent flyer benefit I find most useful for business travelers, so you’ll have to settle for the two frequent flyer benefits I have found indispensable.