If you’re a loyal Oneworld, Star Alliance or SkyTeam flyer, you probably try to fly with airlines from your alliance at every opportunity. But, as great as airline alliances and partnerships are, they don’t cover every corner of the globe. When travelling overseas, you’ll occasionally need to fly with obscure airlines that aren’t part of any alliance.
When flying with an obscure airline, where should you credit the frequent flyer points? There are two strategies…
1. Credit the points to a partner airline
If you’re flying with a Oneworld or Star Alliance airline, you can credit the points to any other airline in the alliance. But most airlines outside of these alliances still have some partners. You’ll usually be able to credit the frequent flyer points to any partner airline frequent flyer program.
For example, you can credit Hawaiian Airlines flights to Virgin Australia’s Velocity Frequent Flyer. And you can credit Air Mauritius flights to the Emirates Skywards program. While Skywards is not a spectacular frequent flyer program, it may be more useful to you than Air Mauritius’ own Kestrelflyer program. Skywards miles can be redeemed for Qantas flights.
Many obscure airlines partner with Etihad Guest. You can earn Etihad Guest miles with over two dozen airlines including Garuda Indonesia, Philippine Airlines, Bangkok Airways, Air Seychelles and Oman Air. You can then redeem those miles for Virgin Australia flights. However, note that Etihad Guest Tier Miles (which count towards Etihad status) are not earned with all partner airlines.
An easy way to check for obscure airline partners is the Where to Credit website. Simply enter the airline you’re flying and your ticket’s fare class. The website will then show you which airlines you can earn points with, and how much you’ll earn.
In this example, Where to Credit shows that you can credit Philippine Airlines flights to Philippine Airlines, Etihad or ANA in Star Alliance:
2. Join the airline’s own frequent flyer program
Some airlines are so obscure that they have no airline partners. In this case, you may be tempted not to bother earning any points. But if there is no joining fee, it can still be worthwhile signing up for the airline’s own frequent flyer program. If you’re only taking one or two flights, it’s unlikely you’ll earn enough points for a meaningful reward. But there can be other benefits to joining the program.
James Green, one of our Award Flight Assist travel consultants, has received excellent treatment flying with obscure airlines as a base-level member of the airline’s loyalty program. Last year he flew from Cape Town to Windhoek with Air Namibia and was rewarded with great service despite having never flown the airline previously.
I couldn’t find any partners who I could credit the flight to so I joined Air Namibia’s loyalty program. We were put in 4A, 4B (first row behind business), addressed by name and provided special service the whole flight. It was free to join so it’s a no-brainer.
James has had similar experiences flying around Papua New Guinea with Air Niugini. (Qantas points can now be earned for some Air Niugini flights, but not within PNG.)
I joined Air Niugini’s loyalty program “Destinations” when it initially launched as I was doing some contract work up there at the time. Wasn’t expecting much but as it is free to join I thought “why not”. A couple of weeks later I was flying from Alotau to Port Moresby and had about 25kg excess luggage as I was carrying work equipment. On check-in at the airport I handed the agent my shiny new card. He asked me what it was so explained it was their new loyalty program. He went out the back to talk to the supervisor and after a couple of minutes came back and said there would be no charge for the excess baggage.
A few days later I was flying from Port Moresby to Daru and was upgraded to business class; not that there is much difference on domestic flights in PNG, but the gesture was appreciated nonetheless.
So if you’re flying obscure airlines, it’s still worth researching your options. Even if you can’t credit the points to a partner airline, consider signing up for the airline’s own loyalty program. It’s usually free to join so you have nothing to lose!
Do you have a question about frequent flyer programs? Check out our Airlines and their Loyalty Programs forum where you’ll find tips, tricks & chat on most frequent flyer programs.