The World Cup has surely offered Africa a unique opportunity! The once dark skies of Africa are once again open to booming aviation; European and Middle Eastern carriers are building more partnerships with African airlines more than African airlines are building amongst themselves; African Flyers now have a chance to choose amongst a rich variety of frequent Flyer programs and airline alliances! The era of the state airlines, flag carriers, is fading fast and aviation in Africa is surely becoming a “normal business”! So what are the choices available for Africans who virtually live and work at 35,ooo feet?
If you are a frequent flyer, always remember to join airline loyalty programs! It takes a few minutes to sign up these days; just do it on the airline website and get your frequent Flyer ID.Remember to enter this number whenever you are booking a flight; you could get a fare discount, 'free' flights,car rental,luxury hotels,leisure and lifestyle benefits,flight upgrades, plus lots of goodies when you earn the all important frequent Flyer Miles or points!
There are still not many Frequent Flyer Programs in Africa but when you fly with major legacy carriers like Ethiopian, KQ, SAA or Egypt Air you get a chance to earn points here and there! Air Uganda also offers a FF program in conjunction with Air Mali and Air Burkina but since there is no air bridge between East and West Africa; your options are really limited. Some smaller innovative budget carriers like Kulula also offer loyalty programs but the real bread and butter is definitely in the “BIG FOUR”
While there are complaints that these programs are tailored for the rich/affluent flyers or that they turn members into mindless drones willing to fly an airline or airline alliance at any cost just to accumulate miles and become ‘Elite’ Club members (Miles Millionaires); these programs can enrich your travel experience in many big ways and mind you, when you don’t claim your miles, you make the airlines way much richer! Airlines are quite innovative when they suck every dime and nickel from your purse so always use your miles to slice the icing a little! Steven Frischling has written a great piece on how not using your miles definitely makes the airlines way much richer!,giving them "free money"
Rewards are meant to make the airlines, hotels and car rental companies rich and keep you flying the airline but they are also made to make you feel very special when you travel. To make you ” feel like a Star” as the guys at Turkish Airlines would tell you! Air travel used to be a luxury but these days it’s a matter of taking you from point A to B! A little novelty at 35,000 feet, in a posh hotel or in lounge is definitely welcome!
Being in a frequent flyer program offers you some great goodies on your flights. For one, there is the hard earned and sometimes cumbersome flight upgrade! You might book a business class and ‘find yourself’ flying first class on some airlines!
Emirates recently relaunched frequent Flyer program ‘Skywards’ even offers you more goodies including online shopping on Emirates Store and Emirates High Street or a vacation fit for a King in one of Emirates Holidays Hotels! All paid by your miles! You can also earn Skywards Miles by buying souvenirs and stuff on the Emirates stores! South African Airways is also a partner of Emirates’ Skywards program so you can earn miles even on SAA flights!
Ethiopian Airlines too has unveiled hot new services for its Sheba Miles Frequent Flyer Program members till June this year (I am member too).You can stay at the Panorama Hotel in Addis and earn the all important miles and you can also have your Sheba Miles account credited with 5000 miles if you refer a frequent Flyer to Sheba Miles and they attain the Blue Status! Ethiopian Airlines Sheba Miles program is also integrated with Lufthansa’s Miles and More Program! You also earn Sheba Miles when you fly Togolese Start-up ASKY that was launched early this year in which ET owns a 25% share.
Kenya Airways Flying Blue program which is in conjunction with KLM/Air France allows you to accumulate miles in 45 destinations serviced by the Kenyan carrier including 38 African destinations, some solid Pan African Miles! On top of these is the seamless access to major European hubs!
If you’ll be in South Africa, don’t forget to explore the magic and humour of Kulula, the airline that “does not take itself too seriously”, for inter city travel and along the way, you can sign up for the Kulula Jetsetter frequent Flyer Program!
Uganda’s carrier, Air Uganda, owned by the Aga Khan Fund for International Development offers frequent Flyer program, Celestars along with Air Mali and Air Burkina(under the Meridiana Group).Air Uganda services East African routes only but if you want an air bridge to West Africa, it’s best to fly Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines and earn quality miles!
Always when not sure about an airline’s loyalty program, do a little research(or contact us) on the airline’s programs and code share agreements and see if the airline has a frequent flyer program or whether its program is integrated with that of a major international carrier! That way, you can ensure that you collect great miles at every point across Africa as you go about your business and enjoy this historic World Cup!