Frequent Flyer Fanatics: Adele Eliseo
The Champagne Mile’s Adele Eliseo reveals her first class bucket list.
Adele Eliseo is a professional luxury traveller and avid points collector. Whether it’s tales from first class or the latest points hacks, Adele shares her frequent flyer wisdom with fellow AV geeks on her website The Champagne Mile. We had a chat with Adele about her go-to point hacks and why redeeming your points for short-haul domestic flights doesn’t always offer the best value.
Which frequent flyer program(s) do you belong to?
If it’s a loyalty program that’s accessible to Australian travellers, then you can be sure that I’m a carded-up member! Like many Australians, I earn a significant number of points through Qantas Frequent Flyer and Velocity Frequent Flyer. However, I also earn through the American Express Membership Rewards program, which allows me to transfer into a number of different airline partners. My transfer partners of choice include Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (for cheap oneworld partner airline redemptions), Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer (I recently splashed out on a points booking to fly the new Singapore Airlines A380 first class suite) and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG)/Marriott (for luxury hotel award nights).
When did you first become a frequent flyer?
I started to seriously navigate the world of frequent flyer points around four years back. After amassing a large nest egg of Qantas points, I booked my husband and I Qantas business class oneworld Classic Award flights (also known as a “Round The World” itinerary). It was an epic trip that took in the US, Europe, Asia and New Zealand, all flying in the comfort of business class.
Costing 280,000 points (plus taxes), a business class oneworld Classic Award is by far one of the best redemption options available to Qantas Frequent Flyer members, but it isn’t straightforward to book. A number of rules need to be followed in terms of mileage, transits and stopovers. And of course, it’s always a challenge to locate award seat availability. After I returned from my trip, I started my blog, The Champagne Mile, to write about my experience booking my trip and to inspire family and friends to extract better value from their frequent flyer points.
What’s your current points goal?
In the short term, I’m looking at booking return first class Emirates flights to Venice, hopefully complete with Emirates Chauffeur water taxi transfers. I’ll look to stay at the Gritti Palace on the Grand Canal (using SPG Starpoints), and the JW Marriott Venice (using Marriott Rewards points).
In the longer term, my aim is to continue to try out as many new first class products as I can. I’ll be flying Thai Airways first class and the Etihad Apartment for the first time later in the year. I’m also looking to book a first class Qantas oneworld Classic Award so that I can tick a few remaining oneworld first class products off my list. With limited available routing and restricted first class award seat availability, this really is the Holy Grail of Qantas points redemptions. It’s going to be tricky, but I’m up for the challenge!
What is the best points hack you’ve ever used?
Hack 1: Avoiding booking surcharges
Qantas charges some of the highest fees or “carrier-imposed surcharges” in the world for award flight bookings. However, there is a way to avoid these charges and save significant money. The trick is to route your trip via a city like Hong Kong, where government regulations mean that carriers are restricted from imposing surcharges on airline bookings.
I recently used this loophole to save a significant amount of money when I used Qantas Points to book Emirates first class flights to and from Europe. As I needed to commence my travel from Australia, I split my booking into two itineraries via the Qantas multi-city tool. My two separate itineraries were ADL-HKG (in Cathay Pacific business class), and then
HKG-DXB-ATH-DXB-ADL (in Emirates first class). As my second booking commenced in Hong Kong, I was able to avoid carrier-imposed surcharges on all of the flight segments attached to that itinerary. While I did need to outlay a small number of additional points to break my itinerary into two bookings, my separate bookings saved me around AUD$900 when compared with a standalone ADL-DXB-ATH-DXB-ADL award itinerary using Qantas points. And I was still able to enjoy four decadent Emirates first class flights – a big win!
Hack 2: Cheap domestic short-haul flights with British Airways Avios
British Airways Executive Club “Avios” is a loyalty scheme that we don’t hear much about in Australia. However, the program offers an excellent “sweet spot” for short-haul flights, allowing members to nab extremely cheap Qantas domestic economy and business class award tickets. In a nutshell, British Airways Executive Club operates a distance-based award chart. Zone One routes (650 miles or under) on Qantas cost just 4,500 points in economy or 9,000 points in business class. This means that you can redeem a Qantas business class award ticket on a route like Sydney to Melbourne or even Adelaide to Canberra for just 9,000 points (compared with 16,000 points and 24,000 respectively via Qantas). Taxes and charges levied by British Airways are usually commensurate with Qantas.
It’s important to note that British Airways Executive Club membership isn’t technically available to Australians (you’ll need to sign up with an overseas address) and it can be a somewhat complex process to collect Avios. However, two key ways that Australians can earn British Airways Avios include:
- Transferring American Express Membership Rewards points to SPG and then converting Starpoints directly to British Airways Avios. This option is available until August 2018, at which point SPG will be merged into Marriott Rewards.
- Purchasing Avios through British Airways partner airline, Iberia, via Groupon Spain, and then transferring your Avios across to British Airways Executive Club.
While there is effort involved in collecting Avios, for significant savings on Qantas flights, it can be worthwhile!
Which points mistake that amateur frequent flyers make drives you crazy?
We all know a misguided individual who has enthusiastically purchased a kettle or gift voucher at the Qantas Store. However, redeeming frequent flyer points for economy flights can sometimes offer an even worse value proposition. Let’s take Qantas as an example. Often, the taxes and carrier-imposed surcharges levied on an economy award flight can exceed the amount you’d pay if you booked your flight outright with cash during a sale. Most of the time, redeeming your hard-earned frequent flyer points for economy flights is simply not worth it.