Frequent Flyer Fanatics: Trent Nickson
The Flight Detective reveals how you can stretch your points further with airline alliances.
Trent Nickson is a points expert better known as the Flight Detective. An Australian currently living in Ireland, he's been a frequent flyer for more than 20 years and reveals his rewards secrets on his blog.
1. Which frequent flyer program(s) do you belong to?
My primary frequent flyer program is British Airways Executive Club. I am also a member of the Aer Lingus AerClub which uses the same Avios miles currency so when home in Dublin, I can collect Avios on everyday purchases such as my shopping.
Being born in Australia means I am also a member of Qantas Frequent Flyer but I stopped using it when I switched to British Airways upon emigrating to Ireland. I have a couple of other memberships that I joined in order to get miles for a single flight, such as KLM's Flying Blue.
I'm also a member of Iberia Plus (another airline using Avios) as sometimes redeeming miles via that program is cheaper than with BA. Since you can transfer Avios between the airlines, this is a handy little perk.
2. When did you first become a frequent flyer?
My join date for Qantas Frequent Flyer was December 1996. I think I started flying a little for leisure and decided I should join a program. I preferred Qantas over Ansett and I was (and still am) far more keen on the airlines in the oneworld Alliance as opposed to Star Alliance. That definitely influenced my decision.
3. What's your current points goal?
I recently moved to the UK, so my goal is to leverage that and earn British Airways Avios on all my spending. This will involve getting things like a Tesco Clubcard and applying for a British Airways credit card. That way I can earn Avios miles on every single thing I buy, which would really increase my balance.
I try to keep my balance as high as possible, usually over 100,000. That way I have the flexibility to upgrade or use Avios outright for most of the flights I'd like to take.
4. What is the best points hack you've ever used?
Some of the best value you can get out of British Airways Avios is to redeem for flights on other oneworld airlines. As I'm originally from Australia, it means I can use them on Qantas. Domestic business class on Qantas is expensive, so using Avios instead saves a ton of money.
An example is a return flight Sydney to Brisbane in business class which retails at around $1,600. I can use 18,000 Avios and pay only $30 for the same trip. Alternatively, the least Avios I can use is 10,000 which pushes the price up to about $250. An absolute bargain as you'd be hard pressed getting economy class on Qantas for under $200.
5. Which points mistake that amateur frequent flyers make drives you crazy?
There are two. One is when people say, "Airline has no availability from X to Y when I want to go". Have you considered cities close to your destination that may have availability? Often you can get an award flight to a less popular city and then take a cheap short flight of an hour or so to get where you want to go. Alternatively, maybe starting from another city will get you availability and you can take a cheap flight to start from there.
The other one is redeeming points for economy class flights. Airlines will usually charge you taxes and fees on award travel and when you compare that to the actual economy fare, you're usually saving pennies and wasting a lot of miles. It's totally not worth it unless you need to be somewhere urgently and the economy class prices are sky high.
Knowing how to get the best value out of your accumulated miles is very important, so I suggest to anyone that they do a little research before ploughing ahead. You may be surprised at how much you can do with your points balance given a little creative thinking.
finder's Frequent Flyer Fanatics series features frequent flyer and rewards experts from Australia and around the world. Check back every Wednesday for our freshest Frequent Flyer Fanatic and the latest points tips.