The Travel Adviser: Amassing miles?

The Travel Adviser Amas

Guy genuinely likes his brother-in-law. He's not a braggart, and when he told Guy that it made more sense to enroll him in the frequent flyer program of Air France rather than Delta Airlines, which Guy flies, there was no reason not to accept his advice. There are three major airline alliances. All are free to join. All claim that they offer the greatest advantages in accruing miles and obtaining that ever elusive "free" ticket. It's a very easy process. You go online, enroll in an airline's frequent flier program and use that number when flying any partners in her alliance. Levels of redemption vary from airline to airline. Both Delta and Air France belong to the Sky Team Alliance. This broad coalition includes a mishmash of airlines, such as Aeroflot, Air France, Alitalia, Delta, KLM and Korean Air, to name the heavyweights. Frequent flyers know that choosing an airline in their alliance may lead to use of business lounges in airports around the world, upgrades to business or first class and for the vast majority a mileage ticket, where the only cost is the fuel surcharges and airport taxes. Because Guy's brother-in-law elected to enroll him in Air France as opposed to Delta Airlines, a smaller number of miles was required to receive a bonus ticket to North America. A bit of background on Guy. He's an extremely well educated and successful businessman in a vibrant hi-tech business. Fortunate enough to fly business class, he's a top-tier frequent flyer as he crosses the Transatlantic route several times a year on Delta Airlines. He prefers Delta as it flies nonstop to JFK and while he has nothing against a stop in Paris, his schedule demands quick flights and even quicker turn-arounds. Guy is the ideal client. He informs his travel consultant each and every time of his frequent flyer number, always makes sure it appears on his boarding passes and sleeps soundly on each flight (he's travels business class), confident that he's raking up enough miles to earn countless mileage tickets for his long-suffering wife. Ah, the naiveté! Guy contacted my office with a simply query. After perusing his account online, he discovered that he had earned zero points for the last several years. Adamant that he had given his frequent flyer number before each booking, he vociferously stated that he saw the number on the boarding passes. In a few minutes, the problem was diagnosed. His official welcoming package stated quite clearly: "Monsieur Guy!" It seems that when Guy was enrolled in Air France's frequent flyer program, his brother-in-law reversed his name, writing his surname before his first name. Now if he was flying Air France, this might have been picked up, but as the number entered on all of his reservations was valid, Delta's computer system accepted it blindly. Guy's second error was making the assumption that he could "trust" the airline and that his account was being credited. Loyal readers of this column know my basic tenet: Trust no airlines! Verify everything yourself! If he had only checked his online account sooner, he would have realized the error. After a phone call to Air France in Israel resulted in a shrug of the shoulders, "Monsieur Guy" was told to send all relevant documents to the head office in Paris and, hopefully, in a few months the situation would be rectified. Stay tuned.... More Airline Alliance news: Continental is joining the Star World Alliance. Without a doubt the largest alliance on the planet, it includes such stalwarts as Air Canada, Austrian Airlines, BMI, Lufthansa, Singapore, Swiss, United Airlines and US Airways, with several smaller airlines, doing their utmost to dominate the travel industry. Continental's move, spurred by Delta's purchase of Northwest Airlines, has led it to entice other frequent flyers. All elite frequent flyers in competing airlines can automatically register with Continental to obtain elite status. This perk will permit flyers to earn bonus miles at a rapid rate. Expect more surprises this fall as Continental unveils more goodies! The last airline alliance is that of One World. Anchored by American Airlines and British Airways, it counts among her allies Aer Lingus, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Malev, JAL, Qantas and Royal Jordanian. Remember, when you fly any one airline in a specific alliance, you earn miles on your frequent flyer program. Ditto for redeeming your miles. Say you're based in Tel Aviv. If you've earned all of your miles on Continental, for example, and want to fly to London, you do not need to fly via Newark. Simply contact Continental Airlines and arrange a mileage ticket on BMI, which flies twice daily nonstop between Tel Aviv and London. What you do need to do is track your miles and read the small print very carefully as miles, like hairlines, can recede - and you'll only be left with the memories! Mark Feldman is the CEO of Ziontours, Jerusalem. For questions and comments email him at