How to Use One Airline Program for Benefits and Another to Earn Miles

Many frequent flyers have probably come across this scenario – you want to enjoy the elite status benefits of one airline program, while crediting the miles for your flight to a different frequent flyer program.

In theory this should be possible. Booking systems such as Amadeus have different fields available for just this purpose – FQTV for mileage accrual, FQTS for status benefits – but good luck finding an agent who is willing and able to populate these fields correctly.

This usually means resorting to tricks, some of which work just fine, and some of which don’t.  But let’s look at the specific elite status benefits you might be aiming for.

Lounge Access

Lounge access is probably the easiest elite benefit to obtain. All it usually requires is a physical card showing your valid elite status (or the airline App… now that fewer airlines send out replacement cards each year). All you do is:

  1. Add your preferred accrual FF # to your reservation
  2. Show your physical card at lounge reception
  3. Make sure to mention to the receptionist that you don’t want them to change your FF# on file

Seat Selection

You must have your elite status FF # attached to your reservation if you want to use it to select a seat in advance for free. But once you have your boarding pass safely in hand you can:

  1. Attempt to change the FF # via the airline App
  2. Ask a check-in agent (or somebody in the lounge) to change your FF # for you

In some rare cases – such as prized international First Class seats such as 1A – you might find yourself bounced out of your seat if you change your FF # before boarding. But usually you will remain in the seat printed on your boarding pass.

Fast Track Security

Many airport security personnel don’t have a clue what the various colors of airline cards mean, so you often need to have your elite status FF # attached to your reservation if you want to be correctly scanned into a faster security lane. Once through, you can:

  1. Attempt to change the FF # via the airline App
  2. Ask somebody in the lounge to change your FF # for you

Priority Boarding

Many airlines print a Boarding Group on your boarding pass, based on your status / cabin. In that case, you will need to have your elite status FF # on your reservation at the time of printing your boarding pass. But you can also attempt to change your FF # via the airline App, assuming that you have a paper Boarding Pass available. (using your phone as Boarding Pass would show your updated, lower level of boarding priority)

However, I have occasionally enjoyed success by simply showing my elite status FF card when the gate agent announces “Star Alliance Gold” or “Oneworld Emerald” members can now board. Some gate agents are simply more concerned with getting passengers on board, instead of truly policing those entitled to board first.

Extra Luggage Allowance

You will definitely need your elite status FF # on your reservation in order to check-in any excess luggage. And if you have any excess luggage checked, you will almost certainly not be able to subsequently change the FF # on file.

Upgrades

Whether it’s operational upgrades on international flights or the standard upgrade lottery on domestic flights, you risk losing your upgrade if you attempt to change your FF # on file at any time before occupying your upgraded seat on the aircraft itself.

Be Prepared for Mix-Ups

The only really guaranteed way to earn miles in your preferred airline program is to use that FF # throughout the reservation and check-in/boarding process. But any time you switch from one FF # to another, you run the risk of the change not sticking. (whether deliberately or accidentally – most airlines would rather not pay another airline to issue those miles)

So… for any elite benefit other than lounge access, I usually ask myself what is more important – the miles or the benefits – and make my airline program choice accordingly.  Others try to play more complicated games, with varying levels of success…

 

 

 

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