Airline loyalty schemes branded ‘a waste of money’

Airline loyalty schemes have been branded as a waste of money and frequent fliers could save far more by shopping around for cheap flights.

Travel expert Jack Sheldon claimed that schemes such as Avios, the frequent flier ‘currency’ used by British Airways, attracted such a small monetary value that it was no longer worth passengers’ time.

He told The Times on Saturday that a rise in competition between airlines meant that shopping around could result in larger savings than the benefits of frequent-flier programmes.

Sheldon, who runs the Jack’s Flight Club website, analysed BA flights in June and compared the value of Avios points with the savings that could be made by flying with other carriers.

He found an economy class flight from Edinburgh to Tokyo, with one stop-off, for £842 that earned 6,510 Avios points, worth roughly £65. He said the same route was available with KLM for £506, meaning that chasing the Avios points would in effect cost travellers £270.

Another example involved passengers using Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club, who could fly from Heathrow to Shanghai in June for £902, accumulating £28.59 worth of points, but there was a Cathay Pacific flight at the same time for £446 — an overall benefit of £427.

Sheldon said: “For most people, it’ll take so long to save enough points to book that dream trip that it’s simply not worth the bother.”

Frequent-flier schemes give passengers points that can be used for discounts on flights. BA’s Avios points, which are spent using its Executive Club system, can be earned or spent on partner airlines and some retailers.

Sheldon conceded that the schemes could benefit “very frequent fliers”, including those travelling on business, who can get free upgrades.

BA said: “Our Executive Club enables millions of customers to benefit from rewards.

“Each month thousands of customers take off on a seat paid for with Avios. Other benefits include the ability to pay for seat selections or purchase food and drink.”

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