10 reasons why I am not a fan of airline loyalty programs!

I have visited 49 countries so far but I haven’t had great success with Airline Loyalty programs. In this post I am explaining why.

I usually fly whenever it is cheap, wherever it is cheap. Trying to maintain & track airline loyalty programs, use them to max and leverage their benefits doesn’t suit my kind of usage.

1 Loyalty points expire

Airline loyalty programs stay active only if you keep flying with them. But I travel to all parts of the world depending on which airline has the cheapest ticket. Different airlines have different strengths and weaknesses, some airlines sell cheap tickets to certain destinations at specific times, so it is very hard to stick to one airline, accumulate enough points to be able to redeem them into something useful before they expire.

My 14100 odd avios points with Qatar Airways expired because I couldn’t travel much after 2019 due to covid. They were worth around 100-150 USD I guess. Could have exchanged for something in Doha airport if I had another flight or if I knew in 2019 that covid is going to spoil future plans.

When loyalty points expire, it is free money to airlines. I can’t book another ticket costing 30-50k INR just to keep my loyalty points active. If I have a cheaper ticket from elsewhere I am not going to spend 10-20k more with another airline just to retain my loyalty points.

2. Your loyalty membership itself will expire. 

I had a Singapore Airlines Kris flyer account. I had flown with them between Chennai and Singapore multiple times in 2012-2013. But I didn’t fly Singapore airline for almost a decade as I was using much cheaper Air Asia flights to visit South East Asia. 2013 I booked a ticket to South Korea on SQ, but was unable to use my old Kris flyer account. On asking their twitter handle, I got a reply that Kris flyer account will expire after 39 months (about 3.5 years). I had to create a new account afresh. I am not very sure if I will fly enough with SQ within the next 4 years to accumulate enough points to use them for an upgrade or free ticket.

Qatar Airways at least hasn’t deleted my membership account like SQ (just about 3.5 years since my last flight with them- need to see what happens after 4-5 years). Looks like my Emirates membership is also gone.

Airlines may not even mail you that your membership is being terminated. When I try forgot password I get a msg that a link has been sent to your email, which in reality doesn’t happen as they have terminated the membership. Website should say “Sorry you’re membership is no longer active, sign up afresh”

Not sure what airlines get by deleting a loyalty program account- it is not like they are giving me some physical space or asset that costs money. A customer may get aggravated when he/she learns he/she has been kicked out of airline’s loyalty program and may book different airline next time

3. Complicated rules

I spent over 1 lakh on Srilankan Airlines, booking tickets for myself and my family. But I got no loyalty points for family member tickets. For that I need to create one account for each of them, which was not practical as they don’t fly a lot. All I could redeem was one small kids watch worth 20 rupees.

Read detailed account here:

4 Buying a ticket won’t get you loyalty points. You need to fly.

My last flight with Srilankan was from Beijing to Chennai. The points for this trip will be credited after the trip ends. And for the redemption process I had to take another flight, as they won’t deliver your gift to your home and can be redeemed on a flight as well. I have paid for the ticket- if I could redeem my points on my last flight I could have got a better gift, but now those points are gone. I’ve not flown Srilankan since 2018 and don’t have any plans for the near future.

What is the problem if I redeem my points ahead of my flight when I have a non refundable ticket?

5 I don’t see a point paying more money to get more points

Airlines sell the same economy class ticket under 3-4 different fare types. The cheapest fare type gets the least points. For more loyalty points you’ve to pay almost 2x more and select a more flexible ticket.

I don’t see a point paying 2x more for a super flexible ticket (which still has cancellation charge, need to pay fare difference etc)- I would rather buy a cheapest 35k ticket and lose it 100%, than pay 60k and lose 25k for sure if I travel and lose some 10-15k still if I can’t fly.

6 Budget airlines are usually cheaper and better

I can’t fly a full service airline just because of their loyalty points & food if I have a low cost carrier taking me to the same destination for half the price.

Full service airlines have realized it-now they are also selling economy lite fare without checked bags, without or minimum loyalty point and so on.

I had reached Platinum level with AirAsia Big loyalty program, but budget airline loyalty program means nothing. I was not sent any physical card, No priority boarding, no lounge access in KUL, nothing. A gold tier in Singapore airline would have got me lots more privileges, but then if I was to book SQ instead of Air Asia I would have probably spent 10x more money. Read more details here.

7 Hard to stick to one airline

I don’t want to stay committed to one airline. from what I have experienced it is hard to stick to one airline all the time, due to following reasons

  • In 2019, Qatar Airways had several cheap tickets, so I flew with them to the USA, UK and got some miles. But when I was planning for trips post covid, Qatar was very expensive. I flew Lufthansa and SwissAir on a recent Europe trip as they gave better deal. I don’t see a point sticking to one airline when other airlines are selling tickets for half the price for the same destination. This means my loyalty points accumulated may not be good enough to redeem anything useful and they will simply expire after few years
  • AirAsia was my preferred airline to explore South East Asia, but post pandemic their fare has increased a lot. Also I am done visiting most of SouthEast Asia, now focus is on Africa, Europe and other destinations.
  • As of now I see Singapore airline selling cheap tickets to Korea, Taiwan, Japan etc. But no guarantee how long it remains. Any moment their price may increase and some other airline may become cheaper.

8 Airline Industry Keeps evolving, rules keep changing

While we have a 3-4 year timeline to redeem our points, the industry itself may undergo changes. Many airlines go bankrupt, mergers happen, Tata is looking to merge Vistara, Air India, AirAsia etc, management changes, their pricing, rules, terms & conditions changes. Now from India I can't access my AirAsia Malaysia account. Nothing stops airlines from suddenly increasing the loyalty points needed to book a free flight.

Too much headache to keep track of how many points I have with which airline, when they expire, how many more points I need to redeem something useful, how to get them and so on. I prefer to get the cheapest tickets and be done with it.

9 There is no free meals

The money for the loyalty program doesn’t come from thin air. A portion of our ticket money is earmarked for this program. Loyalty program is excellent for business travelers where their company books their tickets on a full service airline. (Even companies are on cost cutting spree and have several rules to cut unnecessary luxury these days). As a budget traveler I would rather take a cheaper ticket and save money right away at the time of booking, than pay more and struggle to redeem it before they expire and comply with a dozen different rules of the airlines and loyalty programs.

10 There should be one universal loyalty program

Each airline has its own loyalty program. Each bank and hotel has its own loyalty program. It becomes too many memberships to manage and keep track of. Of course you get an opportunity to convert- like converting credit card points to airline points, if you are short of some points you can pay money and buy points and so on. Still it becomes too much number crunching for an individual. Unless we spend a lot, travel a lot and have an appetite to manage every point and every penny smartly this works. If not it is too much time & effort.

So what to do if you have a few points not worthy of anything?

  • Buy points- airlines allow you to pay and buy some points- can be considered if you are short of few points for a free ticket or upgrade and OK to pay some money, get extra points and use them.
  • Transfer: see if you can transfer points between different loyalty programs- not always possible, you should be lucky to have that option with another loyalty program where you already have some points and can use total points

  • Buy ticket with cash+reward points: If you have plan to buy a ticket, you can buy with points- at least a few thousand rupees will be reduced if you have adequate points

  • Ignore and move on: If loyalty points are too few and not worth the time and effort, better to forget and move on.
Let me know what you think...


  1. Interesting perspective! Loyalty programs have their pros and cons. It's all about finding what works best for you. check - https://www.themileageclub.com/ in case you want more reference to this article


Powered by Blogger.