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The Australian Frequent Flyer
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Emirates losing its Midas Touch

Emirates is widely regarded as one of the world’s best airlines, but one member believes the standard of on-board service has plummeted recently. Inedible meals in business class, a broken seat in first class and disinterested customer service are just the beginning of this member’s long list of unfortunate experiences with Emirates Airlines.

On one recent flight, this member was served an undercooked meal in business class. Instead of rectifying the problem, the crew refused to provide another meal. Furthermore, this member’s requests to speak to the purser went unanswered.

Other members report mixed experiences with Emirates. Some concur that customer service levels are on the decline, with one member describing the service on a recent flight as “rude” and “disorganised”. Others have had very positive experiences where the on-board service has been faultless. Some members hypothesise that the airline is growing too quickly for its own good. They believe that this is resulting in lower quality control and greater inconsistencies in service levels.

Some members are also unimpressed with the airline’s seat quality in economy and business class. Our members believe the airline is not keeping up as other airlines race to make improvements to their planes. Flights on ...more
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Make the most of a long layover in Singapore

A lengthy layover lasting 18 hours is not always a welcome interruption to a long journey. But things are a bit different in Singapore, widely regarding as a fantastic stopover point between Australia and Europe.

One member will have a full day in Singapore between Singapore Airlines flights and requests some tips about how best to make use of this time.

"In about two months, we will be transiting at Changi between a flight from Melbourne to one to Frankfurt – a layover of 18 hours. Any suggestions of what we might do to make this more comfortable?"

Singapore is a very handy place for a stopover, whether you stay at the airport or head into the city. The airport itself is rated as one of the best in the world. There are a number of highly-regarded airport lounges, with the Singapore Airlines and Qantas lounges particularly notable for their excellent quality. But one does not need to be a member of a frequent flyer program or flying in business class to use a lounge in Singapore. There are a number of comfortable lounges at Changi Airport that will let you enter for just a nominal entrance fee. Priority Pass members also have access to a number of different lounges in each of Changi’s three terminals.

There are even a couple of hotels located right at the airport. The Crowne Plaza is a popular choice amongst our members, as is the Ambassador Hotel ...more
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Extracting Maximum Value from Virgin Velocity Points

This week one member is in an enviable position. They have over 100,000 Velocity frequent flyer points stashed away and request advice about the best value way to use these points.

Velocity Frequent Flyer points can be used for a variety of different redemptions including reward flights, upgrades, holidays, gift vouchers, products at the Velocity store and even Virgin lounge membership. But which redemptions offer the best value?

Unsurprisingly, most members suggest using the points to fly in business or first class. Naturally, Velocity points can be used to fly business class on Virgin Australia itself. Our member would even get some small change from 100,000 points for a one-way business class flight to Los Angeles or Abu Dhabi. For the same number of points, our member could also book a return flight to either of those destinations in economy class. But unfortunately Virgin’s international network is limited with Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi being the only long-haul destinations served by the airline. The good news is that Velocity points can also be used to fly on partner airlines including Etihad, Delta, Hawaiian Airlines and Air New Zealand. This allows for travel to a wide range of destinations all around the world.

A left-field solution has been found by a number of members. Virgin Velocity and the Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program have a unique arrangement where points can be transferred between the two airlines’ frequent flyer programs. Velocity points can be transferred to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles at a rate of ...more
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Discovering the beauty of Western Australia

This week we are treated to a trip report a little closer to home. Our member feezable got to experience the beauty of Western Australia, using Broome as a base to explore the best that the west has to offer.

It seems that there is indeed a lot to see and do in Western Australia. After admiring the art and architecture in Fremantle, just south of Perth, our member flew on to the tourist hotspot of Broome where they spent a few days.

Immediately after arriving in Broome, our member was treated to a full moon. This meant that the famous Stairway Night Market was in full swing.

“The market operates for the 3 full moon nights each month… The food at the market was great, the selection ranged through the various Asian cuisines to hamburgers and crepes.”

As well as enjoying the sun, sand and delicious food in Broome during the day, our member witnessed the “Staircase to the Moon” in Roebuck Bay. This natural phenomenon is a truly spectacular sight and, according to our member, must be seen to be believed.

“Photos don’t do the stairway to the Moon justice. I had a strong emotional response to it and felt quite stunned by the beauty of what I had just witnessed.”

In addition to immense natural beauty …more
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“Automated Passport Control” expedites USA arrivals

Australian travellers to the United States will be pleased to know that “Automated Passport Control” (APC) kiosks can now be used when entering the country. APC machines have now been installed at many major airports in the United States, including Los Angeles, Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami, San Francisco and both of New York’s international airports. This could make the process of clearing US immigrations and customs much quicker and more pleasant.

US & Canadian citizens, as well as passengers using the Visa Waiver Program (with an ESTA) can use the machines. Most Australian travellers should have an ESTA, or Electronic System for Travel Authorization, so will be eligible. The only other criteria is that you need to have been to the USA at least once, using your current passport, since 2008.

If you use an APC kiosk, you will still need to see an officer to have your passport stamped. However the overall process should be significantly faster. A number of members have reported recent success with the system.

“Just arrived into DFW no waiting at kiosk and through in 2 minutes, collected luggage and in our room at the Grand Hyatt DFW 20 minutes after landing…pretty impressive”

Some members have reported that the machines didn’t work and that they needed to be processed manually. For example, this may occur if your fingerprints cannot be scanned correctly. One member has a piece of advice to (hopefully) avoid …more
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Secrets to Status Match Success

If you hold elite status with any airline, you may be able to get it matched by another airline for free! Numerous status match deals have been circulating on AFF lately. Two of the most popular are from Airberlin of the oneworld alliance and Alitalia, a member of the SkyTeam alliance.

A status match is where you are offered the equivalent of your current status level with a competing airline for free. Many of our members have reported success in recent months in having their status matched by Airberlin. Even though the program may seem obscure, Airberlin’s Topbonus program is particularly useful for Australian flyers as it offers benefits on both Qantas and Virgin Australia! Our members have found the status match process with Airberlin relatively simple, although the airline unfortunately won’t match with other oneworld airlines such as Qantas.

Recently Italian airline Alitalia announced a status match promo of their own. The airline will match Silver, Gold or Platinum membership of any airline outside of the SkyTeam alliance – including Qantas and Virgin Australia. SkyTeam status is perhaps not as useful as oneworld status for an Australian flyer, but you’ll have access to privileges on airlines like Vietnam Airlines, KLM, Delta and numerous Chinese airlines.

Similar status match offers come and go periodically. Recently Turkish Airlines, Etihad Airways and even Qantas have offered status matches – although the latter was only for NZ residents.

Applying for a status match is typically a ...more
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Have them in circles
52 people
Charan Koghar's profile photo
Andrew Zorko's profile photo
Graham Connolly's profile photo
Zoe Wyatt's profile photo
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Flying Delta in the USA as a Velocity member

Our member FIFOSuit recently headed to the United States for a whirlwind of a trip. Six US and Canadian cities including Las Vegas, New York and Toronto were visited in just twelve days.

As a Velocity frequent flyer, our member decided to fly with Virgin Australia to LA. Delta, Virgin’s partner airline, was used for flights within the United States. Flyers with elite status on Virgin Australia have access to status privileges on Delta including free checked luggage, lounge access, priority boarding and a host of other benefits. They can also earn Velocity points and status credits for Delta flights.

"All of our delta flights were booked direct, in one go. We also made use of deltas complimentary comfort+ upgrades for gold and platinum velocity members."

Velocity Platinum, Gold and even Silver frequent flyers are also able to request a complimentary upgrade on Delta flights from Economy to “Comfort Plus”. These upgrades are free but subject to availability. Upgrades can also be guaranteed by purchasing them well in advance. Platinum members are able to request an upgrade three days before departure, while Gold and Silver flyers can try 24 hours in advance. Delta’s Comfort Plus is similar to premium economy as it comes with a better seat, free food & drinks and in-flight entertainment. It is slightly better than American Airlines’ “Main Cabin Extra” product, which provides extra legroom but not improved on-board service.

After a few days in Las Vegas to begin the trip, our member flew to the Kentucky city of Louisville. Unfortunately there were significant delays flying onto Louisville (SDF), but for a remarkable ...more
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Qantas adds new flights to Queensland

Qantas announced last week that it will add two additional domestic routes to destinations in Queensland. From October, the airline will begin long-awaited direct flights between Melbourne and the Gold Coast. Flights from Sydney to the Sunshine Coast will also be added just in time for Christmas.

This comes as further good news for Queenslanders and visitors alike. Qantas also recently began flying directly to Hamilton Island, taking over the route from its low-cost offshoot Jetstar. This week Qantas will also begin flying directly to Tokyo from Brisbane.

Our members are understandably delighted by the announcements. The new flights between Gold Coast and Melbourne have been anticipated by our members since Qantas began direct flights from Sydney to the Gold Coast a few years ago. At the time that the Sydney-Gold Coast flights were re-introduced, Qantas had not flown to the Gold Coast at all for several years after handing all of its flights there over to Jetstar. Qantas returned with much fanfare, re-opening the Gold Coast Qantas Club and even offering status matches to Gold Coast residents. The investment seems to have paid off, as they are now not only adding a second Gold Coast route, but increasing the number of existing ...more
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Good News for Infrequent Flyers

One infrequently-flying member is considering whether it is worthwhile collecting frequent flyer points. This member takes only a small handful of flights on Qantas each year.

The answer from our brains trust is a resounding YES. Although our member may not fly enough to enjoy the perks of Gold or Platinum status, there are still many advantages to collecting frequent flyer points. Even flyers with just a few thousand points to their name can start to reap the rewards.

Redeeming points for a free flight is not as far out of reach as it may seem. Flights can be had for as little as 8,000 points on Qantas, or just 6,900 points on Virgin Australia. Both airlines will also let you use points to bring down the cost of a regular flight. Of course, points can also be used to upgrade a flight to business class. This is one of the most popular ways to use points. Although frequent flyers with higher status often have priority in the points upgrade lottery, many of our members have reported high success rates upgrading with bronze status.

Even if you aren’t interested in flying, points can also be redeemed on the ground for things like supermarket vouchers and hotels. Although our members warn that these redemptions don’t usually provide the same value as flight redemptions, they do offer a simple alternative. more…
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Don’t pay credit card fees again

One member has noticed that many credit card companies are more than willing to waive their annual card fees for long-term customers if they think the customer might cancel the card. This member has not paid an annual fee on any of their current credit cards. Some of their cards are fee-free for life, while the fee on other cards has been waived just by threatening to cancel the card.

“I currently have 3 credit cards that I have held for more than a year. For all of these cards I no longer pay any annual fee because it is either fee-free for life, or I have been offered a waiver of the annual fee when threatening to cancel. I would have thought a few years ago fee waivers would be fairly rare… it seems like credit card providers are willing to throw a lot more at you to keep you as a customer.”

With ever increasing competition in the credit card market, it would seem that banks are now more willing than ever to waive the annual fee if it means retaining a customer. As the old saying goes, it’s much easier to retain existing customers than to find new ones. Most banks offer significant amounts of bonus points to new customers, so it only seems right that they would also want to look after their current ones.

Our members have found that by calling up the bank to cancel the card, the representative will in many cases offer to waive the annual fee for the following year in an attempt to keep the customer.

“With the annual fee due again soon, I called up today to close the Premium / Platinum version, and they offered to waive the fee.”

Results vary from …more
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Free Seat Selection on Jetstar

Like most low-cost airlines, Jetstar does not give much away for free. This includes seat selection. Choosing your seat of choice on a Jetstar flight typically costs at least $5 for a regular seat or even more for an “extra legroom” or “up-front” seat. But there is a trick to get the seat you want for free.

If you purchase a bundle, this will generally include free standard seat selection, meaning you can choose your seat at the time of booking. However the bundle itself does cost money and it isn’t always available. For example, if you book a “price beat” ticket, you won’t be able to purchase a bundle.

Previously, you would have been able to wait until check-in opened, then choose a seat for free. Check-in generally opens 48 hours before the flight. However, Jetstar recently began charging for a choice of seat even at check-in. So, if you wanted to choose a seat when you checked in, you’d need to pay or otherwise be allocated a seat randomly. Fortunately there is a loophole here. If you check in on Jetstar’s mobile site, you will still currently be able to allocate yourself a seat for free.

“If you use the mobile site (you can do so on a desk-top computer if you need to) then you are allocated a seat when you start the check-in process. You can then change it free of charge just as it always was with both sites.”

If you wish to print your boarding pass…
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Cheap business class to Europe courtesy of Life Miles

This week we follow our member RB‘s trip to some of the less well-travelled parts of Germany, Italy and Spain.

To travel to Europe in comfort and style, but without breaking the bank, our member made good use of Life Miles. Life Miles is the frequent flyer program of Columbian airline and Star Alliance member Avianca. The program may seem obscure, but it can be the key to cheap business and first class travel. Miles in the program can be purchased outright – often with very generous discounts or bonuses – then redeemed for travel on Star Alliance airlines such as Thai Airways and Lufthansa. There are a few catches; for example, flights are subject to award availability. But with a little bit of planning some very good deals can be obtained.

Although our member left it a tad late to lock in their flights, there were still a number of business class seats on Thai Airways available.

“We were late in making plans for a holiday in 2015. By Feb our LifeMiles options to Europe were a bit restricted but options were still there. We booked our flights in & out of Munich (a long time since we had flown there) & then started to plan a holiday around that.”

For this reason, Thai Airways ...more
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People
Have them in circles
52 people
Charan Koghar's profile photo
Andrew Zorko's profile photo
Graham Connolly's profile photo
Zoe Wyatt's profile photo
Ahmed Ismailjee's profile photo
Sam Heathfield's profile photo
Paul Barclay's profile photo
Adrian Arumugam's profile photo
Vktour Co.,Ltd's profile photo
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Australia’s Leading Frequent Flyer Community and Travel Website.
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Here you can read our member’s travel experiences, hotel reviews and trip reports. Get expert opinion on everything from the best frequent flyer credit card to securing a free airline upgrade.