The crazy world of frequent flyers and their privileges
You might have wondered why you're stuck in long queues while others breeze past you without waiting, or why some people casually stroll from the lounge to the airplane without a care in the world.
With certain airlines, there is indeed a class system in the truest sense of the word, and this goes beyond just the price of the plane ticket or the actual travel class. When it comes to major airlines and alliances, frequent flyers play a significant role because they travel very differently from the average leisure traveler. At first glance, you might not see much of a difference, but in reality, the disparities couldn't be greater. Moritz Lindner, CEO and expert in travel and consumer protection issues at reisetopia, the largest German portal for luxury travel, explains what privileges this group enjoys and whether they are justified.
Many airlines prioritize their most loyal customers, who are typically frequent travelers. They benefit from not having to wait in line for baggage check or security checks - instead, there's a dedicated area for them.
Moritz Lindner can speak from personal experience: "For instance, if you have a higher status with Lufthansa, you enjoy significant privileges even when flying Economy Class - such as using the First Class check-in counter or a separate security checkpoint without queues. The experience at the Frankfurt First Class Terminal is particularly remarkable, where selected frequent flyers even have their cars parked for them!"
It's not just the time advantage that frequent flyers enjoy; they also have a completely different world of travel comfort.
Lounge access for passing the time
Schaut man sich auf Instagram um, könnte man meinen, dass einige Vielfliegende nur noch kostenlos um die Welt fliegen und dabei Champagner trinken. Doch ganz so ist es dann doch nicht. Vielfliegende genießen nicht nur Privilegien bei jedem Flug mit ihrer bevorzugten Airline oder deren Partnern, sondern sammeln gleichzeitig Meilen. Das kann – auch für diejenigen, die nicht ständig mit dem Flugzeug unterwegs sind – sehr attraktiv sein. Mit den gesammelten Meilen können sich Vielfliegende nämlich schnell den einen oder anderen Prämienflug leisten – der übrigens in der Regel nicht kostenlos ist, weil noch Zuschläge bezahlt werden müssen.
This privilege of tranquility and comfort is not the only perk. While others pay a hefty sum for a bottle of water or a simple sandwich, frequent flyers can help themselves to a buffet offering various hot and cold dishes, as well as a selection of high-quality beverages. For particularly important frequent flyers, airlines even offer à la carte menus, cigars, or a limousine service to the aircraft. It may sound crazy, but it's a hidden reality at German airports, as Moritz Lindner reports: "Whether in Berlin, Düsseldorf, Munich, or Frankfurt, frequent flyers in Germany, as well as at airports worldwide, benefit from relaxing in peace before their flight and enjoying complimentary hot meals and even alcoholic beverages. All of this applies even if you're traveling with an affordable ticket in Economy Class! This level of comfort is a world away from a typical flight experience!"
In Frankfurt, for example, members with the highest status at Lufthansa, known as HON Circle, could check in at the so-called First Class Terminal. Upon arrival there, you can have your car parked by the staff at no extra cost and then go through a private security check while a personal assistant takes care of the check-in formalities.
Getting chauffeured to the airport and flying around the world for free
If you browse through Instagram, you might think that some frequent flyers are traveling the world for free while sipping champagne. However, that's not quite the case. Frequent flyers not only enjoy privileges on every flight with their preferred airline or its partners but also accumulate miles in the process. This can be very attractive even for those who don't fly constantly. With the miles collected, frequent flyers can quickly afford a premium flight - which, by the way, is usually not entirely free as there may still be surcharges to pay.
In principle, all flights with the respective airline or its alliance partners allow frequent flyers to enjoy the privileges of their frequent flyer status. This means they receive a level of service on the ground, even when flying in Economy Class, that is otherwise only available to Business or First Class passengers.
Life as a frequent flyer is at its best when one holds the highest status with an airline like Lufthansa. Even with an Economy Class ticket, passengers are chauffeured from the First Class Terminal to the aircraft in a limousine - something usually associated with astronomically expensive First Class (unless booked with miles).
So, if you've ever wondered why there's a Porsche parked next to the airplane, it's for the particularly privileged frequent flyers whose experience is a world of its own even before each flight. However, it's reassuring to know that on board, most passengers are usually on equal footing within their respective travel class. Apart from small advantages like seat selection or a personal welcome and maybe a complimentary drink, the world of privileges typically ends once the cruising altitude is reached.
CONCLUSION: If you want to belong to the circle of these privileged persons, you (usually) have to travel a lot - extensive special rights are usually only available from several dozen flights per year or flight expenses over 10,000 euros.