Maximize Monday: Airline Frequent Flyer Programs for Businesses

Apr 29, 2013

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Normally when we talk about frequent flyer  accounts, we’re discussing those held by individuals or even households, but what you might not realize is that many airline frequent flyer programs  actually offer business accounts that allow businesses to earn points on the itineraries their employees travel while the individual employees still earn the miles and points they would normally.

In this way, both companies and individuals are rewarded for their loyalty, and for small businesses with just a few employees, programs like this can be a great way to double dip and earn even more award opportunities for the same amount of travel.

Not only that, but business programs often offer bonuses that individuals are not eligible for, such as a current one for American’s Business ExtrAA where companies can earn double points on the airline’s new routes from LAX (more information below).

Most times, these programs are tied to spending, so you earn a certain amount of points per dollar you get based on the fare class you book – for instance you’ll earn more points on a business class fare than a discounted economy fare. Then your business can redeem those points for perks just as they would with miles, such as award tickets, lounge passes and membership, elite status and even food and drink coupons.

If you don’t have a business, it still bears looking into these since often the rules of eligibility aren’t strict or strictly enforced and in some cases you don’t have to prove your company’s existence to sign up and start earning.

All in all, joining a business program is a great way to rack up even more benefits from the flying you’re doing anyway and to put them to use on perks you might not otherwise be able to achieve.

Here are the details on each of the major programs out there as well as historic sign-up bonuses and current offers.

American Business ExtrAA

American Airlines Business ExtrAA
American Airlines’ business program is called Business ExtrAA, and per the Terms and Conditions, it is open to companies with two or more employee travelers. However, travel agencies or wholesalers, companies that have corporate sales agreements with American, and individuals are not eligible.

To start earning miles, the employee just needs to include the Business ExtrAA account number when booking tickets in addition to their own AAdvantage numbers. Employees still earn AAdvantage miles, but the company earns points that it can use for various awards.

Companies earn 2 base points per $10 spent to fly on published fares.

Then companies can redeem those points for over 50 award redemption offers including:

Award tickets: Awards start at 2,000 for roundtrip PlanAAhead (Saver) coach tickets within North America and range up to 25,000 points for first class AAnytime awards to Europe or Asia.

Upgrades: You can use 650 points per segment for upgrades within North America, or between North America, Hawaii or the Caribbean, 1,200 points each way to upgrade on full fares or 3,100 points on discounted fares between North America and Europe, South America, Central America or Asia.

AAdvantage Gold Status: This will cost you 2,400 points.

Admirals Club: Day passes cost 300 points and memberships cost3,000 points while conference room rentals cost 900 points.

There are also incentives listed like this one, where a company can earn 2,000 bonus points for every 40 travelers that fly on a Group & Meeting Travel reservation.

Although there is no sign-up bonus going on at the moment, historically Business ExtrAA has offered sign-up bonuses in the neighborhood of 2,000 points (the equivalent of spending $10,000 on travel) plus 5,000 AAdvantage miles, as they did this past January. However, you typically have to spend a certain amount within a three-month time frame. So if you’re not in any hurry to get some bonus points, then wait till another bonus offer comes around and sign up and plan your travel accordingly.

If you’re already a member, be sure to follow the program’s News and Special Offers page so you can take advantage of offers including these current bonuses:

Double points on new LA routes to 50 destinations in the US between June 12-September 30, 2013.

Triple points on new international routes including DFW to Lima and Seoul, Chicago to Dusseldorf and JFK to Dublin for travel in first or business, or double points for economy.

Earn double points when flying Qantas until May 31, 2013.

Bonus points on select US routes: To celebrate the launch of AA’s next generation 737-800 aircraft, the airline is offering 650 bonus points for roundtrip travel in first or business and 300 points for economy roundtrips between LAX-Raleigh/Durham and JFK-Houston now through June 30, 2013.

2,000 bonus points for group travel: For every 40 travelers that fly on a Group & Meeting travel reservation, you earn 2,000 bonus points.

Just note, you must register for each promotion individually prior to travel, so don’t forget!

Delta SkyBonus

Delta SkyBonus
Delta’s business program is called SkyBonus. It’s free to sign up and they don’t actually require any proof of your business although Delta reserves the right to determine your availability to participate. Plus, you can earn and redeem points on Delta as well as Air France, KLM and Alitalia.

Per the T & C, “Participation in the SkyBonus® program (the “Program”) is limited to small and mid-size companies (“Company”). Corporations with a Preferred Carrier Agreement with Delta Air Lines, Air France, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, or Alitalia are not eligible to participate in the Program. Also, travel agencies, wholesalers, consolidators, and other sellers of travel are not eligible to participate in the Program.”

Businesses earn according to the following rules:

30 points per dollar (10 points to/from ATL, CVG, DTW, MEM, MSP, SLC) on Business fares in the following classes: Delta: F, P, A, G, J, C, D, I, Z, W, Y and B classes of service; Air France: P, F, J, C, D, I, Z, W, S, A, Y, B, and M classes of service; KLM: J, C, D, I, Z, X, S, Y, B, and M classes of service; Alitalia: J, E, D, I, P, A, Y, and B classes of service.

6 points per dollar (3 to/from ATL, CVG, DTW, MEM, MSP, SLC) on all other classes.

Small redemptions: You can then redeem earned points on things as small as 10 drinks coupons for 10,000 points or a Delta SkyClub one-visit pass  for 30,000 points.

Award tickets: Award tickets are available at saver and more expensive “enhanced availability” levels. Awards start at 85,000 points for roundtrip economy and 225,000 for first class within the US and Canada and range northwards of 1 million points for high-level international premium class awards. You can find the whole award chart here.

Upgrades: One downside is that, like using Delta systemwide upgrades, SkyBonus upgrades are only available on full-fare tickets (except in the US/Canada). That might be fine for many business travelers who have to purchase these anyway to get refundable fares, but it could involve spending a lot more money to begin with – sometimes more than discounted business or first class. One-way upgrades start at 28,000 points for full fares in the US (62,500 for select fares) and range up to 140,000 points for transatlantic upgrades and 200,000 points for transpacific upgrades.

SkyClub membership: Other redemptions include 100,000 points for a one-year Delta SkyClub Membership.

Elite status: Here’s an interesting possibility. You can redeem 100,000 points for Silver Medallion status when redeemed anytime January-June that will be valid through the following February (2014), but if you redeem 160,000 points anytime from July-December, that status is valid all the next year through the following February (2015).

Sign-up bonuses: Periodically, SkyBonus offers sign-up bonuses of 25,000 points and you can earn an extra 2,000 points by completing the mini-courses on the SkyBonus University page. Because SkyBonus is not offering a sign-up bonus at the moment, you might want to wait until one becomes available because 25,000 points is the equivalent of spending anywhere from $834-$8,334 depending on the class of tickets you buy.

Current promotions: SkyBonus offers bonus point promotions as well, though these are usually targeted and emailed directly to eligible members and are usually to promote select new routes on Delta and its partners, like this slew of promos that was offered last April. Still, it can’t hurt to try to register on the individual promotion pages you can view once you log into your account.

Now through June 30, 2013, you can earn double points for each purchased ticket between New York LGA and Bermuda BDA.

Also now through June 30, 2013, you can earn double points on travel between Los Angeles LAX and Tokyo Haneda HND.

United PerksPlus

United PerksPlus
United has the PerksPlus program, for US- and Canada-based corporate customers who can earn points on flights on United, Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines and Swis (points are not earned on tickets on Lufthansa flights by customers based outside the US).

This program has the most stringent membership requirements. To apply, you have to fill out the United PerksPlus Enrollment Form on the website. Companies that qualify will receive an email sent to their authorized representative that identifies they have been accepted in the program. Companies must have at least 5 employees and travel agencies, wholesalers, consolidators or other resellers of travel are not permitted in the program.

Then when you’re accepted and your company’s eligible revenue totals $5,000 for 3 months immediately after enrollment, you can begin to redeem points online, and to remain in the program, you must maintain eligible revenue of $25,000 within every 12-month consecutive program term.

Flyers earn points in the following amounts based on fares:

Tier 1: Last-minute or premium fares in F, J, Y classes earn 6 points per dollar for flights to/from non-hubs and 3 points for flights from hubs.

Tier 2: Business class fares in A, C, B, M, E, U, H classes earn 4 point per dollar for flights to/from non-hubs and 2 points for flights from hubs.

Tier 3: Discount fares in D, Z, P, Q, V, W, S, T, L, K, G classes earn 2 points per dollar from non-hubs and 1 point per dollar from hubs.

Hubs include: Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Guam, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, Washington DC Dulles and Tokyo Narita.

Points are awarded based on actual flown revenue excluding all taxes, fees, surcharges and refunds.

When it comes time to redeem your points, you can use them for a variety of awards.

Award travel: Roundtrip award travel certificates start at 35,000 points each for economy travel within the US, Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico and range up to 460,000 for business class to Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, India and the Middle East.

Elite status: You can also redeem points for elite status at various levels instead of just the basic low-tier bracket. Silver status costs 60,000 points, and Gold status costs 120,000 points.

United Club membership: You can get a one-year membership in the United Club for 55,000 points – a good value compared to the redemption requirements of other airlines – or just get five day passes for 12,500 points.

Coupons: You can also redeem 10,000 points for a packet of 20 United Currency Coupons good for premium beverages or movie headsets on United flights.

British Airways on Business

British Airways On Business
It’s not just US airlines that have business programs. British Airways offers the On Business program.

Membership is free and available to companies with two or more traveling employees. Companies that join earn triple points for the first six flight sectors (individual flights) employees take on qualifying flights during the first 12 months of membership.

Points are earned based on regional zones as well as the cabin booked. Unused points expire at the end of the third calendar year after the date of issue (so if you earn points in 2013, they’ll be good until December 31, 2016).

You can also earn bonus points if your company has either a BA Amex Corporate card or BA Amex Corporate Plus card. With the Corporate card you earn 50% more points for every flight booked directly with BA and with the Corporate Plus card you earn an additional 2,500 points per card year when the total spend charged to the individual card exceeds 25,000 pounds.

Not only do you earn points on BA, but you can also earn them on partner flights with a codeshared BA flight number such as between London and Japan and domestic Japan flights on JAL with a BA flight number as well as domestic American Airlines flights with a BA flight number; South African international and domestic flights on Comair, Qantas flights with BA flight numbers within Australia and from Australia to the UK and Singapore; direct flights between London and Spain on Iberia flights with a BA flight number and within Spain as well as transatlantic flights to/from the UK on BA, American or Iberia with a BA flight number.

The way you earn points gets a bit complicated and is based on BA’s system of dividing up destinations into regional zones as well as the cabin booked. You can find BA’s table of qualifying flights and points both on BA and partners including American, Iberia and Qantas here and you’ll see you earn a set amount of points between specific origins and destinations in each fare class.

For example, from North America East and the Caribbean, you earn:
2,700 points in First F and A fares
2,100 points in Business J, C, D, R, I fares
1,200 in Premium Economy W, E, T fares
600 points in Economy Y, B, H fares
300 points in Economy K, M, L, V, S, Q, O, G fares

Whereas from Western North America (Dallas, Denver, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver) you earn:
3,240 points in First F and A fares
2,520 points in Business J, C, D, R, I fares
1,440 in Premium Economy W, E, T fares
720 points in Economy Y, B, H fares
360 points in Economy K, M, L, V, S, Q, O, G fares

Then on US domestic flights when booking in conjunction with a transatlantic flight to/from the UK with a BA flight number (though it can be operated by BA, American or Iberia), you will earn:
400 points in First F and A fares
400 points in Business J, C, D, R, I fares
N/A in Premium Economy W, E, T fares
200points in Economy Y, B, H fares
100 points in Economy K, M, L, V, S, Q, O, G fares

Those numbers are based on roundtrips, and one-ways will earn half the points.

Then businesses can use points on flight redemptions, upgrades, and even Marriott hotel stays.

Reward flight upgrades are available from:

  • From Euro Traveller (Y B H booking classes) to Club Europe.
  • From World Traveller (Y B H booking classes) to World Traveller Plus.
  • From World Traveller Plus (W E booking classes) to Club World.
  • From Club World (J C D booking classes) to First.

Awards from the UK to the rest of Europe (excluding Cyprus, Greece, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine) require:
Business: 6,240 points
Economy: 3,120

Awards from the UK to Eastern North America require:
First: 24,300 points
Business: 18,900 points
Premium Economy: 13,200 points
Economy: 6,600 points
Upgrading from Premium Economy to Business: 9,600 points
Upgrading from Business to First: 5,800 points

And to the Western US and Canada:
First: 29,160 points
Business: 22,680 points
Premium Economy: 15,840 points
Economy: 7,920 points
Upgrading from Premium Economy to Business: 11,200 points
Upgrading from Business to First: 6,700 points

While British Airways On Business typically hasn’t offered sign-up bonuses, it’s worth keeping an eye out for if they do in the future since the earning-to-redeeming rates aren’t particularly lucrative and any little points bump will help. On the positive side, you can earn points on both BA and its partners.

While business frequent flyer programs tend to favor companies that spend more money on higher-priced ticket classes, they are still a potentially lucrative way to double dip and rack up even more points and rewards faster no matter what kinds of airfares you are purchasing. By paying a little bit of attention, registering for each of them and using your number when booking travel, you can end up racking up a lot of bonus points for flying certain routes and classes of service, and thus earn a lot of extra rewards beyond padding your own frequent flyer account and elite status.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.