Which Low-Cost Carriers Have Loyalty Programmes and How Do They Work?
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Low-cost carriers can be a fantastic option if you’re just looking for a cheap fare without all the bells and whistles a full-service carrier might provide. But most low-cost flights will not provide those valuable loyalty points for taking the flight. Issuing points and miles are an expense to the airline, so carriers looking to strip out every cost they possibly can to keep their fares as low as possible tend to do away with traditional loyalty programmes.
But some low-cost carriers have developed alternate forms of loyalty/membership programmes. They don’t work exactly the same as traditional loyalty programmes, but can be a smart way to save money, especially if you find yourself flying that carrier regularly.
Norwegian sits somewhere between a low-cost carrier and a full-service carrier. While it does charge for things like checked luggage and food and drinks (even on long-haul flights), it also has a well-regarded premium cabin on its Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, and even free Wi-Fi.
The carrier also has a loyalty programme called Norwegian Reward. The currency of Norwegian Reward is called CashPoints. You can earn CashPoints on all Norwegian flights at the following rates:
- 2% CashPoints on all LowFare tickets
- 10% CashPoints on all Flex tickets
You will earn a percentage of your fare back in the form of a cash balance you can use on later flights excluding fees, taxes and fuel surcharges, which, on a cheap fare, can be a significant portion of the total. So if you spend, say, £1,200 on a return Flex ticket to Los Angeles and £200 of this is fees and taxes, you would earn £100 worth of CashPoints back. This is a great rate.
If you’ve already taken a flight but were not a Norwegian Rewards member at the time (or didn’t add your number to your booking), you can still do this up to 30 days after the date of your flight.
On top of the CashPoints you can use towards your next flight, there are some very interesting ‘Rewards’ if you’re a frequent Norwegian flyer. You can read our full guide to Norwegian Reward here.
EasyJet’s membership scheme comes with a steep £215 annual fee, which does seem extreme, given some of the world’s best loyalty programmes are free to join. However, it comes with several valuable benefits from day one, rather than a requirement to spend money to build status in order to receive additional benefits.
EasyJet Plus members enjoy the following at no extra cost for every flight during their membership year:
- Allocated seating including extra legroom and upfront seats
- Dedicated bag drop desk
- Fast track security (where available at 43 airports, including all four London airports from which easyJet operates)
- Additional cabin bag
- Speedy boarding
- The ability to move to an earlier flight for free
- A credit voucher provided when a member’s flight drops in price after they book it.
While the yearly fee is certainly high, but for anyone flying easyJet at least monthly who values the long list of benefits, the investment could be worthwhile. You can join easyJet Plus here.
Wizz Discount Club
Wizz is about as low-cost as low-cost comes — it even charges for hand luggage. This allows the airline to offer very cheap airfares, especially between Western Europe and Eastern Europe.
While you may not pay much for a Wizz fare compared with other airlines, there’s a way you can reduce the cost of your fare even lower. Wizz Discount Club is a yearly membership service at the following costs:
- €29.99 per year for the member and one companion
- €59.99 per year for the member and up to five companions.
Members (and their included companions on the same booking) can enjoy the following benefits on every Wizz flight:
- At least €10 discount per flight (discount varies based on ticket price and route)
- At least €5 discount on each checked luggage purchase
- Access to exclusive sales and other offers.
It’s fairly easy to recoup the yearly membership fee on a single booking, especially if travelling with someone else and paying for checked luggage. If you are planning to book more than a few Wizz flights each year, it could be a great investment. You can join Wizz Discount Club here.
Wizz also has a much more expensive yearly membership scheme called Privilege Club, which for €199 per year provides free seat selection, priority boarding and a free cabin bag. You will need to fly Wizz very regularly to recoup this cost over the course of a year.
Spanish low-cost carrier Vueling is owned by IAG, which also owns British Airways and Iberia. So it makes sense that Vueling has adopted the same currency — Avios. You can earn and redeem Vueling Avios on Vueling (and Iberia) flights, although these will be at different rates to British Airways flights with Executive Club. Vueling Avios are awarded based on the ticket price, not the distance travelled, except where those flights are booked at Iberia.com (rather than Vueling.com).
For Basic Vueling fares, you’ll earn 3 Avios per €1 spent, with a higher 4 Avios per €1 spent on the more expensive Optima, Family and TimeFlex fares.
You can also transfer/combine your Vueling Club Avios with your Executive Club Avios using the Combine My Avios function, which is great if you take the occasional Vueling flight and want to top up your Executive Club balance. Note that you can’t credit a Vueling flight to Executive Club directly unless it is a BA codeshare with a BA flight number.
You can also opt to redeem Vueling Club Avios on hotels, car hire and other experiences. You can join Vueling Club here.
Irish giant Ryanair made headlines in February this year when it announced it was launching Ryanair Choice, a £199 per year membership service, which is similar to easyJet Plus with free seat selection, fast-track security and priority boarding.
However, there is no reference to this option on Ryanair’s website, so the programme appears to have been discontinued already.
For many European travellers, you’re looking for a cheap airfare. With that, of course, comes fewer options for earning loyalty points and miles. However, some of Europe’s low-cost carriers have their own programmes that could be worth looking into.
Featured image by Alberto Riva / The Points Guy