While a lot of people are familiar with the leading US frequent flyer programs from Delta, United, American Airlines, and even our favorite program, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, the airline world is big, and there are some outstanding programs based overseas too. Read on to discover the best frequent flyer programs based outside of the US.
Oneworld: British Airways Executive Club
If you regularly hop across the Atlantic, then the British Airways Executive Club may be worth considering. While the program is often maligned for its fuel surcharges and the sometimes lackluster business class product offered by the airline, it still provides some good perks and benefits and is one of our favorite international frequent flyer programs.
Advantages of the British Airways Executive Club
- BA allows you to set up a household account. This means you can pool the Avios earned from the flights of different family members into one account, which gets you closer to a redemption
- BA has a wide range of transfer partners; you can transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Marriott Rewards to BA. This means points earned from your Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or even your Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card can be used to get you closer to your next flight award
- You usually cannot transfer miles from one airline program to another; you can with BA and Iberia. You can transfer Avios between your Iberia and BA accounts with no fee, and no loss of value
- BA also has its own co-branded credit card the British Airways Visa Signature® Card which comes with a host of features and benefits including a generous 100,000 Avios sign up bonus, and a Travel Together ticket. The card features a reasonable $95 annual fee
Disadvantages of the British Airways Executive Club
- To achieve status, you will need to take four BA flights each year; this can be restrictive if you are not based in the UK, or want to fly with a different airline across the Atlantic
- Awards can be a little expensive, due to BA charging high fuel surcharges and carrier-imposed fees
SkyTeam: Air France-KLM Flying Blue
Along With Delta, Air France and KLM members of the SkyTeam Alliance and have a combined international frequent flyer program called Flying Blue. The program offers a host of perks and benefits, and if you regularly travel to Europe and further afield, it can produce some great value.
Advantages of the Air France-KLM Flying Blue
- The monthly Flying Blue promo rewards can be great value, with good redemption options on various routes across the world, including the regular deals on flights between Europe and the US
- Flying Blue is a transfer partner for every major credit card. Points earned from the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card, can be transferred over to Flying Blue. You can also transfer Citi ThankYou Points and Capital One Venture Miles to Flying Blue Miles
Disadvantages of the Air France-KLM Flying Blue
- Earning top-tier elite status is virtually impossible and would require a significant number of transatlantic flights in First Class; more than 10 in total
- Revenue-based earning means the miles earned on long-haul premium cabin trips is less than impressive
A little-known overseas frequent flyer program, Egypt Air Plus, can be highly lucrative if you are chasing Star Alliance gold status (which would allow you access to United lounges when flying domestically) and regularly travel as a family.
Advantages of Egypt Air Plus
- Earn and burn miles on 28 Star Alliance carriers, including Lufthansa, United, and Singapore.
- Very easy to achieve status when you fly as a family. Creating an Egyptair family account, you not only get to pool award miles but also status miles as well. This pooling of status miles allows you to hit status incredibly quickly.
- No requirement to complete any Egyptair segments to qualify for Elite status. You can hold Elite status for years without ever flying with the airline.
- Elite status is valid for two years, making it both easy to achieve and to maintain. If you hit the requirements for status in one year, you can then credit your flights over the next two years towards another program.
- Generous award charts with partner awards from between Europe and the US setting you back 90,000 miles roundtrip in business or 140,000 miles roundtrip in first class.
- Relatively generous earning rates when flying with partner airlines in premium cabins.
Disadvantages of Egyptair Plus
- Egyptair Plus is not a transfer partner of any points currency in the US or Europe (although there is a local, Egypt based, co-branded credit card).
- Searching and booking awards can be complicated, and you need to call up the Egyptair Plus international hotline which is based in Dubai. Egyptair is introducing the ability to book awards on its own metal online, although this feature is not active yet.
While it is always easy to look at loyalty programs based in your country or nearby, you need to be aware that there are beneficial options for international frequent flyer programs too. Any wise traveler looking to maximize their travel rewards is always best served being a member of several programs and maximizing the value from each one as needed.