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Maximizing Airline Business Frequent Flyer Programs

by on February 14, 2012 · 30 comments

in American, British Airways, Delta, United

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One of Sunday’s Reader Questions, about whether you actually need to have a business to apply for a business credit card, got me thinking about frequent flyer programs for businesses.

I always talk about what you can do with your individual miles and accounts, and even how couples and families can maximize their joint mileage, but there’s not a ton of information out there on the business mileage accounts several airlines offer that allow small businesses to earn points on the itineraries their employees travel (while employees still earn the miles themselves). Some of them don’t even require that you actually have a small business.

So I thought I’d put together a post on the basics of some of the major programs out there.

American Airlines
American has the Business ExtrAA program that, according to AA’s Terms and Conditions, is open to companies with two or more employee travelers, though TPG Editor Eric was offered and able to open an account just for himself, so the terms might actually be more flexible than that. Travel agencies or wholesalers, companies that have corporate sales agreements with American, and individuals are not eligible.

For Business ExtrAA, a company’s employees put in 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.

The site says, “Your company will receive one point for each $10 you spend to fly on published fares during the month. Your company will earn double credit for every eligible itinerary that originates from one of over 200 airports [excludes Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and Miami (MIA)].” Then companies can redeem those points for over 50 award redemption offers including travel (2,000-37,500 points), upgrades (650-5,000 points), Admirals Club day passes (300 points) and memberships (3,000 points), conference room rentals (900 points) and gold status (2,400 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.

Gary at View From the Wing recently blogged that it may be possible to earn an extra 5,000 AA miles for signing up using promo code SME3Q11, but it’s up in the air whether that bonus actually works. Can’t hurt to try!

British Airways
British Airways has the On Business program. Like the Avios program, earning points gets a bit complicated and points earned are 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. Then businesses can use points on flight redemptions, upgrades, and Marriott hotel stays.

To take a quick example, a company that sent an employee from London to Australia first class roundtrip would earn 4,320 points, then could redeem 3,120 of those for an intra-European roundtrip in coach. An amazing redemption opportunity? Not really, but better than nothing.

Companies also earn bonus points when employees use a British Airways Amex Corporate Card (50% bonus) or the BA Amex Corporate Card Plus (50% bonus, and 2,500 points per card per year when the total spend charged to an individual card exceeds 25,000 GBP) to book tickets.

Delta
Delta has the SkyBonus program. It’s free to sign up and they don’t actually require any proof of your business. You can earn and redeem points on Delta and partners including Air France, KLM and Alitalia.

Businesses can earn up to 30 SkyBonus points per dollar on purchased business class fares or 6 points on all other fares, but only 10 SkyBonus points per dollar on business fares or 3 points on other fares to/from Delta hubs ATL, CVG, DTW, MEM, MSP and SLC.

You can then redeem earned points on things as small as 10 drinks coupons (10,000 points), a Delta SkyClub one-visit pass (30,000 points) or a free coach roundtrip in the US (85,000). I used bonus code SB2011NEW earlier this year for a 25,000 point sign-up bonus, but I’m not sure if it’s still active. Can’t hurt to try!

United
United has the PerksPlus program, which, like MileagePlus, is still hammering out the details of the merger with Continental and its former business program. The program is for US – and Canada – based corporate customers for flights on United and/or Lufthansa (points are not earned on tickets on Lufthansa flights by customers based outside the US).

For now, you fill out a registration form, and if allowed to join (you might have a phone interview with an airline rep), once your company’s spend on the airline exceeds $5,000 within a consecutive 3-month period, you can begin redeeming points online. For every membership year, your company also has to spend at least $5,000 within any consecutive three months in order to be renewed and be able to redeem points.

Businesses earn 4 points per dollar spent on last-minute or premium fares, 2 points on typical business travel fares, and 1 point on deeply discounted fares. You can find all the earning fare codes here.

On the redemption side, points can be used for a variety of awards. Award travel certificates cost 40,000 each, and itineraries require between 1 (for economy within the US or Germany) and 13 (first class between North America and Asia). Points can also be redeemed for upgrades (10,000 for regional, 50,0000 for systemwide), United club passes or membership (20,000), and MileagePlus Premier (50,000) or Premier Executive (150,000) elite status.

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.

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  • Heels05

    For Delta Bonus, you say there is no proof of business required. On the sign up page, they ask for tax ID. Could I list my Social much like I do when applying for business credit cards?

  • http://profiles.google.com/wesley.choate Wesley Choate

    Yes you can just use your ssn. That’s what I used, and there were no questions asked.

  • Colin Weir

    I signed up for SkyBonus last fall and got the 25K bonus points. I didn’t immediately have any travel with Delta, and after two months with no activity, I was offered an additional 25K bonus if the account showed any activity within the next 60 days. Both bonuses posted as promised.

  • Ann Arborite

    Brian, Thanks for the post. This is going to sound like a silly question, but can one double dip with bussiness Skybonus and personal Skymiles? So if I buy a fare using Skybonus do I collect the Skybonus and the traveller collect personal Skymiles?

  • kazfu

    TPG, FYI – the new Delta promo code for this year is SB2012NEW.

  • Eli

    Actually, I called Delta to confirm the promo code, and was given a new code of SBSCPRMO. Some kind of bonus attached to that as well (your mileage may vary).

  • http://www.notefromtheroad.wordpress.com/ Wpalmer

    The Skybonus is in addition to your Skymiles. Once you enter your skybonus ID into a travel record, it automatically populates on future reservations you book on Delta.com. Also, if you purchase travel for others – employees, spouse, children, etc. – you will earn Skybonus points for their travel as well.

  • http://www.notefromtheroad.wordpress.com/ Wpalmer

    As a small business owner, I didn’t know about this program for year while I was achieving top tier with Delta year after year. Then, about a year and a half ago I registered for it and now have 190,000 plus SkyBonus points. All of this in addition to my normal Skymiles accrual.

  • TracyC

    I signed up for Delta’s, it did however require a company name (used my name) and for email address to use a company extension email address (no yahoo, msn, gmail etc.) I just used my current work email address and it took. It did say can expect to receive a response within 48 hours with account information etc. so hopefully it works.

  • Nick

    TPG, how was Eric able to apply for just himself for Business ExtrAA. I have a one man business, but the only option for me to join is to select 2 employees (the minimum). Since I refuse to do that because it is not true, I have not been able to take advantage of this. Any idea?

  • Raffles

    What you don’t say about BA OnBusiness is that award availability is superb, far far better than with Avios. I hoard mine purely for times when there are no Avios seats.

  • http://www.travelandcredit.com/ Travel and Credit

    I did the 25,000 point SkyBonus deal last year too! They slowly add up from booking Delta flights for myself and the guys in the band when we’re flying to and from tours. Trying to save up for a free flight, but I feel like it’s a slow crawl, haha.

  • Heels05

    I signed up yesterday with SB2012NEW. Got a welcome email this morning and had 25,000 miles in my account!

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  • TracyC

    **Update** So Delta sent me the welcome email with account information, but I have since received a call. Since I didn’t put in a Company name (I used my name) and the email address I used was my actual work email address (which is a large company) they are closing my account. Any one have any suggestions to how to work around this? I suppose I could provide a ‘fictitious’ company name, but the email address I don’t know how to get around. The online form wont’ accept msn.com/yahoo.com/gmail.com etc.

  • Anonymous

    I couldn’t join Delta’s program because my company is already registered. “Thank you for your interest in SkyBonus. Unfortunately, at this time your company does not qualify for SkyBonus, as our records indicate that your company already has an existing corporate agreement with Delta Air Lines.”

    bummer

  • Anonymous

    SO in your opinion which is the best?

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  • http://twitter.com/tweetivism tweetivism

    just do it.

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