A few years ago, I was based in Ethiopia for a year, working in a position that involved a great deal of travel. On an almost weekly basis I’d be flying to and from the capital, Addis Ababa, to one of five locations in different corners of the country. On my estimation, I took approximately 59 flights with Ethiopian Airlines during that year, and that’s not including flying Internationally for the occasional holiday.
At the end of my year in Ethiopia, I’d accrued a whopping 47,958 frequent flyer points! Granted they were all with Ethiopian Airlines, but still a worthy effort. To put this in perspective, a one-way flight from Addis Ababa to Paris is worth 30,000 points.
By the time I left Ethiopia, I was also a Gold Member for the first time in my life for any airline. I had free access to all the lounges, and as mediocre as they were compared to say the Emirates lounge, It was still better than sitting on a plastic chair at a crowded gate.
Fast forward three years later and my points are about to expire. I knew this day would eventually come, so I desperately began thinking of ways to use them, investigating flight routes and possibilities for holidays by the end of the year. But sadly, with only a few days to go it seems I’m out of luck.
What a predicament! It could have easily been avoided. As ‘out of the way’ Ethiopia is these days, they have vastly improved their online booking systems and flight routes over the years. Nowadays, you can book flights online, to and from anywhere on their route map. The same goes for most airlines.
My top tips for what not to do with frequent flier miles…
Forget about them
The moment you sign up to any frequent flier program or start collecting miles, aim to use them. Research your options, and make a plan. Even an idealistic one detailing where you might like to go or how you might like to spend the miles. Alternatively, a lot of programs offer a catalogue of things you can purchase using the miles. Check it out, see if anything takes your fancy and don’t forget about it.
Another reason to research your options, especially if you move around often, is to find a way to be in the right place at the right time to use the miles. I found I was never in a country covered by Ethiopian airlines, however with a little forward thinking i’m sure we could have made it work.
Lose your membership card
Wait for the big spend
Assume that the miles are worthless because of the airline
As frustrating as it is to lose a chance to take a discounted holiday, I’m determined never to make the same mistake again, especially with the amount of travel we do these days.
Another way to make the most of your points and travel offers is Travel Hacking. I’ve just started looking into Travel hacking, and so far it seems to work best for residents of either the US and UK, or for those that own credit cards. But, there are still several options available for the rest of us.