The frequent flyer program that offers the most value for an individual depends on many factors, including the routes and classes they fly most often, the benefits they consider most important, how much they spend on travel, their work or corporate travel policy, their family situation and the country they reside in. Here's my overview of the best programs for Australians, with a summary of the strengths and weaknesses of each program.
Most frequent flyer programs are free to sign up to and hence I would recommend creating accounts with all airlines; you never know when your requirements or priorities might change.
Qantas, Australia's largest and longest running airline, offers a very compelling frequent flyer program for domestic and international travellers. The strengths of the program include an extensive domestic and international route network, a large collection of lounges, status recognition on other oneworld airlines and a modern fleet. Some downsides to the program include the price of fares and difficulty in redeeming premium cabin award seats on international routes.
Virgin Australia's frequent flyer program Velocity Frequent Flyer offers a solid program for domestic flyers. Virgin's network has limited international reach but partnerships with Singapore Airlines and Etihad give members reciprocal status benefits and award ticket redemptions. The strengths of the program are excellent award seat availability and generally lower priced fares. The weaknesses include poor status credit earn rates on short domestic flights and limited domestic lounges in smaller cities.
Singapore Airlines' KrisFlyer program is a worthwhile program to consider for those who travel frequently to Asia and Europe. Whilst Velocity members get status recognition and the ability to transfer Velocity points to KrisFlyer miles, there are some unique benefits to enrolling in the KrisFlyer program.
Emirates offers Australians one stop flights to almost anywhere in Europe, serviced by the world's largest fleet of A380s and 777s. The airline is famous for its luxe first class offering, including onboard showers and incredible lounges. Qantas flyers can earn status credits and points on Emirates flights when booked via the Qantas website. There are benefits for flyers to consider with becoming Emirates Skywards members instead of just via Qantas, but there are also downsides.
Etihad has grown rapidly since its inception in 2002 and offers customers a fleet of modern aircraft with best-in-class first and business class products. The airline has added a lot of capacity to Australia in recent times on their new A380 and 787 aircraft and so Etihad Guest could be a valuable program for anyone who frequents Europe. Velocity members will receive status benefits on the airline and hence its worth comparing both Etihad and Velocity to see which would offer better value for you.
Marco Polo Club is Cathay Pacific's loyalty programme. Cathay Pacific is a oneworld carrier meaning that Qantas Frequent Flyers will receive status recognition and can redeem award flights on their services. Flyers on Cathay Pacific can earn Asia Miles which offer some great value redemptions for Australians.