The art of Airpoints™: Travel loyalty programmes for work

Travel loyalty programmes

The art of Airpoints™ - how to manage travel loyalty programmes at work

In today’s world of corporate travel, frequent-flyer and hotel loyalty programmes make good business sense – especially if you travel often. It does pay, however, to have your finger on the pulse, so you can be confident you’re getting the best return on investment.

For travel brands, it costs more to acquire a new customer than it does to look after the ones they already have. Customer loyalty programmes are an important weapon in their marketing arsenal – so how can you as a travel manager leverage them for your business?

This guide will give you a detailed breakdown of how you can best use airline and hotel loyalty rewards programmes – like Airpoints™ – in your business, how they can save you money, and why seeking help from a travel expert will give you access to even better rewards.

In summary, we’ll cover:

  • How airline loyalty programmes work
  • Which programmes you can use
  • Understanding the Air New Zealand Airpoints programme
  • Air New Zealand status points, and status points rollover
  • How hotel loyalty programmes work
  • Buying loyalty miles points in bulk
  • How travel experts can maximise deals

What’s an airline loyalty programme – and how does it work?

When frequent-flyer programmes (FFPs) first landed in 1981, the main benefit offered was free air travel – and you earned points by flying. Fast-forward 35+ years, you can now earn points without stepping into a plane.

The sole purpose of an FFP is to create lifetime customers. They’re an airline’s way of rewarding you for frequent travel with them – the usual equation: more travel equals better rewards – because they want to be your airline of choice.

When the first airline rewards system was introduced by American Airlines, the programme was simple: a mile earned for every mile travelled. They also partnered with Hertz rental cars and Hyatt hotels to offer deals on ground travel and accommodation. Today, you’d be hard pressed to find an airline that didn’t offer a rewards programme.

The perks of FFPs have expanded to include any number of the following mechanisms: get free miles or points on sign-up, redeem points on travel and non-travel transactions, and earn points on credit card and retail shopping purchases.  

These points – or miles – act much like the money you have in your bank account (except they won’t earn interest!). Generally, the more you travel, the more points you bank. Most of the time your points do not expire (although a minimum amount of travel per year is often required), and when you reach a certain number of points, you can redeem them for a reward.

Which airline loyalty programmes can you join?

Whether your business travel is frequent or sporadic, domestic or international, there is value in joining a loyalty-rewards programme.

If you organise business travel regularly, first consider whether you’re already loyal to an airline for its service. If not, your best bet is to join the loyalty programme for the dominant airline in your region of travel. For example, if you do a lot of business in Singapore, and you always fly with Singapore Airlines, you’d want to consider their frequent-flyer programme.

If your business travels less frequently, the best thing to do is to shop around for the programme that gives you the best bang for your buck. Consider programmes that allow you to earn miles or points on non-travel activities.

Star Alliance

In 1997, Star Alliance was the first global alliance between five major airlines – United Airlines, Lufthansa, Air Canada, SAS Group and Thai Airways Company. The aim – to provide ‘smooth connections across a vast global network’, which would improve your travel experience. Today, the Star Alliance has 27 member airlines across the world, including Air New Zealand, dedicated to delivering the same exceptional service.

For New Zealand business travellers, the Star Alliance network has many advantages. With a combined fleet of over 5,000 airplanes travelling to just under 1,300 destinations in 195 countries, there are very few places in the world where you wouldn’t be able to get on a Star Alliance flight.

With the Star Alliance badge comes:

  • Convenient schedules and optimised connections
  • Seamless check-ins, joint ticketing, check-in and baggage facilities
  • Co-location and connection teams at key airports
  • Easy booking for multi-destination tickets
  • Tailored products for business travellers

The best part is, when you join a frequent-flyer programme for one of the Star Alliance members, you can collect and redeem points for rewards, discounts and upgrades across the whole Star Alliance network.

Frequent-flyer programmes – domestic and international travel

When travelling internationally, it doesn’t matter where you call home – only where you’re headed. This means international travellers can join any airline’s loyalty programme.

For domestic travel within New Zealand, the main airline carrier is Air New Zealand. Their loyalty programme Airpoints offers tiered rewards for both personal and business travel.

Understanding Air New Zealand’s Airpoints

As the main airline loyalty programme in New Zealand, it’s worth getting to grips with how Air New Zealand’s Airpoints works, and how it could benefit your business travel. 

Members earn Airpoints Dollars™ on all eligible Air New Zealand flights, as well as many partner and Star Alliance flights. Airpoints Dollars can be redeemed on flights, OneUp upgrades, hotels and rental cars.

You can also earn Status Points which upgrade your membership tier – Silver, Gold or Elite – giving you access to a range of travel benefits: priority check-in and boarding, extra baggage allowance, priority baggage handling and entry to over 1,000 private airport lounges.

With over 2,700 flights booked daily using Airpoints, if there’s one loyalty programme New Zealand business travellers should be taking advantage of – it’s this one.


Here are some of the key Airpoints features:

  • Expiration: Airpoints Dollars are valid between four and five years. When you spend them, the oldest Dollars will be used first.
  • 1:1 Value: when spending your Airpoints Dollars, one Airpoints Dollar equals one New Zealand dollar.
Status Points

While you’re earning Airpoints Dollars, you’ll also earn Status Points towards Silver, Gold or Elite status. Each tier offers more benefits than the last, such as priority service, lounge access, seat upgrades and extra baggage allowance – which you can use when travelling on certain eligible flights.

To move up a tier, you’ll need to meet minimum points requirements within a 12-month period. The benefits are then valid for 12 months from the date you reach that tier.

Silver status holders will enjoy lounge access eVouchers, upgrades and discounted long-haul business-class fares.

Gold tier benefits include priority travel benefits, extra baggage allowance, Star Alliance lounge access, upgrades, complimentary frequent-flyer seating, hotel and rental car vouchers and gifts – and your Airpoints Dollars won’t expire while you hold gold-tier status.

Elite is the ultimate in seamless travel – you’ll have access to more lounge privileges, better upgrades, Elite Partner benefits, and priority travel benefits and baggage allowances. In addition, you’ll also receive complimentary valet parking, Elite threshold gifts, hotel and rental car vouchers, and extra Elite benefits like rollover status points.

How to earn Airpoints Dollars™

With Air New Zealand, partner airlines and Star Alliance partners, you can fly – and earn Airpoints Dollars – all over the world. 

Here’s how to earn Airpoints Dollars:

  • Travel on eligible Air New Zealand flights, and partner flights on more than 30 airlines, including Star Alliance partners. Each airline partnership offers different benefits and options for Airpoints members.
  • Hotels – one of the fastest ways to earn Airpoints Dollars, even when you’re sleeping! Book directly with one of Air New Zealand’s 10,000+ partner hotels and you’re guaranteed lowest prices, plus extra perks like free Wi-Fi.
  • Rental car companies – earn Airpoints Dollars every rental day on eligible rates with Avis and Budget Rent a Car.
  • Credit-card purchases – Airpoints-earning credit and debit cards allow you to earn Airpoints Dollars on your everyday spending. Air New Zealand partners with American Express, Kiwibank, Westpac and ANZ to offer different card options with various points-earning potential.
Airpoints™ for Business

This part of the loyalty programme rewards small-to-medium businesses with additional Airpoints Dollars – just by travelling with Air NZ for work. Essentially, you earn twice: you or your employee earn Airpoints Dollars and Status Points, and your business earns an additional 20% of bonus Airpoints Dollars.

You can use those points on several rewards, including flights and upgrades, or you can transfer those additional Airpoints Dollars to top up your personal account, or an employee’s.

Airpoints for Business™ Partners offers the added opportunity of earning Airpoints Dollars on everyday business expenses – everything from business credit-card purchases to fuel, wholesale food and beverages, and office supplies.

SmartFly – double the business rewards

Exclusive to Corporate Traveller, and in partnership with Airpoints for Business, SmartFLY makes the Airpoints programme work even harder – earning double the percentage on all eligible business flights.

When you book your business travel through Corporate Traveller, your business will earn 40% bonus Airpoints Dollars on all eligible Air New Zealand and partner airline flights – instead of the 20% elsewhere. Your traveller will also get to keep the Airpoints Dollars and Status Points they’ve earned. It’s a significant boost for any business, and can save you a lot in air-travel costs annually.

Here’s an example of the bonus points your business could collect with SmartFly from just one traveller:

Annual Traveller Earn Annual business earn on SmartFLY
500 Airpoints Dollars™ 200 Airpoints Dollars™
1,000 Airpoints Dollars™ 400 Airpoints Dollars™
3,000 Airpoints Dollars™ 1,200 Airpoints Dollars™
Spending Airpoints Dollars

Paying for flights

Airpoints Dollars can pay for any Air New Zealand flight, as well as some partner flights, and a range of Star Alliance reward flight tickets. Any booking fees or associated airport or government costs will need to be covered by the business.

A travel expert can help you redeem your Airpoints on partner and Star Alliance flights.

Onboard purchases

On international flights with Air New Zealand, you can use your Airpoints Dollars to make onboard purchases for food, drinks, and movie upgrades.

Cabin class upgrades

There are several ways you can request an upgrade, depending on your Airpoints Dollars and Status Points

With OneUp upgrades, you make the decision on how much an upgrade or Economy Skycouch is going to cost. You send your best offer, along with your payment details – which could be Airpoints – and if accepted, you’ll be upgraded for the agreed amount. Offers need to be made three days prior to departure, and qualifying Status Airpoints members will have their offers increased depending on their tier level.

A recognition upgrade is where you request a cabin class upgrade for one part of your journey e.g. Economy to Premium Economy – usually on long-haul flights with connections. Two recognition upgrades can be used together to move up two cabin classes.

Elite status members receive one short-haul recognition upgrade each membership year. They can also exclusively request one cabin-class upgrade using their Airpoints Dollars at a fixed rate on available Air New Zealand operated and ticketed flights.

Lastly, you can use your Airpoints Dollars to purchase a Star Alliance upgrade in conjunction with a ticket in an eligible booking class – an upgrade a travel expert can easily help you navigate.

Rental cars

Because Air New Zealand has partnerships with car-rental providers Avis and Budget Rent A Car, you can pay for rental car hire in New Zealand or overseas using your Airpoints Dollars.

Koru membership

Use your Airpoints Dollars to pay for a Koru membership – get access to Air New Zealand or partner airline lounges to relax in pre-flight, enjoy priority check-in and boarding, complimentary frequent-flyer seating, baggage privileges, Fast Bag on regional flights and more.

The Airpoints calculator

The Airpoints calculator lets you know how many Airpoints Dollars and Status Points you could earn for a certain flight. Simply enter your flight details, and let the calculator do the rest.

Here’s what you could expect to see for a flight from Auckland to Hong Kong:

  Airpoints Dollars Status Points
Economy 12-72 32-111
Premium Economy 90-137 100-151
Business 196-263 188-260
Airpoints for Business 2.4-52.6 -
SmartFLY 4.8-105.2 -

Hotel loyalty programmes – and how they work

Initially, the hotel industry simply partnered with frequent-flyer programmes. Today, it’s not unusual for hotels to have their own loyalty programmes, as well as partnering with major airlines.

If you stay in hotels often, you have the best chance of achieving top-tier status within a hotel loyalty programme.

These programmes can be a little harder to navigate, purely because of the sheer breadth of accommodation options worldwide. Add to this other discounts, sales and bonus points, it can be hard to know how to book to get a good deal and earn decent rewards points.

Here’s what to look for:

Earning discounts or points

It’s all about getting the most value – look for cash-based rewards or discounts, rewards points earned, future discounts and ‘best-price guarantees’. You should also factor in rewards points you could earn by paying with your credit card.

Earning perks during your stay

Be on the lookout for value-adds that will make your stay even more pleasant – room upgrades, welcome amenities, discounts on food and drinks at the hotel’s restaurant, or complimentary early or late check-ins. These benefits are often reserved for loyalty-programme members.

Types of hotel loyalty programmes

There are two common types of loyalty programmes. The first is brand-specific hotel loyalty programmes, the second, rewards programmes shared by several independent hotels or chains. You’ll often be able to transfer points earned in these programmes to partner frequent-flyer programmes. When redeeming your points, you’re generally going to get the best value from the hotel chain’s own rewards programme.

Some examples of top-tier status benefits for hotel-chain loyalty programmes in New Zealand and internationally:

Le Club AccorHotels – 20+ hotel brands globally

Platinum – 60 days or just under $10,000 in eligible expenses

All the Classic, Silver and Gold benefits, plus:

  • Dedicated Le Club AccorHotels customer care line
  • Guaranteed room up to two days before arrival
  • Early check-in and late check-out
  • Premium Wi-Fi if existing
  • Access to the executive lounge if existing

Wyndham Rewards – 19 hotel brands globally

Diamond – after 40 nights’ stay

All the Blue, Gold and Platinum benefits plus:

  • Suite upgrades
  • Welcome amenity at check-in
  • Each year, gift one Gold level membership to a family member or friend

Hilton Honors – 14 hotel brands globally


All the Member, Silver and Gold benefits plus:

  • Executive lounge access
  • Diamond status extension
  • 48-hour room guarantee
  • Elite status gifting

*Exclusive to Flight Centre Travel Group and Hilton Honors – book and stay four nights within 90 days and receive Gold Hilton Honors status.

Buying loyalty miles or points in bulk

Some frequent-flyer and hotel loyalty programmes – generally long-haul and overseas – will sell their miles or points in bulk, often included as an incentive bonus to sweeten the deal. The benefit of buying points or miles rather than just paying for the flight is that you’ll also have access to significant discounts on upgrades, and business and first-class tickets.

Here are a few things to be mindful of when buying points or miles in bulk:

  • Sign up before a promotion – keep track of frequent-flyer programmes, and make sure you have an active account well before any promotion starts. You might miss out on the opportunity to buy points otherwise.
  • Wait for a bonus – it’s only ever worth buying miles or points when the frequent-flyer programme has a promotion
  • Use multiple accounts where necessary – frequent-flyer programmes will often cap the number of points you’re allowed to buy in a single calendar year, so having multiple accounts is a good way to get around this.
  • Buy and then redeem – only buy as many points or miles as you know you can use, and then make the flight booking as soon as possible. This is so you don’t run the risk of your points losing value, which some frequent-flyer programmes are known to do at short notice.
  • Research flight availability before you buy – make sure there is plenty of space on the flight you need to book before buying your points or miles.
  • Compare the cost of buying points in bulk versus buying the flight outright. Be sure to factor in any additional fees, and be aware you’ll not be able to earn points or status credits when using bought airline miles.
  • Minimise currency exchange fees by using the right credit card – if buying points or miles in foreign currency for an international frequent flyer programme, use a credit card that has minimal exchange fees, or offers you bonus points for your spend.
  • Be prepared and do your research – buying points and miles in bulk to redeem for cheaper flights takes time. Learn about buying in bulk, so you’re getting the best value for money – or enlist the help of a travel expert.

When buying points for hotel loyalty programmes, compare the price of the room versus the cost of buying the points. This can really help when staying in a city where the hotels are expensive, or during high season, special events or in resorts with well-defined peak seasons.

Maximising deals by using a travel expert

Airline and hotel loyalty programmes are a great way for business travellers to gain access to additional travel benefits, save on flight, hotel and rental car costs, and get as much value as they can from brands they already work with.

While there are lots of ways you can leverage frequent-flyer and hotel loyalty programmes in your business, working with a travel expert will give you access to even more benefits and savings.

They can set up accounts for your business with the right loyalty programmes to suit how you travel, make sure you collect on all points and rewards you’re eligible for, help you maintain status membership, and purchase points or miles in bulk cost-effectively. The best part is, they have access to deals and bonuses you won’t be able to find anywhere else – like SmartFLY – and exclusive hotel deals to help you elevate your tier status faster.

Reach out to a dedicated travel expert today, for greater choice and more value.

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