Frequent Flyer Miles: If You’re Not Taking Advantage, You’re Missing Out

If you’re working on ships, you’re going to be flying on an airplane at least a few times a year. If you’re working a standard contract, you might fly once to join the ship in February, back home in August, and then, after a vacation, back out to a new ship in October. If you’re working shorter contracts, you might be flying more often. If the ship you’re joining is sailing within the same continent, you might have pretty short flights: New York to Florida, or Amsterdam to Rome, for example. But maybe you’re from the UK and joining your ship in Seattle, or from Argentina and joining in Japan. There’s a lot of variation, but the bottom line is that if you’re a cruise ship musician, you’re probably flying a fair amount each year, and some of those flights are probably going to be long hauls.

There’s a benefit that comes with all this flying, and yet most cruise ship employees don’t take advantage of it because they simply don’t realize it exists: the underappreciated perk of frequent flyer miles.

Even though the cruise ship companies are the ones booking and paying for these tickets, you’re still able to claim the miles on every flight, regardless of the airline, class of ticket, destination, and so on. And if you rack up enough miles, you can redeem them for a free flight or upgrade yourself to economy-plus, business, or first class. Who doesn’t want to visit friends or family during their vacation for a pair of flights that only cost $26 in taxes?

Here’s what you do: anytime you receive flight details, go to that airline’s website and register yourself for their frequent flyer program. Every line calls it something different: Delta has Skymiles, American Airlines has AAdvantage, and so on. It’s free to register and takes less than 10 minutes. You should receive an email with your frequent flyer account number. Then, when you’re at the airport checking in, you can ask the attendants to help you add your flight and its miles to your account. If, for whatever reason, they’re not able to help you, then once you’ve flown, you can call the airline’s frequent flyer department and make sure that they’ve added the appropriate number of miles to your account.

Then you just watch the miles add up. It’s possible that the cruise line will book you on different airlines for three straight trips. That’s fine – just register yourself for the frequent flyer program on all three flights. There’s no limit to the number of programs to which you can belong, and the miles won’t expire for a long time (if they do, at all). So maybe you have a couple thousand miles on a few different programs. But if the cruise line tends to book you on the same airline, and if the flights are long ones, you might have the miles for a free flight after only 2 or 3 trips. Not bad, right? Also, there are different airline alliances which allow you to accumulate miles when flying with a sister airline. So you might not need to open up a new frequent flyer account if you already have one for American Airlines and your upcoming flight to join the ship is on Qantas. You can find the main alliances here:

An addendum to this concept is to sign up for an airline credit card. Certain countries don’t afford you this option – either it’s difficult (or inadvisable) to have a credit card, or airline credit card options just don’t exist. But if you’re from the US or Canada, for example, and you find yourself flying on the same airline often (or you really like flying one particular airline), using that airline’s credit card will help you rack up tons of miles. Redeem them for free travel, or use it to work toward status, where you’ll get free upgrades and other perks.

So start reminding yourself: every time you see your flights come in for your next contract, go online to register, or even better, if you already have a frequent flyer account with that airline, make sure the flight gets added. And let the miles – and the subsequent perks – roll in!