With Miles & More, Lufthansa Group’s widely used loyality programme, introducing the concept of Mileage Pooling to their program just about a week ago, travel blogs were flooded with different articles on mileage pooling. As these articles are typically in mileage-optimizing or very frequent-travelling orientated websites, I felt that it is sensible to give a brief overview on mileage pooling and whether it might be suitable for you.
What is Mileage Pooling?
The idea behind mileage pooling is quite simple: typically, at loyalty programs, you are collecting in individual accounts. Mileage Pooling allows you to share your accounts (which is typically just limited to award miles), which means that both members are able to access the total of their award miles, which are summed up in a pool. The mileage pool still consists of two separate accounts, so that each member is collecting award miles individually. This especially eases the split of miles in case you stop the pool.
The way to determine how spent miles are split over the pool account differs from system to system. Likely, the most common approach is that you first spent all the miles in your account before accessing the pool. Some loyalty programs may also use a somewhat-proportional approach.
Is Mileage Pooling innovative?
Absolutely not! The idea is not that new. I am in a “Mileage Pool” with my wife at British Airways Executive Club, for example. The pooling concept is called “household account” there (see below). There are a couple of other loyality programs which already offer pooling: in Star Alliance, for example, Aegean’s Miles+Bonus introduced the Together account, Etihad Guest calls their pooling Family Membership. At oneworld, British Airways Executive Club is allowing for pools as well. JAL / Japanese Airlines even has a special JAL Family Club.
How does Mileage Pooling work in practice?
The loyality program which is currently in focus most is Miles & More, which is not just convering Lufthansa Group (incl. Eurowings), but also LOT, Crotian and Adria Airways. Of course, you may collect award and status miles on other Star Alliance carriers or Miles & More partners well. The pooling here has very few limitations:
- The pool may consist of one or two adults and up to five children.
- The members of a pool do not need to be related or live in the same household.
- If you leave the pool, you will be blocked for pooling inb general for six months.
Especially the second point is very interesting, because it may allow you to select your pooling group quite flexibly. It also gives a very reasonable size of the group – however, there are just two adults allowed, which may be the real miles collector in a mileage pool. Miles & More gives a nice overview on their website to that topic:
Here are some differences to some of the other pooling concepts I mentioned above:
- At Miles+Bonus, the pool may just have six people. Furthermore, there is a pool leading member, who needs to have at lease silver status level. Furthermore, the pool members need to have clear roles like Father, so that you are not that flexible in composing a pool.
- British Airways Excecutive Club does not require any relationship, but you need to share the same permanent address.
- JAL also requires a certain level of relationship to allow to be part of the same Family Club membership.
- This is very similar at Etihad Guest. However, they allow to have one household help in your account as well. There may be up to eight persons with one being 21 years or older.
I feel it is very interesting how cultural aspects may influence the pooling concept. There is not too much of a difference – the Miles & More limitation to two adults may restrict you slightly.
What does Mileage Pooling not do?
There are two key things which mileage pooling does not do: the first one (and to me: the key one) is that it is not pooling status miles. This may be obvious to most of you, but I feel it is important to emphasize. You only pool your award miles – none of them will get a more fancy-colored membership card just because he or she is pooling. You still have two separate accounts – and they are as separate as before pooling in regards of your status.
Secondly, a pool does not protect the miles from expiring. In general, Miles & More miles expire 36 months after you earned them, other program require you regular (i.e. once a year) mileage transactions (like earning more miles) to keep your savings active. Very often, you may also protect your miles by a certain status level or by applying for a credit card. All these mechanism do not change just because you are part of a mileage pool. If your partner is Miles & More Senator and you are an no-status member, a pool will not protect your award miles. However, as you might be able to spend your miles quicker, see above, you might rather be able to use them in a sensible way. Within pools, you typically also do not automatically inherit miles from members, who have passed away.
One topic I cannot finally answer (as it highly depends on your booking profile) is whether mileage pooling at Miles & More is potentially compensating the members for the adoption of the award mile schedule to a revenue-based system. I rather feel that overall, it is still harder (even for a single person’s award flight) to collect the mile to go for your “free” flight.
I initially wanted to call this chapter “disadvantages”, but maybe it would have become rather short then. The only disadvantage I see is that it is a bit of a safety issue. One may access you mileage account by accessing another person’s data, including that person himself/herself. You should have a certain level of trust in that person and in her attitude about data security, using strong passwords and all these things, which may significantly lower the risk that one of the connected accounts is hacked. Of course you see all the times how much miles other parties in your pool collect. I would not care, but other people may be more picky here.
Shall I do Mileage Pooling?
Apart from the protection issue on your miles I mentioned above, I do not see any disadvantage in doing mileage pooling. Especially for award bookings which require significant miles, for example companion bookings, it may even save miles just because you can do your booking in one instead of having two separate bookings. Especially earning some miles because you take your kids to a higher-class booking for holidays twice a year and similar scenarios feel to be very attractive. On the other hand, being limited to two adults at Miles & More does not allow do have that much of a boost of your mileage availability. Other programs seem to be much more attractive there.
Shall I change my Loyality Program due for that?
Very hard to say that – but in general I feel that the answer is no. If you, however, decide to enroll to a new program (either because you fancy another alliance or because you changed your flyer profile significantly in another way), the existance of mileage pooling may be a strong argument. I expect that in most pools, there will be one strong contributor, so that his/her profile will dominate the selection of the right program.
Feature picture designed by Freepik
Mileage pooling illustration by Miles and More
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