The Platinum pursuit

You don't need to be a business traveller to rack up frequent flyer points. Anybody can pile on the points with the help of their credit card and some strategic shopping and bill-paying.

But the best perks come courtesy of a different criteria: your status in an airline's frequent flyer scheme.

Gold, Emerald, Diamond, Platinum – those are colours of success for the business traveller.

And unlike frequent flyer points, which can be collected many different ways beyond actual travel, the only way to get status credits is to hop on a plane.

The more flights you take, especially in the pointy end of the plane, the more status credits you earn and the higher up the status ladder you climb.

And at the top of the frequent-flyer food chain, life is sweet.

The many perks of Platinum

You're among the first in line for a free upgrade to premium economy, business class or even first class on some international flights.

A wave of your shiny plastic gets you into the best airport lounges, including luxe first class lounges with restaurant dining and spas, even when you're flying in economy.


You'll hurdle over the huddled masses with fast-track priority access at the check-in desk, when boarding the plane and often at the airport's security.

Packing some extra baggage? That's another silver lining. For example, Qantas allows its Platinum frequent flyers to check two bags of 32kg each on domestic flights – and three on international services – compared to a standard allowance of one 23kg bag.

You can even earn more frequent flyer points: both Qantas and Virgin Australia double the number of points you get, just for being a VIP.

There are also what airlines sometimes call "high touch" benefits. Your flight's cancelled? Platinums are often the first to be looked after, sometimes even being put up at a better hotel than the rest of the passengers when there's an unexpected overnight stay.

Qantas agents are also known to make frequent flyer award seats magically appear for Platinum members on a flight when the limited number of free seats have long been snapped up.

Status makes the world go around

Your status with an airline also carries over to its partners, affording equal access to their lounges plus their own set of perks for top-tier travellers.

Airlines that belong to one of the three global alliances – Oneworld, Star Alliance and SkyTeam – will see your status recognised across all airlines belonging to that same "family". That's a huge win for globetrotters.

Additional bonuses vary between airlines. For example, Platinum members of Virgin Australia's Velocity scheme enjoy Diamond membership of the Hilton Hotel rewards scheme.

This delivers free upgrades, free in-room Internet access and late checkouts.

Similar arrangements are on offer with the IHG hotel chain, Hertz and Europcar.

So how do you soar the lofty heights of status and tap into these travel perks?

It's all about the flying.

Climbing the status ladder

Using Qantas as an example, a discount economy flight with the Red Roo from Sydney to London will earn you 60 status credits each way. You'll get 120 status credits on a full-price economy ticket, and 240 for business class.

Notch up 700 status credits within a year and you're a certified Qantas Gold frequent flyer. Blast past 1400 and you're Platinum.

Those sought-after status credits can also be earned when flying with an airline's partners. For Virgin Australia that includes Air New Zealand, Etihad and Singapore Airlines; for Qantas, it includes British Airways, Cathay Pacific, American Airlines and from next February, Malaysia Airlines.

Frequent flyers are ever watchful for airlines running the occasion "double status credits" offer, which lets you earn twice the credits for travel booked and flown within a certain period.

Some tragics will even spend a long weekend flying on convoluted routes – bouncing between Australian capital cities and even out to Fiji – to wring the maximum number of status credits out of each leg.


A match made in frequent flyer heaven

But the golden opportunity is the status-match.

In these rare promotions, an airline will instantly elevate you to the same status in its own frequent flyer program as you already hold with a competitor.

Virgin Australia used this to great effect in late 2011 as part of its push to woo Australian business travellers away from the Red Roo and encourage them to sample Virgin's new aircraft, lounges and service.

Qantas Silver, Gold and Platinum frequent flyers were given free like-for-like membership in Virgin's Velocity scheme – even if they'd never set foot on a Virgin plane before.

Status-match campaigns are highly prized. The best ones are from airlines which belong to one of the three global alliances, because your new status in one airline will apply across all the partner airlines.

Once a status match appears, word quickly spreads and savvy travellers are quick to take advantage, even if they don't plan on flying with that airline.

This is an insurance policy; a "just in case" move. It's also a strategic one, because you can sometimes play that shiny new card against a status match deal offered by a third airline.

If that sounds like a game of snakes and ladders, you're right. Except there are no snakes. You just have to keep your eyes peeled for those ladders which lead to higher status. After all, for business travellers and frequent flyers, status makes the world go 'round.