It has come to pass that I have finally spent down the last remaining miles in my BMI (British Midlands) Diamond Club account. I have been a Gold member for approximately 2 1/2 years and it was the first “serious” frequent flyer account that I maintained. Prior to joining Diamond Club, my travel was too sporadic and unpredictable to tie it to one frequent flyer program and also at that point I had not yet discovered the world of frequent flying, mileage runs and reward travel. Truth be told I was ignorant in the ways of maximizing frequent flyer programs but with the help of websites and members of communities like milepoint.com I have been able to learn and take advantage of programs and opportunities as they are afforded.
With the uncertainty of BMI’s future (rumors of its sale had been present for at least 2 years) and the disposition of it’s Diamond Club, I made the decision to move to United’s MileagePlus program in the beginning of 2011 and start the climb through their elite ranks. The first half of 2011 started off slowly in gaining any significant status but the second half of the year saw 59,000 BIS (butt in seat) elite miles and 2012 looks like it will have at least 100k miles in travel which will turn into Premier 1k status and all the benefits that come from that level.
I sat down today and reflected on all of the travel we were able to accomplish in the last 2 years thanks to the generosity of Diamond Club (DC). The benefits that the program affords are unlike most frequent flyer programs in the marketplace. Some of the plan’s highlights:
1. Outstanding elite mile earning multipliers. 200% bonus for Business Class and 300% for First Class flights.
2. The Family Plan. You could enroll up to 8 family members and combine miles into one “Head of Household” account for redemption. Mrs. LHflyer and myself really benefited from this program. Most plans offer ways to transfer miles, but usually at a cost. With DC, there was no expense to transferring miles.
3. Mile Purchase Promotions. Usually 2 times a year, DC would offer its members the ability to buy miles for their accounts at a 50% discount. Each time, I maximized this opportunity by buying the maximum miles allowed for each of the family member accounts that were established. This resulted in nearly 200k miles each year at 1.5-2 cents per mile. A great deal!!
4. Generous Redemptions. DC offers among the best redemption rates among all frequent flyer programs. There are not many places that you can book a round trip business class ticket from the US to Europe on Lufthansa, United or Swiss for 75,000 miles or a first class ticket for 125,000 miles. A couple of times I was able to book First class tickets at 100,000 miles!
5. Domestic Lounge Access. As a DC Gold member, I had access to US domestic Star Alliance Member Lounges when traveling domestically in the US on member carriers.
6. Easy Status Renewal. As a Gold member, it only took 38,000 miles to be flown within your plan year to requalify for Gold for another year.
As a result of such fantastic features and benefits, it was easy to translate them into some fantastic travel experiences. I reflect on all of the great places we were able to visit in only two years, thanks to such a wonderful plan:
1. Several trips to Slovakia traveling in Lufthansa’s business class. Being a first generation “American”, the majority of my family (dozens upon dozens of members), still live in Slovakia. My wife and I made several trips in the last couple of years. It was these trips that cemented our loyalty to Lufthansa. Absolutely fantastic service and experience every time.
2. A solo trip to Slovakia specifically for the World Hockey Championships in 2011. Bratislava, Slovakia’s capital, and Kosice hosted the annual event for the first time. It was hockey day and night for nearly 2 weeks with my cousins. Unfortunately the home team did not do well. On this trip I was also able to visit Auschwitz in Poland which left quite an impact on me. In addition, I had a chance to spend a day in Vienna roaming around the city center as well. This trip was an award redemption and I was able to experience Swiss’ Business Class service on my flights between the US and Europe.
3. Prague. On one of our Slovakia trips, we added on 4 days and spent them in Prague. I had been there many times, but it was a first for my wife who completely fell in love with the city.
4. Venice. One of my wife’s bucket list places to visit. A beautiful city and probably the most photogenic you’ll ever see. Again, great service flying Lufthansa’s business class roundtrip from the states.
5. Rome and the Amalfi Coast. This was our latest trip in the fall of 2011 as we spent 10 days between Rome and the Amalfi coast. It was amazing to finally see things in person that we had only seen on TV, magazines or websites. You can read my trip reports here, here and here. This was also my wife’s first time at the “legendary” Lufthansa First Class Terminal in Frankfurt which she still talks about each time she looks at souvenir duck. You can read about the FCT experience here. Lufthansa pampered us with their First Class services.
6. Istanbul and London. Our last “hurrah” with Diamond Club and in conjunction with United Mileage Plus and American Express. This is our next trip coming up in May for Mrs. LHflyer’s birthday. Prior to American Express ending its Membership Rewards arrangement with Continental Airlines, we transferred our entire balance to my MileagePlus account and were fortunate use some of the point to book First Class Tickets on Lufthansa from our home in the states to Frankfurt. With my remaining DC points, I was able to book Business Class tickets from Frankfurt(FRA) to Istanbul(IST) where we’ll stay for a few nights and then from Istanbul to London(LHR) for a few more nights, and then finally London to Frankfurt for our flight home.
In all, I have no complaints about BMI Diamond Club. It has been a wonderful plan for us and it let us accomplish some great trips and has created hundreds of memories and thousands upon thousands of photos that will last us a life time.
I’m saddened to know that it will eventually go away or be radically altered now that Lufthansa has entered into an agreement to sell BMI to IAG (British Airways and Iberia’s parent company). With the uncertainty of exactly what will happen, whether Lufthansa absorbs DC into its Miles & More platform or if it is absorbed into British Airway’s Avios plan (the likely scenario) I thought it would be best spend down the last miles while I can still redeem them for travel on my terms.
I sincerely hope whatever ultimately comes of Diamond Club, that it’s employees are taken care of and are presented opportunities to continue with their careers. They have been some of the most helpful and patient people that I have ever dealt with when dealing with airlines and frequent flyer programs. I spent many long distance and roaming minutes with them while they helped me assemble what sometimes were complex itineraries. But it was worth the long distance charges! I’m hoping MileagePlus can fill the shoes vacated by BMI’s Diamond Club as far as my travels are concerned and thus far I am very happy with them as well!