Australian consumer group Choice has dismissed frequent flyer schemes as a waste of time.
Choice says travellers are better off just hunting for the cheapest flights rather than slavishly booking with the same airline to rack up reward points.
"These points have become a virtual currency for airlines. You are better off finding the best flight deal and saving your money to spend elsewhere," Choice spokesman Ingrid Just said today.
A review of Virgin Australia's entry-level frequent flyer scheme found passengers needed to book 13 return flights between Sydney and Los Angeles to earn enough reward points to pay for the same trip once.
A bronze member of the Qantas reward program would need seven return trips between Sydney and Los Angeles to earn a similar freebie.
Choice also criticised frequent flyer programs that allow passengers to swap points for products.
A Virgin traveller would need to fly Sydney to Los Angeles return four times to earn a microwave worth about $AU129, it said.
A Qantas bronze member would need to do the trip six times to get a television set worth $AU439.
"Unless you're clocking up serious air miles or paying for more expensive seats when you do fly, you're going to wait a long time before you earn enough points for a toaster, an upgrade or a ticket," Ms Just added.
Virgin Australia criticised the Choice report, saying it had focused on worst case scenarios.
"The review is misleading as it focuses on worst-case scenario examples," a spokeswoman for the airline said in a statement.
Under Virgin Australia's frequent flyer program, a passenger flying economy return to London with partner airline Etihad Airways would earn enough points for two flights between Melbourne and Sydney, the spokeswoman said.
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