Let No Mile Go Unclaimed

I can’t understand why anyone would fly on a commercial jet without collecting frequent flier miles or credits, yet my friends and relatives seem to do it all the time.

I love these friends and relatives, which is why I haven’t strangled them for this. (I might shout at them a little, but it’s for their own good.) It’s very frustrating. They ask me to help find good air fares and then they won’t bother to register for frequent flier programs.

Here are the two main excuses they give me, and here’s why those excuses are stupid.

1. I fly different airlines all the time, so it would never add up to anything.

This is stupid because different airlines belong to airline alliances that allow passengers to share miles among them. So I can fly Northwest or KLM and add miles to my Delta account. And if I happen to collect miles in a program that doesn’t amount to anything, so what? I never have met Southwest’s criteria for a free flight, but some year I might. It doesn’t do any harm to collect the credits and see what happens.

2. I don’t understand these programs. They’re too complicated and hard to use.

This is stupid because when you have accumulated 25,000 miles and you can get a free ticket anywhere in the continental United States, it will be worth figuring out. And if you don’t have the patience to collect that many miles or figure out the booking process, you can use miles for an upgrade. First class isn’t worth paying for, but it’s sure nice when you can get it for no extra outlay.

It does take a little time and patience to figure out how to use your miles. But it’s worth it. I have flown to Honolulu, San Juan and Helsinki on miles. Back when the programs were kinder to leisure travelers I earned elite status and got free upgrades into first class now and then. None of it cost me more than $10 in fees.

It’s true, as I’ve mentioned before, that many airlines are tightening up their programs so that miles expire faster and award trips may be harder to book. But even if the miles aren’t worth quite what they used to be, they’re still worth more than nothing. Why would you turn them down?


6 thoughts on “Let No Mile Go Unclaimed

  1. Jeanne Leblanc

    Sign up for the program run by the airline you’re flying on next. Or, better yet, find out what alliance that airline belongs to and sign up for the program of the airline in that alliance that you are most likely to fly on most often.
    So if you have a Delta flight coming up but you usually fly Northwest, sign up for the Northwest program. Contact Delta and make sure they credit your miles on that flight to the Delta program.
    The main alliances are
    Skyteam: Aeroflot, Aeroméxico, Air France, Alitalia, China Southern Airlines, Continental Airlines, Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Korean Air and Northwest Airlines
    Star Alliance: Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, bmi, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Spanair, SWISS, TAP Portugal, THAI, United and US Airways
    OneWorld: American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN, Malév Hungarian Airlines, Qantas and Royal Jordanian

  2. Mary Leblanc

    The alliances are so important that they should be a separate blog. And people should print them and post them.

  3. Steve P

    Additional reasons: It’s free to sign up for these programs so the worst that happens is you don’t get to use the miles. If you select your credit cards wisely, you may be able to use your miles/points for other travel perks, such as free hotel nights. It’s definitely worth it.


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