Frequent Flyer Programs

It’s been forty years since I earned my first airline “mile”. These industry programs became almost universal over a few years and were pretty simple to understand. Fly a mile and earn a mile and after accumulating a specific number of miles get a free ticket. There were a number of subtle variations like if you didn’t earn any miles over two years your mileage would be forfeit. Some allowed you to use small amounts to upgrade to first class on a paid ticket and many started programs with affiliated airlines.

Some added shopping and restaurant programs to encourage you to accumulate more miles and most started awarding bonus miles for getting and using their branded credit cards. Years ago business travelers like me benefitted the most because we were logging constant miles and while our employers paid for the tickets we got to use the free ticket awards.

Well things always change. Our first realization came about five years ago when a roundtrip flight to Australia only earned 5,000 miles instead of the 20,000 that we flew. It seemed we had bought a discount ticket and the seat code had a Z in it (American Airlines).

Isn’t it surprising how one company makes a change and all the rest follow. Between one and two years ago miles stopped being miles traveled but became a calculation based on the price of the ticket (that partial award based on the seat code also can still apply, please refer to the fine print).

Because most of these frequent flyer programs have evolved into complex constructs bringing together a number of businesses, with lawyers involved, the airlines have to be very specific regarding the rules of their award programs. Now the fine print covering the earning of miles looks more like an insurance policy than a marketing promotion.

To provide information on some of these programs the following descriptions have been copied from the program web sites of each airline:


For Delta-marketed (flight numbers that include the “DL” airline code) or Delta-ticketed (featuring a ticket number beginning with “006”) flights, SkyMiles Members will earn miles based on ticket price, at the rate of 5 miles per U.S. Dollar (USD) spent, including base fare and carrier-imposed surcharges, but excluding government-imposed taxes and fees.


United MileagePlus members will earn MileagePlus award miles based on the fare at 5 miles per dollar value and MileagePlus status for the following flights, with some exclusions as listed at the bottom of this page.

Flights operated by United and United Express, and

Flights operated by a Star AllianceTM or MileagePlus partner airline for tickets issued by United (ticket number starting with “016”)

Tickets containing Basic Economy (N) fares are eligible to receive award miles based on fare at 5 miles per fare dollar and MileagePlus status, but will not receive any Premier qualifying credit.


American Award miles are awarded based on ticket price (includes base fare plus carrier-imposed fees, but excludes government-imposed taxes and fees). The more you spend, and the higher your elite status level, the more you earn.

(Includes US Airways flights)

AAdvantage® member – 5 miles/U.S. dollar

Gold member – 7 miles/U.S. dollar (40% bonus)

Platinum member – 8 miles/U.S. dollar (60% bonus)

Platinum Pro member – 9 miles/U.S. dollar (80% bonus)

Executive Platinum member – 11 miles/U.S. dollar (120% bonus)


Southwest Earn When You Fly

The amount and type of fare you choose determines how many points you earn. Now you have another reason to go for that Business Select® Fare.

Business Select® Points Earned per dollar            12

Anytime 10 Pts Per Dollar

Wanna Get Away® 6 Pts Per Dollar


JetBlue True Blue Program. No blackout dates on JetBlue operated flights. Use points for any seat, any time1See Terms and Conditions seating footnote. Earn at least 6 points per eligible dollar when you book on jetblue.com2See Terms and Conditions earning footnote. Points don’t expire. Earn and share points together with Family Pooling




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