My sister in law has seen Laura and I jet set back and forth between New York and London in style too many times. She decided it was time to get in the mileage game so that she herself could join the turning left club and earn enough miles for a flight of luxury. The problem is that knowing how many miles you’re earning is complicated. Really complicated.

Some airlines give one frequent flyer mile for every mile you actually fly in the sky, some only give a quarter and depending on the fare type, some give you up to five! For her flight to Australia, we broke out the calculator and dove into understanding fare codes so that we could calculate just how many miles she would earn on this long journey and how close she is to sharing the below expression…

a man and woman sitting in a chair

The Fare Codes

Airline tickets are far more complicated than economy, premium economy, business and first. Within each category, there are between three and twenty subcategories to classify the fares. Is it a full fare economy ticket? Discount economy? Flexible business? Promotional business? To distinguish between the lot there are letter codes which help the airline and you know what you can and cannot change, for how much and ultimately how many miles you earn.

Discount Economy: K,L,Q,V,W,U,T,X,N,O,S

Full Fare Economy: Y,B,M,H

Premium Economy: W,E

Discounted Business: D,I,Z

Full Fare Business: J,C,D

First: A,F

Discount economy earning half a mile or worse on one airline is full earning on another so knowing WHERE to put your miles is a big part of the battle. Here is a rough guide to fare classes to help you better understand the basics. Just keep in mind that you should always consult your airline’s individual chart as something like H might mean something entirely different on one airline than another. Don’t worry, the answer to how many you’ll earn and where you should earn them is found just below.

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The Solution

There is an ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE tool for figuring out how many miles you will earn on any fare and where to bank them to maximize your miles. It’s free! To use it you simply select the airline you are flying and the booking class you are booked into (found on your airline confirmation). The tool will then tell you what percentage of miles you will earn with the airline itself or any available partner.

If for example I see that when flying British Airways on a K fare, crediting miles to American will earn me 100% whereas British Airways I’d only earn 25%, it’s a no brainer in deciding that even though I am flying British Airways I’d do far better using my American frequent flyer number to collect for my flight. Who wants to earn 2,500 miles when you could earn 10,000?

In practice, if I am flying from London to Sydney like my sister in law with a stopover in Beijing I would go to the Air Miles Calculator to find out the length of each segment. I would then consult my itinerary from Air China to find my booking classes for each individual segment.

In Sarah’s instance, we were able to figure out that she was on a K fare going to Australia which earns 100% of miles flown on Air China partner Virgin Atlantic. Coming back she is on a Q fare which earns 50% of the miles flown on Virgin Atlantic. Even though she’s flying Air China she’ll earn nearly 20,000 Virgin Atlantic miles on this wonderful trip. Using the Where to Credit tool she was able to see which program would reward her needs best.

As Always, Get in Touch:

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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