These days it’s hard to pass up the cheapest ticket. Whether you are a road warrior traveling daily or the blue moon vacationer, cents matter. Just as cents matter, earning miles matters. Did you know you can earn miles from one airline while flying many different airlines and just booking the cheapest ticket? Earning miles is the pay off for all the days getting crammed into seats. Not only can earning miles with one program bring you enough miles for a free flight, it may also net you elite status, which means the perks start before you even arrive at the airport! I like my perks. One of the most common misconceptions is that you must earn miles from the airline you physically fly. You do not. 

an aerial view of airplanes at an airport

Almost any airline you may fly is a member of an “alliance”. These alliances such as Star Alliance, Sky Team, One World and Alaska are groups of airlines which have partnered together to offer flights covering a vast majority of the world and to steer traffic within their partnership. In almost every case, you absolutely do not have to earn frequent flier miles from the airline you are flying, but you should always earn miles. When flying on almost any airline within an alliance, you are able to earn miles towards any of the programs within that alliance. For the sake of example, if I am flying to Saudi Arabia on Saudia Airlines, a Sky Team Alliance airline, I would be foolish to earn miles with them as I am unlikely to return to Saudi Arabia, or fly with them again. Rather than collect miles I wouldn’t have much use for, since Saudia is in the Sky Team Alliance, I could earn Delta miles from that flight. The same principle applies for virtually any airline within any alliance. If I am flying on American Airlines, I could credit the miles to British Airways and so on. To earn miles on a different airline, simply create a free frequent flier account for your desired airlines, write down your new frequent flier numbers and input the frequent flier number from the program of your choice when booking your ticket or at check in. Collecting useful miles means free flights, everyone likes free flights. 

a woman sitting at a counter in a room with pink lights

If you want to see your mileage balances grow precipitously in a useful way, try to stick to one alliance, planting the bulk of your miles in the program you deem most useful. I highly suggest looking at the different airlines of interest to you within an alliance and comparison shopping how many miles you would need for your desired free flight and cabin. Every airline has a different chart reflecting how many miles you need to reach various parts of the globe. Once you have found your airline of choice, bank a majority of your miles to that airline and try to fly within that alliance so that you are always adding to that never satisfied mileage bank, while earning towards elite status. Elite status can mean as little as free checked bags and priority check in and as much as unlimited first class upgrades, complimentary lounge access, dedicated phone lines and more. 

Below is a list of all the airlines within each alliance: 

Star Alliance: Adria Airways, Aegean Airlines, Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, Avianca, Brussels Airlines, Copa Airlines, Croatia Airlines, Egyptair, Ethiopian Airlines, EVA Air, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, SWISS, TAP Portugal, THAI, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines.

Sky Team: Aeroflot, Aerolineas Argentinas, Aeromexico, Air Europa, Alitalia, China Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Czech Airlines, Delta Airlines, Air France, KLM, Korean Airlines, Saudia Airlines, TAROM, Vietnam Airlines, Xiamen Airlines.  

One World: Airberlin, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN, TAM, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, US AIrways, Royal Jordanian, S7 Airlines. 

Alaska: Aeromexico, Air France, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Delta Air Lines, Emirates, Era Alaska, Fiji Airways, KLM, Korean Air, LAN, PenAir, Qantas

There is no wrong choice. Miles are personal and as long as you are collecting miles you are doing something right. Each airline has a unique niche use. Collecting British Airways miles are the best for short haul economy flights, collecting Air France “Flying Blue” miles are great for US to Europe during award sales, everyone has their niche, just find which one will be most useful to you. 

Questions, comments or advice? Email Me!

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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