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A common beginner’s mistake is to sign up for the frequent flyer programme of whatever airline they happen to be traveling on. This inevitably leads to a few miles that expire unused and/or the unanswerable question “I have 2,000 Emirates miles, how can I convert those into Avios?”…
Assuming those people don’t give up, the next stage is to understand airline alliances, the main three being Oneworld, Star Alliance and Skyteam. So, a British resident probably signs up for British Airways Executive Club, Lufthansa Miles & More and Air France Flying Blue (due to geographic and cultural affinity more than anything else) and hopefully manages to earn some kind of miles for most of their flights. That solution is better, but still not ideal, as it leaves you subject to reward chart devaluations, surcharges and other unfriendly measures…
Between my reward chart series and my look at Etihad, I’m trying to guide the adventurous towards better travel hacking opportunities. I wrote about how you can earn “exotic” miles without flying. That logically led me to think “what about flying?” As long as you are agnostic about elite status – in other words you don’t need to credit to British Airways Executive Club in order to earn Tier Points – there are lots of interesting options worth considering.
I know that things can get out of hand. Each airline programme is an alphabet soup of earning x% of miles flown in fare class X/Y/Z. But whenever you would earn the same number of miles, I would try to credit my flights to where I would earn the most “valuable” miles – check out this guide for the InsideFlyer view on how much your miles are worth.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
Probably my favorite frequent flyer programme. You can find the full list of airline partners here. I would highlight the following partners:
- British Airways
- Air France / KLM
- Cathay Pacific, Korean Air, Japan Airlines, Hainan Airlines
It is well worth considering crediting any flights on those airlines, but especially those in long haul Business or First Class, as Alaska Airlines recently introduced additional bonuses for premium cabin travel.
American Airlines AAdvantage
Exotic? Probably not to any American readers, but as long as I can redeem AA miles on Etihad I’m going to pay attention. Apart from the usual Oneworld partners, you can earn AA miles with:
- Gulf Air – overtaken by the ME3, but still offering good deals on occasion
You can find the full list of AAdvantage airline partners here.
My favorite Star Alliance programme. Europe seems to be a particular sweet spot for ANA Mileage Club, probably due to the gap between the U.S. (and its credit cards) and Japan / Asia (where many ANA members will reside and have local earning partners).
Apart from the usual Star Alliance partners, you can earn ANA miles with:
- Virgin Atlantic – Flying Club offers amazing bonus mileage for Upper Class tickets, but the same isn’t true for Economy and Premium Economy
- Garuda Indonesia
- Vietnam Airlines
- Philippine Airlines
You can find the full list of ANA Mileage Club partners here.
Another interesting Star Alliance programme. Apart from the usual Star Alliance partners, you can earn Asiana miles with:
You can read about accruing Asiana miles here.
As an American Express Membership Rewards partner, Krisflyer has many attractions. Apart from the usual Star Alliance partners, you can earn Krisflyer miles with:
- Virgin Atlantic
- JetBlue – probably the most “premium” airline option in the United States
You can read about Singapore Krisflyer’s partner airlines here.
Japan Airlines Mileage Bank
Japan Airlines is a Oneworld partner with an excellent reward chart. In addition to the usual Oneworld partners you can earn JAL miles with:
- Air France
- China Eastern
- Alaska Airlines
You can read about JAL Mileage Bank’s partner airlines here.
No matter what “exotic” frequent flyer programme you might be interested in, you can always find some airline partners that you might not expect. This allows you to find additional value from the miles you can earn in the air. After all, why collect Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles, knowing that you will struggle to get 1p of value from them, when you could earn ANA or Singapore miles that would have you on your way to Etihad or Singapore First Class?
In my next post, I’ll reverse the structure, and provide suggestions about which frequent flyer programme you could choose when flying on specific airlines…