Airlines You Never Fly With – Whose Loyalty Schemes You MUST join

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One of the more common mistakes that travellers make is to ignore airline partnerships. You might book a flight on, for example, Emirates, and assume that you must join the Emirates frequent flyer programme to earn miles. Inevitably, those miles will expire a few years later as most people don’t fly to Dubai (and beyond) that often…

Once you become a bit more familiar with airline partnerships, you come to understand that you can credit the miles from your paid flights to a frequent flyer programme offered by a partner. Taking my Emirates example, you could credit those flights to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan.

When you get to a more advanced level, you start to realise that you should sign up to certain frequent flyer programmes, despite having absolutely no intention of flying with the airline in question.  Here are a few candidates and their sweetspots…

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members can use their miles to fly on a number of different partners. One of my favourites is Cathay Pacific, where you can:

  • fly between Europe and Hong Kong for 42,500 miles in Business Class or 70,000 miles in First Class (each way)
  • fly between Hong Kong and Australia in First Class for 45,000 miles (each way)

You can also:

  • fly between North America and Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific, stopover for as long as you like in Hong Kong, before continuing onwards to Johannesburg, Dubai or Tel Aviv (among many other options) in First Class for 70,000 miles
  • fly between North America and Tokyo on JAL, stopover for as long as you like, before continuing to anywhere else in Asia that JAL flies… for 70,000-75,000 miles

Asiana Mileage Club

Asiana is a member of the Star Alliance, allowing you to spend your miles on Star Alliance partners. It also partners with Etihad, allowing you to:

  • fly between Europe and the Middle East in First Class for 40,000 miles (each way)
  • fly between Europe and North America in First Class (i.e. Lufthansa) for 50,000 miles (each way)
  • fly between North America and South America in Business Class for 35,000 miles (each way)

You will still pay Lufthansa’s outrageous fuel surcharges, but when only paying 50,000 miles for their First Class product (whenever it starts flying again), it might actually be worth it!

Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles

Turkish Airlines is also a member of the Star Alliance. I’m not going to pretend that booking partner awards is easy, but you might be willing to make the effort in order to:

  • fly between Hawaii and the North American continent on Air Canada or United in Business Class for 15,000 miles (each way)
  • fly between Europe and North America in Business Class for 45,000 miles (each way)

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

OK, so you might want to join Virgin Atlantic Flying Club in order to fly with Virgin. But if you hate paying APD and massive surcharges, you are probably more interested in:

  • flying between Europe and Tokyo on All Nippon Airways for 47,500 miles in Business Class (one way) or for 60,000 miles in First Class (one way)
  • flying between North America and Continental Europe (NOT the UK) on Delta Airlines in Business Class for 50,000 miles (each way)

Avianca LifeMiles

It often appears that the entire existence of LifeMiles is based around selling miles to members, who then turn around and redeem them on Star Alliance partners. Lifemiles earns more money from selling miles than they spend reimbursing their partners for those award seats.

Etihad Guest

The world’s number one sweetspot might be gone (Prague <–> Seoul), but you shouldn’t be signing up to Etihad Guest with the intention of booking award flights on Etihad itself, as great as that airline might be. Instead you would be looking to:

  • fly between Brussels and North America on Brussels Airlines for 44,000 miles in Business Class (each way)
  • fly between Europe/North Africa and North America for 44,000 miles on Royal Air Maroc in Business Class (each way)
  • fly between North America and South America on American Airlines for 50,000 miles in Business Class (each way)

Bottom line

If you only think about joining frequent flyer programmes of airlines you are actually planning to fly, you will probably end up with a few expired miles. Even worse, you miss out on many sweetspots only available when booking partner awards. Between American Express Membership Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy, it’s easier than you think to accumulate miles in many of these programmes…

What about you? What is your favourite frequent flyer programme for booking partner awards? Let us know in the comments section…


  1. BuildBackBetter says

    Nice article. Would be great if you could add miles expiry rules and any family / household options.

  2. Andrew M says

    Germany to the US in LH First using Asiana miles is one that I’m aiming for. The “taxes” are much less flying east to west and if you want to stretch it for maximum value it’s possible to fly to the west coast of the US in LH First and then on to Hawaii in United’s domestic First for no extra points. Availability is tight, it has to be booked at the last minute (within two weeks of departure I think) and those Asiana miles are really hard to earn! The clock is ticking on this one though. If Korean go ahead with their purchase of Asiana it will almost certainly disappear.

    • Craig Sowerby says


      I think Turkish are the only one listed above with a hard expiry policy that you need to worry about. I think Asiana’s is 10 years which should rarely be an issue.

      Everything else listed I believe can be kept going with activity.

  3. Chris Jensen says

    The best Asiana trick for me is US to central Africa (Kenya) on LH metal for 60K OW in J. Then take the SQ sweet spot back to EWR and on to Machu Picchu for another 50K all in J. Go back to the US for 30K on AA in J.

    • Joe Deeney says

      Cheers Chris! – I don’t think I’ve ever looked at how the KrisFlyer South/Central Africa – South America awards route and price before. Great tip.

  4. MurrayF says

    Good list thanks. Note Cathy does not fly first class to Australia/New Zealand. However 30k in business is excellent value of Alaska miles. I was looking at going to Tel Aviv from New Zealand and it looks like two trips required at 30k + 30K which is really good.

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