MilesTalk University: How to Use One Airline’s Miles to Fly Free on Another Airline
Partner Award Redemptions
A beginner question I get a lot involves the three airline alliances (OneWorld, Star Alliance, and SkyTeam) and how you use your miles on one airline to book a an award flight on another. There are also “redemption partners” – which are airlines that have a special agreement for their members to be able to redeem awards on the other airline.
What Can You Redeem Where?
For the purposes of this article, they are all the same. If you fly one of the big three airlines in America, you have a range of redemption partners. Let’s look at your options for each of the Big Three.
American Airlines: Part of OneWorld which includes: airberlin, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian Airlines, S7 Airlines (Russia), SriLankan Airlines, and TAM Airlines.
Beyond OneWorld, you can *also* redeem your American AAdvantage miles on Air Tahiti Nui, Alaska Airlines, Cape Air, Etihad Airways, Fiji Airways, Gulf Air, Hawaiian Airlines (Inter-Island only for redemptions), Seaborne Airlines (Puerto Rico)
Delta: Part of SkyTeam which includes: Aeroflot, Aerolineas Argentinas, Aeromexico, Air Europa, Air France, Alitalia, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Czech Airlines, Kenya Airways, KLM, Korean Air, Middle East Airlines, Saudia Airlines, TAROM, Vietnam Airlines and Xiamen Airlines.
Delta’s non-Skyteam partners are: Air Tahiti Nui, GOL Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia.
United Airlines: Part of the Star Alliance which includes: ADRIA Airways, Aegean Airlines, Air Canada, Air China, Air India, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana, Austrian, Avianca, Brussels Airlines, Copa Airlines, Croatia Airlines, EgyptAir, Ethiopian Airlines, EVA Airways, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, SAS, Shenzhen Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, SWISS, TAP Portugal, THAI, Turkish Airlines
How to Search Partner Award Availability
Now that you understand that if you collect miles in one (or more!) of the big three those entire alliances and transfer partners are options for your miles redemptions, you’ve opened up a world of new possibilities.
But here’s the very important thing to know: Not all partners will show up on an airline’s online award booking – and the Big Three have some of the worst availability of Saver (low) level awards of any airlines. So your best bet to maximize their value is on partner airlines. Which means you need to know how.
Based on the Alliance that your airline is in, here are the sites to use to check availability:
OneWorld: BA.com (the British Airways website)
SkyTeam: Air France and Delta
Star Alliance: Air Canada (or United.com)
Singapore / Etihad – directly on their websites
Keep in mind, you do not transfer miles from one airline to the other. You simply are booking an award on that partner’s planes using the miles you have. For example, if you wanted to book a JAL (Japan Airlines) flight, you can use your American Airlines miles. Since JAL won’t show on the AA.com website, you would need to call American and they can redeem your miles for award flights on JAL, subject to award seat availability from JAL.
What Will it Cost?
The program’s miles you are using governs the price you will pay. In the above example, let’s say you wanted to fly JAL from New York to Tokyo. Japan is in the AAdvantage partner award chart as Asia Region 1
One way in Economy: 35,000 miles
One way in Business: 60,000 miles
One way in First: 80,000
It doesn’t matter what JAL charges for their awards. It could be more or it could be less. But if you are using your AA miles, it’s AA prices that you’ll pay.
Of course, this opens up arbitrage opportunities when you have a variety of airline miles or transferable points, as you can choose the program with the lowest rates on the flights you want.
I’ve made a short video to help guide you through the next part – how to search for availability and then make the booking with the airline on which you have miles.
Note that there may be cases where availability simply cannot be checked online. There are more advanced tools for that, like Expert Flyer, but this is an intro-level post.
New to all of this? My “introduction to miles and points” book, MilesTalk: Live Your Wildest Travel Dreams Using Miles and Points is available now.