In some ways, earning heaps of frequent flyer miles isn’t as easy as it used to be.
During the mid-2000s airlines – facing difficult economic conditions – would offer creative and lucrative promotions to incentivize people to fly. From tens of thousands of bonus miles to free round-the-world tickets, airlines would regularly offer fun ways for travelers to receive even more value from frequent flyer programs. While there are still lots of ways to earn lots of miles, the glory days of these mega promotions seem to be past, a casualty of industry consolidation through mergers.
But airlines are nothing if not creative, especially when it comes to generating revenue for themselves. Many of these creative ideas are not to our benefit. Checked baggage fees, paying for food and paying for decent seat assignments are just a few examples. But there is one way airlines are generating revenue that works to the benefit of both the airline and travelers. If you’re flying an airline, it often will allow you to add more miles to your trip (usually double or triple) at a reasonable cost. Some examples:
- Additional miles can be purchased at a check-in kiosk or on aa.com
- Purchase happens during check-in, not before
- Purchase a ticket while logged into Delta’s website with your SkyMiles account
- Additional miles can be purchased at any time after booking
- Purchase your trip on United
- Go into the My Itineraries section of your account, pull up the reservation and select the Award Accelerator option
In some cases you can even buy miles on award tickets, where you normally wouldn’t earn any. On an award booking to Delhi, United is currently offering me 20,000 miles for $460 or 30,000 for $690.
This bring us to the final, important point: The value of these programs hinges on the cost per mile. Remember, this is the same measure we use for assessing the value of redeeming miles for an award ticket.
In this case, I can buy 20,000 or 30,000 miles from United at 2.3 cents each. If I needed miles for an upcoming trip or upgrade, I’d jump at this opportunity. Remember, when frequent flyer miles are used strategically they can be redeemed for five to ten cents each – or more. Use these mileage building tools when it is to your advantage to do so. Buying miles at less than 2.5 cents each is generally a good option if you have a specific use for the miles in mind.
Do you ever take advantage of these mileage boosting programs?