Reader Robert asked,
Are there any situations when a flight that one booked with award points earn actually earns points?
For example when a late flight results in a misconnection and rebooking by the airline onto another flight?
In general frequent flyer award tickets (tickets you buy with miles) do not earn miles. But there are exceptions to that rule.
bmi Was the Whale of All Mileage-Earning on Awards
british midland used to give mileage credit for Star Alliance award tickets on several airlines booked through partner mileage programs. This was a glitch that was broadly exploited. An international first class award, say, on Thai Airways paid for with United miles could net you gold elite status in the program and enough miles for a business class cash and points award between the US and Europe. You simply needed to submit boarding pass stubs after the trip. A few people ran into problems with this, and it didn’t work for travel on all Star Alliance airlines, but it did work. Just one of the many loopholes in the Diamond Club program that made it so special (and, probably, so unprofitable!).
Sometimes it Just Happens ‘By Accident’
There are also more specific, less easily replicable ‘accidents’. Earlier in the year I flew Etihad on an American AAdvantage award. I had added my Etihad Guest number to the reservation earlier on, but my first flight segment didn’t earn any miles. Checking in at Abu Dhabi for my flight to the Maldives the agent confirmed my number was in the reservation, and that flight did credit to my account complete with class of service bonus. The rest of my flights did not.
American AAdvantage-issued awards on British Airways used to reliably earn miles — either credited back to an AAdvantage account (!) or credited to a British Airways Executive Club account.
Delta Offers it as a Feature of the Skymiles Program — But it’s Not a Good Deal
Delta co-brand American Express cardholders can use miles as cash towards paid tickets. They can pay for a ticket in whole or in part with miles, and first and business class tickets redeemed that way will earn miles. Don’t get too excited — a $2000 ticket would cost 200,000 miles with ‘pay with miles’.
The Most Common Way to Earn Miles is Due to Irregular Operations
When your flight is cancelled or substantially delayed and you are rebooked:
- On another airline. It doesn’t matter than your original ticket was paid for with miles, since you will almost always be rebooked as a revenue passenger you should be able to earn miles either in the mileage program of the airline you’re actually flying, or with one of their partners. (Some airline award ticket rules say you cannot be rebooked onto another carrier but that is not universal, or universally followed.)
- In a revenue booking class. Many airlines have procedures that if your fare class isn’t available on a given flight (there are no award seats available, in this case) then they are supposed to get inventory management to open one when rebooking you. But the shortcut is just to book you as full fare or at least into the lowest fare class available on the flight. That means your ticket will often be treated as a revenue one for mileage earning purposes.
And of Course, as Compensation for Delays or Poor Service
I flew British Airways London – Toronto back when American Airlines miles could not be used for BA flights between London and the US (but there were no fuel surcharges collected on those awards, either).
It was during the cabin crew strike, and I was fortunate that my flight operated almost as-scheduled with replacement crew. But they weren’t fully provisioning the aircraft. It was a first class award and all I was served was a cold salad to eat.
Under the circumstances I understood this, but I still emailed AAdvantage to let them know that I didn’t receive the product I had anticipated when redeeming the award, and they credited some miles to my account.
You may not earn flight miles or elite qualifying miles this way, but being on an award ticket doesn’t forfeit your ability to claim compensation when things don’t go the way they’re supposed to.
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