Whether you fly once a week, once a month or once a year you should be saving your airline miles. Even if you do not always fly the same carrier you should join each of the major airline partnerships to allow you to capture domestic and international travel. Most major airlines have loyalty programs in which the miles don’t expire. You can also gain miles through online purchases, car rentals, hotel stays and more. Many airlines even offer credit cards so that your everyday spending can lead to free flights.
I personally am loyal to Skyteam and even though almost all the partners I fly have lost my luggage I always try to fly within the group. Even if I pay a little more for a ticket it pays off. This is up to a certain amount of course. I would say $40 domestically and $100 internationally, depending on the distance. I do not pay baggage fees now on domestic flights and I get an extra bag when I fly international routes. Usually once per year I accumulate enough miles for at least one free domestic trip. This summer I flew to San Francisco on an award ticket. So which airline group should you be loyal to? I base it on two main factors:
What airline has a hub in your city?
Generally if an airline has a hub in your city they will usually have the cheapest flights and the most flights to places you want to go. For example, when I am in the US, Detroit is my base. One of Delta’s major hubs is in Detroit, Atlanta and Minneapolis. It was a no brainer for me to choose Delta and they almost have the cheapest tickets out of Detroit to most places I fly. Sometimes Spirit is a bit cheaper, but once you add in all of their fees it doesn’t work out to be much cheaper.
Hubs of major American Airlines
- American Airlines: Dallas, JFK – NYC, LAX, Miami, Chicago – O’Hare
- Delta: Amsterdam, Cincinnati, Detroit, Atlanta, JFK -NYC, LaGuardia – NYC, Memphis, Minneapolis, Narita – Tokyo, Paris – CDG and Salt Lake City
- United Airlines: Guam, Cleveland, Denver, Houston, LAX, Narita – Tokyo, Newark, Chicago – O’Hare, San Francisco and Washington Dulles
- US Airways: Charlotte, Philadelphia, Phoenix
Where do you fly the most often?
In the last year I have done a lot of traveling, mostly within and between Europe and the US so for me Skyteam was the easiest solution. Air France, Alitalia and KLM fly everywhere that I need to go in Europe and Africa. If you visit the same places often it helps to choose an airline group aligned with your travel. Someone who does a lot of travel from and to London may choose British Airways as their go to.
I am currently signed up to four airline loyalty programs. If I fly an airline and I am not signed up to the group then I choose the airline from the group which I am most likely to fly and I sign up for their program. I have included some links below to major airline groups.