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Newbie Tip: Remember, Not Every Fare Will Earn You Miles

A reader sent me a note over the weekend describing this annoying situation:

She had purchased an Air New Zealand (ANZ) ticket on Orbitz and wanted to earn the miles on ANZ’s partner United. So far so good. She even called Orbitz to confirm that Air New Zealand flights are eligible to earn earn miles on United. Orbitz said that yes, ANZ flights will absolutely earn miles on United.

Well, as you may have guessed, that’s not 100% true. MOST ANZ fares earn miles – but that’s not the same as ALL ANZ fares earning miles. Fares in “S” class, it turns out, do not earn miles on United. After lots of phone calls, she walked away without any miles for the nearly 20,000 mile journey. That’s disappointing, to say the least.

So how can you avoid this situation?

First, check to see which classes of fare are eligible to earn miles. Premium Economy fares are notorious for having odd rules around whether they can earn miles or be upgraded – my recent Premium Economy ticket on Aeroflot wasn’t eligible for Delta miles (I know that it makes no sense that deeply discounted economy tickets are eligible for miles accrual, but far more expensive Premium Economy tickets are not. Go figure.) I ended up crediting the miles to KLM/Air France Flying Blue. But check these charts from the major US airlines to see which fares on partner airlines earn miles:

- American’s Chart (Click on the individual airline)
- Delta’s Chart
(Click on the individual airline)
- United’s chart (Click on the individual airline)
- US Airways’ chart (click on the individual airline)

The airlines make it pretty easy to determine which fare class you’re booking into. Delta and United show it to you immediately when you search for a fare on their site. For American just click on the “+” symbol. For US Airways, click on the flight number.

This is another reason to book directly with the airline, rather than an online travel agency. I actually have no idea where you see the fare class when you book a flight with Orbitz.

Of course that doesn’t help you if you’re traveling on a partner airline – I ALWAYS check with the airline before booking to see what the fare class is if it is not apparent when booking.

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  1. As everyone familiar with the Frequent Flyer World knows, the airlines have made these programs WAY too complicated for mere mortals. Why a revenue ticket wouldn’t earn miles in an “alliance” partner’s frequent flyer program is, frankly, absurd. But fairly common.

    On the plus side, you can, occasionally, earn more miles than you think you will. I recently flew on a cheapo intra-Europe Air Berlin flight. I had a feeling that I wouldn’t earn too many miles for this flight on Air Berlin’s partners, and that seemed to be confirmed when I investigated. I decided to credit the flight to AA, where I’m a platinum elite (something’s better than nothing, right?). But I did receive 500 miles anyway, which seems to be the minimum that platinum elites get for Air Berlin flights. That’s still only worth about 5 bucks, but it’s better than getting 123 miles. :smile:

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