I’ve enjoyed hearing from readers about their upcoming travel plans and fielding your miles and points questions, including a question I was recently emailed. It’s a pretty frequently asked question so I decided to dedicate a post to it.
“Can I transfer miles from one airline to another?”
Unfortunately, airline miles cannot be transferred from one airline to another. For example, your Air Canada miles cannot be transferred to your United MileagePlus Frequent Flyer account.
However, all hope is not lost! Airline alliances and airline partnerships allow the miles from one airline to be used to book flights on another airline.
The airlines must be in the same alliance or have a partnership in order for you to take advantage of this. In the above example, Air Canada and United are both part of the Star Alliance so miles in one program can be used to book flights on the other airline.
However, British Airways is a member of the OneWorld Alliance and its Avios cannot be used to book flights on United, a Star Alliance member. They aren’t in the same alliance.
To make the most of your airline miles, knowing and understanding airline alliances is key.
There are 3 major alliances, Star Alliance, OneWorld, and SkyTeam.
Not only can you use your frequent flyer miles from one airline to book with a fellow alliance member, but you can also have your paid flights flown with one carrier credited to your account with another airline…as long as they’re within same airline alliance.
For example, if you fly Air France/KLM, you can have the miles earned credited to your Delta SkyMiles account because Delta and Air France/KLM are both SkyTeam Alliance members.
The search engines on particular airlines’ websites often show their own flights, along with flights operated by partners.
On United’s website, it’s possible to see flights listed that are actually flown by partners like Swiss or Thai Airways.
American Airlines shows award space for alliance members like British Airways, Iberia, and Qantas.
When booking my flights to Patagonia and Thailand, I used United miles to book my unbelievable award ticket but flew Thai Airways for a couple of the flight segments.
For our trip to Prague, Vienna, and Budapest, we booked using American Airlines miles, yet we flew on partner airlines Finnair and Air Berlin.
Just remember, the amount of miles needed to book an award flight is determined by whichever airline miles you’re using, not the alliance member or partner airline you happen to by flying on.
For the above European flights, the number of miles for our award tickets to Prague was determined by checking the American Airlines award chart.
Things can get a bit trickier because some airlines have non-alliance partnerships. British Airways and Aer Lingus are partners, although not members of the same alliance.
Without getting overly complicated, your British Airways Avios can be used to fly on Aer Lingus because of this partnership. A win-win for folks wanting to visit Ireland!
You’re probably wondering how it’s possible to remember which airline is in which alliance and which airlines are partners with one another. It’s certainly A LOT of information and I definitely don’t have it all memorized. You don’t need to know it by heart either.
All you need is a basic understanding of airline alliances and partnerships. Then, do your homework while travel planning and researching flights to help you use the alliances and partnerships to your advantage!
The last thing to consider are the options available with flexible, transferable points earned on travel rewards credit cards, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and the Marriott Bonvoy Program all have airline transfer partners that can be used to book flights on a wide range of airlines around the globe.
Transfer American Express Membership Rewards to AirFrance/KLM to take advantage of Flying Blue award discounts to Europe!
How about transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards to Singapore Airlines to in Business Class to Hawaii?
Transfer your Marriott Points to Alaska Airlines to book long-haul premium class awards to Asia.
Whichever way you choose to use your transferable credit card points, be certain before transferring them because they can’t be transferred back.
I never transfer more points than I need, either. The points are more useful in my credit card account because I can transfer them to different airlines. They’re also safe(r) from airline devaluations.
Even though you can’t transfer miles from one airline to another, there are still many ways to get the most out of your airline miles!
How have you used Airline Alliances and partnerships to your advantage?
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