Everyone likes to be rewarded for their brand loyalty, and one of the best ways to earn rewards is via frequent flyer miles. If you've got a favorite airline and you regularly travel, building up your miles can lead to some incredible experiences in the air. These programs really make it worth consumers' while to choose their airline for all their travel needs.
If you're not the most frequent of flyers, this is a good program for you. That's because SkyMiles, Delta's award service, never expire. Delta also offers easy connections to the rest of the world through its SkyTeam alliance, making it simple for travelers to get flights on Korean Air, Air France, and Aeromexico, among others. Delta is best for short-haul flights, though, as it frequently offers flash sales for domestic trips that you can snag by cashing in a reasonably low amount of miles.
Miles discounts are also common on German carrier Lufthansa and its Miles & More program. So are stopovers because Miles & More permits up to two free stopovers on any round-trip ticket purchased with your miles. One drawback is that you can't use miles for First Class tickets until you reach Elite status, but if you're the kind of flyer who's regularly in an airport, you shouldn't have a lot of trouble getting up to that level.
Turkish Airlines' miles program offers several upgrades to its members, and it flies to more international destinations than any carrier in the world. If a cabin upgrade or an extra bag on your next flight sounds like something you can use, this could be an excellent option for you. It's also a member of StarAlliance, so you can earn rewards by flying with partners such as United and Lufthansa.
One common criticism of American frequent-flyer programs is that foreign partners are often more generous, and that's the case with Korean Air's SkyPass. SkyPass makes it very easy to reserve first-class tickets with your miles, and you can often find flights for cheaper than if you were to book through Delta. If you find yourself traveling to Asia fairly regularly, you should consider getting your SkyTeam account through Korean Air and SkyPass.
What Korean Air's SkyPass is to Delta's SkyMiles, the Executive Club from British Airways is to American Airlines' AAdvantage program. Using Executive Club's Avios to pay for your ticket often results in much easier rewards, which is why it's been a common trick for decades for American travelers to sign up for Executive Club and accumulate rewards that way.
The one drawback is that British Airways often charges very high taxes on flight rewards, especially if your flight originates at London Heathrow. But if you're flying elsewhere, Executive Club can be a great choice.
For a regional airline, Alaska Airlines actually has a relatively robust frequent-flyer program for its customers. One of the best things about the Mileage Plan is that, unlike other U.S. airlines, Alaska awards miles based on miles flown, not money spent. If you've found a great fare on a long-haul flight, you'll actually get the mileage credited to your account.
As of March 2021, Alaska is now part of OneWorld, so you can redeem miles on American, British Airways, and other partners. Historically, Alaska had refused to join partner airlines, so this is a big change for western flyers.
The merger of Air France and KLM resulted in a popular new frequent-flyer program called Flying Blue. Flying Blue offers one of the most user-friendly flight selection tools in the industry, and it's common for the airline to release deals that allow consumers to save up to 50 percent on flights.
The one drawback to Flying Blue versus Delta's SkyMiles (the airlines are SkyTeam partners) is that Flying Blue miles do expire if you don't take a SkyTeam flight for two years. But if you'll be in the air regularly, this is a better option than SkyMiles.
Air Canada's frequent-flyer program is another great way for North American travelers to save on travel, as you'll be able to get flights for fewer miles than you would on United and partners if you're using Aeroplan. Plus, if you can get Elite status, you'll have access to Star Alliance Gold Lounges from around the world.
The one drawback is the taxes can be steep when you redeem your miles, so be sure you know what you're doing when you cash in your rewards.
Hawaiian Airlines' program isn't well-known to all travelers because it doesn't partner with any other airline, making the benefits limited to travel between the islands, the mainland, and Asia. But if you frequent these destinations often, Hawaiian offers some of the best value for miles in the industry, giving travelers almost $25 worth of rewards for every $100 spent. The lack of a partner means this only makes sense if you plan on Hawaiian travel, but this is a great option for those who do.
United's frequent-flyer program is one of the most robust for American travelers, as it allows connections with Star Alliance partners, and its miles never expire. It can be a bit more expensive to redeem miles when compared to some of United's partners, but with United having hubs in most major American cities, U.S. travelers have plenty of options to redeem their miles. If you plan on mostly flying to domestic destinations, this is one of your best bets.