Travel News & Deals
Share your best summer vacation pictures with us for our photo issue

A closer look at cashing in frequent-flier miles

Frequent-flier miles are both a boon (to the vacationer who scores the award ticket) and a bane (to the person who has the miles but can't seem to score the ticket). That's where the commonality ends. Each program is different, with its own elite designations for very frequent fliers. Here's a comparison of seven plans for U.S.-based carriers. These are mileage plans (as opposed to points) unless otherwise noted.


Pros: No fee to use miles to upgrade from coach; Alaska's MVP, MVP Gold and Gold 75K also receive a bundle of special elite benefits on Delta through a marketing alliance.

Cons: $15 for tickets booked by phone (waived for MVP Gold and 75K members)


American AAdvantage

Pros:'s flexible date calendar makes MileSAAver awards easier to find; award reservations can be held for five days if booked 15-330 days prior to departure. Elite members pay no fee for last-minute awards.

Cons: One-way mileage upgrades often require co-pays; fees apply to phone bookings ($20) or for departures in less than 20 days ($50-$100).


Delta SkyMiles

Pros: Flexible awards let you fly coach one way and biz or first on the return. Elite members can roll over Medallion or Elite Qualification Miles into the next year. Diamond, Platinum and Gold Medallion members can expect several new benefits on select Alliance Partner airlines, including Air France, KLM, Alitalia and Alaska.

Cons: $25 to book with an agent (waived for Gold, Platinum and Diamond members)


JetBlue TrueBlue

Pros: Award flights (points program) start at 5,000 points (short-haul flights), members earn three to six points per dollar for flights; points can be used for any seat on any JetBlue-operated flight.

Cons: $15 to book by phone


Southwest Rapid Rewards

Pros: Points program effective Tuesday. Points are based on ticket price. Business select fares earn 12 points per dollar. Anytime fares earn 10 points per dollar. Wanna Get Away fares earn 6 points per dollar.

Cons: Wanna Get Away fare fliers might find it takes longer to earn a free ticket.


United Mileage Plus

Pros: Members can earn miles on United, Star Alliance and partner airlines and redeem miles for United, Continental and Star Alliance flights; miles can be earned and used with more than 100 leading brands/partners.

Cons: $25-$30 to book with an agent


Virgin America Elevate

Pros: Points program. Awards begin at 2,500 points (which can be earned in four round trips). Elevate program is linked for reciprocal earning on V Australia, Virgin Blue and Virgin Atlantic.

Cons: $20 to book by phone


Source: Airlines and airline websites

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
  • Photos: Gadgets to help you on your travels

    Photos: Gadgets to help you on your travels

    From roadside emergency beacons to cameras or devices that improve your snapshots, some gadgets are worthy road companions. Here are some that stood out last month at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Read about these gadgets in article format. -- Terry Gardner, Special to the Los Angeles...

  • Travel checklist

    Here's a reader favorite that returns after several years away. The Travel staff has added to and updated (the list used to tell fliers "pack bottled water in your carry-on," but you can't do that anymore) as our own experience has increased. Clip this out and save it, and when you need another,...

  • The pros and cons of travel apps

    The pros and cons of travel apps

    From booking flights to hotel rooms to finding the closest classical ballet performance, there's a travel app at hand. But how do they rate?

  • Traveling abroad? For information, check with the country's tourist office

    A list of websites and telephone numbers.

  • State tourism offices

    States and many U.S. territories have tourism offices to help visitors. When requesting travel literature, be as specific as possible.

  • Rental car agencies

    Contact information for rental car agencies, here and abroad: