Fly a mile, earn a mile? No, that would make too much sense

James A. Harris /
James A. Harris /
Looking back, Jill Constable’s mistake wasn’t flying to Australia on American Airlines and Qantas. The connections from Dallas to Sydney, Ayers Rock, and Cairns made sense, from a scheduling point of view.

It was the reason she chose the so-called “codeshare” flights.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance. Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

“I wanted the miles,” she confesses.

Constable assumed that she’d receive credit for all of her flights to and from Down Under, plus the domestic flights booked through American. (Codesharing, for the uninitiated, is the fundamentally dishonest act of selling another airline’s flight as if it was your own, but I’m not going down that rabbit hole today.)

Here’s a secret she learned after her trip: Airlines don’t want you to have those miles just as badly. Worse, you don’t find out about the mile-free flights until it’s too late.

“I only received miles on short trips within Australia,” she says. “None for the long flights to and from Dallas. It was so disappointing.”

This is what happens when the government gives an airline a license to lie and to stop competing (I’m trying to stay out of the rabbit hole, honestly, but I may have a touch of apophasis in my rhetoric). Once a carrier can misrepresent the flight, it can misrepresent other terms until you’re left with nothing.

Sometimes, literally nothing.

I’ll never forget the case of a former journalism school classmate who booked a long-haul codeshare flight from North America to Asia, the kind that last forever and a day, and promise to deposit a gazillion miles in your loyalty program account. After several weeks, the credit didn’t show up, and she began to get nervous. She contacted me, I contacted the airline, and the airline said, “Surely, you must be kidding! You don’t get miles for flying on another airline.”

If you take a minute to think about it, this debate is ridiculous.

Every airline seat should come with miles because, after all, you’re sitting in the seat and clocking real miles. It seems counter-intuitive for some flights to earn double miles unless someone is actually flying the same route twice, and it makes absolutely no sense for others not to earn miles.

But you know me — I’m an unapologetic loyalty program critic. So if airlines removed frequent flier miles from the equation, I would throw a big party. But if they’re going to award miles, they should do it in an evenhanded and fair way. No codesharing tricks, and certainly not as an “oh-by-the-way” notation at the end of a marathon flight.

That’s what regulators would call an unfair and deceptive practice, and P.S. — there’s a law against that.

It’s a law that other airlines apparently aren’t aware of either, according to Evan Ng. He and his partner recently flew another codeshare flight from Chicago to Bangkok via Zurich. The airlines, in order of appearance, were Swiss, Lufthansa and Thai. As a United Airlines frequent flier, Ng wanted to make sure he’d get credit for these flights. (Confused yet? Oh, just go with it.)

“We researched the fare codes for this routing to make sure we would earn elite-qualifying miles for our trip,” he says.

“After we returned, we noticed that the Zurich-to-Bangkok miles had not posted,” he says. “We contacted United MileagePlus and sent them our boarding pass and e-tickets. Unfortunately, we were told that Thai Airways was reporting to them that the fare code was ‘W,’ which would not qualify for miles.”

I have a pretty strict policy about chasing down readers’ missing miles. With so much pain in the travel world, I really can’t bring myself to help travelers play a loyalty game that’s rigged to favor the industry.

I didn’t mediate either of these cases, but I did the next best thing: I decided to write about the insanity. If you’re an aviation insider or a travel agent, you probably already know that some codeshare tickets don’t have the ability to earn miles. But the difference between you and everyone else is that you’ve come to accept this absurdity of the airline industry.

I haven’t.

None of us should have to, actually. Fly a mile, earn a mile. If we can’t agree on that simple principle, then isn’t it really time for the government to put an end to this nonsense?

If you said “yes,” then congratulations — you’re thinking clearly and rationally about travel. If you think my simple proposition makes no sense, I just have one question: Isn’t this site blocked from your airline’s work computers?

Should you earn a mile for every mile flown?

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110 thoughts on “Fly a mile, earn a mile? No, that would make too much sense

  1. Sorry Chris. Totally disagree with you. Airlines clearly disclose the mileage program info on their website. It is like a private club. You like the rules you stay. If not, you join another club. Simple. You really want the Government to step in? Soon you will find Most Paying for all of their miles and others getting the same miles for subsidized rates or worse free even though not paying even the taxes on the ticket! Bad… bad idea trying to regulate every inch of industry. And NO I do not work for any airline.

    1. Regulate Miles? Are you kidding?
      Miles earned from consumer credit purchases have now outnumbered butt-in-seat miles if I am not mistaken.
      The goverment wants to make sure that the banks that issued these credit cards remain profitable or else who else will finance the war chest of political candidates?

        1. Looks like Stanley did above. Or, maybe I’m still half asleep or simply jetlagged. It’s not yet 6am here in CT, and no coffee is brewing.
          But, I have a feeling you are smiling when I used the R word. 🙂

    2. Airlines clearly disclose the mileage program info on their website.

      The rules can change at anytime and the rules you read on their website when you book your ticket may not even apply by the time you fly.

      And when the rules have footnotes that refer to fare booking codes– those are not generally disclosed clearly prior to purchase.

      1. Also, when flying partner airlines you need to understand THEIR rules. And the rules are different depending on whether it’s a ‘partner’ with your primary domestic airline or a ‘codeshare’ flight.

        Flew on GOL in Brasil and used my Delta FF account. The outbound was a codeshare flight that earned full miles, the return was only a ‘partner’ earning and it was just a bit less. Now, I guess I could have read GOL’s ‘Smiles’ reward rules except I don’t speak Portuguese…..

        What a mess.

        1. Really? You’d think if the name of the FF program was in English, that wouldn’t be the only thing that was in English!

    3. Stanley, in this case Chris is complaining about the airlines bending the rules to not give the miles. In other hands, it seems that they disclosed the rules, but didn’t follow them. Nothing about regulating it. Just to follow its own rules.

      1. But they DO follow their own rules – people who have questions shouldn’t book online – call the mileage desk to get all the info, and ensure you are getting all your miles.

    4. Did you say clearly disclose information and then call it a private club? Seems contradictory.

      I don’t have anything against not awarding miles on really cheap fares, but if you have to hunt for the type of booking it is and then look in another place to see if that fare class is eligible, then it’s not clearly disclosed. Clearly disclosed would be stating during the booking process that the fare does not earn miles.

  2. Here’s the problem with your logic. Awards are based on miles, 25k miles, 50k miles, etc. The problem is that it divorces the revenue side of the equation from the redemption side. If I spend $1000 to fly 25k miles, and you spend $5000 to fly 25k miles, does it make sense that I would receive the same benefit as you who spent 5x as much money as I did. That hardly seems like good business.

    Would you feel better if instead of calling the virtual currency miles, we called them points like hotels and car rental companies do?

    1. Actually, that is exactly what people assume when I hear from them. Fly a mile, earn a mile. Of course, we both know that’s not true. But the disclosure is buried in the fine print, and passengers don’t always see it.

      1. I’m a little confused. Is your gripe about the variable number of miles received for different fare classes or the perceived lack of disclosure?

    2. Hey Carver, it (mileage programs) is good business for the airlines. I have read articles that say that some airlines make more money (or cash flow) selling miles to financial institutions or consumer companies than on airline operations. Miles is the airline’s cash cow so like all cash cows expect a ton of fine print.

    3. Southwest Airlines’ Rapid Rewards program awards points rather than miles. A full fare ticket will earn much more points than a heavily discounted ticket. The number of points to be earned is full disclosed when the traveler chooses the fare type. Why can’t the legacy carriers disclose the number of miles to be earned in the same way?

      Lets say I wanted to purchase a flight from Atlanta to Paris. When I look at Delta’s web page, there may be two non-stop departures available on my chosen date. The price of the two flights is the same. The first flight listed shows a Delta flight number but the line below the the other pertinent information says “operated by Air France”. The second flight leaved two hours later and just has a Delta flight number.Most people would not attempt to search the website to make certain that both of the flights would yield the same number of miles. Even if they did find the disclaimer, the actual miles to be earned may not be indicated. Getting that information would require a phone call to Delta reservations. Unless the passenger has medallion status on Delta, they would go into the general queue and could expect to remain hold for as much as 45 minutes.

      By disclosing the exact information on the booking page of the website, Delta could make it much easier to do business and avoid having passengers angry at them because expected miles do not show up on their frequent flyer statement.

      1. Problem is that Southwest has no partners so knowing how many points you earn for each flight is relatively easy. With an airline like Delta, maybe that specific flight earns X miles when you use Delta’s frequent flyer program by Y miles when you use Alaska Air’s or KLM’s program. That can definitely lead to confusion.

  3. Did Evan Ng forget to read the first two exceptions to earning UAMP miles :

    – If you purchase a ticket on a flight that is marketed by United but operated by another airline (known as a code-share flight), the operating airline determines how many miles you earn for your flight.
    – Note that the booking class that appears on your ticket may differ from the booking class that the operating airline uses to determine flight miles earned.

    Problem is people think what they want to think and never bother to read and understand the rules of the game. Then they have the nerve to write an advocate and complain. No one forced him to fly United or its partners or to chose the fare or fares he bought.

    And finally, if he is complaing about Elite (Premier) qualifying miles and he says that he did prior research, then maybe he researched wrong.

    1. Is it just me, or does something seem wrong with all of this. Why would you have to do any research to be “loyal” to an airline? Why does it seemingly involve a lot of work just to make sure the airline you pledge allegiance to actually honors your loyalty?

      Your first rule posted says the operating airline determines the number of miles, but it doesn’t actually say..”oh, and by the way that could be 0 even if you fly 5000 miles”. And the second rule…really? Seems to me that says, “we can tell you whatever we want, and it may or may not be true”. So, how do you actually know anything until they say, after the fact, “hey! no miles on this one! Should’ve done your research!” Obviously, it’s a bit late at that point.

      All of this is why I am loyal to no airline. It just seems like too much effort for too much frustration and too little gain. Yes, I know people say “I got free this…or free that” but I have many other things to do besides spend my time managing something like this. My own personal infrequent flyer program involves only 3 steps. 1) Find appropriate flight, regardless of airline 2) Buy said flight, knowing I may be dinged with more fees later (woohoo!) 3) Suffer through said flight. At least afterward, I don’t have to concern myself with miles that may or may not appear. There are no expiration dates to worry about either.

      Truly, the airline’s loyalty is only to their bottom line. So, I honor their loyalty to themselves with my own loyalty to my own finances and needs. Makes it easier to know what to expect at least….

      1. Well, if I want some loyalty I might as well get a pet and take care of it.

        That said, I’m not loyal to any airline. Airline travel is a mode of transportation.
        I buy only what I need.

        Here’s a case in point. I just got back from a 2 week trip to Southeast Asia. My first option was to fly Cathay Pacific. Why? Because they have the most flights from New York to where I want to go and they are a good (Five Star rated) airline. But their fares were quite high (seats on cheaper fare classes were no longer available). Although Delta actually had cheaper fares, I don’t like their service (full disclosure I’m a Delta Skymiles member). So despite having some elite benefits in Cathay’s Marco Polo club, I decided to fly Korean Air instead. Well now I like Korean Air better since it is not stuffed with mainland Chinese passengers. If Asiana or ANA had cheaper fares, I don’t mind flying them, too.

        I think a lot of people don’t have much choices because they live or work in cities where one or two airlines tend to dominate air travel. I don’t think loyalty applies to captured customers since they really do not have a viable option.

      2. It is the nature of wise consumerism that you do research. That is the premise behind the magazine “Consumer Reports.” The proliferation of retailers and products mandates you do it or suffer the consequences.

        Would you compare prices and features before you buy a $1,000 LED/LCD TV? Of course. Would you do your research when you buy a $1,000+ codeshare flight in an airline alliance? Apparently some do not.

        1. Of course you do research, but Samsung or Sony or whoever is not going to hide the specs and use only technical terms and legalese. Probably TV makers are proud of the facts, airlines no so proud. If airlines advertized their rules as prominently as TV makers did specs I would agree.

          1. I’ve spent months trying to find out if the S/PDIF output on various TVs are down sampled to analog stereo from digital surround, and can’t get a single answer from any of the TV Manufacturers, its not in the manuals, and their tech support has been useless.

            I can easily find the code-share mileage conversion on the airlines websites. So unfortunately, you analogy densest work for me.

            I am concerned about this issue as the last TV I bought said the S/PDIF output was digital, when my receiver only recognizes it was analog stereo. I even had someone test it and found out its analog stereo, sent as a digital transmigration, so it seems the TV manufacturer is even more misleading than the airline.

          2. I can easily find the code-share mileage conversion on the airlines websites

            Then can you share where you find all the relevant disclosures that Mr. Ng could have referred to before booking?

            Note, you need to find the conversion AND you need to find the booking class they will use (which may be different from the booking class which will appear on your ticket).

          3. I also want to say that this OP really made a mistake.
            In order to fly a United discounted fare ORD-BKK on W class, the OP needed a flight from FRA to BKK on LH/UA. There is no requirement that the flight be operated by LH or UA. There are 3 LH flights from FRA to BKK. 2 are codeshares with TG. Had the OP taken the LH flight operated by LH, then he would have earned 100% premier qualifying miles on UAMP. Since he took the codeshared LH flight, he earned ZERO for that flight.

      3. But its not a question of loyalty to AN airline – HIS airline gave him miles – but another airline did not – and if he is unaware of the rules (and doesn’t wish to read thru them) call the mileage desk – they can answer all his questions.

    2. How would someone know if those exceptions apply to their trip?

      Thai Airways lists — on their “Earning Miles Partners” page — United Airlines as a Star Alliance partner for earning miles .

      Qualifying Miles (Q Miles) are the actual miles flown* and additional class of service miles on THAI and Star Alliance airlines.

      *Subject to paid fare or route exclusive with some Star Alliance airlines.

      Assuming Mr. Ng had a paid fare, where does Thai Airways disclose that the fare class matters to them for earning Q Miles, and where do they disclose — prior to the booking of a ticket — what fare class they will use “to determine flight miles earned?”

        1. Is it really that simple? Mr. Ng did research on his fare codes:

          “We researched the fare codes for this routing to make sure we would earn elite-qualifying miles for our trip”

          Where does Thai Airways disclose the fare code that it will actually use for mileage accrual? As you already pointed out: “the booking class that appears on your ticket may differ from the booking class that the operating airline uses to determine flight miles earned.“?

          And where on Thai Airways’ website is the chart you cite linked from?

          If you go to Frequent Flyer > Earning Miles > Programme Partners, there is no mention of this exclusion or a link to this chart.

          There is a link to a 35 page Member’s Handbook. Which states that V/W classes accrue miles at 25%.

          There is some additional weasel-wording stating that:

          “designated fares and/or routes may accrue at reduced mileage or do not earn miles… Before purchasing a ticket, check for current mileage accrual information at www(dot)thaiairways(dot)com/rop at Earning miles”

          Yet if you visit that URL referenced from the Thai Aiways’ English-language member handbook — with the “full” terms and conditions of the program — the chart you cite is nowhere to be found….

          1. I found it very easily. W class is not allowed for mileage accrual on international flights. On domestic flights it is allowed but only at 25% of the miles flown. Might the OP have been confused on what are considered domestic vs international flights?

            The following THAI booking class code are eligible for mileage accrual :

            Domestic THAI flights – C / D / J / Y / B / M / Q / S / T / U / H / G / V / W

            International THAI flights – A / F / P / C / D / J / U / Y / B / M / Q / S / T / H / K / Z

            G Class – 50% of actual miles flown

            V/ W Class – 25% of actual miles flown (from 01 June 2013 onwards)

          2. W class is not allowed for mileage accrual on international flights

            Then why does their 35-page member handbook (with the “full” terms and conditions) say otherwise?

            *On international THAI flights G Class – 50%, V/W Classes – 25%.


          3. I found the information on their website today MIchael, and this is 2013 so I can’t address their 2012 rules.

          4. I cited the Member Handbook which is currently linked to Thai Airways’ English-language home page.

            The revision number is (see page 33): July 2013
            SD – 003 – 05

            The fact that the URL still has 2012 in it is merely an example of Thai Airways’ sloppiness.

            You want to share the URL of what you were looking at?

          5. Ok using the page on your picture, follow my easy instructions below:

            From that front page select Earning Miles.

            On Earning Miles Partners page, go to LEFT and click THAI & Star Alliance Airlines

            On THAI & Star Alliance Airlines , go to sentence –
            For Star Alliance airline booking class codes that earn less than 100% miles flown or are not eligible for mileage accrual, please click here.

            It will take you to –
            Star Alliance Airline Booking Class Codes Chart

            Look for UA or LH “W” Booking Class. It will show 0% Accrual Percentage.

            It really ain’t that hard.

          6. That’s what I was looking for, thanks.

            So it IS there (although not in the “full” terms and conditions or on the web-page directly referenced in those terms). I guess others can judge for themselves whether that’s “easy.”

            Note that this is still only half the picture — the other half is how a customer is supposed to know that Thai Airways will use “W” class to calculate their miles when their booking code doesn’t refer to “W”. I think Ian Parrish’s comment addresses that and illustrates why it’s not exactly straightforward.

          7. I think that is an erroneous statement. Thai simply has a codeshare earnings chart. The “W” is the class of the codeshare carrier (i.e. LH or UA). And Thai does not have to map LH or UA’s W class to its own “W” booking class code. It simply uses the chart to award or not award the miles.

          8. It sure sounds like Mr. Ng thought he knew his booking class, and he didn’t think it was “W”–

            “We researched the fare codes for this routing to make sure we would earn elite-qualifying miles for our trip…. After we returned, we noticed that the Zurich-to-Bangkok miles had not posted…. Unfortunately, we were told that Thai Airways was reporting to them that the fare code was ‘W,’ which would not qualify for miles”

            How would he know that Thai Airways would report “W” without doing what Ian Parrish says (phoning United — after booking — to get the TG confirmation #, and then looking it up directly with TG)?

          9. “W” is his booking class code for his UA fare. I believe all his flights on UA and LH were on “W” class also. I don’t think he was booked on a TG coded flight at all. He was booked on an LH coded flight – a codeshare of TG.
            So theoretically, he is earning UAMP miles on an LH flight. But since that was an LH codeshared flight on TG then the TG rules are applied.
            The page I gave you clearly states that Thai will not award miles of LH/W codeshares. Maybe TG reported “W” for LH’s booking code..

          10. For some reason my last two posts have gone to moderation and are not showing. Go toThai Airways website and click on the Royal Orchid program. Then click on earning miles. You will see what I shared here earlier.

          11. Thai Airways (English) home page > Frequent Flyer (Royal Orchard Plus Member) > Earning Miles Partners goes to the following page which has no relevant information:


            If you then click on “Codeshare Flights” it discusses generalities and flights booked with THAI. Still nothing which directly addresses the OP’s situation:


            PS- posts with raw URLs go to moderation. Just omit the http prefix and use a delimeter other than “.”

          12. I provided the information that I got from the link you can’t seem to not be able to access. I can’t help you. The information is from the link on Royal Orchid and earning miles. the end…….

          13. I am not sure you have a full grasp of the issue, Michael.

            Maybe I can simplify it.

            Pax buys a ticket from United Airlines. It (the price paid) is based on some Fare Basis Code, and the flights are either operated by United, codeshared by United, or flown or marketed under a interline (partner) carriers code. The Fare Rules dictate Routing and Booking Class code restrictions if any.

            For the purpose of this discussion, the pax buys a ORD-BKK fare over the Atlantic (not Pacific). The lowest fare basis of United that allows TATL routing for ORD to BKK is on “W” booking class. And, if you read the routing allowed the last segment via Europe is – -UA/LH-BKK*

            There is also a flight restriction:

            SECTORS ON

            Finally since LH flights are allowed on some segments, they need to be booked at the following classes:

            LH W REQUIRED
            LH K REQUIRED
            LH S REQUIRED

            Ok so essentially you have an itinerary which is something like this: ORD-UA-FRA/ZRH-FRA-LH-BKK.

            Since LH FRA-BKK on W class could be LH9714 or LH9718 which are OPERATED BY THAI AIRL INTL, then Thai may/can dictate how one earns points/miles.

            Please remember earning Premier Qualifying Miles is a separate issue compared to simply earning miles.
            In this case, if the pax is on a W class fare, he won’t earn anything on TG codeshared flights.

          14. Is the information you cite from your GDS?

            My questions are about what’s disclosed to ordinary, direct customers (who don’t have GDS’s or any special expertise).

          15. Yes, this is from his GDS and is in the rules of the fares. What I shared with you is current from the carrier’s website. What you quote is from 2012.

          16. Go to ThaiAirways(dot)com > Frequent Flyer > Member Handbook right now, and you will retrieve the 35-page member handbook I referenced.

            The filename has 2012 in it, but every single page of the handbook has the timestamp: 7/3/13 1:46 PM

            Are you saying the English-language handbook currently posted on Thai Airways’ public website is wrong?

          17. Doesn’t say what you claim it does.

            Earning Awards is fast and easy when there are so many ways to earn miles with Royal Orchid Plus. In the air, on the ground and even with everyday spending, all the miles you earn can be redeemed for any Award.

  4. Here is the problem: you have a strong bias against frequent flier programs and you have admitted to not knowing much about them. So, you tell a story such as today to further your aim that these programs are terrible, using these people’s story for your purposes, but don’t then fulfill your normal side of the bargain, that of consumer advocacy. You used these people to further your aims without do any of the journalistic homework you should be doing to ensure the stories have merit and are accurate.

    As someone who is a FF agnostic, meaning I accumulate and use the files on whatever airline I may be flying on, but would never make a different airline choice just for miles, I have a lot of questions about this story. Quantas is a One World airline. As such, you should be able to earn AA miles even if you bought the ticket directly from Quantas. When was the flight? Was it before or after Aug 1, when Quantas changed the rules? What was the flight code and why did they get that code? This could all boil down to them not having entered their AA number with the Quantas flights, something easily fixed. But, we’ll never know because fixing this problem would not further your arguments that these programs are the root of all evil. I don’t care that you hate these programs. But, don’t tell a story like this and then say you don’t do miles cases, so we will never know if this was some simple mistake and not the spiteful wrath of an airline desperate to cheat Jill Constable out of about $150 in miles.

    1. It would be more accurate to say I’m a loyalty program atheist. So to try to “educate” me by forcing me to read a blog or forum would be like requiring a non-believer to talk to a priest. Not gonna change anything. I know enough to know that I don’t believe. But that doesn’t disqualify me from pointing out the absurdity of the situation. Make sense?

      1. Did I suggest you read a forum or blog? I don’t read flyertalk or those forums like that. I’m not one of your “apologists” as you like to label people. You have lumped everyone who does not agree with you into that narrow category. I think you are highly disqualified for “pointing out the absurdity” because you have yourself stated that you don’t know much about these programs. Flyertalk and places like that are not the places to learn, either. Go to the airline sites. Learn what the program details really are. Talk to experts (real ones, not the mileage run people who are the rare exception, not the rule). Do you know that Quantas is One World? Do you know how those alliance programs work? Because she was flying on Quantas, I don’t think AA would automatically fill in her AA number on the Quantas flights. She would be responsible for doing that. Did she know that? But, all of these simple details don’t help your argument and solving her problem certainly would not help your argument.

        You recently wrote about a person who’s hotel reservation was off by a month. Would it have been reasonable to tell that story and tell the world not to use without contacting to see if a mistake was made, which you did do? If you were a major opponent of online travel agencies, you could done that and made the argument that they rip people off. But, would that have been fair to the people who sent you their story, asking you for help?

          1. Yours are the very words I got out of the phone-center hack I called last week over a billing mistake. You guys reading from the same script?

  5. I am in the Atlanta area and fly Delta most often and belong to the Skymiles program. But I also fly other airlines on long-haul flights and belong to their programs as well. And one thing I do is check the programs before booking a ticket. All of them have the information about how you accrue miles on their program websites. (At least the ones I fly do.) It does take some reading about each partner airline, but the information is there. Foreign flagged carriers especially are known for low miles or no miles on their least expensive fares. Old news and available if travelers would simply do their homework and look. Some carriers give miles on partner airlines and some do not. I wish I could work up a lot of sympathy for these travelers but they did not spend the time they needed to look at the rules. Chris, I know you are against these loyalty programs. I am not married to mine and fly the best rate and route for my trips. But I also know how to read and look for information—something these passengers decided not to do. And, FYI, friends that flew on Quantas from DFW to SYD actually got their miles on AA. So I believe something is missing from that part of the story. Why did some passengers get the miles and yet these say they did not?

    1. You are an experienced international traveler and know what to do. What about the person who has been earning miles for years on domestic flights and is flying internationally for the first time? That person is not going to have your knowledge and skills to investigate the miles to be awarded.

      1. Then use a professional who will assist you if you can’t figure it out by reading the terms and conditions of the airline’s program.

        1. I don’t get why people spend months researching what $700 washing machine to get. They read all the blogs, read manuals, read reviews, read consumer report etc. But then buy a $1,200 international airline ticket without even reading the rules or consulting an expert.

          1. Sadly, too many have posted on this site alone that they never read the rules. Are they fun to read? No. Are they easy to read? No. Are they important to read? YES!

          2. I don’t get why someone would disparage a fellow traveler for (allegedly) not doing research when they said they DID do their research (“We researched the fare codes for this routing to make sure we would earn elite-qualifying miles for our trip”“)…. and when you can’t show how he would have known otherwise in advance.

          3. In case you have forgotten, I don’t talk to you or reply to you anymore. It doesn’t matter what I say or show, you will still argue and insist I am wrong even when contraindicating statements you made yourself. I do not have time for people like you and will no longer waste my time feeding your trollish ways. This is your last reminder. Go bug someone else. I wish Disqus allowed me to block users.

          4. This is a forum. If you make assertions — especially if you use those assertions to disparage other people — then expect to be challenged and expect to be asked to defend those assertions.

            Or you can turn to personal attacks and avoid the subject.

          5. This is a forum. If you make assertions — especially if you use those assertions to disparage other people — then expect to be challenged and expect to be asked to defend those assertions.

            Or you can turn to personal attacks and avoid the subject.

          6. To continue my apophasis of saying I don’t reply to you… I have always defended such assertions, and no matter what I do, show, say, you still argue with whatever I say and ignore my proof even when negating points you made yourself. You do this with other posters as well as you can see in today’s comments. Continue to say and do what you want, but I am done waring my time showing you things when you don’t seem to care and only want to argue. To quote Sweet Georgia Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for dat!” Which is why I will no longer reply to you.

          7. Ignoring proof?

            Like when you disparaged Ms. Duggirala — who wrote to Chris for help a couple of months ago? You complained that she got the “best deal ever” and you claimed it would have been “almost impossible” for her to find United international saver awards for 4 people on the same flight.

            When I showed that there were plenty of flights with saver awards availability on United partners for 4 passengers on her route, you falsely denied it and you diverted to personal attacks. Then you claimed you contradicted me by showing results from a flight search that specifically *excluded* flights on any of United’s partners….

            Why would you do that if you were interested in facts and not in arguing and were short on precious time?

      2. I was a neophyte too at one time. But I also knew to read about a program before joining. It is not hard and easy to do. I know this is sarcastic, but too many people will not bother reading any details at all any more and then complain when things do not go their way. I have yet to see a US carrier without detailed explanations about mileage accrual on their frequent flyer websites–especially dealing with codeshare and partners. It is not rocket science and the details are all there. Has nothing to do with my knowledge and skills. It is simple preparation for making a substantial purchase. If a traveler is choosing flights based on frequent flyer mile accumulation then that traveler is responsible for checking the program.

  6. And we always need to remember that airline loyalty is a one-way street. They want us to be loyal to them but they are not loyal to us.

    1. Absolutely the best part of the entire article. The rest: *yawn* I’m not going to comment on articles that don’t interest me. (And yep, that was apophasis!)

  7. I agree with the mile per mile principle Chris proposes. I have always found it annoying that different classes of service on different airlines offer different amounts of miles, or even no miles at all. I do find it easy to find the conversion charts, at least on United’s website. I think they do a good job of disclosing it. However, if they are going to offer code share, then the operating carrier should be paying the same amount of miles as the ticketing carrier in my opinion. These variable mileage rates complicate things unnecessarily.

    Where I do disagree with this article is code share. I for one love it! It allows me to access to flight networks my originating carrier doesn’t fly, and in the event of a miss-connect, I have a through ticket and can be accommodated accordingly. I think code-sharing is a good thing.

  8. I’m so sick of flying miles etc, that I no longer have any loyalty other than to myself and using the credit card that gives me actual $ back. I’ll use it at my own discretion. I do however, appreciate that in your article you managed to use the word apophasis. Congratulations! : )

  9. Thank you for addressing this issue. As a professional travel agent who books a great deal of international flights, this is a daily issue that we encounter (along with unavailable upgrades). In checking the story on Jill, the only flight that operates from Dallas-Sydney is Qantas 8 (shows as American 7375 – codeshare) which is eligible for mileage. However, this is a screenshot from American’s website: Earn miles when flying on Qantas Airways marketed and operated flights for travel on an eligible published fare ticket. Miles are also earned on Qantas Airways codeshare flights. Exception: Qantas codeshare flights operated by Jetstar are ineligible for any AAdvantage mile accrual/elite credit. Travel on Qantas and affiliate airlines counts toward qualifying for AAdvantage elite status membership. Below that is a chart showing the fare types and mileage given, the only ones that have no mileage is N & Q (some others are only 50%). As Christopher said, this is an unfair and deceptive practice and should be stopped. Most airlines have similar practices in place with their alliance partners and it is all skewed toward the airlines advantage, not the passenger. This issue gets complex and most people absolutely agree that it is wrong however there is not enough organized support to put a stop to it. It then becomes an accepted practice of “let the buyer beware.” My job is and will always be to work for my client’s (passengers) best interests, they are what keeps us in business, not the airlines by a long shot!

    Robin Goris

    1. Did you try to post a screenshot of AA/QF? I think I’m seeing your picture instead.

      Nevertheless, I share your pain. Have you ever tried to decipher the Qantas – Emirates Elite CREDITS. That’s another story.

      1. It won’t post an actual screenshot, unfortunately. Here is the link at any rate:
        The vast majority of travelers do not take the time to try and hunt down the details of their mileage accrual. In genera,l I find that passengers are trusting that all programs are created alike and then when they have to deal with the aggravation of trying to claim missing miles, redeeming points/upgrades, transferring points etc, they then express their anger at the unfairness of it all but it winds up being shoved to the closet corner and not dealt with again if at all possible.

  10. “None of us should have to, actually. Fly a mile, earn a mile. If we can’t agree on that simple principle, then isn’t it really time for the government to put an end to this nonsense?”

    Seriously? Regulate a free program?

      1. How is this any different than the Macy’s card or the Safeway card, Rite Aid, Walgrens, Hallmark programs? All have various rules and if you don’t like them, then don’t sign up for them. If you do sign up for them, then pay attention to the rules, which do change.
        I don’t see mentioned on where the OP obtained the tickets? Through the carrier(s) directly, with an OTA, a consolidator?

        1. My question is about regulation.
          Since other financial and consumer companies give away airline miles at some random ratios to something, then why can’t airlines do the same – be free to give it away based on what they want.
          If the current insurance mess is the best our government can do, then how will regulation fix anything?

          1. Because if you don’t participate in these, they you don’t know or have experienced how they work. Yet you want something regulated because you perceive it to be bad. IN the OP case, he messed up on Thai. The rules are there. There is no W in international fares to accrual mileage. The W they offer 25% on is for the domestic flights, which isn’t what the OP booked. I have helped clients for decades with mileage programs and there is no place that regulations need to be in these for now. Most issues are mistakes, either by the carrier, which gets resolved or by the traveler on a misunderstanding on what is or isn’t allowed. Remember these are free programs, so start asking for regulation where it isn’t needed and they will disappear.

            The following THAI booking class code are eligible for mileage accrual :

            Domestic THAI flights – C / D / J / Y / B / M / Q / S / T / U / H / G / V / W

            International THAI flights – A / F / P / C / D / J / U / Y / B / M / Q / S / T / H / K / Z

            G Class – 50% of actual miles flown

            V/ W Class – 25% of actual miles flown (from 01 June 2013 onwards)

          2. Wrong on two counts. First, the programs are not “free.” I thought we’d settled that. Second, I have gone on record in the past and will do so again in the future, that I do participate in awards programs. I do so selectively and as an agnostic (even though I am at heart an atheist). Any other questions?

          3. Yes, we do give out information on ourselves when we get any card. I am addressing free to join as in money exchanged.

          4. And somehow I would rather an airline and its affiliates know my flying habits then have all my purchases logged on a grocery store loyalty card. Now that gives me the creeps. And in all the years I have been a upper member of DL’s frequent flyer group I have had few marketing pitches from others. I opt out of all promotional ads and DL has pretty much honored that.

          5. My comment has nothing to do with regulating miles or carriers.

            I just want to point out that if the OP wanted to do the same flights but NOT on the LH codeshare of Thai from FRA to BKK, he simply could not do that on the fare basis using “W” booking class code. He would have to pay a much more expensive fare on United if he interlined the TG flights themselves.

            In other words – due to the fact that Lufthansa has a codeshare agreement with Thai on this route and United allows one to take this LH codeshare on their discounted fare, then the OP was able to buy this cheap fare.

            We can have a complex discussion on how airlines prorate fares under IATA MITA / MPA standard prorate or under some special prorate agreement (usually done with codeshares). But the bottom line here is that UA and LH has a tighter relationship and therefore UA allows LH codeshares to be flown with their cheap fares. They probably don’t with TG itself since the prorate might be costing UA too much. I have to believe that LH and TG have a special prorate agreement on that FRA-BKK codeshare route and so this is all possible.

            Earning miles on codeshare flights has always been complicated because someone (here, the operating carrier) has to pay for them. So if the operating carrier does not believe they are making enough money on the prorate, then they don’t give full or any miles. I think that is understandable.

  11. I don’t have a problem with the general concept — i.e., one mile flown doesn’t necessarily equal one mile of rewards points. But it would probably be better if they just called them points instead of miles.

  12. OK, I just wrapped up cup #4 of espresso. AWAKE! Love how some of you just want me to throw the book in the faces of these travelers. I may not be able to recover their miles, but I can sure as heck write about this issue.

    Just a housekeeping note: I’m really trying to keep this debate positive. I’m shrugging off the personal attacks. Happens every time I write about “loyalty” programs. I encourage you to stick to the issues and to not feed the trolls. I will try to do the same.

    1. Hi Chris,

      You might want to drink a few more espressos while you read this.

      Your example of Mr Ng’s Trans-Atlantic flight from Chicago to Bangkok on United Airline’s fare is a perfect example why codesharing works.

      Now please don’t spit your coffee and bear with me.

      Consider taking a round-trip flight from Chicago to Bangkok on 01MAY to 14MAY. Since United does not fly from Europe to Bangkok, you have 2 options:

      (a) book its joint venture partner Lufthansa from Frankfurt to Bangkok on a codeshare LH flight operated by Thai Intl.; or

      (b) book the actual flights from Thai (TG) on the same exact route.

      If you book the codeshare the cost of your round-trip ticket is $2260.40

      1 UA 907W 01MAY TH ORDFRA SS1 615P 945A#1/O $ E
      2*LH9714W 02MAY FR FRABKK SS1 245P 625A#1/X $ E
      3*LH9715W 14MAY WE BKKFRA SS1 1145P 600A#1/O $ E
      4 UA 945W 15MAY TH FRAORD SS1 810A 1035A/X $ E


      ADT01 1282.00 978.40 2260.40
      *TTL 1282.00 978.40 2260.40

      *AS BOOKED

      If you book the TG flights themselves the cost of the round-trip ticket is $10,094.40!

      1 UA 907B 01MAY TH ORDFRA SS1 615P 945A#1/O $ E
      2 TG 921Y 02MAY FR FRABKK SS1 245P 625A#1/X $ E
      3 TG 920Y 14MAY WE BKKFRA SS1 1145P 600A#1/O $ E
      4 UA 945B 15MAY TH FRAORD SS1 810A 1035A/X $ E


      ADT01 9004.00 1090.40 10094.40
      *TTL 9004.00 1090.40 10094.40

      *AS BOOKED

      I believe what you are seeing is more willingness of airlines to discount fares when they have a better prorate agreement (such as in codeshared flights) compared to that of standard prorate agreements in ordinary interlined flights.

      So maybe in this instance codesharing isn’t bad at all.

  13. I was researching a flight from Newark to Redmond and saw that if I connected through Portland, I would get fewer miles than if I connected through San Francisco. That is expected. But if I flew first to SFO, changed aircraft for Portland, but the flight was all on one flight number, I would only get the miles as if I had flown directly to Portland to connect to RDM. That only makes profitable sense for the airline.

  14. Chris, this is a good point to bring up for travelers…at least so they’re aware. I’ll make two points:
    1) I think airlines should be able to award miles, however they see fit. The rules are mostly (see point #2) well-disclosed and easily accessible on the website. If you’re flying a partner, like Thai Airways, they have to pay United for the cost of the miles you earn. If they’re not willing to pay United on cheaper fare codes, United shouldn’t have to award miles. No reason for them to lose money when you’re not even giving them revenue. I’ll give you that it’s complicated. I think we’ll agree that loyalty programs require a bit more “advanced” travel knowledge.

    2) Now here’s where I think airlines are very unfair, and you hit on it with Mr. Ng’s example of a codeshare. He books a codeshare flight through United on Thai airways that books into K class…it looks like it will earn miles. Here’s where it gets crazy. Thai Airways and United have different class hierarchies. His K class is not a W class on Thai, and it’s the class that Thai thinks it is that counts. The only way to discover this is to get the Thai Airways confirmation # from United (which requires a phone call), then go to the Thai website and plug in your code and look at what it actually booked as. If it’s not satisfactory, you cancel within 24 hours. This opaque, convoluted, and unfair. Here’s where I’m 100% with Chris. You should be able to easily look up your mileage earning directly on the airline with which you’re booking.

  15. Reading this comment thread today, I see an important point everyone has made: rather than trying to make sense of airline loyalty programs, stick to something less frustrating, like learning Mandarin or finding the Higgs boson.

    1. Agreed. I travel based on need first, then balance price and convenience (it’s pretty amazing how much I’m willing to put up with for the right price). The potential of miles given (I’m scared to say earned, lol) based on the flight I choose is not something I ever considered when booking. And I’m so glad about that – this is like a Rube Goldberg contest.

  16. Chris, while I agree you should earn a mile for a mile, I can understand restricting miles on super cheap fares. BUT, that should be clearly disclosed when you are booking the airfare.

  17. IMHO, there’s no reason why a carrier or onilne agency website couldn’t tell their passenger exactly how many miles / points / magical beans a customer would earn if they book that itinerary at that moment (I think some carriers do, but not many), just like they could tell a passenger the exact fare based on which unbundled options a passenger wants. But I can think of many reasons why they *wouldn’t* do this, all of which are advantageous to the airline and not the passenger.

    But many industries do choose to inform the customer clearly. If I go to order a computer from Apple or Dell (and probably other companies, too), I can change a myriad of options and get an instant update on the cost. Some online retailers I use tell me exactly how many loyalty points I’d earn if I purchase now and update that instantly as I update my shopping cart. So this transparency must benefit the business as well as the consumer.

    As an occasional traveler, I feel that most in the industry want my money and don’t really care about me or my experience, and that the industry is manipulating and obfuscating as much as they can in order to get my dollars. I refuse to believe it is impossible for a straightforward and honest operator to succeed?

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