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Technology behind frequent flyer programs and airline systems is quite complex and doesn’t always work like it should – which is why we must always pay close attention to our accounts and immediately notify the program if we notice something strange or if we didn’t receive proper mileage credit, as discrepancies when crediting miles do exist.

There are a few major points you should be aware of that are common across airlines and frequent flyer programs – while every airline and program ultimately set their own rules, they do share common aspects with other airlines and programs.

always make sure you are crediting miles for your flights

always make sure you are crediting miles for your flights

Earn Miles for Published, not Flown Distance

You’ll always earn miles based on the direct and published distance between two cities and not the actual path your specific flight takes. So in theory your flight could fly more miles than the published distance but you won’t get those additional miles – you’ll only get a factor of what the direct distance is between the two cities – depending on your fare, plus any frequent flyer or class of service bonuses.

Note that every airline and frequent flyer program determine their own distances between cities – usually they are the same or off by a few miles, so there’s no major differences.

Crediting Miles Retroactively

Even if you add your frequent flyer number onto your booking during the process, or after when booked or during check-in, there are times when you won’t receive your miles as promised in your frequent flyer account. The first thing to make sure is that you booked a qualifying fare that earns miles in your desired program. Do note that different frequent flyer programs credit miles differently – so program A could award you 5,000 miles for a flight and program B could not award you any.

Usually prior to booking, you want to check how many miles you’ll receive in your desired program, some programs award more miles and points than others. If you did book a qualifying fare and the points did not post to your frequent flyer account within the specified timeframe (usually up to a week), you can simply submit a retro-credit request. Do note that you’ll need your boarding pass and booking information – so always keep those until the miles post to your account.

There are several reasons why the miles may not post automatically, including IT issues, your name and middle name not matching correctly from your ticket to your account, general airline processing slowness, etc. The great thing is that as long as you’re a member of a frequent flyer program when you fly, you can always ask for your miles to be credited later if it is not done automatically.

Crediting Miles for Original Routing

When you book a ticket, you usually will calculate how many award and status miles you will earn. Many flyers do this so they can keep track of their elite status and how much more they’ll need to fly this year in order to re-qualify.

Unfortunately, irregular operations do happen and flights get cancelled. When a flight is cancelled and you’re rebooked on another one, the miles post to your account automatically based on your new flight that you were rebooked on. However, the good news is that many programs allow you to request original routing credit based on the itinerary you booked (but didn’t fly because of the cancellation). Sometimes you purposely traveled from Los Angeles to New York via Miami to get those extra miles and if you were rebooked on the direct LAX-NYC, then you’d obviously get less status miles. In these cases, simply let your frequent flyer program know about your original booking and most programs are willing to credit you miles based on your original routing.

Receiving Miles for an Award Ticket

In most cases, you don’t earn any miles when you book an award ticket (a ticket booked with miles). There are some exceptions to this rule. The most important ones being:

  • some frequent flyer programs might credit you status miles on award tickets, but not award miles, so you’ll be closer to re-qualifying for elite status, do note there are only a few airlines that do this
  • if you’ve booked a mileage ticket and your flight is cancelled and you’re rebooked into a revenue fare class, you should earn miles for this new flight since you were rebooked as if you originally had a cash ticket – some frequent flyer programs are more technologically advanced and will check if the ticket was initially an award ticket, at which point you most likely wouldn’t get miles
  • in very rare times, you’ve booked an award ticket and magically the miles still post to your frequent flyer account, this is very uncommon, but it does happen – especially if you’ve redeemed partner miles for a flight and have a different frequent flyer number on your boarding pass
claim miles that did not post to your account

claim miles that did not post to your account

All in All

There are a few discrepancies to be aware of when crediting miles for flights. Generally, most mileage credit for flights posts quickly and without issues. However, there are those few times where manual crediting may be needed. If you’ve changed your ticket a few times or your ticket is fairly complex, the chances are higher of miles not posting.

Frequent Flyer programs have several rules and exceptions and every airline determines their own rules, but it is always nice to be aware of the common rules that apply to many programs across airlines. Remember to always monitor your accounts and ensure that your miles are properly credited.

Travel Miles 101 has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Travel Miles 101 and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.