Hey everyone, Dominik here again. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been writing articles here on the TM101 website with tips and tricks that I’ve found were useful to many in the miles & points hobby. The TM101 founders and I recently asked the TM101 community Facebook group what topics they would love me to write about – which is exactly what I will be doing. If you are a member of the Facebook group, you can always post on there and tag me if you have specific questions.
To everyone who posted – THANK YOU. I now have a bunch of topics to write about – from beginner to medium to advanced levels in this hobby. Feel free to post further questions regarding any topic – and of course if something is unclear, I love to help with miles & points.
Airlines and their Partners
Today, we are going to look at a bigger picture in the miles & points hobby – airlines and their partners. The number one question that was asked was “how can I use my miles/points from airline X to travel on airline X’s partners?” While this may seem easy, in some cases it requires searching several websites and maybe even calling the airline over the phone to book.
I’d love to learn how to use airline points to be used on an airline partner! I get so confused when someone say you need to go to this site and search for this, then do this and you need to call this airline.
Like many others I’m most curious about the affiliate partners of airlines.
Explaining the value and optimization of transferring points to partners and booking through partners to find sweetspots for airfare. I’m understanding optimizing earning points and bonus categories, but spending points efficiently is a mystery.
When airlines are partners (or in the same alliance), you can generally earn and redeem miles across all of these airlines. For example, you can fly Lufthansa and credit miles to United Airlines (or the opposite) – this is because the two are in the same alliance. You can also use United Airlines miles to fly Lufthansa (and the opposite). If an airline is a member of an alliance, you can redeem your miles from any airline in that alliance for travel on other airlines in that same alliance.
Airline Alliances and non-alliance Partnerships
There are currently three major airline alliances – Star Alliance, oneworld, and SkyTeam. You can view the airlines that belong to each alliance here:
Airlines that are members of a specific alliance can also have partnerships outside of their alliances. For example, United Airlines is a member of Star Alliance, but also partners with Aer Lingus (an airline with no alliance membership). American Airlines is a member of oneworld, but also partners with Etihad Airways (an airline with no alliance membership).
In addition to airline alliances, some non-alliance airlines also partner with lots of other airlines and allow you to earn and redeem miles on all of the airlines in the partnership. For example, Alaska Airlines is partners with a bunch of major international airlines and allows you to earn and redeem Alaska Airlines miles on all of their partners.
The important thing to note here is that while Alaska Airlines is partners with airline X and Y, it may not be true that airlines X and Y are partners on their own (if they aren’t in the same alliance, for example). Alaska is partners with both Singapore Airlines and Finnair and you can earn (and soon redeem) Alaska miles for travel on these two partners, however, Singapore Airlines and Finnair are not partners between themselves as they are in different alliances (Singapore Airlines is in Star Alliance and Finnair is in oneworld) – so while you can earn Alaska miles for travel on both airlines, you cannot earn Finnair miles for travel on Singapore Airlines since they aren’t partners (and not in the same alliance).
In addition to Alaska, there are many other airlines that aren’t members of an alliance and partner with other airlines:
You can redeem miles on all airlines within an alliance if an airline is a member of that alliance. With partnerships, you should check the website of the airline which you have miles with if you can use these miles on their partners outside of an alliance. For example, if you have American Airlines miles, it is automatic that you can redeem them on any oneworld airline (as AA is a member of oneworld), but you should check AA’s website for earning and redeeming specifics on their non-oneworld partner airlines (such as Etihad Airways, for example).
Searching for Alliance Award Space (flights using Miles)
Searching for award space within the three alliances is very easy. As a reminder, you can redeem miles on any airline within the same alliance from any other airline also in the same alliance, for example, you can use Turkish Airlines miles to fly Singapore Airlines as both airlines are in the Star Alliance.
Important: not all airlines allow you to check for award space online. For example, while you can search for ALL Star Alliance award space on United Airlines’ website, you cannot use American Airlines’ website to search for all oneworld award space as they do NOT display all award space online.
To search for Star Alliance award space, use United Airlines’ website. The website is fantastic and will show you ALL Star Alliance award space that is available. You do not need to have a United account to search for award space.
The second website I use to find Star Alliance award space is Aeroplan, Air Canada’s frequent flyer programme. You do need to have an Aeroplan account to search, though. Also, Aeroplan does NOT display ALL possible connections and therefore it is best to search each flight separately. For example, if you search for Seattle to London, you may get no results while if you search for Seattle to New York and New York to London, you may find available flights.
Searching for oneworld award space to Europe/Australia is easy because you can use the American Airlines website to find award space on all of their oneworld partners from Europe/Australia (like British Airways, Finnair, Iberia, etc.), however AA’s website does NOT display other oneworld award space – which is why you will have to use the British Airways Executive Club website, which displays ALL oneworld award space.
American Airlines’ website will display award space on the following airlines:
- Alaska Airlines (non-oneworld partner)
- American Airlines
- British Airways
- Hawaiian Airlines (non-oneworld partner)
- Qantas Airways
- Royal Jordanian Airlines
To search other oneworld award space, use the British Airways website:
If you’d like to use American Airlines miles to fly Cathay Pacific, you will have to use the British Airways website to find award space on Cathay Pacific and later CALL American Airlines to book your flight (since AA.com does NOT display all oneworld award space).
The two best airlines to search for award space on SkyTeam are the Air France website and the Delta website. While you will need an account to use the award search function on Air France’s website, you don’t need an account on Delta’s website to search for award space. While Air France’s website is great, it doesn’t show all possible connections and therefore it may be best to search flight by flight and “construct” your own desired routing.
Delta’s website often does show a bunch of flight combinations, however it is terrible to use and you will often find errors after errors. Also, keep in mind that Delta only allows their SkyTeam partners to book award space at Delta Saver Level 1 – which is the lowest cost of a flight in Delta miles. However, Delta doesn’t publish award charts, so we can’t be 100% sure what is Saver Level 1. If you need to book Delta flights using SkyTeam partners, use the Air France or Korean Air website and if they show Delta award space, you can usually book it through other SkyTeam partners.
Searching for Award Space outside of Airline Alliances
Searching for award space outside of airline alliances is a bit tricky because sometimes airlines limit the number of award seats that are available to their non-alliance partners. For example, while Alaska Airlines is partners with Cathay Pacific, CX releases more award seats to oneworld partners than Alaska Airlines and therefore not all of the award space you found on Cathay Pacific may be bookable using Alaska miles.
To search for award space on non-alliance partners, you should generally use the website of the airline you want to fly on. For example, if you want to fly Etihad Airways using American Airlines miles, you should use Etihad’s website to find awards space at the lowest saver level – which is the same award space American Airlines will see.
You can then call American Airlines and provide them the flight/date that has award space and they should be able to book it without a problem.
I hope this article clarified as to how you can use your miles from airline X on airline X’s partners. The general rules are:
- you can earn/redeem miles on ALL airlines within the same alliance
- example: use United miles to fly Lufthansa
- you can earn/redeem miles on other partners of a specific airline
- example: fly Etihad Airways using American Airlines miles (the two airlines are non-alliance partners)
Now that you understand you can use miles from airline X on airline X’s partners, my next articles will be a more detailed overview on how to find/book award space within each airline alliance and also on non-alliance partners.
If you have any questions at all or if something needs clarification, please post them below or tag and ask me in the TM101 Facebook group.