No matter who you are - a business traveler or college student on the way home - you should join one or more frequent flyer programs to ensure all your trips earn miles for future flights and other rewards. This isn't hard to do; each of the Big 4 legacy carriers (American, Delta, United and US Airways) is a member of one of the 3 airline alliances (OneWorld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance). Alaska, Hawaiian, JetBlue and Virgin America reciprocate miles with some of them and with each other, so those 3 aren't totally isolated. Southwest and its soon-to-be-absorbed partner AirTran reciprocate only with each other. Frontier is also by itself, as are Spirit, Sun Country, etc.
For US residents, four airline clubs really demonstrate the most benefits in terms of reciprocal earning, faster redemption and elite status qualification. They are: Alaska Mileage Plan, HawaiianMiles, KLM-Air France Flying Blue and US Airways Dividend Miles.
Make every flight count! Join a frequent flyer program now and fly again for free.
Usually, it takes 25,000 miles for a free round-trip ticket within and between the 49 mainland states and Canada, and 30 flight segments (that is, take-off's and landings, or "legs") or 25,000 actual flown miles (known as elite qualification miles or EQM's) in a given calendar year to qualify for elite status level, whichever comes first. However, these four standout "superlative" programs can get you your free flights faster and your elite status sooner:
Fastest Toward Elite Status
KLM-Air France Flying Blue. Join Flying Blue and fly just fifteen (15) segments on any of its SkyTeam partners (such as Delta) within the calendar year to qualify for Silver Level status. That's only 4 round trips on a SkyTeam carrier (if with connections) within a year! Once at Silver Level, enjoy elite benefits at KLM-Air France and all their other SkyTeam partner airlines, as well as Alaska.
Fewest Miles Toward Free Round-Trip, Period
Alaska Mileage Plan and HawaiianMiles (tie). Accumulate just 15,000 miles and you can fly certain intra-state routes within Alaska or California on Alaska Airlines, or inter-island within Hawaii on Hawaiian. Next is United MileagePlus, where just 20,000 miles gets you a free round-trip ticket on short-haul flights anywhere in the USA.
Fewest Miles to Hawaii
Believe it or not, this honor does not go to Hawaiian but rather to Air France-KLM Flying Blue! Yes, a foreign airline! You'll only need to accumulate 15,000 miles each way and you can say aloha to paradise.
Fewest Miles to the Caribbean, South America and Europe
US Airways Dividend Miles. Join Dividend Miles and accumulate just 25,000 miles on any of its Star Alliance partners (such as US Airways or United) for a free trip to the Caribbean! Well, as long as you travel within the month of September. Accumulate 10,000 more (just 35,000) miles on any Star Alliance carrier for a free trip to South America or Europe! Well, as long as you travel in March or May to South America, and between January 15 and February 28 to Europe. Next is a tie between partners Alaska Mileage Plan and American AAdvantage, where just 40,000 miles gets you a free round-trip ticket to Europe on flights operated by American, for off-peak travel in October through May.
Fewest Miles to Asia
Alaska Mileage Plan. Join Mileage Plan and accumulate just 50,000 miles on Alaska or its reciprocal carriers (such as American and Delta) for a free round-trip to Asia! These flights would be redeemed on American, for travel in October through April. Next is still Mileage Plan at just 60,000 to be redeemed on Cathay or Delta, for travel anytime.
Alaska (and Horizon Air) Mileage Plan also earns miles on all flights taken on American and Delta, as well as these other carriers. If you're unable to add your Mileage Plan # on your ticket, save your boarding passes and email them to Alaska at firstname.lastname@example.org. Credit card product available.
HawaiianMiles also earns miles on all flights taken on Delta and JetBlue, and some flights taken on Island Air and Virgin America, as well as these other carriers. If you're unable to add your HawaiianMiles # on your ticket, save your boarding passes and email them to Hawaiian at email@example.com. Credit card product available.
KLM-Air France Flying Blue (SkyTeam) is a joint program with Air Europa, Kenya Airways, Aircalin and TAROM. You also earn miles and enjoy benefits on all flights taken on any of its SkyTeam partners (such as Delta), Alaska and these other carriers. If you're unable to add your Flying Blue # on your ticket, save your boarding passes and request mileage credit here. No credit card product for US residents is available at this time.
US Airways Dividend Miles also earns miles on all flights taken on any of its Star Alliance partners (such as United), Hawaiian and these other carriers. If you're unable to add your Dividend Miles # on your ticket, save your boarding passes and request mileage credit here. Credit card product available.
In conclusion, join the above four frequent flyer programs at the minimum. Optionally, you can add a carrier from the OneWorld group (such as American) and maybe even join Southwest-AirTran, JetBlue and Virgin America.
Join now and start earning!