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For Those New To Frequent Flying

Omar Uraimov Aug. 3, 2016, 7:35 p.m.

So let’s say you finally got on board with your favorite airline's loyalty program to take advantage of their benefits – especially free flights. If you’re completely new to the loyalty program business you may not have much to work with in the beginning, but you’ll eventually build up a nice stockpile of miles. Whether you aggressively pursued your miles or just accumulated your collection over time, you may be wondering what on earth to do now, as well as how to take action.

At first glance, it may seem that you can only choose between a regular economy seat or a business class seat on your airline. Frequent flyer programs actually go far deeper than just the couple of options you usually hear about. For example, If you’re used to flying United every time you fly somewhere, you might not realize that your reward miles can be used on any airline in the United Star Alliance network. If you’re confused about what this means, here’s a quick run-down of the main airline alliances you'll find in the United States:

  • Star Alliance - You might recognize this if you fly with United Airlines. It’s the most popular seeing as it receives the most passengers. If you have a stockpile of miles with United, you’ll be delighted to hear that you can use them with Singapore Airlines, Air Canada, and Lufthansa to name a few.


  • SkyTeam -  For the Delta flyers, you can use your miles on Aeroflot, Korean Air, or Air France, along with 17 other airlines (Virgin Australia recently began working with Delta, thought not listed in the image below).


  • Oneworld - Finally, if you fly mainly with American Airlines, you’ll be able to use your miles to fly with Qatar Airways, British Airways, and Air Berlin along with 10 others.


The above alliances happen to be the world's top 3 in terms of traffic. There are other alliances throughout the world and we recommend that you join loyalty programs that get you the alliance access you need. These alliances include the Vanilla Alliance in the Indian Ocean (including Air Madagascar and Air Mauritius), and the Value Alliance for low-cost airline carriers like Jeju Air and Cebu Pacific.

A whole new world of opportunity opened up for you just like that! Think about it – if you feel like you want to fly on a Singapore Airlines suite, you can. Even if you’ve never heard of half of the airlines you can fly with, they’re all available at your fingertips. If you’re being thrown off guard with all the options, check out PEX+ to see where you can go with your miles and use them effectively.


Now you might be wondering – did this guy just say a suite? Yeah, with an actual bed and everything. If you’ve been programmed to fly one airline all your life like I was, these revelations will blow your mind, especially when you realize you can use all the miles you’ve saved up or are going to save up in order to fly like a king.


If you’ve decided to take advantage of all three alliances and fly everywhere on every airline, you might lose track of all the miles you have, even if it’s only on three airlines. PEX+ is a good tool to use to keep track of your loyalty programs and find flights with your miles, as I mentioned above.

If just realizing that you can use your miles with every airline in the alliance made you feel like you’re walking on clouds instead flying by them, I’m not sure how you’ll react when you figure out just how connected all these programs are. For example, Alaska Airlines and their Mileage Plan allow you to fly with any of their partners – including a few Star Alliance members, a few Oneworld members, and some independent airlines, most notably Emirates and their fancy first class suites. If you feel like you’ve been enlightened with this information and want to go forth and take what’s yours (or what will be yours), nobody will stand in your way. These loyalty programs are yours to conquer.