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Can I Combine Miles on Three Airlines to Get an Award Ticket?

Frequent Flyer Q&A
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Editor's Note: This story was originally published on October 18, 2005. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: frequent flyer, Frequent Flyer Q&A, ground transfer, Tim Winship.

Dear Tim,

Can I combine the miles in my Delta frequent flyer account with the miles in my Northwest and Continental accounts to get an award ticket? I have 12,599 miles in Delta, 13,600 in Northwest, and about 28,000 in Continental. These airlines are all members of the SkyTeam alliance. Can I combine these miles or do I have to get 25,000 in each account to get an economy ticket?

Maureen

Dear Maureen,

Delta, Northwest, and Continental are indeed members of the SkyTeam global airline alliance, and members of the frequent flyer programs of those three carriers do enjoy alliance-related perks. However, miles may not be transferred among the three programs, or among any of the SkyTeam airlines' programs. Mileage transfers are simply not one of the benefits associated with the SkyTeam alliance, or with either of the other two major alliances, oneworld and the Star Alliance.

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You might be wondering if there are other ways to consolidate the miles into one program. In a word: no. Although there are cases where miles can be transferred between programs through Points.com, Hilton's Reward Exchange, or Diners Club, no such options are available to members of Continental's, Delta's, and Northwest's programs.

Your situation points to the dangers of spreading miles among multiple programs. In this case, the three airlines in question are very close marketing partners through their membership in the SkyTeam alliance. In particular, each has a reciprocal frequent flyer program relationship with the other two, so a member of one program can earn and redeem miles on the other two airlines.

So, assuming your miles were earned for flights, you might easily have accumulated in a single program all the miles that now reside in three separate and uncombinable accounts. If you had focused your earning, you would have effectively doubled the value of the miles, from one 25,000-mile award (in your Continental account, the only one with enough miles for an award) to two awards (with all 54,199 miles consolidated in one account).

Going forward, my advice would be as follows: First, choose one of the three programs to be your primary program. Second, earn enough miles in the remaining two programs to qualify for an award, then cash them out. Finally, concentrate all subsequent mileage-earning in the primary program.

If you follow the consolidation path, the question of transferring miles won't arise again.

 
 
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