Sunday Reader Question: How to Maximize Miles When Flying on Airline Partners and Codeshares?

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TPG reader Rosemary writes:

Something that has confused me for awhile now is how to make certain I am earning 100% of mileage points for one airline when actually flying on a codeshare flight and a different airline’s metal. How does this work exactly? As long as I sign up with a mileage number for one of the airlines on the codeshare, I should be fine right?

One of the fundamentals of earning frequent flyer miles is that you can earn miles when flying on alliance and partners of your frequent flyer program. For example, if you are a member of United Mileage Plus, you can earn miles (both elite and regular) when flying on Star Alliance partners like Air Canada or other airline partners like Jet Airways. However, in many programs the non-Alliance partners do not earn elite miles. And even with alliance partners, not all fare classes will earn full mileage. There is an earning schedule for each partner airlines fare classes. For example, Jet Airways discount economy Q and S fares only earn 50% mileage and no elite miles. In fact a paid first class ticket on Jet Airways will earn 150% base miles but no elite miles. A potentially frustrating situation if you just paid over $10,000 for a first class flight and thought it would count towards elite status!

General tips:
1) When booking partner travel, always look up the earning ratios on your frequent flyer program’s website. For your reference, here are the links for the major frequent flyer programs:
Air Canada
British Airways

US Airways

General Tips:
1) Enter your frequent flyer program number when booking your ticket. You can also get the number added after booking, but in my experience the chances of the miles crediting automatically are greater when you include your frequent flyer number from the start
2) Always keep your boarding pass! In case you never get the miles you deserve, you may be asked to fax in your boarding pass, so keep it on file until the miles are safely in your account.
3) Call the airline to confirm partner mileage earning. Airline partnerships change, fare classes change and airline websites are notoriously out-of-date. To be safe, confirm with the airline a) the fare class you purchased and b) whether it will indeed earn mileage into the program you want to add to the reservation. Better safe than sorry!

Things to consider:
1) It can take weeks for partner mileage to post. Kind of ridiculous in 2011 when everything should be automated, but some airlines are notoriously bad about crediting mileage to partners. This can be frustrating if you are on the cusp of an elite level and you are waiting for partner mileage to post.
2) You generally forego any elite status benefits when you credit to another airline. For example, if you are US Airways Platinum, but want to top up your United account and credit a flight to that account, the elite status of the account on the reservation (United) will be used. You can add your US Airways account to get the upgrade and then change it to United at the gate, but it may backfire and you could potentially lose the upgrade.

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