Will I Earn Miles If I Don’t Complete My Full Itinerary?

Aug 7, 2016

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

TPG reader Bert emailed me to ask about earning airline miles:

“If I book a round-trip flight and don’t use the return, will I still be credited for the outbound portion? What if I book a flight with a layover and simply end my trip at that point?”

It seems counterintuitive, but you can sometimes save money by purchasing more airfare than you actually need. For example, you might buy a round-trip ticket and only use the first half if it’s cheaper than a one-way fare (also known as throwaway ticketing). Similarly, you might schedule a connecting flight that you don’t plan to take if the itinerary gets you to your real destination faster or at a better price (also known as hidden-city ticketing). These tactics carry some risk, but one thing you won’t have to worry about is earning rewards for the flights you do take.

Major airlines generally issue redeemable miles and elite credits for each flight segment individually. You won’t earn rewards for segments you skip, but you should be credited as normal for the segments you take even if you miss a latter part of the itinerary. For example, suppose you’re ticketed from Seattle to Boston round-trip with a stop in Chicago both ways. If you decide to stay in Chicago on the return, you’ll still get credit for the entire outbound flight, as well as the segment from Boston back to Chicago.

You may also be able to earn rewards for segments you don’t fly in the case of irregular operations. If you get rerouted or even rebooked on another carrier, you can ask for original routing credit from the airline that issued your ticket initially. This doesn’t apply if you simply show up late or ditch a flight by choice, but it’s a handy way to get the rewards you should have earned when the airline is at fault for the delay. As airlines shift toward revenue-based earning structures and make adjustments to partner earning rates, it’s important to account for every mile owed to you.

When prices are high
Rewards are issued for completing a flight segment, regardless of whether you stick to your full itinerary.

Keep in mind that airlines frown on tactics like throwaway ticketing and hidden-city ticketing. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to skip a flight, so you shouldn’t encounter problems if you do it sparingly. If you’re caught repeatedly abusing the system, however, your frequent flyer account could be shut down and you could lose all your miles.

If you’re going to ditch a flight, you’ll also want to avoid checking bags, since they’ll end up without you at the final ticketed destination. Also remember that the rest of the itinerary will be canceled, so you shouldn’t skip a flight if there are remaining portions that you intend to fly.

For more on the nuances of earning miles, check out these posts:

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.