Frequent-flier miles are both a boon (to the vacationer who scores the award ticket) and a bane (to the person who has the miles but can't seem to score the ticket). That's where the commonality ends. Each program is different, with its own elite designations for very frequent fliers. Here's a comparison of seven plans for U.S.-based carriers. These are mileage plans (as opposed to points) unless otherwise noted.
Cons: $15 for tickets booked by phone (waived for MVP Gold and 75K members)
Pros: AA.com's flexible date calendar makes MileSAAver awards easier to find; award reservations can be held for five days if booked 15-330 days prior to departure. Elite members pay no fee for last-minute awards.
Cons: One-way mileage upgrades often require co-pays; fees apply to phone bookings ($20) or for departures in less than 20 days ($50-$100).
Pros: Flexible awards let you fly coach one way and biz or first on the return. Elite members can roll over Medallion or Elite Qualification Miles into the next year. Diamond, Platinum and Gold Medallion members can expect several new benefits on select Alliance Partner airlines, including Air France, KLM, Alitalia and Alaska.
Cons: $25 to book with an agent (waived for Gold, Platinum and Diamond members)
Pros: Award flights (points program) start at 5,000 points (short-haul flights), members earn three to six points per dollar for flights; points can be used for any seat on any JetBlue-operated flight.
Cons: $15 to book by phone
Southwest Rapid Rewards
Pros: Points program effective Tuesday. Points are based on ticket price. Business select fares earn 12 points per dollar. Anytime fares earn 10 points per dollar. Wanna Get Away fares earn 6 points per dollar.
A closer look at cashing in frequent-flier miles
Pros and cons of seven domestic plans.
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