Frequent Flyer Tip: How to avoid booking flights that won’t let you accrue frequent flyer miles.

So you’re ready to book a flight. You know where you want to go, and your airline or one of its partners goes there. You hit the purchase button and fantasize about your forthcoming trip and the next trip, sans airfare, that you’ll get because of it. You are the queen/king of killing two birds with one stone. You are now a travel hacker!

But not so fast. What about the class of your flight?  I’m not talking about the economy class alone, I’m talking about a specific booking code assigned to your ticket. (It usually has to do with economy class and price.) This booking code determines the percentage of mileage you are allowed to accrue on your flight. If you are flying first class, it is highly likely that you are going to accrue 100% if not 125% of your miles. Many economy passengers can also accrue 100% of the miles from their flight, but some only accrue 50%. But in some cases, you get nada.

This is what happened to me.

In December I booked an Aeromexico flight to Argentina. From what I could see, Aeromexico was the only airline going to Argentina in my price range. I hadn’t signed up with a mileage program yet, but since I have already collected miles with my Chase Sapphire card, I chose to sign up with Korean Air, a partner of Aeromexico. Chase Sapphire lets you send your miles to the Korean Air SKYPASS, British Airways Executive Club, Southwest Rapid Rewards, United MileagePlus, and the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club frequent flying programs. Because Aeromexico was not a partner of any one of these airlines but Korean Air, I chose to sign up for the Korean Air SKYPASS. This way I could combine the miles I would earn from the Argentina flight with the miles I earned on my Chase Sapphire card to get a mega awesome free plane ticket to Europe later on.

So I got my Frequent Flyer # from Korean Air and entered it in. I got a pop up message that said that not all flights qualify for frequent flyer miles. I didn’t want to book if this would be the case so I called the booking agency and I called Aeromexico. Nobody really knew much about this, but didn’t foresee I would have any problems.

Fast forward to a month later and I am waiting to see how many miles I accumulated. I keep getting emails that say 0. I call Korean Air assuming there’s been a mistake. Perhaps the agent didn’t properly write down my frequent flyer number (even though I verified that three times). Sadly, this wasn’t the case……

Because my flight had a class code that did not accrue miles!

Screen shot 2014-02-11 at 4.03.09 PM

If I had known this, I might have changed my flight, though honestly it’s possible the flights that could accrue miles were out of my price range at that time. But I want you to learn from my mistakes, so here’s what you should do if you want to make sure you always know how many miles you’re getting from your trip:

1) Call the booking agent or airline you are traveling with and find out what the booking code is for that flight. 

2) If you know where to find information on booking codes for your mileage program, go to that site. However, if you don’t know what that site is, simply call the airline you are signed up with (in my case Korean Air) and give them the booking code to see if it can accrue miles.

3) If your flight isn’t eligible to accrue miles, ask your mileage program what flights can accrue miles.

You may not be able to or want to pay more for a flight that can accrue miles, but it could be worth doing so. In any case, it is always good to know whether you stand to get miles or not and if you really don’t need to go on your trip right now, you can always see if there is an affordable flight with miles in the future!

Remember, being flexible is key when it comes to travel hacking!


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