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What are air miles?

Air miles, or points, are virtual currency used toward the purchase of flights and flight-related extras. Customers accumulate them, then use them to pay for part or all of a flight.

Other benefits for customers include discounts on services related to flights, such as baggage or seat selection.

Miles are linked to a specific airline or airline alliance, and as such, can only be used on the same airline or airline group. Similarly, you can only use them to cover the actual cost of the flight, not airport taxes.

How do I accumulate air miles?

Frequent-flyer program

The original method of accumulating miles is to sign up for a frequent-flyer program and repeatedly fly with a specific airline. Airlines reward every dollar spent with a set amount of miles.

Programs such as Avios have the advantage of grouping together different airlines. For example, this means that you can earn points on a British Airways flight and use them on future British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus flights.

Credit card

Many airlines collaborate with credit-card companies to offer customers points in return for any purchases made using the card.


Airlines also team up with other companies, often related to travel, who offer air miles when making purchases with them. Common collaborations include car-hire websites, hotel chains and online travel agencies.

Special offers

Some companies launch special offers that reward customers with points for specific purchases. These offers are usually temporary.

Related Questions

How do I redeem air miles?

You can redeem miles when booking your flight on the airline’s website. The exact process differs slightly depending on the airline, but if you are logged in, you will have the option of paying with miles.

Can I transfer my air miles to somebody else?

Most airlines do allow transfers, but usually at a cost. Some use a flat fee, while others charge a fee for every mile transferred. Transferring air miles as a gift is also possible, but it usually also comes at a cost.

Where can I find out specific terms and conditions about air miles?

Every frequent-flyer program and credit card that is associated with air miles outlines the details of their offer on their website.

Will air miles expire?

Depending on the program, miles can either have an expiry policy or not. Most customers prefer the security of not having an expiry policy, so be sure to check before accumulating points.