An air mile is a frequent flyer program measurement that assigns a certain number of miles to flights taken by members. Here are some key details about air miles:
Air miles are earned by flying on aircraft or by using services of an affiliated airline. The number of miles earned depends on the distance traveled, fare class purchased, and the airline’s mileage program rules.
Different loyalty programs use different names – like Delta Skymiles or United MileagePlus. But “air miles” is the commonly used generic term to refer to miles earned across any airline frequent flyer program.
After accumulating enough qualifying air miles in an airline loyalty program, members can redeem these for free flights, cabin upgrades, or other travel awards. For instance – 50,000 miles for a roundtrip economy ticket.
The actual distance corresponding to one air mile can vary widely between different airline programs and routes. Accrual and redemption rates also differ. So air miles earned are not always equal in real value between loyalty programs.
Apart from flights, additional air miles can often be earned via affiliated hotel stays, car rentals, credit card programs, and online shopping portals. Maximizing these partnerships allows balances to grow faster.
So in essence, an air mile is not directly equal to one geographic mile, but represents currency in airline loyalty programs unlocked by flying that can ultimately be redeemed for free flights and perks. Their actual value depends on each program’s conversion rules and airline partnerships.
What Are the Benefits of Collecting Air Miles?
Here are some of the main benefits of collecting air miles:
- Free flights – Redeem a certain number of accrued miles to book award flights without paying cash fares. This gets you free trips after hitting mile thresholds.
- First/business class upgrades – Use miles to upgrade your seat from economy to premium cabins with more amenities and comfort.
- Elite status – Qualify for elite tiers with extra travel perks when you earn miles at certain member levels.
- Lounge access – Programs often allow mile redemptions for day passes to exclusive airline lounge spaces with free snacks, wifi and more.
- Fee waivers – Top-tier loyalty members earning ample miles may get fee waivers on things like checked luggage allowances and seating reservations.
- Exclusive deals – Loyalty programs offer members-only flash sales and special rates when booking partner hotel stays and car rentals.
- Merchandise/gift cards – Some allow miles to be exchanged for non-flight rewards like gadgets, gift cards or magazine subscriptions.
The more miles collected over time, the more of these premium perks and privileges can be unlocked for free or discounted travel experiences.