Do Flight Attendants Know If You Redeemed Miles?

Do Flight Attendants Know If You Redeemed Miles?

51

There can be quite a thrill to redeeming miles for a first or business class ticket that would cost many thousands of dollars if paying cash, though it’s how many of us have gotten used to traveling.

Along those lines, I know many people redeeming miles might wonder if the crew is aware of what they paid for the ticket, and if they should feel sheepish. So I wanted to address that in this post. The short answer is that on some airlines flight attendants know, while on other airlines they don’t. Regardless, you absolutely shouldn’t notice a difference in terms of how you’re treated.

There are many different “categories” of passengers

It’s easy to feel like you scored a deal when you redeemed miles for a first or business class ticket, and are worried about whether that ticket makes you “worthy” of the full service. The important thing to understand is that it’s not as binary as there being full fare first and business class passengers and then award passengers.

Rather, when you look at the people seated in premium cabins, you have a combination of full fare passengers, passengers who purchased discounted tickets, passengers who booked award tickets, passengers who redeemed miles, instruments, or cash to upgrade, passengers who were operationally upgraded, and then employees or other people traveling on some sort of benefit.

In terms of hierarchy, generally speaking paid first and business class passengers are prioritized first, then award passengers, then those who upgraded, then operational upgrades and employees. So the point is, you’re not as far down the totem pole as you might think when redeeming miles, since an award ticket is generally considered a form of a “paid” ticket.

There are many different kinds of passengers

Can flight attendants see if you redeemed miles?

Not only does every airline have a different system for what information they show their flight attendants, but often there are differences in terms of what each crew member can see. For example, a cabin manager or purser’s tablet might show more detailed information about passengers than the tablets of the rest of the crew. It all depends on the airline.

The policy varies by airline. As an example, on Emirates, a crew can see if you upgraded (either with miles or if you received an operational upgrade), while the crew can’t see if you redeemed miles. Instead, an award ticket on Emirates shows the same as if you outright paid cash for your ticket. So if you redeem miles for an award ticket, you’d actually be viewed the same as a full fare customer once onboard.

Emirates doesn’t distinguish between cash and award tickets

Don’t feel sheepish when redeeming miles

I’ve probably flown well over a million miles on award tickets, and not once have I felt like I was treated differently for having redeemed miles once onboard the aircraft.

Now, I think it’s important to acknowledge that sometimes airlines have systems in place for how they handle passenger priority for things like meal orders. Again, every airline has a different policy:

  • On some airlines, they might take meal orders front to back, with no consideration for status or ticket type
  • On other airlines, they might first come around to take meal orders for some elite passengers, and then take meal orders from other passengers

Regardless, on no airline should you find a system where they essentially just serve the leftovers to the unworthy passengers redeeming miles. 😉

There are many considerations for getting your meal choice

Bottom line

Your experience in a premium cabin as an award passenger should be no different than that of anyone else, so don’t be afraid to expect the full service. You might actually be surprised to find out that for the airlines that do prioritize passengers for some purposes, award passengers typically come ahead of those upgrading.

Lastly, I should mention that all of this applies to the inflight experience. Some airlines do restrict certain ground products to award passengers, and in the event of irregular operations, some airlines don’t treat award passengers especially well. However, once the plane’s door closes, the above is what you should expect.

Has anyone ever felt like they were treated poorly onboard due to having redeemed miles?

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  1. Christ Guest

    @AirlineVeteran I wonder if you're from SQ ... the level of fawning over Solitaire and PPS customers on SQ is quite disgusting as a spectator. It costs the airline nothing and helps bloat a few egos, so it's smart business sense I suppose

  2. Tracey Guest

    For our 25th anniversary we saved and used UA miles for 4 award business class seats to Hawaii for us and our kids. After everyone was in their seats but before takeoff the FA informed our party that two of us needed to move to economy to accommodate two paid customers they wanted to give our seats to. We were given no choice but to take the downgrade. I definitely think redeeming miles for award tickets gets you different treatment.

  3. Brian G Guest

    I had a terrible experience on Etihad, in first class, from LHR to MEL. I was on an award ticket using AA miles.
    I quite literally had to get up, find a flight attendant to ask for breakfast, and to let them know that, yes, I do want to use the shower.
    Only 3 of the 7 "apartments" were full, so it wasn't because they were busy. The boarding cards are clearly marked so they know who's flying on award.

  4. Justin Guest

    Not totally sure I believe the part about Emirates not knowing. Both times we flew EK F from DXB-IAD we got stopped at the lounge and the lounge person said loudly 'You booked this with miles correct?' And then we had to wait for 5 minutes before they allowed us in, because the agent wasn't sure if she should let us in. So if the lounge people know, the FAs may know too.

    1. MaxGlobetrotter Guest

      The lounge folks see the boarding passes with the booking codes … not (usually) the FAs

  5. Dubious Guest

    I flew Singapore Airlines Suites, and after talking to one of the attendants for a while, she told me they don't know if someone is flying on a points redemption vs cash.

  6. betterbub Diamond

    lol Lucky you just had to use that cheeseburger pic

    1. Recovering Lawyer Guest

      I tried the Delta cheeseburger on JFK-TPA. Cheese melted all over the plate. Bun saturated with grease fell apart in my hand. Patty had all flavor of cardboard.
      BTW, I'm a diamond medallion and paid full fare.

    2. scottrwmcc New Member

      Interesting subject. 20 years ago when I was working on the ground for BA at LHR after flying as Cabin Crew for many years, I remember that we did in fact have codes for various ticket types in all classes. For example there was, if recall correctly A, F, J, B, U etc, with many more and each related to the type of ticket and class of travel. Example A - Full Fare paying pax...

      Interesting subject. 20 years ago when I was working on the ground for BA at LHR after flying as Cabin Crew for many years, I remember that we did in fact have codes for various ticket types in all classes. For example there was, if recall correctly A, F, J, B, U etc, with many more and each related to the type of ticket and class of travel. Example A - Full Fare paying pax in First. B - Discounted Club World. U - Redemption Ticket in Club World (Air Miles), etc etc. each cabin class had a set. The information (codes) related to ticketing and was used by ground staff extensively. This was then passed to the CSM/Purser and was printed on the manifest. To sum up, there are codes, they are first used by fares and ticketing, then check in staff and ultimately advised in writing to the Cabin Crew. I would assume most airlines had or now have similar and also with technology advances the Crew IPads they now use would have even more advanced information related to a pax booking. Hope this helps.

  7. George Romey Guest

    IME most FA have zero interest in knowing about status and even less interest in how someone paid for a flight. They're there to perform safety duties and do whatever in flight service and to either get home or to the hotel.

  8. Khatl Diamond

    Totally agree with other comments, and the post should be updated, to reflect that status with the airline definitely makes a difference - more engagement, first to get asked about meal choices etc. I've also found that this does not appear to apply if using alliance status (even if top tier alliance status)

    1. Joey Diamond

      I think it varies by alliance. I'm skyteam elite plus and whenever I fly other skyteam airlines (AF, VS, KE, etc.) internationally the purser would come up and acknowledge me. I'm also oneworld emerald but never experienced that when flying in economy on other oneworld airlines.

  9. Steve Miller Guest

    I got treated even better on a Qatar Qsuites award flight to Bangkok a month ago than I did as a full fare-paid customer in Thai Airways business class to Bali (today).

    That might say more about the level of service on Qatar than it does about how award ticket flyers are treated, but that’s my experience in lie flat business class flying.

  10. tony xu Guest

    flight attendants know 2 classes of passengers

    REVENUE passengers. a.k.a. customers. includes award redeemers.

    NON-REV passengers. a.k.a. employees of the airline or people (family and friends) with whom they are sharing their travel benefits.

    there are standards of decorum that NON-REVs are expected to uphold when it comes to dress code (not applicable to actual customers) as well as meal selection (last choice).

  11. Ecco Guest

    I’ve seen people in some business class cabins who most certainly don’t look like they paid cash for their fares just looking at their poor standard of dress.

    1. frrp Diamond

      They probably think your top hat and tailed suit seems a little silly for a flight too :D

    2. tony xu Guest

      Two categories of wealthy people who do not dress up:

      New money in high tech where $1-2m middle managers in software engineering wear $10 uniqlo t-shirts cleaned with $2 Tide Simply detergent

      Old money retired billionaires with nothing to prove

    3. jj Guest

      Dress sense is not about having something to prove: it's about showing respect to others.

      It's true that many people couldn't care less about the strangers around them. Personally, I'm old-fashioned enough to think that courtesy is a virtue.

    4. Tim Guest

      I judge them (and not kindly) if they're wearing flip flops or if they look like they've just come in from the beach.

    5. Randy Curwen Guest

      I don’t like the beach look either, but I can kind of understand it on shorter hops to/from beach destinations.

  12. Petex Guest

    Paid cash 4-5 times and redeemed 40-50 times. Can't really notice a difference on all of them. On some boarding passes I do see the booking class such as C/D or C/Z with Z denoting mileage fare. While on others every sincld business class fare is cominbed into just "J". Although most recently on a united int'l polaris (paid fare, star alliance gold) I was treated like trash. 6 weeks ago on a redemption American...

    Paid cash 4-5 times and redeemed 40-50 times. Can't really notice a difference on all of them. On some boarding passes I do see the booking class such as C/D or C/Z with Z denoting mileage fare. While on others every sincld business class fare is cominbed into just "J". Although most recently on a united int'l polaris (paid fare, star alliance gold) I was treated like trash. 6 weeks ago on a redemption American Flagship business I was also treated like trash (executive platinum)

    1. ChampagneSocialist Guest

      Could it just be that UA and AA have a treating-elites-like-trash problem generally? ;)

    2. Cr- Guest

      That has to do more with your choice of airline.

  13. Clayton Guest

    I've been told enough times that I'd only stand corrected by a serving member of BA CC but as far as I'm aware BA ( including CSM/CSD/Purser) have no data on how tickets were paid for.

    They do have names, status level etc of FFs along with any other pertinent info ( like in my case I'm deaf so there's information highlighting such).

    I also agree with others that a mileage ticket has been...

    I've been told enough times that I'd only stand corrected by a serving member of BA CC but as far as I'm aware BA ( including CSM/CSD/Purser) have no data on how tickets were paid for.

    They do have names, status level etc of FFs along with any other pertinent info ( like in my case I'm deaf so there's information highlighting such).

    I also agree with others that a mileage ticket has been earned/paid for in one way or another and it makes you no less entitled to be in whatever cabin, lounge etc than anyone else.

    1. Optimist Guest

      As far as I know, BA uses (or used) a bespoke scoring system called the CIV rating (Corporate Individual Rating), which ranks how important they consider keeping you happy. Things like frequent flyer status, fare classes etc feed into this. In the past, this used to be printed out on a manifest / load report on one of those ancient dot-matrix printers and posted in the premium cabin galley.

  14. Bert W Guest

    What is miles?

    How to business?

  15. Pete Texas Guest

    I just got off a Qatar Qsuites redemption with mileage, 150K r/t to CPT, my return through Doha and CPT according to Qatar Airlines was no lounge access available in any lounge, luckily I had Priority Pass and got lounge access but not from Qatar. I spent 150K and no access that for me is a “never again”. I see many people praise Qatar Air business class, I’ve had better, I’ve flown Singapore Air business,...

    I just got off a Qatar Qsuites redemption with mileage, 150K r/t to CPT, my return through Doha and CPT according to Qatar Airlines was no lounge access available in any lounge, luckily I had Priority Pass and got lounge access but not from Qatar. I spent 150K and no access that for me is a “never again”. I see many people praise Qatar Air business class, I’ve had better, I’ve flown Singapore Air business, Turkish Air business, Iberia business, all the same or better, Iberia maybe a little outdated but good service, ANA First suites, excellent, Emirates First, excellent, to name a few and all included lounge access.

    1. Kevinled Guest

      I just flew Qatar Q-Suites miles redemption flight, and we were able to use the amazing business class lounge in Doha.

    2. Pete Texas Guest

      I was able to outbound but my return they said since I used redemption, no lounge access..

    3. Tony Guest

      Hello Pete,
      Interesting. That's not what I was told by Qatar. They told me the lounges are available on reward tickets. Maybe that's because I have Oneworld Sapphire as well?
      Tony

    4. Pete Texas Guest

      Tony, hi..
      Not sure why but I thought that was both odd and absurd.. I mentioned to them on survey they sent me, and they did not respond.

  16. Darrell Stewarcz Guest

    Kind of an unnecessary aside: not only are pigs something I've stopped eating, but I've started avoiding octopus completely.
    First there was "My Octopus Teacher," which was interesting - in a Wild Kingdom sort of way. This is what I watched when I was vacationing in Barcelona about 40 years ago, arguably a much older rendition, however! But then, The Mountain in the Sea was an extraordinary extrapolation based on the things we do...

    Kind of an unnecessary aside: not only are pigs something I've stopped eating, but I've started avoiding octopus completely.
    First there was "My Octopus Teacher," which was interesting - in a Wild Kingdom sort of way. This is what I watched when I was vacationing in Barcelona about 40 years ago, arguably a much older rendition, however! But then, The Mountain in the Sea was an extraordinary extrapolation based on the things we do know about the nature of the octopus brain, its physiology, and our incomplete understanding of sentience, a big part of why I wouldn't fly an airline that is able to see this information.

    1. Optimist Guest

      Ok. So you stay away from calamari and pork but still on the LSD, then?

  17. AirlineVeteran Guest

    Actually--with my airline, while we cannot see who is on a "paid" ticket and who is redeeming miles, we can see our airline/alliance ELITE passengers. And for us, they are to receive additional recognition (ie, name usage, personal welcome onboard, note, meal choice first...) And regardless, if you are in my premium cabin, you will receive personalize, thoughtful service. Because...like most flight attendants, I too am a mileage traveler...so most of us do indeed recognize...

    Actually--with my airline, while we cannot see who is on a "paid" ticket and who is redeeming miles, we can see our airline/alliance ELITE passengers. And for us, they are to receive additional recognition (ie, name usage, personal welcome onboard, note, meal choice first...) And regardless, if you are in my premium cabin, you will receive personalize, thoughtful service. Because...like most flight attendants, I too am a mileage traveler...so most of us do indeed recognize what reward redemptions mean!

  18. HLC60 Guest

    "Lucky has flown over a million award miles" I'm guessing it's upwards of 10 million award miles...or more

    1. Trey Guest

      'over a million miles on award tickets' - I'm sure he meant butt in seat (distance) miles and not actual miles redeemed.

  19. David Arnett Guest

    The only issue where this comes up is if you have to be rebooked or reaccommodated due to a flight cancellation or some other issue. A paid business class ticket usually means they are more likely to help put you on the next business class seat that’s open or even on another airline. With an award there is a risk that they’ll put you in coach and refund the difference in miles.

    If you...

    The only issue where this comes up is if you have to be rebooked or reaccommodated due to a flight cancellation or some other issue. A paid business class ticket usually means they are more likely to help put you on the next business class seat that’s open or even on another airline. With an award there is a risk that they’ll put you in coach and refund the difference in miles.

    If you have plenty of miles with different programs and are flexible arrangement wise, you’ll probably be able to navigate. If you are locked into a schedule due to work or traveling with a lot of family like kids and need arrangements to be a certain way, paying for tickets is less risky if something pops up.

  20. Lara S. Guest

    United certainly doesn’t prioritize award tickets. I used miles to upgrade from highest premium economy to business on a long haul to Asia (first flight US connecting to long haul but all one ticket). Checked in no problem. Got to airport and got an error message when I pulled in to park car that something was wrong with ticket. While waiting for shuttle called United. They had no idea. Said it showed all was well....

    United certainly doesn’t prioritize award tickets. I used miles to upgrade from highest premium economy to business on a long haul to Asia (first flight US connecting to long haul but all one ticket). Checked in no problem. Got to airport and got an error message when I pulled in to park car that something was wrong with ticket. While waiting for shuttle called United. They had no idea. Said it showed all was well. But on my end it showed I had no seat/wasn’t on first leg and I’d been unassigned my seat on long haul. United said go see desk agent. Went to check in. Rudely told that I’d been “bumped” from the flight since I used miles. Wouldn’t help me at all any more and said go to gate agent. While waiting for security called back to 1K line and they said yeah we can reassign your seat but can’t get you to connecting airport. Then she said well this flight isn’t even sold out so no idea why they bumped you. Got to gate agent. She said OMG Im so sorry. The check in agent was wrong. I’ve held three seats for you in economy so you’d have your choice but they changed planes to one without many first class and six people had to go to economy. Handed me a food voucher, $500 credit, and refunded the miles for that leg. It was so stressful but yeah definitely made me feel second class for upgrading from what already was several thousand dollar flight. And also bumped is not the right term to use I was downgraded. If they’d just used the right word to start Id have had zero stress.

    I worry re my next Emirates flight- was going to buy a decently expensive business ticket that’s immediately upgradable and use miles to upgrade to first but now I don’t know if I’ll get all the perks and same treatment? I’ve always just bought it outright but now have so many miles to use I’d like to use them….but they seem like the kind of airline who’d treat upgrades poorly. Anyone know? I know, first world problems but still…

    1. Russell B Guest

      Emirates was absolutely amazing to me. I booked an award ticket in business class. Three days before flight I got an email that I could upgrade to first for 30,000 miles. I took the upgrade everyone from the person checking me in at the counter, the staff in the lounge, and the flight were phenomenal.

    2. DiogenesTheCynic Member

      Not the same issue, but another United-system-being-stupid story: I was once booked in an itinerary that was IAD-EWR-EZE, but the IAD-EWR flight was either canceled or delayed so much that I wouldn't make the EWR-EZE flight, so they rebooked me onto an itinerary the next day that would get me to Buenos Aires a day later, which completely screwed up the rest of my trip. The catch was, this all happened in the morning and...

      Not the same issue, but another United-system-being-stupid story: I was once booked in an itinerary that was IAD-EWR-EZE, but the IAD-EWR flight was either canceled or delayed so much that I wouldn't make the EWR-EZE flight, so they rebooked me onto an itinerary the next day that would get me to Buenos Aires a day later, which completely screwed up the rest of my trip. The catch was, this all happened in the morning and my flight to Buenos Aires was a redeye, so I would have no problem getting to Newark, only a couple hundred miles away from me in DC, in time to make the EWR-EZE flight (whether by Amtrak, renting a car, or booking a flight with a different carrier). But once they had rebooked me, now they told me the EWR-EZE flight was totally full -- I could see there were premium economy and business class seats still open, but no coach. But they refused to put me back on the flight I'd paid for that I could have made if they hadn't changed the whole itinerary based on their inability to fly a plane on time from DC to Newark. Incredibly frustrating. Eventually, they rebooked me on a flight from Dulles to Sao Paolo, which got me into Buenos Aires a day later and screwed up my trip, but at least let me spend the day in Sao Paolo.

    3. Tomas Guest

      I used my EK miles to upgrade from a Biz Flex seat to 1st Class on the 16hr. DXB-MIA flight. Well worth it. Service was gracious and excellent. All perks, including double caviar.

    4. Lara S. Guest

      That's exactly what I want to do but BKK-DXB-IAH. The service etc is always amazing in First and I love going to the lounge (though not this last time- construction meant half the lounge is closed and the dining room was poorly staffed such that I waited 45 minutes for food service and had to leave) but wondered if using miles to upgrade would mean no lounge or some other issue. Thanks for the data point!

  21. Johosofat Guest

    How about your experience with ground staff knowing you were an award traveller? I recall some told you that you deserve nothing because you are flying free!

  22. Antwerp Guest

    I would venture to say that the status you hold with that airline or alliance is far more "influential" to the service versus how you "paid" for your ticket. And yes, I have noticed a difference as to this.

  23. Ann Guest

    Air Canada knows. Points redeemers are first in line for downgrades, which happens a lot on AC.

    1. Shaheed Ellington Guest

      Thank you

    2. ChampagneSocialist Guest

      Lucky's article refers to FAs (i.e. cabin crew) and how in his experience cash/points pax get the same treatment once they have boarded the plane. This is consistent with my experience also. However, that is not to say ground staff or the airline CS more generally won't treat you differently. For instance QR is infamous for its differential lounge policy between upgraded/non-upgraded pax (though not between cash Vs points pax per se). On FT Forums...

      Lucky's article refers to FAs (i.e. cabin crew) and how in his experience cash/points pax get the same treatment once they have boarded the plane. This is consistent with my experience also. However, that is not to say ground staff or the airline CS more generally won't treat you differently. For instance QR is infamous for its differential lounge policy between upgraded/non-upgraded pax (though not between cash Vs points pax per se). On FT Forums there isa recent horror story where a points pax was first in line to be offloaded on an oversold flight and was explicitly told that reason.

    3. HerbJerb Guest

      The ground crews know (and treat you like trash, as I recently learned) but I don’t think the crews know anything beyond your status.

  24. Dick Bupkiss Guest

    Flying on an award flight, you are still a PAYING CUSTOMER. The airline was paid for your flight, you are not a freeloader! They may not have been paid in cash, but they WERE paid in some currency. No need to feel like a 2nd (or 3rd) class citizen.

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ChampagneSocialist Guest

Could it just be that UA and AA have a treating-elites-like-trash problem generally? ;)

4
AirlineVeteran Guest

Actually--with my airline, while we cannot see who is on a "paid" ticket and who is redeeming miles, we can see our airline/alliance ELITE passengers. And for us, they are to receive additional recognition (ie, name usage, personal welcome onboard, note, meal choice first...) And regardless, if you are in my premium cabin, you will receive personalize, thoughtful service. Because...like most flight attendants, I too am a mileage traveler...so most of us do indeed recognize what reward redemptions mean!

4
Dick Bupkiss Guest

Flying on an award flight, you are still a PAYING CUSTOMER. <b>The airline was paid for your flight, you are not a freeloader!</b> They may not have been paid in cash, but they WERE paid in some currency. No need to feel like a 2nd (or 3rd) class citizen.

4
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