Why I Didn’t Request Miles For My British Airways Flights

Filed Under: Advice, Alaska

A bit over a week ago I posted about my mileage conundrum, where I was trying to decide whether to credit my British Airways flights between San Francisco and Rome to American AAdvantage or Alaska Mileage Plan.

British Airways partners with both programs, and I’ve already requalified for Executive Platinum status with American for the year.


As I explained, there’s merit to crediting to both programs:

  • If crediting to American AAdvantage I’d earn marginally more redeemable miles, and I’d end the year at over 150,000 elite qualifying miles, getting me an extra two systemwide upgrades
  • If crediting to Alaska Mileage Plan I’d earn MVP Gold status, which would get me useful benefits when flying Alaska, and the ability to change and cancel their awards for free

We flew from San Francisco to Rome on Friday, and even at that point I wasn’t sure which program I wanted to credit to, since I didn’t actually know with which program I’d get more value out of at year end.

Then something rather obvious dawned on me — you don’t have to decide where to credit your miles when you fly. This should have been obvious all along, as it gives me so much flexibility. So I decided to simply fly without a frequent flyer number.

By not putting a frequent flyer number on my reservation I can request retroactive mileage credit with either American AAdvantage or Alaska. Heck, I could then even easily credit some segments to AAdvantage and some to Mileage Plan, depending on exactly where I end the year in terms of elite mileage. I can’t believe I don’t typically do this for my paid premium cabin tickets, as it’s a no brainer.

Now, it’s worth noting this doesn’t always work. For example, I can’t get a complimentary upgrade on American and then still credit to another program. But when you’re outright paying for the cabin you’re flying, there’s no reason not to. I still get oneworld Emerald benefits by showing my Executive Platinum card, so that doesn’t really change anything.

Of course ideally you don’t want to wait too long, since you’re potentially delaying the amount of time before you actually earn status. However, in my case I’m not actually flying Alaska anytime soon, so there aren’t really any differences whether I’m MVP Gold now or later.

British-Airways-777-Club-World - 1

Bottom line

If you’re someone who pays for the cabin you’re flying (rather than upgrading) and don’t know where to credit your miles, then it could make sense to just not credit them anywhere. Most airlines let you request retroactive mileage credit, which can be a great way to get the miles you want at a later point. Alaska Mileage Plan and American AAdvantage let you request missing mileage credit for up to 11 and 12 months, respectively.

So while I wouldn’t use this as a strategy for the entire year, it can be great towards the end of the year when you’re trying to strategically credit flights to maximize your perks.

Does anyone else make a habit of deciding where to credit miles after travel, as a means of trying to optimize mileage earning?

  1. “when you’re outright paying for the cabin you’re flying, there’s no reason not to.”

    Other than the PITA of requesting mileage and then following up to make sure it actually posts…

  2. Yeah. Try getting the request denied from them being unable to find your ticket.

    Also you lose out on elite status recognition on board and potential
    op up opportunities.

  3. I’m usually down to the wire at end of year, so I’ve held back some credits to make sure I could keep elite in both Alaska and AA. It works fine. Note that American doesn’t change status until February or so (can’t remember the new rule) but Alaska promptly changes status on the first week of January. It’s taken up to 6 weeks to credit to account, during which time you don’t get to use the benefits. Last year I was able to find a specialist in customer service who expedited in 10 days but it took a bit of work. But yes, it’s a strategy that can be useful.

  4. lol… and all of it just because you cant make up your indecisive mind…

    The best thing to help you is to see which program flies you to your next destination for less, and credit it there.

  5. @moe that assumes you don’t already have enough miles for planned travel, as I’m guessing Lucky does.

    It’s worth nothing this time frame isn’t the same for every carrier. I don’t think BAEC let’s you retroactively request credit as far out as a year, for instance.

  6. by adopting this strategy, you end up not being able to pick the good BA seats (64A etc in CW, Row 1 in CE) and which results in complaining about the journey because the seat pitch was too tight, had someone jumping over me etc. I usually chose my airline credit partner when I am booking the flight, which works for me and most people I think.

  7. Not something I’m comfortable with – I guess it’s the Ghost of FF Programs Past coming back to haunt me with the nightmares of not getting mileage credit after the fact.

    Take the AA credit – the SWUs are worth it.

  8. I just hope that when you do decide to request credit that you get the credit you rightfully should. I gave been burned myself and after multiple emails and phone calls just given up. I don’t think that its good advice to regularly wait. At least not for the average person.

  9. Took 30-60 days to get a few QR flights credited back to AA, even had to go back and provide them a receipt. Major PITA and not worth the headache for me. Would rather credit on the front end and not play the waiting game with the airline.

  10. I booked two tickets on Delta.com and selected to credit the miles to Alaska during the booking. Three months later, no miles were posted. Contacted Delta. One response said “show us your Alaska statement and we will credit the miles to your Delta FF account” and the other said “show us the boarding pass”. Too bad I halready threw them away. So even if you entered the FF number, you should keep the boarding passes until you see the miles.

  11. I know this is supposed to work, but my experience trying to get credit for flights is that it has always been a pain. For me, I’d much rather fly with a FF number.

  12. Agree with others. This is 10x more complex and and more likely to not work in the end than just entering your FF number up front. You will need to keep this in your working memory for weeks/months until the miles are hopefully credited.

  13. Be careful with AA SWUs. I was going to fly to EP this year to get upgrades to use next April for DFW-PEK/PVG-DFW but AA says the flights aren’t available for use of the upgrades even though the business class cabins are wide open. It seems that if the flights aren’t available at the Discounted Business Class award level, then they won’t honor the SWUs for that flight…

  14. There is an increasing trend among BA agents not to allow you to “double dip” (i.e. fly with one particular/no FF no in your booking, but make use of benefits from status held elsewhere by showing your card), so you might find that at one point on your journey an agent “helpfully” puts your AA number into the booking for you, in order to allow you Emerald benefits.

    As others have said, it’s also a bit silly not to have a OW Emerald no in your booking on BA flights – the seat selection benefit alone is worth it imho, plus BA are getting better at consistently looking after Emeralds on board (e.g. visit from the CSD, maybe some sort of extra amenity).

  15. I rather cover myself with honey next to a grizzly bear carrying a bee’s nest than to deal with airline customer service. It’s been a nightmare this year.

  16. So you waited until OLCI to select seats??

    Doesn’t sound right seeing as how obsessive compulsive you are about such things.

    Perhaps if you chose one of the good seats on BA you’d have a better opinion of it.

  17. This was my strategy since QR joined OneWorld (I’m based in Europe and most of my flights were to the east) and I switched to BA/AA. I keep a Google Doc with all the ticket numbers, reservations, flight numbers and I claim the miles about 3-4 months later when I have the whole year figured out. Last year BA decided there is something fishy going on and they put my account in audit. I had to mail them copies of boarding passes and eventually they restored my account, but the process was slow.

    Is not always that simple to fly without an FF number or the change it. In early Aug I started a RTW ticket ex-CPT and I had to fight with BA agents to remove my BA number from the reservation and that was impossible. I have no idea how the BA number ended up on my reservation, maybe when I asked them to change some flights and I called the Gold Line. My AA number was already in the reservation. All they could do was to replace my number with “AA” so on the boarding pass I had “BA/AA CLUB WORLD” written. I claimed the miles on AA just fine and I’m on track to renew my AA ExecPlat.

  18. Seriously, folks, calm down. Requesting mileage credit after the flight worked just fine back in the old days. In fact, that’s the way it was done… off the boarding pass you kept unless you were so paper averse that you must toss/misplace every boarding pass once done. LOL. You guys fret more than my 90 year old grandma.

  19. As someone noted, most BA agents will now prevent you from double dipping (i.e. use elite status of one airline and credit to another one). Then in BA, no advance seat booking and more importantly exponentially bigger chances of not getting any credit. Qatar would no block empty seats (in 777 J and if not full), etc

    It is a silly advice with a tabloid headline. Also, I wonder if it is not against one world rules

  20. I did this once when I booked a codeshare and wasn’t sure if it would credit to the program I wanted. The flight was on Airline A, but was marketed on a codeshare through Airline B. I wanted to credit to Airline C, but Airline C didn’t recognize Airline B’s codeshare as a valid partner flight.

    I flew with no FF and requested credit a month later by emailing boarding passes. It worked. My backup would have been to just credit to Airline A or B. I didn’t want the risk of initially listing Airline C and having the miles be denied and then losing the chance to credit somewhere else because there was a FF listed on the original ticket.

  21. Since the change with the SWU’s what is the policy regarding granting additional SWU’s after reaching higher mileage thresholds? Has that changed as well? What are the tranches? I am trying to figure out some similar issues and I wanted to better understand the new policy since it is not published anywhere…


  22. This is your job and you have ample time to call,email,fax airlines we are busy in our daily job and we got no time to waste,i have a cheque to cash and i cant make up my mind to which bank to deposit it,i can still do my shopping with my credit card and have ample time to which bank to cash it.

  23. Back in the 1980’s, FF programs did not check with each other, so you could double-dip or even triple-dip.

    I recall flying with BA and getting the miles on three US airlines.

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