Most airlines have frequent flyer programs that accrue miles you can redeem for free flights and upgrades. If you're a little short on miles for your ticket, you can buy miles directly from the airline. USA Today provides the following step-by-step guide for redeeming free flights and upgrades:
- Log onto your frequent-flier program website using your frequent-flier account number or user name and password. If you haven't signed up for web access, register your frequent-flier account number, name and address, and select a user name and password, if prompted. Some programs, such as Delta, provide a password upon account number issuance, so check your membership materials.
- Select the option to view your account information from the airline home screen. Some programs, such as American Airlines AAdvantage, provide account information on the home screen, while others, such as United Airlines MileagePlus, provide a tab or a link for "My mileage summary."
- Write down the number of miles in your account.
- Select the link for an awards chart, usually located under "Redeem miles" or as an option under the frequent-flier program page (see Resources for sample links). Confirm that you have enough miles for your trip during the time frame you want. Most programs have blackout dates when miles can't be used, as well as low "saver" season and "standard" high season dates, during which the number of miles you need will vary. Frequent-flier programs also have advance booking requirements and associated booking fees.
- Click the option to book your trip using miles. This option might be available on the online reservation form or under "Redeem miles" on the frequent-flier program page.
- Type your airport code in the "From" field, type your destination airport in the "To" field and select your desired departure and return dates. Select the type of award (if the option is available) and the class of service, such as economy, business or first class, then click the "Search" or "Submit" button.
- Choose the desired flights for departure, return and connection(s) if applicable, and click the "Continue" or "Select" button.
- Type the passenger's name and traveler information in the corresponding fields and click the "Confirm" or "Continue" button. Click the "Select seat" link if available to request a seating assignment.
- Review the mileage deduction from your account and click the "Confirm" or "Continue" button to authorize award redemption.
- Confirm that the miles were deducted from your frequent-flier account and that the e-tickets were issued via email. If you book award travel for yourself, you can click the options to print an itinerary and e-ticket receipt.