Rules on Booking Award Flights for Other People Rules on Booking Award Flights for Other People

Rules on Booking Award Flights for Other People

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One of the highlights of collecting points and miles is helping friends and family experience luxury travel without the luxury price tag. In recent years, however, the gradual deterioration of legacy frequent flyer programs has prompted a surge in the use of international and less familiar domestic programs. As an example, The Best Points & Miles to get to Hawaii involve not using American, Delta, or United, but rather their partners.

Flexible rewards currencies like Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, Marriott Rewards Points, and American Express Membership Rewards have made it easy to transfer points to multiple airline partners, but it’s easy to get caught out if you aren't familiar with the rules. Unlike U.S. frequent flyer programs, which allow you to book award flights for anyone, many overseas programs place restrictions on who you can book awards for using your miles. That said, if you're only redeeming your points/miles for your immediate family (parents + children), you won't have a problem redeeming your miles for them.

JetBlue Aircraft
JetBlue TrueBlue offers the best of both worlds, allowing you to pool miles with family members and also book award flights for anybody with your combined miles

Transferring flexible points to airline partners is final, and there is no worse feeling than moving hundreds of thousands of points to an airline partner only to realize you can only book awards for immediate family members.

With that in mind, we’ve created the table below covering restrictions on booking award tickets for other people using airline miles, along with policies for each carrier on pooling your miles into a single account.

Why Not Transfer Miles to Someone Else to Book an Award?

Except for Qantas Frequent Flyer, which allows family members to transfer up to 600K points to one another for free each year, frequent flyer programs typically charge between 1 and 2 cents per mile to transfer between accounts. Considering that many airline miles have an average redeemable value of around 1.6 cents each (value determined by what you might otherwise pay in cash for the ticket), this makes transferring miles to someone else’s account, in all but the most extreme circumstances, not worth the cost.

The good news is, it’s relatively straightforward to redeem miles out of your account for other people provided you understand the program rules and don’t mind a bit of planning.

Airline Frequent Flyer ProgramRestrictions If Booking Award Flights For Other PeopleFamily Pooling/Sharing
American Airlines AAdvantageNoneNo
Alaska Mileage PlanNoneNo
Delta SkyMilesNoneNo
Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMilesNoneShare Miles free if member receiving miles holds Hawaiian co-brand credit or debit card
JetBlue TrueBlueNoneJetBlue Family Pooling - 2 Adults + 5 Children
United MileagePlusNoneNo
Southwest Rapid RewardsNoneNo
Air Canada AeroplanNoneNo
Air France/KLM Flying BlueNoneNo
ANA Mileage ClubCan only redeem for ANA Family Account (AFA) membersOnly for members residing outside Japan, can nominate between 2-8 family members within 2 degrees of kinship to AFA. Registration fee of 1,000 miles per member.
Asiana ClubOnly registered immediate family membersMax 5 family members for Asiana Club Family Mileage Plan - Requires documentation proving family relations
British Airways Executive ClubCan book awards for members of Household Account plus up to 5 individuals on Family & Friends list. No restrictions if you don't use a Household Account.Up to 7 members living at same address can share a Household Account and pool Avios
Cathay Pacific Asia MilesRedeem for members in your nominated Redemption Group - first 5 nominees are free and then $50 each time a nominee is replacedNo
EgyptAir PlusNoneMax 5 family members for EgyptAir Plus - Requires proof of relationship
Emirates SkywardsNoneNominate up to 8 family members for Emirates Skywards Family Bonus account
Etihad GuestNoneUp to 8 family members can share an Etihad Guest Family Account
JAL Mileage BankOnly family members within the second degree of kinshipUp to 9 members in JAL Family Club. Primary account holder must reside outside of Japan - 1,000 mile fee per family member plus 1,000 mile renewal fee every 5 years
Korean Air SKYPASSOnly registered immediate family membersMax 5 family members for Korean Air Family Plan - Requires proof of relationship
Lufthansa Miles & MoreNoneNo
Qatar Privilege ClubNoneQatar Privilege Club Family Programme allows up to 9 family members to pool miles
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyerUp to 5 Redemption Nominees. Nominees must stay on account for minimum 6 months - free to add people but costs between $0-$30 to remove dependent on elite statusNo

Book Award Flights for Anyone Using Your Miles

The most flexible programs when it comes to booking awards for others, these frequent flyer programs allow you to redeem miles for anybody. This includes all U.S. carrier rewards programs, the three big Gulf carriers, European programs, and although not included in the table, flexible rewards currencies like Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards.

You can redeem flexible rewards currencies for anybody via their respective travel portals. For example, if you hold the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can redeem Ultimate Rewards points for flights via the Chase Travel Portal at a rate of 1.25¢ per point, and those flights can be for any person.

Book Award Flights for Specified People on Your Account

Singapore KrisFlyer and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles only allow you to redeem miles for people specified in your account. You can nominate a limited number of people (don't need to be family), and there is typically a minimum duration of six months a member must stay attached to your account. KrisFlyer and Asia Miles also charge a hefty fee to replace nominees to discourage any foul play. If you have a BA Executive Club Household Account setup to pool Avios, you can only use the pooled miles for family members or up to 5 additional people in your Family & Friends List.

Book Award Flights for a Limited Number of Family Members

The most restrictive policies are, unfortunately, reserved for Asian frequent flyer programs that offer some of the best sweet spots in award travel. Both Korean SKYPASS and Asiana Club only allow you to redeem miles for immediate family members and restrict you to 5 linked members per account. They also require documentation to prove family or spousal relations. ANA Mileage Club and JAL Mileage Bank limit the booking of award flights to family members within two degrees of kinship.

JAL Mileage Bank Family Pooling
JAL allows you to redeem miles for family members within two degrees of kinship.

Final Thoughts

The ability to book award tickets for anybody using miles from your account is a feature where U.S. frequent flyer programs provide better value than their foreign counterparts. If you want to take advantage of the outstanding value you can extract from Asian frequent flyer programs like Asiana Club, Korean SKYPASS, and ANA Mileage Club, it’s essential to set up your account ahead of time, add your family members, and ensure all documentation is sent in to prove the relationship prior to transferring points.

As always, if there're any programs we’ve missed or you have any questions, please reach out in the comments.

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  • Can I book an awards ticket for myself, and also have my husband book an awards flight for my child on the same booking as me? I have enough miles for my ticket, but not for my son, so we want to use my husband’s miles for the second ticket. He’s only 4, so we assume we wouldn’t be allowed to buy his ticket separately. Thanks!

  • Becky Owens says:

    If I only have enough points to cover one leg of a round trip flight on an international trip, will I be able to book my flight online if I need to pay for the return leg of the roundtrip flight using a credit card (which is not an Citi credit card)?

    • JT Genter says:

      It depends on how you’re booking the flights. If the flights are cheap, you may want to book both legs through Citi’s travel portal. That way you can apply as many points as you wish to the booking and pay for the rest with your credit card.

  • Can you do one similar to this for hotels please?

  • I’m trying to use my AA miles to book a flight for a friend. I’ve heard that they may be asked to show the credit card used to book the ticket when they fly (international flight) so we’re trying to use their credit card to pay the taxes and fees for the award ticket. Problem is I’m getting an error message that the name on the credit card does not match the name on the AAdvantage account. Is there a way around this? I really want to avoid any problems at the airport for my friend.

  • Katie Wilkinson says:

    Wow! This is very important to me. I always thought you could book an award flight with every airline. Thanks for setting me straight.

  • I thought that any freq flier accounts could do anything any other ones could. Low and behold, I find that not all freq flier accounts are equal. Really I need to stop assuming…like the saying goes, “when you assume, you make an ass out of you and me.” I’ve been doing that a lot! lol! I think I will be trying to stick to US carrier freq flier accounts. I like that I can transfer from Chase UR to my husbands account, since I have him as an authorized user.

  • Lots of good information here. Nice to know the rules for each airline. I agree to try to use partners for best availability. Very tough onAA & UA

  • Great article. I thought united charges transfer fees though.

  • I’m not sure why you write that AAdvantage doesn’t have restrictions, I booked for other people and my account got shut down.

    • AA doesn’t have restrictions — if they shut your account down, we can only assume it was because they believed you were violating the terms of their program. Have you reached out to them to discuss?

    • Earnest Green says:

      WOW! Thanks for the heads up! I was about to book a flight for a dear family friend and this would have been so embarrassing if they arrived at the airport and couldn’t fly! So glad I read this

  • Awesome post – thanks! Interesting to learn about the pooling option with Jetblue.

  • I suppose the main reason for all these rules about who you can redeem for is to stop people collecting/buying/trading miles and setting themselves up as a discount travel agent.

  • So it seems that more restrictions apply to Asia Airlines.
    It could be a way of protecting customers by someone stealing the miles from their account.
    What do you think? Is this a possible reason?

  • I transferred the last of my Membership reward points to Delta a while ago in anticipation of purchasing Delta award tickets on China Airlines for my parents. Their plans changed so I didn’t end up buying the tickets. Then Delta raised the miles required for tickets on Skyteam partners to asia, and it will require 15,000 miles more per roundtrip. Now I don’t have enough miles to buy the tickets and don’t have more miles to transfer from anywhere. I’m stuck.

  • May be slightly off topic, but how do the people that offer Award booking services book tickets for their clients? Do they call the airlines and pretend they are the person with the miles?

  • Gary Gunas says:

    Brilliant! I never knew this! I have a query about Chase Reward Points: can I transfer them to a friend’s airline miles account, Singapore for instance? My friends and I use miles & points exclusively for free Suite Class flights, which are worth vastly more than the 1.25 cents they’re worth in cash when BUYING tickets via the Portal. Cheers from London!

    • You cannot. There are strict rules to how you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards. You could, however, transfer to your Singapore account and then book your friend once you’ve added them as a nominee in your KrisFlyer account.

      • Gary Gunas says:

        Oh, of course — sorry to waste your time with that obvious solution! Keep up the great work — love your site !!!

  • joel kling says:

    How do the airlines know who is in your immediate family? Last names are not always transferred.

    • Depending on the program, they’ll ask for proof of familial relationship. That said, how you could prove brother/sister is something that baffles me.

    • Asiana/ Korean are Korea bases airlines. Koreans have documents by Government that shows your immediate family members. This is where is the proof of family comes from. I assume Japan has the similar system.

  • Transferring makes sense only if you need to top up somebody’s account, I agree.

  • I didn’t even know that I could book for someone else. Thanks for this information.

  • Jacqueline parsons says:

    It’s good to see under the bad publicity that BA have been getting recently that their rules are one of the best on your chart for using miles for non family members.

  • So, for BA, I don’t have to have a household account or friends and family list in order to book awards for other people?

  • Be aware that whoever’s account is used can make any changes they want to the booking without notifying the traveller, including cancellation. I found this out the hard way when my then husband and I made a booking for me using our pooled points in his account. Several months later when we had separated and I went to check in for my flight, I was told that it had been cancelled the day before by the account holder. I had to find my own way home at the last minute, PLUS I never got to see any of those pooled points as they all got credited back to his account. So he now has platinum status and enough points to fly around the world in business, and I got left with nothing because he wasn’t willing to do a transfer back to my account. The airlines told me that this is the normal process and there was nothing they could do about it. In the future, I won’t be pooling points or allowing anyone else to book me a flight using their account. I’m sure this isn’t a particularly common scenario, but after being burned, I won’t be taking that risk again.

  • The family pooling and the 3 times Amazon points really has me making a campaign to switch our allegiance from Southwest to JetBlue at our house. Same book any seat, any time, but a much more upscale in-flight experience.

  • Very useful breakdown of options and how to effectively use miles. Thank you.

  • Thanks for this article, and especially the chart! I’m not sure about the rules for redeeming miles for others, but I do know that Virgin Australia’s Velocity FF program does allow family pooling, since my husband and I use that.

  • Great review! I’ve been wondering about using my AA miles to book flights for other folks.. I’ll have to try that next time..

  • Sometimes it is beneficial to transfer miles. If I have 30,000 miles and my wife has 20,000 and we both want to take a flight that requires 25,000 miles, I will transfer 5,000 miles to her ( at a cost of $70 – $100) so we can both fly almost free.

  • Very ambitious post…

    With BA, you can book awards for anybody. You have detailed the exception, which is a Household Account. So if you don’t bother with a HHA, you can book awards for anybody.

    Another potentially interesting element to detail is whether the member has to pay any taxes / surcharges, or whether the passenger can pay them…

  • I was just thinking about doing a transfer. Thank you for this very, very valuable information.

  • This is really useful information. I’ll refer to this when enrolling for foreign frequently flyer programs

  • Very useful, thanks! Indeed transferring miles is the worst policy of all since most FFPs are not very restrictive on award booking rules.

  • Amber Hanson says:

    Nice overview. This is on reason why flexible currencies are generally better to collect than specific airline currencies.

  • I have used AA and UA miles to book domestic award flights for family members. The difficulty is finding saver awards.

  • Thank you, Someone just asked me about this. And, while it’s not flights, I’ll add that Amtrack Guest Rewards can be used to purchase tickets for other people too.

  • jason picker says:

    Very useful.
    Back in my early days of flying, I made the error of transferring miles from my account to my spouse.

  • Thanks and bookmarked. This chart will become very useful to me in the future.