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The number of miles you need for a free flight depends on several factors including the loyalty program, destination, and distance. Many airlines employ dynamic pricing, which can make the award flight prices vary by time of day and travel date. Here are several examples of how many miles you need to book an award flight.
The Miles You Need For Free Flight
When you’re trying to determine how many miles you’ll need for a free flight, it’s good to have dates, destinations, and departing airports in mind. Just like prices fluctuate depending on the time of year you travel, so too does the mileage cost also fluctuate. For instance, you can expect that summer travel prices will be higher compared to other times of the year.
Here are a few sample itineraries that can get you to several places, including Europe. Remember, you can also get one of the best credit card offers if you want to earn a bunch of points/miles quickly and easily.
Los Angeles to New York
A quintessential cross-country route, Los Angeles to New York offers competitive rates between the legacy and discount airlines. Most airlines operate from LAX, but it can be worth comparing rates between La Guardia (LGA) and John F. Kennedy (JFK) for price differences.
- American Airlines: 6,000 to 9,500 miles (main cabin)/ 16,000 to 25,000 miles (business/first)
- Delta Air Lines: 11,500 to 14,500 (main cabin)/ 43,000 to 56,000 (first class)
- United Airlines: 12,400 to 15,000 (main cabin)/ 54,000 to 80,000 (business/first)
- Southwest Airlines: 16,893 to 20,444 (Anytime)/ 26,930 to 27,779 (Business Select)
- JetBlue: 8,700 to 12,800 (main cabin)/ 80,300 to 121,300 (Mint)
Note: For this comparison and those below, award flight prices were retrieved on July 21, 2023, for travel dates between September 25 and October 16, 2023.
Delta Air Lines also lets you redeem SkyMiles for basic economy fares. These require fewer points but also include fewer perks.
Los Angeles to Chicago
Here is an example of how many miles you need for a free flight to get from the West Coast to America’s Heartland.
- American Airlines: 6,000 to 8,500 miles (main cabin)/ 16,000 to 24,500 miles (business/first)
- Delta Air Lines: 11,500 to 14,000 (main cabin)/ 39,000 to 52,000 (first class)
- United Airlines: 12,500 to 15,000 (main cabin)/ 49,000 to 79,400 (business/first)
- Southwest Airlines: 7,265 to 11,951 (Anytime)/ 17,302 to 21,998 (Business Select)
- JetBlue: 16,600 to 18,700 (main cabin)/ 79,300 to 156,400 (Mint)
Using Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards is the most affordable fare for this route, which usually lands at Chicago’s Midway Airport (MDW). This airport is the smaller of the two in Chicago, but it can be worth checking prices when Chicago is your final destination, and you have some flexibility with getting around town.
In most cases, you can hop on a plane to O’Hare Airport (ORD) where you might catch a connection to an international destination or continue your journey across the United States.
You can fly in the main cabin or a premium cabin, so 60,000 miles are worth are fair amount on this sample itinerary.
Los Angeles to Honolulu
Award flights from the U.S. West Coast tend to be the most affordable when going to Hawaii as it’s a shorter distance and there is competition from discount airlines.
- American Airlines: 20,000 to 22,500 miles (main cabin)/ 50,000 to 59,000 miles (business/first)
- Delta Air Lines: 12,500 to 23,500 (main cabin)/ 167,500 to 267,500 (first class)
- United Airlines: 15,900 to 25,000 (main cabin)/ 48,600 to 75,000 (business/first)
- Southwest Airlines: 11,866 to 16,845 (Anytime)/ 22,653 to 27,382 (Business Select)
- Alaska Airlines: 10,000 to 15,000 (Main)/ 40,000 to 95,000 (First)
For this comparison, we’re substituting Alaska Airlines in place of JetBlue, which doesn’t serve this destination.
When possible, try to book a flight through Alaska or Southwest to redeem fewer points. In addition, this can be an excellent route for the Southwest Companion Pass®, as your travel companion’s ticket expense is only fees and taxes when you book your fare with points or cash.
Miles Need for a Free Flight to Europe: New York to Rome
With Europe travel back in full swing, it’s also worth comparing how many miles are needed to get across the Atlantic from New York City to Rome, Italy. Here are the miles you’ll need for a free flight to Europe.
- American Airlines: 30,000 to 54,000 miles (main cabin)/ 400,000 miles (business/first)
- Delta Air Lines: 58,000 to 70,000 (main cabin)/ 360,000 to 375,000 (first class)
- United Airlines: 37,200 to 44,000 (main cabin)/ 155,00 to 295,000 (business/first)
Flights can require more points when your itinerary originates from the Central or Western United States. For example, you may need from 3,000 to 10,000 more miles to fly from Los Angeles instead.
Summary of How Many Miles You Need for a Flight
In conclusion, you can see that the miles you’ll need for a free flight aren’t exorbitant. The best airline for a free flight can depend on which one offers the best prices and travel times for your home airport or preferred route. From there, you can use one of the best credit cards for airline miles to earn more and enjoy other benefits to defray your travel costs.