I realize that this varies from program to program and depends on various factors. But just as a general rule of thumb what is the ratio of miles you have to pay to free miles in a typical program?

For example, if I fly from round trip New York to LA coach every weekend on American, about how many times will I have to do that before I get a free trip?


With some addition research I answered the question myself. The typical ratio is betwen 10:1 and 20:1 with 12:1 to 15:1 being most typical. In other words you generally need to make between 12 and 15 flights before you get one free flight.

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    Would also depend on whether you fly economy, business, or first, and if you have any status (as there are multipliers...). I think there are probably too many answers for this...
    – Mark Mayo
    Aug 22 '15 at 13:24
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    Also varies a lot between between both airlines and programs. Crediting a cheap AA flight to AA will give a different number of miles to crediting the same flight to BA or CX or QR!
    – Gagravarr
    Aug 22 '15 at 14:15
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    @LemuelGulliver Like Mark said, it varies a lot. This is true even within Delta. Delta flights earn miles based on dollars spent now, so a more expensive ticket will get you a free ticket faster than a less expensive ticket will. Also, their miles are worth a lot more (in dollar terms) if you redeem them for long flights and/or higher classes of service. Additionally, the multipliers Mark mentioned also affect Delta. Non-Medallion members get 5x ticket price in miles, Silver gets 7x, Gold gets 8x, Platinum gets 9x, Diamond gets 11x. All of this is different if you buy from a partner airline.
    – reirab
    Aug 23 '15 at 5:32
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    @LemuelGulliver The point everyone else (including me) was making is that it depends entirely on what sorts of flights you commonly take and, thus, can and will vary dramatically from one person to the next, which is why the question got put on hold as "too broad." There's not really one "typical" value in any meaningful sense for most programs. Southwest is an exception to that, where you will get exactly $1 worth of airfare for every $11.67 you spend if all flights are booked in the "wanna get away?" class of fares.
    – reirab
    Aug 23 '15 at 19:50
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    @LemuelGulliver Specifically with Delta, if you normally book $100 tickets, it's going to take you a lot longer to get to 25,000 miles than if you normally book $500 tickets. On the other than, when you book a $5,000 trans-pac business class ticket, you get more than enough for a free domestic round-trip with just one flight. It depends entirely on what is 'typical' for you, which varies dramatically from person to person and area to area.
    – reirab
    Aug 23 '15 at 19:53

Different airline have different policies on mile-gain and redeeming miles.

Generally speaking, you can gain higher percentage of miles when you book a higher-class flight, and book a "flexible" flight also gain more than "Saver" flight. Redeem miles on higher class usually is relatively cheaper, for example, redeeming a first class by miles usually cost 3-5 times than a economic class, but it cost more than 10 times by cash.

Moreover, transfer miles from credit card points or membership integration makes the rule more complex.

The blog One Mile At A Time provides a subject valuation of miles and hotel and card points.

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