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This might be a ridiculous act but I still consider it. You purchase a return ticket and go to the country, and while you stay there you change your mind and buy another ticket to another country. I think in this case most airlines won't get you mileage unless you actually get on the flight, even if you already purchased it and not refund.

However, what if you intentionally check in as if you get on the flight (and of course not claim the baggage) and just leave from there? I would like to know how airlines determine if the passenger actually got on the flight.

Let me add the requirement that the ticket cannot be refundable. If it is refundable it is better to just refund it than acquire the mileage...

  • If you buy the ticket with the airline's affiliated credit card (if they offer one), you can earn miles for the actual purchase, whether you fly or not, or indeed, whether the tickets are for someone else. These are usually just standard miles and typically don't count toward frequent flyer status with the airline, though the exact terms will depend on the loyalty program and the credit card involved. The actual miles for the flight generally require that you be on the plane. – Zach Lipton Jun 3 '16 at 18:10
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    @ZachLipton That is interesting to hear, though I won't use airline cards since my Amex is flexible enough to transfer mileage/reward points to up to 15 airlines, which I prefer to one airline. – Blaszard Jun 3 '16 at 18:14
  • The key term in airline mileage programs is frequent flyer, not frequent buyer. If you don't actually fly you aren't a 'flyer'. – user13044 Jun 4 '16 at 1:30
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No, you will not get frequent flier credit if you do not fly. Irrespective of whether you check-in or not. Even if you go on board and then decide not to fly, you will be unloaded from the manifest and will not get credit*. Airlines are required to know exactly who is on board for a multitude of reasons, some of which are regulatory, and some of which are for accounting purposes. Imagine what would happen if the aircraft crashes and they're not sure who is on board.

* Mistakes happen of course, so it is possible for you to get credit for phantom flights just as much as it is possible to get no credit for flights you have flown. I've received plenty of them!

Update responding to comments:

A bit about why airlines don't allow mileage accrual without taking a flight.

Taking a flight purely for the purpose of a gaining the benefits tangential to the actual journey is termed Mileage Running. People do it because in certain circumstances, it could be possible to earn more benefits than the cost of the flight. This may be in the various different types of miles earned - redeemable (RDM) or qualifyfing (EQM) or segments (EQS) or points (EQP) and in some cases, e.g. BA or VS, Tier Points. Additionally, as Tom points out, there may be very real benefits associated with earning higher frequent flyer status.

If people could do this without actually flying, there would be no such thing as a mileage run any more. Since you actually have to fly, you can't pounce on a cheap deal from LAX to LAS if you are currently at home in London or Paris. Even though the airlines like you to buy tickets for flights you don't take, they don't want you to benefit from that otherwise it would likely screw up their revenue management, amongst other things.

Some links:
Mileage run - Quora
Thread about gaining miles without flying on flyertalk
Another one on insideflyer

And this one which means this thread is a duplicate...
Can I claim miles if I bought the Tickets but didn't take the flight?

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    This implies that the billing/rewards department is tied in real time with the manifests. That may simply be more expensive of an integration than is necessary, especially considering that manifest information may require extra levels of security. Might be simpler for them to only track the billing. Do you have a source for the claim that you lose your miles if you don't fly? – corsiKa Jun 3 '16 at 21:08
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    It isn't in real-time. You don't usually get the flight credit until a day or two after flying. I've checked-in for several flights in the forlorn hope that I might get credit for not flying and not been successful. If you could get credit without flying it would allow people to game the frequent flyer elite status system to get status by flying really cheap segments. I'm afraid it doesn't work. – Berwyn Jun 3 '16 at 21:11
  • Real time or not, the security poses a big problem. And gaming the system for reward points seems like a win for the airline, honestly. Selling tickets = good. There's no way you could "buy cheap legs" enough to make it more valuable in rewards... Even if a couple did it, the natural supply and demand would drive up those cheap legs. I'm still inclined to not take the logic presented here at face value without a cited source from an airline. It just doesn't add up. – corsiKa Jun 3 '16 at 23:36
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    @corsiKa - Actually rewards can be more valuable than the cheap tickets, as depending on the airline, climbing up one tier in elite status could provide many 100s of dollars worth of upgrades to first class or enhanced economy seats, baggage allowances, lounge privileges, etc. It is not all about getting miles to swap in for a free ticket (I would hazard a guess a majority of people looking to maximize miles are aiming for status not free tickets) – user13044 Jun 4 '16 at 1:27
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    @corsiKa take a look at this example: flyertalk.com/forum/21764310-post16.html or on a map: gcmap.com/mapui?P=DFW-IAH-LHR-JNB-LHR-DFW – Berwyn Jun 4 '16 at 2:04
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When you board the plane, the ground staff scans your boarding pass, indicating in the computer systems that you've boarded the plane.

One obvious consequence of failing to board the the plane is that the airline will remove any luggage you have checked before allowing the plane to depart. Another consequence that may be less obvious, but that we can nonetheless assume, is that you will not receive any credit in any loyalty program for that flight.

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