-Even if they don't count toward elite status, more miles more benefits. Use credit cards that earn miles on your preferred airline; stay at hotels and book rental cars that earn miles on your airline of choice.
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-Seats to European cruise ports book quickly in summer. Try booking a free ticket to another city that's easily accessible by train or a discount airline. And run the match on those cruise lines' air-included deals, which can save serious dollars in high season.
-Want to use the miles to upgrade? Consider the cost of miles, co-pays and the initial cost of your ticket before you act. It may end up costing more to upgrade a cheap economy ticket than it would to buy a higher-priced ticket that allows upgrades with miles only.
-Most airline mileage programs will let you buy additional miles for a fee; some will let you transfer miles from one account to another. Check the math carefully before you press the "go" button.
-Farebuzz.com (for good deals on business class tickets)
Best airline award programs:
IdeaWorksCompany, a consultant on travel loyalty programs, ranks airline programs for ease in booking entry-level award tickets in the annual Switchfly Reward Seat Availability Survey. In 2012, it ranked Southwest Airlines and Air Berlin as tied in first place. British Airways, United Airlines and AirTran were noted for most improved programs. American ranked 19th, dropping by the highest percentage of any airline. The survey was based on ease of booking award flights for October 2012 during March 2012.
The rankings follow:
1. Southwest, Air Berlin (tie)
5. Singapore Airlines
6. Virgin Australia