Many people find that after reaching the highest tier (only 75k miles on DL/CO/NW, and less in paid FC or full Y), there are few benefits to accumulating additional qualifying mileage in their main FF program. On the other hand, depositing those miles in a different program can earn them elite status on the other carrier.
Consider the example of a DL platinum who has just flown 75k miles. He can try to put another 50k on DL to get the next benefit, but that is not a guaranteed reward and changes from year to year. Or he could put the next 50k on NW which would give him gold status there. With NW's large FC cabin he would have a good chance of upgrading on his NW travel, and due to the reciprocal agreement between CO/NW he would also have the chance to upgrade on CO flights.
Also, sometimes people relocate or change their travel patterns, thereby making a different FF program the logical choice (even in the same alliance).
For the reasons gleff mentioned, plus some airlines in an alliance are better for award redemption than another in certain cases (i.e., airline ABC may have cheaper or more customer-friendly award availability or routing rules than airline XYZ for certain trips/kinds of trips, etc.)
Like TSA, DL SkyMiles management treats airline customers as if they are the enemy or sheep to be fleeced and it shows.
All of the above responses provide excellent reasons why one would use multiple FF programs within an alliance. However, in my view, the best reason is that alliances are unstable. You simply can't build a good FF strategy to address your objectives based on the current state of a carrier's membership in a given alliance (or even the carrier's FF program partnership with another carrier) because these things are fluid. What is valid today may not exist tomorrow. Recent examples where carrier's have left alliances or terminated partnerships with other carriers include Aer Lingus (AA/OneWorld), SAA (DL), LX (OneWorld-->StarAlliance), Qantas (can no longer redeem with US), and others. If you credited all your miles to a single progam hoping to use them on an alliance partner, you may wake up one day and be out of luck.
Pay with Miles, three (soon five) award tiers, and no transfer of miles upon death.....did you realize that your SkyMiles were just devalued...again?
1. Having joined the individual programs prior to them forming an alliance.
2. The absorbtion of programs by acquiring airlines. My initial choice of FF program (NYAir) was later was absorbed into CO . I wasn't about to drop those miles just because I happened to also belong to Delta. Same with Eastern Shuttle that morphed into Trump Airlines and whatever that program ended up as today.
3. Change in travels needs/options. I've belonged to FF programs for over 20 years. In that time my travel needs and home hubs have changed significantly. Plus airlines themselves change service option which impact the ultimate choice of airline (and program).
4. Finally, maybe it's being penny wise and pound foolish but ultimately it all comes down to making the most out of each specific purchase, either of a plane ticket or store purchase (using a ff credit card w/bonus)
Programs: DL, UA, AA, Hilton, Marriott, Priority Club
I have a NW, CO, and DL account. Why all three? Well, mainly due to foreign airlines, but wanting to accrue on US airlines.
I got my NW account first, and it is my primary Skyteam earning account.
Then, I moved to Taiwan, and flew Eva Airlines, which is/was a CO partner but not a NW partner. So, I got a CO account- figured it would be easier to use/top off than Eva's own FF program.
While in Taiwan, I flew China Air a couple of times- which is not a partner of NW or CO, but is/was of DL. So, there I got a DL account. Then when I got back to the US, there was that 25K miles for a low amount of money through Intercontinental, so I added to my balance that way.
How do I use them now? Well, my NW account is a "savings" account for an upcoming WBC trip back to Taiwan. DL is earn and burn based on whatever good promotions are out there right now (like the 5 partners for 5k miles) but without crediting flights to it. I mostly cleaned out CO a while back through a transfer to HH, but still have the account and add to it when there are free promotions (like sign up for RewardsNetwork and get 100 miles).
So there you have it- my main reasons for keeping two active are foreign airline mileage accrual + inability to transfer out (NW & DL both are not able to be transferred into anything else).
Many people have mentioned different status benefits on different airlines and this is very true. I have miles in many programs I would never dream of earning status. I earn miles in about 20 programs but credit all flown miles to 5 or 6 programs where I intend to retain status this year. As for the benefits of status on the different programs, they are unique. For example, my case:
1) AA EXP - unlimited domestic upgrades with 90% clearance, 8 system-wides good from dirt cheap international fares, 100% mileage bonus throughout Oneworld
2) BA Gold - first class and business class lounge access alliance wide - including the ORD/LAX/MIA/JFK AA F lounges when flying domestically on AA - One-way awards, and the ability to upgrade from WT+ to a superior J product for only 25K miles RT
3) UA 1K - E+ system-wide, domestic upgrades when flying coach, 6 system-wides for international
4) BMI Gold - 4 free upgrades to premium econ (soon similar seat to UA J) ORD-MAN, lounge access alliance wide including UA/US domestic, bonus miles throughout the alliance unlike UA, and the ability to earn 6.25% of miles flown when paying F over a certain threshold
5) CO PLT - CO/NW domestic upgrades, free Pres Club so CO/DL/NW/AS/KL lounge access, Skyteam lounge, baggage, and priority benies, 125% mileage bonus throughout Skyteam
6) AS MVPG - Domestic upgrades when flying AS, a variety of partners to earn and burn on, one-way domestic awards for 10K miles. (Lounge access already covered by CO Pres).
But the OP referenced a thread that just talks about where you have miles. While the above are my primary status airlines, I earn in about 10 other programs though I would never credit EQM to them. Why? Because of unique earning opportunities.
For example, if I rent a car next month, there is only one program I will consider: CO, for the current 5K bonus I can receive as a travel Club member.
But when converting SPG points to miles, there is only one program I will consider (absent any limitted time promo): Asia Miles, for their 60K mile award on BA in business class to europe (from eastern/central US only).
When redeeming intra-Africa on KQ, all of a sudden I need NW miles. Other programs charge 2.5X for the same award. So when NW has a special partner bonus going on, I may as well credit some hotel, car, etc activity to them.
Last edited by wanaflyforless; Apr 14, 07 at 11:59 am.
Programs: DL, UA, AA (airline status-free leisure traveler), HH Silver
My wife and I already had NW accounts for years, but when DL offered 10K miles just for signing up for a Skymiles account a couple of years ago we just could not resist. We are just lowly occassional leisure travelers, so we will never have any airline status to work towards on any one airline.
There are probably plenty of other similar stories out there.
13 years, and 1,600+ OMNI-free posts on FT, and still going strong!!
The biggest two are the elite benefits - most airlines give the "natives" better upgrades and other perks - and the fact that some airlines make partner redemption painful. I've been most active in my flying life with AA, US, and UA. US has crawled in bed with both of those two at one point or another, but when I've redeemed US seats, I've always had to do it with US miles.
I've accumulated about 150k DL in my life and about 75k NW. Those were all through credit cards and other bonuses - I've flown maybe 3 revenue R/T's in my life on each.
* even within the same alliance having more than one program activ can sometimes help to acquire much more miles without having to fly more. My own best examples from the past are StarAlliance promotions fly NNN carriers in a specific time window earn NNN bonus miles: I just did with one rtw ticket fly two segments with each carrier and earned the overall maximum bonus twice (I did credit one segment to Mileage Plus and the other one to miles&more) and earned twice 100'000 bonus miles then. In May 2007 Star is 10 years old ... (I am hoping ...).
* miles&more status only expires every second year (and has to be renewed only every second calendar year too and I get some perks like upgrade vouchers only every second year), so every other calendar year I post my status miles with UA MileagePlus and get every other year 1K-status with them (and SWU upgrades etc).