Best redemption values for short-haul U.S. domestic flights

Even though they only span a few hundred miles, short-haul flights in the continental U.S. can sometimes prove costly as they're often to regional airports with limited flights dominated by solo carriers.  British Airways Avios once held the sweet spot for short-haul flight redemptions, costing just 4,500 Avios for nonstop flights of up to 650 miles in distance before they devalued their program several times.  And in the ever-changing frequent flyer industry, several other heavy hitters have now come into play.

Avianca Lifemiles

Avianca Lifemiles are one of the most valuable mileage currencies out there as they are a Star Alliance member that imposes zero fuel surcharges period on any and all redemptions.  Avianca splits the U.S. into 3 different regions:

And travel either within or to different regions 

Since Avicana's U.S. partner, United Airlines, no longer operates 3-class cabins, domestic first class is classified as I instead of O.  As you can see, travel within the same region is very reasonable, with flights as far as SFO-DEN at only 7,500 miles each way in United economy.  Travel between United States 1 and 2 is also only 10,000 miles each way, which can span distances as far as Maine to Texas.  Lifemiles is a 1:1 transfer partner with Amex MR and Citi TYP, and partner awards are all bookable online.

Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer

Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer partners with both United Airlines as a Star Alliance carrier and Alaska Airlines.  Their mileage program is unique in the sense that they have different award charts for different partner carriers.  Whereas travel on United domestic economy costs 12,500 miles each way regardless of the distance or the stops, travel on Alaska Airlines is zone based:

As you can see, there are many sweet redemption spots here for economy class.  Almost all short-haul travel is just 7,500 miles.  Travel from the West Coast to as far as Texas and Louisiana is only 9,500 miles each way.  And as all of Canada is grouped with Zone 2, you could fly from the West Coast to all of Canada for just 7,500 miles!  All flights from the continental U.S. to Hawaii and Alaska are also only around 12,000 miles.  Although you can now book partner awards with United Airlines online, you still need to call the KrisFlyer service center to book award flights with Alaska Airlines, which can be a nuisance.  But KrisFlyer's change and cancellation fees are reasonable at $50 and $75, respectively.  Singapore KrisFlyer is also a 1:1 transfer partner with the Big 3 (Chase UR, Amex MR, and Citi TYP).

Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles

Turkish Airlines, a Star Alliance carrier, has perhaps one of the most underrated mileage programs out there.  Attaining elite status requires low thresholds, and their partner redemption chart is insanely lucrative.  Using Turkish Miles&Smiles miles, you can book a domestic Star Alliance award with United Airlines within the U.S. for either 7,500 miles one-way in economy, or 12,500 miles one-way in first class.  But it gets better: Turkish Airlines includes Hawaii and Alaska into that category, which means that a one-way flight between SFO-HNL can be redeemed for 7.5k in economy and 12.5k in first!

Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles is a 1:1 transfer partner with Citi TYP only, so the miles are as easy to come by as the others.  Only recently have they allowed award bookings over the phone as you had to confirm book in person before at one of their service centers.

Bottom line

With the recent devaluation of British Airways Avios, several standout programs have come into play as the best redemption options for short-haul travel in the domestic U.S.  Booking with carriers such as Singapore Airlines is easy as they are 1:1 transfer partners with all the major credit card points programs.  Turkish Airlines, while by far the most lucrative, may be more difficult for some as they only partner with Citi TYP.  But if you frequent short-haul travel for pleasure, these carriers can all allow for both creative and cheap options.


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