As of mid-September, the number of travelers screened daily at TSA checkpoints across the US remains extremely low. TSA is screening 800,000 more travelers now than they were in April 2020, but compared to the same period one year ago, over 1.5 million fewer people fly each day.
This drastic decline has undoubtedly seen airline frequent flier account balances grow and redemptions all but grind to a halt. If you're looking for redemption opportunities for your miles that don't require you to squeeze into a middle seat, explore these options.
Depending on the airline, miles can be used to pay for rental cars and hotels. United miles can be used to book Hertz, Dollar, or Thrifty car rentals. Start on the airline website under the 'Use Miles' section and find their search platform.
NON-TRAVEL RELATED MILEAGE USES
For as little as 400 miles, you can get a yearlong subscription to countless magazines and newspapers. Sometimes redemptions are available for only 100 miles if you're willing to add a couple of bucks to the transaction.
While possible, typically, a formal transfer of miles isn't recommended owning to the transaction fees. However, you can book tickets for other people using your airline miles, and you don't have to be flying yourself.
AIR TRAVEL EXTRAS
Air travel during the pandemic can put you closer to strangers than desired. If you still want to travel, you can use extra airline miles to buy yourself a bit of social distance. Miles can be used for upgrades to first class where there is no middle seat, and sometimes only one seat on one side of the plane. Miles can also be used to gain access to the airlines' lounges where it might be easier to find a secluded seat during a layover.
Depending on which airline your mileage balance is with, you might not have a worry here. Unrelated to the pandemic, both Delta and United did away with expiration dates on miles.
While we wait for American to follow suit, know that it's relatively easy to keep a stockpile of miles from expiring. AA just requires earning or redeeming miles every 18 months.
To make things easier on travelers, American Airlines has frozen the clock on mileage expiration. Miles set to expire at any time before yearend will now stay valid until January 1, 2021.
As January 1 approaches, use one of the above options to spend miles or one of these non-flight ways to earn miles. Using an American Airlines co-branded credit card for any purchase will earn you at least 1 mile per dollar spent and therefore reset your expiration date. You can also earn miles via American’s eShopping mall or dining rewards program.
If you are still traveling, but just not flying, with pre-registration, you can earn American Airlines miles for paid car rentals or stays at participating Hyatt, Marriott, IHG, or Wyndham hotels.