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Last week, I re-published my guide to using Singapore miles to book United flights to Hawaii. The idea is that you are better off using Singapore miles than United miles to book the United flights because both can access the same award space, but Singapore charges fewer miles, and its miles are easier to get. Understanding scenarios like that one are key to becoming an intermediate player of the miles game, so I really recommend you check out the post even if you don’t want to go to Hawaii.

The post generated a comment that showed another very common beginner misunderstanding of how miles work.

“If I am planning to use Singapore Air to Hawaii in 16 months, should I transfer my Thank You points to Virgin Atlantic, get the 25% premium, and still use Singapore Air to Hawaii because they are a VA partner or am I missing a step?”

The commenter is asking if he can use his Virgin Atlantic miles to get in on the deal, since Virgin Atlantic partners with Singapore. The answer is a resounding “No.” Your miles need to partner with the airline flying the plane, which in the case of the deal to Hawaii is United. Your airline partnering with a partner of the airline flying the plane is irrelevant.

Below are Virgin Atlantic’s airline partners. United is not on the list, so you cannot use Virgin Atlantic miles to book United flights.

Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 10.59.48 PM

Virgin Atlantic does partner with several Star Alliance carriers–Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Singapore, and South African Airways. If you had any of those miles, you could book United flights, since all Star Alliance miles can book any other Star Alliance carriers’ flights.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 9.14.50 PM
Star Alliance Carriers

Furthermore there is no way to transfer Virgin Atlantic miles to Singapore miles even though they are partners. One airline’s miles can never become another airline’s miles. (The only things that transfer are transferable points like ThankYou Points, which transfer to Virgin Atlantic miles or Singapore miles.)

Bottom Line

There is no transitive property of miles. This statement is false: Virgin Atlantic miles can book Singapore flights, and Singapore miles can book United flights, so Virgin Atlantic miles can book United flights.

To book a partner with your flights, that partner needs to be listed as a partner on the partner page of the miles you’re using.

You can never transfer one airline’s miles to another airline’s miles.

 

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