5 Ways to Get Free Flights

ByJulija A.
June 22, 2022

As the first holiday season without COVID-related restrictions is approaching, many of us are looking for ways to get out and about again. And what better way to travel than for free? Whether you’re looking forward to an exotic vacation or visiting family and friends, here are a few ways you could snag some free flights.

1. Earn Miles by Flying

Frequent flyers often have a stash of miles or points they can redeem for a free flight. To qualify for that, you’ll need to be a member of an airline’s loyalty program. Simply sign up for your preferred company’s frequent-flyer program and start earning miles.

Based on the cash price of your ticket, the airline will award you points you can redeem for miles. But how many miles does it take to get a free flight?

The exact answer depends on the specific company, destination (you'll get more points for flying abroad than within the US), travel dates (generally, flying during peak times may require more points), and ticket class.

There's a catch with international flights, though. Even though your flight will be free of charge once you redeem points, you might still have to pay fuel surcharges and taxes, ranging from a few to several hundred dollars. 

2. Earn Points Using Travel Credit Cards

If you don’t fly frequently, earning points might seem slow. Fortunately, there are credit cards with travel rewards to help you rack up points when shopping, which you can then redeem for free flights. Other than that, some banks offer free checked bags, priority boarding, or even hotel vouchers, which are very important to business travelers; namely, statistics say accommodation takes up 13% of a business traveler’s budget.

Travel cards usually offer attractive sign-up bonuses, often in the form of points or miles, when you spend a certain amount within the first few months of opening an account. For example, with the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card, you can get 1.5 points for every dollar you spend. On top of that, the bank offers 25,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.

Pay your balance in full and on time every month to avoid interest charges and late fees, which can offset the value of your points. Also, instead of simply inquiring about free plane tickets when you apply for a travel card, be sure to assess the annual costs. Some cards waive the annual fee for the first year, while others may offer points or miles that can offset the cost of the fee.

Here are some examples of the best credit cards for earning miles points for different airline companies to help you get an idea of what’s available:

Credit card

Rewards rate

Sign-up bonus

Annual fee

Annual travel credit

Bank of America Travel Rewards Visa Credit Card

1.5 points per $1

25,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days

$0

/

Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card

1–10x total points on flights 

60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months

$550

up to $300 in statement credit

The Platinum Card from American Express

1-5x total points on eligible purchases

125,000 points

after you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first six months

$695

Up to $200 in statement credit

VentureOne Rewards from Capital One

1.25 miles per $1 on every purchase, 5 miles per $1 on hotels and rental cars

20,000 miles after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months 

$0

/

VentureOne Rewards from Capital One

2-10x total points on eligible purchases

75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months

$395

Up to $300 in statement credit, and 10,000 miles on every anniversary

3. Earn from Cancellations

Here’s yet another tip on how to get free airplane tickets: If you get bumped from your flight or it gets canceled, you could be eligible for a voucher for future travel. The voucher is typically worth more than the cost of your ticket, so it’s basically like getting free money. With anywhere from $100 to $1,000 in vouchers, you'll be able to fly for free or at a deeply discounted rate in the near future.

4. Opt for Free Companion Tickets

Some airlines offer free companion tickets to elite members, usually for family members. Even though you'll have to pay for the first ticket, the second one will be free. For example, the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card assigns free airline tickets for a companion on every account anniversary. This is a great way to save money: If you're planning on flying with someone else, you can share the cost of the first ticket.

Do keep in mind, however, that most airlines have blackout dates and other restrictions on free companion tickets, so be sure to read the fine print before booking.

5. Get a Job With an Airline Company

If you've always been wondering, “Do flight attendants get free flights?” the answer is yes. As an airline employee, you will most likely get “buddy passes” that you and your immediate family can use to travel for free. And if you get laid off, you’ll usually be given a certain number of free flights as well. So if you’re looking for a new career, the airline industry might be an excellent option to consider.

Bottom Line

There are several ways to get free or discounted flights if you know where to look. From earning miles and taking advantage of your travel rewards points, to getting a job with an airline, there are plenty of opportunities to get discounted or even free flights to exotic locations. Start planning your next trip and see how much you can save with these tips. 

FAQ

How Can I Get a Free Flight?

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One way is to use airline miles some airline companies offer through their frequent flyer programs. With these, you can either get a free flight or a discount on your ticket. Another way to get a gratis flight is collecting points with a travel rewards credit card. Check what the best credit card for free flights is and sign up.

You can also take advantage of free companion tickets or earn vouchers when you miss out on a flight (through no fault of your own). Finally, getting a job with an airline company will give you and your family free or discounted flights as well.

How Do I Ask for a Free Airline Ticket?

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You should inquire with your bank if it offers an airline rewards program you can sign up for. Additionally, some airlines offer free or discounted flights to people who have been involuntarily bumped from a previous flight. Finally, you can try contacting an airline directly and asking if they have any deals or promotions you can take advantage of. 

Can Pilots Give Free Flights?

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All pilots are granted a certain number of "buddy passes" per year that can be used to fly family and friends at a discounted rate. It might be against the company’s policy to share it with people outside of that circle. Therefore, if you know a pilot, it couldn't hurt to ask if they'd be willing to give you a free or discounted flight. 

About author

Albert Einstein is said to have identified compound interest as mankind’s greatest invention. That story’s probably apocryphal, but it conveys a deep truth about the power of fiscal policy to change the world along with our daily lives. Civilization became possible only when Sumerians of the Bronze Age invented money. Today, economic issues influence every aspect of daily life. My job at Fortunly is an opportunity to analyze government policies and banking practices, sharing the results of my research in articles that can help you make better, smarter decisions for yourself and your family.

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