We’ve all been there. You show up to the airport, take your flight, and upon landing, realize you forgot to add your frequent flyer number to the reservation. It could’ve been a work trip booked through your employer, or maybe it was your first time taking a partner airline and you weren’t able to add your information during check-in. Maybe you’ve just now discovered TPG and wish you’d known about the site a week earlier before you flew to Europe. The end result is the same: earning zero miles on your flight.
But fret not — you can retroactively credit flights to many of the major US airline loyalty programs, and some even allow you to do so if you weren’t a member at the time of the trip. You just need to know where to look and what it’ll take.
In this article, we’ll run through how to retroactively credit flights to all of the US airline loyalty programs, including some general suggestions and each individual airline’s policy.
Sign-up for New Accounts
One of the most important things to do as a beginner is to sign-up for accounts with all of the major airline and hotel loyalty programs. However, just because you weren’t a member when you took a flight doesn’t mean that you’re foreclosed from earning points or miles. As you’ll see below, there are airlines that allow you to join their frequent flyer programs after you get back from a trip and retroactively credit those flights. Just note that your time to do so is limited, so don’t expect to get anything for that family vacation you took as a kid.
Conduct Frequent Flyer Account Audits
In addition, before you can even think about requesting retroactive credit, you have to identify that there’s a problem by auditing your frequent flyer account on a regular basis. Doing this is simple: Once a month or so, log in to each of your accounts and make sure that all of the flights you’ve taken have posted to your account. Additionally, check that all credit card spend, shopping portal purchases, dining rewards and other points that you should have earned appear correctly. Now is a great time to do this as you’re “spring cleaning” your points and miles.
We recommend performing an audit on all of your frequent flyer accounts with a balance — even if you didn’t earn on them in a given month. Doing this keeps you safe from fraud, letting you catch it early if miles mysteriously disappear from your account without your permission.
Don’t see miles in your account right away? Don’t worry — most airlines take at least 24 hours to post miles earned from flights to your account, though some are getting much faster. It could take even longer if you’re crediting a partner flight from one airline to another (say, crediting a Lufthansa-operated flight to United MileagePlus). However, if you don’t see a flight post to your account after a week or two of waiting, it’s likely time to request retroactive credit from an airline — more on that in a second.
Save Your Receipts and Boarding Passes
There’s another important suggestion to keep in mind before you get into the actual process of requesting credit for flights: Save all of your boarding passes and flight ticket receipts until the flight posts to your frequent flyer account. You’ll need these things if you need to request retroactive flight credit after you take a flight, so make sure you have yourself covered. While digital boarding passes are great, always save them to your phone’s wallet app so they don’t vanish after the flight. You’ll also want to save email confirmations with ticket numbers, as this information is often required for credit after taking the flight.
Retroactive Credit Policies for Each Airline
Now let’s move onto actually requesting retroactive credit for your past flights. Each airline has a different policy around this, so it’s important to know what you’re facing. For example, some require you to request credit within a certain amount of time after taking a flight, while others require that you have your account open within a certain amount of time after taking a flight.
Here are the specifics for the major US airline loyalty programs. For each one, we’ve included the link to the corresponding policy, how to request credit, and important dates and other restrictions to bear in mind.
Alaska Airlines has one of the most restrictive retroactive flight credit policies of all the airlines — we’ve listed the requirements below. To request flight credit, go to this page on Alaska’s website, fill out your info, and upload a photo of your boarding pass and ticket receipt. You can request credit for both Alaska Airlines-operated flights as well as partner flights. Here’s what you need to know:
- When to submit: At least 7 days after Alaska flight date or 14 days after partner flight
- Deadline for submission: Within 11 months of travel
- Need to be a member at the time of travel: Yes
American AAdvantage members have a little more lenience when requesting retroactive flight credit. For American and most partner flights, all you need to do is enter your ticket number and American Airlines AAdvantage number on its flight credit request site. However, if you’re missing miles from a partner flight, be sure to review the individual carrier’s page, as there are some that can’t be requested online. For example, Iberia-operated flights can be claimed using the link above, but if you flew on Iberia Express, you must fax in the mileage credit request (817-963-7882).
Here are the details:
- When to submit: At least 3 days after the flight date for American-operated flights, or 30 days for partner flights
- Deadline for submission: Within 12 months of travel
- Need to be a member at the time of travel: No, but flights more than 30 days before your enrollment date are not eligible for mileage credit.
Like American Airlines, Delta makes it easy to request mileage credit for past flights, and it has one of the more lenient policies regarding flights taken before enrolling. To do this, just log into your Delta SkyMiles account, go to your account page (My Delta), click View My SkyMiles, and then click Request Mileage Credit.
From here, you can enter your ticket number and submit your request for mileage credit so long as you follow these guidelines:
- When to submit: At least 7 days after the flight date
- Deadline for submission: Within 9 months of travel
- Need to be a member at the time of travel: No, but the same nine-month submission window applies, as any flights taken more than nine months before enrollment are not eligible.
If you don’t have your ticket number, Delta gives you an alternate way to submit your request using this comment/complaint form. You’ll need to provide additional details, but this could be the preferred route for getting partner flights credited to your SkyMiles account.
JetBlue has one of the most relaxed policies for retroactively requesting mileage credit. You can do this by logging into your TrueBlue account, navigating to your account dashboard, and filling out the Request Points form. You’ll then enter each segment you’re requesting individually, and the airline should credit your account within 14 days.
Here’s the criteria for these requests:
- When to submit: At least 14 days after the flight
- Deadline for submission: Within 12 months of travel
- Need to be a member at the time of travel: Not specified in the terms and conditions, so you should be able to request credit for all flights within the last year even if you weren’t a member at the time of travel.
Like JetBlue, Southwest has a great policy on requesting credit for flights taken in the past. To request credit, log into your Southwest Rapid Rewards and go to the My Account screen. Then, click choose the Manage Account tab at the left and click on the Request past points icon. Just make sure you follow these simple guidelines:
- When to submit: At least 48 hours after the flight
- Deadline for submission: 12 months
- Need to be a member at the time of travel: No; as long as you’re requesting credit for flights taken within the last 12 months, you can get credit, even if you weren’t a member when you took the trip.
United has one of the more complicated policies for requesting retroactive flight credit, but it’s still workable. You can request flight credit for United-operated and partner-operated flights by visiting this page and signing in to your MileagePlus account at the bottom. You’ll then need to enter your ticket number, though the exact requirements vary depending on your itinerary and even the specific airline you flew. You may need to provide supporting documentation if the system doesn’t recognize your ticket number.
Here’s the full criteria for requesting United mileage credit:
- When to submit: 5 days after the flight for United or United Express, 7 days after the flight for partner airlines
- Deadline for submission: 12 months
- Need to be a member at the time of travel: New members can request credit for United-operated flights taken up to 30 days before enrolling at no charge. You can also pay a $50 fee to request credit for flights taken more than 30 days but less than six months before enrollment, though you have to submit a separate request online to do so.
There are many reasons why you may need to request retroactive flight credit at some point. If you’re new to the world of points and miles, it’s entirely possible that you didn’t even belong to a given frequent flyer program at the time of travel. Fortunately, most US airlines make it simple to request missing miles, with some allowing you to do for flights taken up to a year prior to enrollment. While you may never need to use the above processes, be sure to keep all documentation about your flight in case it doesn’t post to your account as expected. Then follow the steps above to ensure you’re working towards your next award trip.
Featured photo by Arman Zhenikeyev / Getty Images.