ROAD TRIP

The Best Airline Miles for Short Domestic Flights

Short domestic flights can be an easy way to redeem your frequent flyer miles before they expire, and they can also help keep your travel expenses low. Here is how many miles it takes to get a free flight on several popular domestic airlines.

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards

Southwest Airlines tends to have some of the best award flight prices for short-haul and cross-country trips. As the airline covers much of the United States, Rapid Rewards are the best airline miles overall.

This airline doesn’t publish an award chart, and the flight prices depend on a few factors including, the route, flight time, and cash value of the ticket price.

If your local airport has Southwest and legacy airlines, it is worth price shopping this discount airline.

Here are some sample price quotes of what you might pay:

  • Orlando to Ft. Lauderdale: 4,986 Rapid Rewards
  • Houston to Austin: 4,060 miles
  • Chicago to St. Louis: 4,925 miles
  • New York to Washington, D.C.: 4,925 miles
  • Los Angeles to San Francisco: 1,899 miles
  • Seattle to San Francisco: 3,458 miles


These prices are for a basic “Wanna Get Away” fare.

Most legacy airlines charge at least 10,000 miles for the same route. Even if you fly from a smaller, regional airport, you can find one-way flights for under 10,000 points plus $5.60.

Getting Southwest miles can also be relatively easy. In addition to the co-brand Southwest credit cards, they are a 1:1 Ultimate Rewards transfer partner with the Chase Sapphire cards and the Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card.


Delta Air Lines SkyMiles

Delta uses a variable award pricing model and doesn’t publish an award chart. Plan on spending around 6,500 for short trips in economy, which is cheaper than the other legacy airlines if you have a flexible travel schedule and fly to the correct destinations.

However, other short-haul routes may cost 10,000 SkyMiles if you’re flying from an alternate airport.

American Airlines requires as few as 7,500 miles and can be a cheaper option for busier travel days and more desirable flight times.

Here are some of the sample quotes:

  • San Francisco to Seattle: 6,500 SkyMiles
  • Los Angeles to San Francisco: 5,000 SkyMiles
  • Chicago to St. Louis: 6,500 SkyMiles
  • New York to Washington, D.C.: 6,500 SkyMiles
  • Knoxville, TN to Nashville, TN: 10,000 SkyMiles
  • Nashville to Atlanta: 6,000 SkyMiles
  • Atlanta to Orlando: 6,500 SkyMiles
  • Dallas to Phoenix: 6,500 SkyMiles


As you can see, flying between major airports can help you get the lowest Delta award flight prices even if the distance is longer.

Flying from a regional airport generally costs more even if you fly into/from a major Delta hub.

Plus, right now, the best Delta credit cards, such as the Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card, have enhanced welcome bonuses you don’t want to miss.


American Airlines AAdvantage

American Airlines usually is the cheapest of the legacy carriers for short domestic flights of 500 miles or less within the continental United States and Canada. You will either pay 7,500 miles one-way for a main cabin seat for 15,000 miles in business or first class.

Some of the routes within the 500-mile window include:

  • Chicago to St. Louis
  • New York to Washington, D.C.
  • Orlando to Miami
  • Las Vegas to Phoenix


Flights longer than 500 miles have the following price points when you book a MileSAAver fare:

  • Main Cabin: 12,500 miles
  • Premium Economy: N/A (Hawaii and Alaska only)
  • Business/First: 25,000 miles
  • First: 50,000 miles


These rates are competitive with the other legacy carriers.


United Airlines MileagePlus

On paper, United Airlines tends to have the highest published award flight prices for short trips.

While United doesn’t exactly publish an award chart anymore, you can expect the following prices for domestic flights in the main cabin:

  • Flights shorter than 700 miles: 10,000 MileagePlus miles
  • Longer than 700 miles: 12,500 miles


The good news is that you can visit the United Airlines Featured Awards page to find some of the best offers.


These deals can be as low as 4,000 miles for flights that cover a long distance (1,000 miles+).

Some recent examples include:

  • Los Angeles to Denver: 4,000 miles
  • Atlanta to Newark: 5,000 miles
  • Boston to Newark: 5,000 miles
  • Boise to San Francisco: 5,000 miles
  • Dallas to Denver: 5,000 miles
  • Phoenix to Denver: 5,000 miles
  • Houston to Chicago: 6,900 miles
  • Chicago to San Francisco: 10,000 miles


Other airlines may offer current online specials that can help you find excellent deals for domestic flights and international getaways. However, you will need a flexible schedule to save several miles.


Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

The Alaska Airlines award chart provides a mileage range for the flight distance.

Your rate will either fall into the Hop, Skip, Jump or Leap categories below:

  • Hop (700 miles or shorter): 5,000 miles main cabin or 15,000 miles first class
  • Skip (701 to 1,400 miles): 7,500 miles main cabin or 25,000 miles first class
  • Jump (1,401 miles to 2,100 miles): 10,000 miles main cabin or 25,000 miles first class
  • Leap (2,100 miles+): 12,500 miles main cabin or 30,000 miles first class.


Award flights might cost more than this as there is a range for the main cabin and first-class seats. For example, the main cabin Hop seat costs between 5,000 and 30,000 miles.

Here are some of the sample prices for popular routes:

  • San Francisco to Seattle: 5,000 miles
  • San Francisco to Los Angeles: 5,000 miles
  • Los Angeles to Denver: 7,500 miles
  • Chicago to Denver: 12,500 miles
  • Orlando to Miami: 12,500 miles
  • New York to Washington, D.C.: 12,500 miles


Alaska Airlines doesn’t have the largest airline network. Some of the price quotes above for 12,500 miles are on American Airlines partner flights but are for routes shorter than the 2,100 “Leap” fares for Alaska-operated flights.

This airline is best if you live on the United States west coast. But you can also use your Alaska miles for American Airlines flights when you need to fly east and don’t want to drive.


JetBlue TrueBlue

JetBlue also uses variable flight prices, and the current cash price determines the award flight price.

You can search for flights by specific origin and destination. The website lets you see featured award fares from a specific departure city if you’re flexible with where you’re trying to fly.

Here are some of the one-way award flight prices:

  • New York to Washington, D.C.: 7,600 TrueBlue miles
  • New York to Boston: 4,900 miles
  • Detroit to New York: 4,900 miles
  • Atlanta to Washington, D.C.: 10,000 miles
  • Atlanta to Ft. Lauderdale: 3,100 miles
  • Nashville to Ft. Lauderdale: 4,200 miles
  • Los Angeles to San Francisco: 3,100 miles


JetBlue can be a competitive discount airline if you live near an airport they serve. The best offers can be on the east coast but also the west coast.

Another reason to consider JetBlue is that you can transfer credit card points for these programs:

  • American Express Membership Rewards
  • Capital One Miles
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Citi ThankYou

Summary

Short domestic flights can help you use your miles when you going to lose. Even if it’s a longer distance, popular travel routes can cost as little as 3,000 to 5,000 miles for discount and legacy carriers. However, for routes with less competition or high cash prices, short flights can cost between 10,000 and 15,000 miles, similar to cross-country award flights.

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