Frequent Flyer Lingo – Part I of many

Frequent flyers seem to have their own lingo. Some created by airlines and others acronyms and slangs created by travelers. Here is a (first of many) post to start decoding some of this lingo. This is by no way an exhaustive list, just the first 15 that popped in my head.

1. EQM – Elite Qualifying Miles. Also known as Status Miles. These are the miles you earn that add up towards Elite Status qualification.

2. RDM – ReDeemable Miles. These are the miles you earn that add up towards award tickets or upgrade awards.

3. Upgrade – Getting a higher class seat on lower class ticket. For example, getting a Business or First class seat on a Coach (Economy) ticket or First Class on a Business class ticket. An upgrade is achieved by redeeming miles, an updrade ‘instrument’, or may even be complimentary.

4. Baggage allowance – The # and weight of bags allowed for free with a flight ticket. For domestic tickets, in the US, the free allowance is zero on most airlines for non-elite customers. It is usually 2 bags of 50 lb (23 kg)each for Elite customers. International flights also usually allow 2 bags of 50 lb (23 kg) each on economy tickets for free. International Baggage allowance varies based on destination city and country. Please verify requirements with your airline.

5. Op-up – Operational Upgrade. A free upgrade to a higher class seat. That is an upgrade you get without redeeming miles or an upgrade instrument. An airline will usually ‘op-up’ an economy passenger to an empty upper class seat to create space in economy for people on the waiting list.

6. Elite Status – A ‘status’ given by an airline to its loyal customers. Usually awarded at 25,000, 50,000 and 100,000 status miles (EQM) of travel in a calendar year. Elite levels come with benefits that vary from Airline to airline. They typically include upgrade instruments, bonus RDM, free checked bags, etc.

7. Upper class – Business and First class. Aircraft come in 1 class, 2 class or 3 class configurations. 2 class configurations have Coach (Economy) and First. 3 class have all three, Coach, Business & First.


8. Alliance – Airline Alliances are special partnerships formed by a group of airlines. These alliances have code-shared flights, lounge sharing benefits, etc. The most important benefit is that flying on any of the airlines in the alliance gives EQM on any other alliance partner airline. See my post on Airline Alliances for details.

9. Partner – A partner that provides award miles (RDM) in an airlines programs for using their services. For example, other airlines that are not in an Alliance, car rental companies, hotels, etc. Very rarely there are partners who award EQM too.

10. Miles expiry – RDMs expire if not used. Typically airlines will expire your miles if there is no activity the account in for 18 months. Some airlines expire their miles 3 years from the point they are earned, no matter what the activity level on the account.

11. Award travel – a ‘free’ ticket awarded by redeeming miles (RDM). Miles needed wary by airline & route. Domestic US redemptions typically start at 25,000 miles for a free roundtrip within the continental US.

12. Code share – A ticket sold by an airline on a plane operated by another. Such flights carry flight #s of the airline selling the ticket and the airline operating it.

13. Interline – An agreement between two airlines that allow passengers to transfer between flights operated by these two airlines without having to check in themselves or their bags again.

14. BIS – ‘Butt In Seat’ miles. No, this is not an official airline acronym from any airline, but a slang created and adopted by travelers. The miles one earns by putting ones ‘butt’ in an aircrafts seat and flying. As opposed to non-flying miles for renting a car, using a credit card, etc. Bonus miles one gets for flying are also not considered BIS miles.

15. Premium seats – Airlines have seats designated as ‘premium seats’. These seats are usually reserved for Elite customers or customers that are willing to pay a fee for a better seat.

More lingo, terms and slang to come. Visit us soon…

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