What does 20 000 air miles get you?

With airlines offering frequent flyer programs that allow travelers to accumulate miles for each flight, many wonder what kinds of rewards and perks they can get with their stash of 20,000 miles. Here are some quick answers about what 20,000 frequent flyer miles can generally get you:

– One domestic roundtrip economy class ticket within the contiguous U.S., or a one-way ticket to Hawaii or Alaska.

– An upgrade to business class for a shorter domestic flight.

– A one-way economy ticket to Mexico, Central America, or the Caribbean.

– A partial payment towards an international trip in business class.

– A free companion ticket so you can bring someone along on a reward flight.

– Access to airline airport lounges on the day of your flight.

– Waived baggage fees and priority boarding privileges.

So while 20,000 miles alone won’t get you an elaborate international luxury vacation, they are still a valuable currency that can make traveling more affordable and comfortable. Let’s take a closer look at how to maximize the value of 20,000 frequent flyer miles.

Booking Domestic Flights

One of the best ways to use 20,000 miles is to book a free roundtrip flight within the 48 contiguous United States. Most major U.S. airlines will let you book a roundtrip economy class ticket for between 12,500 to 20,000 miles, though exact costs depend on factors like high season versus low season, as well as route demand.

Here are some sample domestic rewards you could book for 20,000 miles or less on three major U.S. carriers:

American Airlines AAdvantage Miles

– New York to Miami roundtrip: 12,500 miles
– Chicago to Seattle roundtrip: 20,000 miles
– Atlanta to Los Angeles roundtrip: 20,000 miles

Delta SkyMiles

– New York to Orlando roundtrip: 15,000 miles
– Dallas to New York roundtrip: 20,000 miles
– Atlanta to San Francisco roundtrip: 20,000 miles

United MileagePlus Miles

– Houston to Chicago roundtrip: 15,000 miles
– Denver to Washington D.C. roundtrip: 20,000 miles
– Los Angeles to Boston roundtrip: 20,000 miles

You can also use 20,000 miles to fly one-way to Alaska or Hawaii on all the major airlines. Flights to Hawaii will range between 15,000 to 20,000 miles each way, while flights to Anchorage, Alaska are just 12,500 miles each way on American and Delta.

So if you’ve been saving up your miles strictly from domestic travel, you’ll soon be able to cash them in for a free roundtrip ticket to wherever you want to go within the continental U.S.

International Destination Miles

While 20,000 miles won’t be enough for a business or first class ticket abroad, it can help subsidize part of an international trip when redeemed for an economy seat. Here are some sample one-way economy class rewards available for 20,000 miles or less on American, Delta, and United:

American Airlines AAdvantage Miles

– Miami to Grand Cayman: 12,500 miles
– New York to Dublin: 20,000 miles
– Chicago to Tokyo-Narita: 20,000 miles

Delta SkyMiles

– Atlanta to San José: 15,000 miles
– New York to Rome: 20,000 miles
– Los Angeles to Sydney: 20,000 miles

United MileagePlus Miles

– Houston to Costa Rica: 17,500 miles
– Newark to London: 20,000 miles
– Washington D.C. to Beijing: 20,000 miles

As you can see, 20,000 miles will let you fly one-way from the U.S. to destinations like Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, Central America, and parts of South America. You won’t be able to book fancy lie-flat seats in business class, but you can still get to your dream foreign destination at a major discount by using miles.

Some tips for maximizing international redemptions:

– Book off-peak dates to lower mileage rates
– Be flexible with your origin city and destination airport to reduce miles
– Sign up for airline credit cards that offer bonus award miles

While 20k miles alone won’t get you overseas and back, they make for a great starting point to unlocking future international travel aspirations.

Domestic and Short-Haul Business Class Upgrades

While 20,000 miles won’t be enough for most international business class seats, you may be able to use your miles stash to upgrade on shorter domestic flights within the U.S. and on flights to nearby international regions like Mexico, Central America, Canada and the Caribbean.

On American Airlines, for example, you can upgrade to business class for the following mileage amounts:

– New York to Miami: 12,500 miles
– Chicago to Dallas: 15,000 miles
– Los Angeles to Vancouver: 20,000 miles

On Delta, comparable domestic and short-haul business class upgrades range between 5,000 to 20,000 miles each way.

And on United, you could upgrade your seat with:

– Houston to Cancun: 15,000 miles
– Chicago to Montreal: 20,000 miles

So while 20,000 miles may not be enough for the world’s longest flights in business class, you can still use them to upgrade and enjoy lie-flat seats, premium dining, and lounges on shorter routes closer to home. This represents an excellent value, as paid business class fares on these same routes would cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars more.

Companion Tickets

Some savvy travelers like to redeem their 20,000 miles not for their own trip, but rather to allow a companion – like a spouse, friend, or family member – to travel with them for free.

Airlines like Alaska, American, and Delta offer companion fare certificates that can cut the cost of having a travel buddy join you on a flight. Usually you still have to pay taxes and fees for your companion’s seat, but the base fare becomes free when using miles to earn a companion pass.

Here are some examples of airline companion tickets unlocked with 20,000 miles:

Alaska Airlines Companion Fare

– Taxes/fees from $22
– Valid on any Alaska flight
– 20,000 Alaska miles for one roundtrip companion pass

American Airlines AAdvantage Companion Certificate

– Taxes/fees from $30
– Valid for domestic economy class only
– 15,000 AAdvantage miles for one one-way companion pass

Delta SkyMiles Companion Certificate

– Taxes/fees from $35
– Valid for domestic economy class only
– 20,000 SkyMiles for one roundtrip companion pass

If you frequently travel with a partner or family member, using your 20,000 miles for a companion ticket ensures they can fly alongside you for virtually nothing. This stretches the value of your miles even further.

Airport Lounge Access

While not as exciting as free flights and upgrades, another solid perk you can get with 20,000 frequent flyer miles is complimentary access to exclusive airport lounges on the day of your trip. This gives you a comfortable, premium place to relax before your flight.

Here are some ways to gain airport lounge access with 20,000 miles:

– American Admirals Club membership – 12,500 miles
– Delta Sky Club membership – 16,500 miles
– United Club membership – 16,500 miles
– Priority Pass Select membership via credit card miles – typically around 20,000 miles

Keep in mind lounge access rules have changed due to COVID-19, so be sure to check an airline’s latest policies before redeeming miles. But in normal times, having a lounge membership unlocked with miles provides a great travel luxury.

Baggage Fee Waivers and Priority Benefits

Some loyalty programs let you use 20,000 miles towards perks like free checked bags and early boarding, instead of tickets.

On Delta Air Lines, for example, you can purchase SkyMiles Baggage Allowance for 20,000 miles, which waives your first checked bag fee for up to one year. This saves you $30 to $60 roundtrip every time you travel.

You can also redeem 20,000 Delta miles for Sky Priority for a year, giving you Zone 1 priority boarding on all Delta flights so you can settle in early and snag coveted overhead bin space.

American Airlines offers similar checked bag allowance and Main Cabin Extra legroom seat benefits through mileage redemptions. And United lets you redeem miles for Premier Access privileges like Group 2 boarding.

While minor, these can still be valuable perks to smooth out the airport and in-flight experience.

Mileage Redemptions on Partner Airlines

One great way to further multiply the value of your 20,000 mile balance is by transferring or redeeming it through airline partner loyalty programs and alliances.

For example, with 20,000 American AAdvantage miles you could book a one-way economy ticket from Los Angeles to Fiji on Fiji Airways, a partner.

Or you could convert 20,000 American miles to 25,000 Etihad Guest Miles for a one-way economy ticket from Chicago to Dublin on their Star Alliance partner Aer Lingus.

You similarly open up more options by transferring miles to United’s Star Alliance partners like Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa, or Delta’s SkyTeam partners such as Air France-KLM. Just be sure to check award charts to understand transfer ratios and mileage costs.

Booking through partners expands your redemption capabilities and the types of trips 20,000 miles can now unlock.

Maximizing Mileage Redemptions

To recap, here are some key tips for getting the most from 20,000 frequent flyer miles:

Be Flexible with Destinations and Travel Dates

Flights to popular destinations during peak seasons require more miles. Opt for alternative airports and lower-demand travel periods to reduce costs.

Take Advantage of Mileage Promotions and Sales

Look for bonus mile offers when signing up for new credit cards or limited-time airline mileage sales. These can help you top up to 20k faster.

Learn Partner Airline Award Charts

Study programs like Star Alliance to understand how to convert and combine miles through airline partners at optimal ratios.

Don’t Forget Non-Flight Rewards

Miles can also be redeemed for hotel stays, rental cars, magazines, merchandise and more. Shop around for the best values.

Pay With Miles for Flights You’d Buy Anyway

Use miles for flights you were planning to purchase, rather than trying to force a redemption. This delivers the most savings.

Take Advantage of Companion Tickets

Bringing a friend or family member along for virtually free gives you more flexibility to use miles for others.

Be Ready to Jump on Deals

Check mileage rates frequently and book when you see flashes of lower pricing. Last-minute deals can represent big savings.

What Does 20,000 Miles Get You? – Quick Summary

To recap, here’s an at-a-glance rundown of some of the best uses for 20,000 frequent flyer miles:

– 1 domestic U.S. roundtrip economy class ticket
– 1 one-way economy ticket to Hawaii, Alaska, Mexico, the Caribbean, or Central America
– 1 one-way business class upgrade within the U.S., Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean
– Airport lounge access for 1 year with paid membership
– Waived bag fees and priority boarding for 1 year
– 1 companion pass so a friend or family member travels free (or nearly free) with you
– 1 one-way economy ticket to Europe, Asia or South America (mixed with paid fare)
– Hotel stays, rental cars, magazines, merchandise and more

While 20,000 miles doesn’t unlock luxury first class travel across the globe, it still carries significant value that can make air travel more affordable and comfortable. Using miles judiciously delivers meaningful benefits.

Mileage Redemption General Cost
Domestic U.S. Roundtrip Ticket 12,500 – 20,000 miles
One-Way to Hawaii/Alaska 12,500 miles
One-Way to Mexico/Caribbean 12,500 – 20,000 miles
One-Way Business Class Upgrade (Short-Haul) 12,500 – 20,000 miles
Airport Lounge Access (1 Year Membership) 12,500 – 16,500 miles
Waived Baggage Fees (1 Year Allowance) 20,000 miles
One-Way Economy Ticket to Europe 20,000 miles
One Roundtrip Companion Pass 15,000 – 20,000 miles


While 20,000 frequent flyer miles may not score you a first class suite around the world, they remain an extremely useful currency that can help make air travel more affordable and rewarding. Domestic flights, elite perks, and partner redemptions are all within reach at this mileage level. Be creative, flexible, and opportunistic in using miles, and you can continue accumulating them through paid flights and credit card bonuses. Before you know it, you’ll be able to cash in for that dream trip abroad in a premium cabin. Slowly but surely, 20,000 miles at a time, you can become a jet-setting mileage maven.

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