Airlines around the world have created a lot of business for themselves by awarding frequent customers with points or airline miles. This works by letting a person save up miles, which he or she can someday use to purchase a ticket or redeem gifts, hotel stay, car rentals, etc. The common way is to award miles based on the distance of a given flight.
Earning points is a useful thing, but only if you can exchange it for the travel that you want. Many of the big carriers have zone-based redemption rules. This means the region you are flying to or from, will decide the number of miles you need to book a ward ticket.
New York to London would cost the same as San Diego to Istanbul although it is only half as far. This is because the origins and destinations are in the same respective zones. Cost-based redemption is the other option, so the ticket price will decide how many miles you need for an award ticket.
When redeeming for an expensive flight in business or first class, the zone-based option works in your favor. If you are in coach and cannot be too flexible, or want more than one ticket on the same flight, then revenue-based award programs are better.
Also important is which airline network the airline is part of. There are three: OneWorld, SkyTeam, and Star Alliance. Each network has coverage gaps you should know of, at least in your own route of travel. American Airlines for instance, is part of OneWorld Alliance, which means customers can get Qatar Airways awards. Extensive travel through the Middle East may be a good reason to consider flying American.
Some Programs Have Strange Rules
Delta does not let you change award tickets in the 72 hours before departure, not without losing all the miles you used for it in the first place. This is just one example where you need to know exactly what the carrier program lets you have.
Delta bans first class international redemption if you try doing them on a partner airline. American does not let you freely change award ticket dates, unless you keep the destination and origin the same. Also, no stopovers allowed.
United lets you have free stopovers, but the miles charged are charges when you are getting an award ticket on a partner airline.
If you are at an impasse because a rule like this is topping you from flying to your favorite spot for a vacation, why not trade in those airline miles and make a tidy profit? YYZ Miles helps you do this easily.