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Security and privacy information and advice at home and abroad.

RQ: Do You Get Airline Miles for Official Travel?

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A reader asks,

Do you get airline miles for official travel?  How many miles per year do you fly (on average)?

Yes.  I think it used to be against the regulations, but maybe the trade-off was that we no longer automatically get business class.  It’s become easier since I joined to earn a big pool of airline miles with the carrier agreements like the Star Alliance and smaller mergers like that of United and Continental.  Online tracking and the USG’s ebooking service (the much-maligned e2 Solutions) has also simplified things greatly (yes, I am old enough to remember the days before you could log into your reward program online).You can also earn hotel reward points, which can then (sometimes) be converted into airline miles depending on which reward program the hotel participates in.

The number of miles I fly per year has changed over the course of my career.  In my younger days when I was working at a regional Engineering Services Center (ESC) I was traveling 2 out of every 4 weeks for 11 months a year, which wound up being somewhere around 55,000 miles.  As I moved up the chain travel generally decreased, but I still average around 25,000 miles per year, not including hotel points (those probably add another 15,000).  That figure swings from year to year, though.

Before people get excited, I feel obligated to mention that most Foreign Service skill codes do not travel very much at all.  The Couriers and Information Resource Management technicians travel the most, followed by the DS Security specialties and the regional medical folks.  Foreign Service Officers generally do not travel on official business from their post of assignment.

If you haven’t guessed, I’ve reached the point where I don’t fly economy very much.  I have more miles than I can use.  If you join the Foreign Service, just sign up for every frequent flyer program out there.  I keep a little card with all the numbers written on them in my wallet in case a partner airline doesn’t add me automatically.

Be sure to check out past Reader Questions in the Archives.

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