Can NCAA D1 Football Players Earn Frequent Flier Miles?

University of Michigan — The Big House

You may have heard that the Hawaii men’s football team will fly over 50,000 miles miles this season, which has already featured travel from Hawaii to Australia to Ann Arbor, Michigan for its first two football games.  50,000 miles is enough to earn a mid-tier elite status on the major airlines–Hawaiian Airlines only requires 40,000 miles for its top-tier Pualani Platinum status–but are NCAA athletes PERMITTED to earn frequent flier miles?  If so, do the universities PERMIT the students to earn miles?  One of these answers is easy and other is nuanced.

NCAA Rules

Despite a ban on compensation for performance, the NCAA explicitly allows Division I athletes to earn frequent flier miles: Miscellaneous Benefits. [A] An institution may provide or arrange for the following benefits for a student-athlete:

     (a) The use of a return ticket at any time after the conclusion of a foreign tour;

     (b) Receipt of frequent flier points and/or miles earned while traveling to and from intercollegiate practice and/or competition;

     (c) Participation in receptions and festivities associated with championships, conference tournaments or allstar events hosted by and conducted on the institution’s campus;

     (d) Occasional meals to team members provided by a student-athlete’s family member at any location;

     (e) Telephone calls in emergency situations as approved by the director of athletics (or his or her designee);

     (f) Reasonable tokens of support and transportation, housing and meal expenses in the event of injury, illness, or death of a family member or another student-athlete;

     (g) Fundraisers for student-athletes (or their family members) under the following extreme circumstances: (1) Extreme circumstances should be extraordinary in the result of events beyond the student-athlete’s control (e.g., life-threatening illness, natural disaster); (2) The proceeds must be designated for a specific purpose (e.g., payment of medical bills, purchase of medical equipment, replacement of items lost in a fire, etc.) (3) The proceeds may be given directly to the beneficiaries, with receipt kept on file by the institution, which must include the amount of expenses incurred and the total amount received; and (4) The excess proceeds must be given to a not-for-profit organization with the receipt kept on file by the institution.

     (h) The payment of admission costs or a meal for any student-athlete being honored at a nonathletics awards ceremony.

The quote is pulled from the NCAA Division I Manual (Aug. 2016-17).  This excerpt also illustrates the extent of the NCAA’s arbitrary compensation rules.  You’ll notice that the rules specify that the institution “may” provide for frequent flier miles.


University of Michigan Crisler Area

University Rules

I could not find any universities that prohibit the receipt of frequent flier miles but certain methods of travel, widely used by universities, will not acquire frequent flier miles.  For example, chartered flights are not eligible for frequent flier miles.

Hawaiian Airlines

The Hawaii men’s football team charters flights with Hawaiian Airlines, which are not eligible for frequent flier miles unless Hawaiian Airlines decides otherwise.

“1. Miles will not be credited for travel on Mileage Awards or discounted travel industry related tickets, airline employee/family/infant tickets, or tickets on charter flights. Hawaiian Airlines may, at its discretion, allow miles to be earned on designated charter flights.”

United Airlines

United Airlines chartered flights for 23 NCAA football teams during the 2015-16 year: Baylor University, University of Colorado, Indiana University, Louisiana State University, Northwestern University, Ohio State University, Oklahoma State University, Penn State University, Rutgers University, Stanford University, Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University, Tulane University, University of California, University of California at Los Angeles, University of Houston, University of Maryland, University of Nebraska, University of Oklahoma, University of Oregon, University of Texas, University of Texas at San Antonio, and University of Southern California.

MileagePlus award miles and Premier qualifying credits may not be earned on certain United and MileagePlus partner airline tickets. These include, but are not limited to:

  • United tickets purchased and used in violation of United’s Contract of Carriage, fare tariffs and the MileagePlus Program Rules
  • All free travel and all MileagePlus award travel
  • Charter flights
  • Industry free or industry reduced-rate tickets
  • Promotional certificates
  • Unpublished or opaque fares, including but not limited to those booked through and Hotwire
  • Tickets, products or services purchased and used in violation of the terms and conditions applicable to United’s MileagePlus partners


Although NCAA athletes are PERMITTED to earn frequent flier miles, players of large teams that typically charter flights will not earn miles on those tickets.  Players on smaller teams that fly on revenue tickets are more likely to earn frequent flier miles.

2 Comments on "Can NCAA D1 Football Players Earn Frequent Flier Miles?"

  1. You are missing the big picture. There are about 40 different NCAA sports, football is just one of them. While most football teams charter, and some basketball teams. All those other sports fly commercial, so your headline talks about NCAA athletes, then you chose to write only about the 3% or so that play football?

    • thetravelingmillennial | September 3, 2016 at 7:28 pm | Reply

      You’re completely right and those sports are important too. Unfortunately I cannot easily find how those teams travel–revenue tickets, group tickets, or charter buses. Many Division II and III teams do not travel as far as Division I teams, so travel by plane is less common.

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