What is the Difference Between Air Miles and Nautical Miles?

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Nautical miles and air miles are related terms of measurement. Different contexts require different uses, therefore it is important to understand the meaning of each.

Air Miles

An air mile is a way of measuring distance in air travel. An air mile measures 6,076.115 feet, or 2,025.3 yards.

Nautical Miles

A nautical mile measures the same as an air mile, 6,076 feet, or 2,025.3 yards. Though they are the same measurement, nautical miles are used for aquatic travel, and air miles are used only for air travel. A nautical mile can also be referred to a as sea mile.

Standard Miles

A standard mile measures at 5,280 feet, or 1,760 yards. The standard mile is intended for measuring land travel and is not compatible with the air or nautical mile.

Commercial Airplane Air Miles

When trying to determine mileage, confusion can set in quickly when the measurement of air miles gets mixed up with popular air miles rewards programs. Air miles rewards programs are offered by nearly every major air carrier. It values every mile traveled by the consumer on an airline at a small value and offers free or discounted flights after a certain amount of mileage has been acquired. The miles traveled in such programs rewards programs refers to the number of standard miles traveled in a plane.


When measuring distance while traveling by water, nautical miles is the appropriate measurement. When measuring distance traveled by land, the standard mile is most appropriate. When measuring distance traveled by air, the air mile is the most appropriate measurement.

About the Author

Charlie Watkins is a humorist and musician from Austin, Texas, currently living in Los Angeles. Since 2000, his writing has appeared in "Creative Loafing Savannah," "Savannah Connect" and a variety of other periodicals across the southern United States. He holds a B.A. in English writing from Saint Edward's University. His comedy can be heard on Itunes and seen on Comedy Central.

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