Category Archives: Anatomy of an Award

Two Tricks I Used on My Last Award Booking

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As you read this, I’m 35,000 feet up on my way to Medellin, Colombia.

I was in Tucson over the weekend for a tennis tournament, and I didn’t have any exit flight booked. I really wanted to return to Colombia because I had enjoyed Bogota so much and heard even better things about Medellin, but award space didn’t appear to be available for a Monday departure from Tucson to Medellin.

I used two tricks and a little bit of creativity to come up with a Saver award, save myself $75 in fees, and give myself a chance to hang out with a buddy I haven’t seen in a few years.

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 3.40.47 PM

  • What were my two tricks?
  • How did I save $75?

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Anatomy of an Award: Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia with SkyMiles

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I asked longtime award booker and occasional blog contributor JB to write about a very interesting Delta award he just booked.

A lot of people think Delta miles are worthless, but there are no other miles that could book a single convenient award with long stops in Tahiti and Sydney plus an overnight in Auckland.

A client contacted the MileValue Award Booking Service requesting a slightly modified version a MileValue classic: Tahiti, New Zealand & Australia on One Trip Using Delta Skymiles.

delta award ATL-SYD map

She had tried another award booking service that failed to convince Delta to book the award. Despite this ominous sign, I took it on.

Her routing is all one award. It is properly viewed as a round trip to Sydney (SYD) with a stopover in Papeete (PPT). There is an overnight in Auckland (AKL), but the time between flights is less than 24 hours, and on an international award ticket, that is a “layover” not a “stopover.” That means we are following the rule that you get one stopover plus one destination on a Delta award.

I’m sure you educated readers already know that. But, guess who didn’t. That’s right… the Delta agent.

  • How did I search for award space?
  • How did I out-maneuver the agent to get the award ticketed?
  • What is the go-to lie Delta agents are telling to try to shut down your award and how you do you beat it?

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Pick My Flights to Colombia

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Yesterday I wrote about the Four Easiest Places to Go with Miles.

Colombia was part of one of the regions that has plentiful award space, and it is on my radar at the moment as I book myself a two week trip there next month.

The problem is that award space is so good that I have way too many options. I haven’t been able to book the outbound yet because there are ways to book it for 15,000 to 17,500 miles one way with all three alliances. I can even throw in free one ways.

I’m suffering paralysis by analysis. Take a look at my options and thought process to improve your own award booking.

  • What is the award space to Colombia?
  • What miles can I use to book that space?
  • What are my free one way options?

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Anatomy of an Award: Three Cities in Asia on Two Awards

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This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Anatomy of an Award posts highlight real awards I’ve booked to show you the techniques needed to book your dream trip.

I recently booked my brother a pair of awards that will allow us to visit Hong Kong, Beijing, and Seoul together. His awards cost about 100,000 airline miles and bank points and zero out of pocket.

from gcmap.com

from gcmap.com

The main award was a United award, but United awards only allow one stopover in addition to your destination, so I needed to add an extra Avios award for one segment between Hong Kong and Beijing.

We are not getting Chinese visas for Beijing, so I also had to time our flights to get us as close to 72 hours in the city as possible without exceeding the limit for visa-free transit.

Finally, he had enough miles for one way in business class and one way in economy.

These awards demonstrate the limits of United awards, how to see more cities than a United award will allow, and the problems with multi-city searches on united.com. They also showcase, the kind of award planning you can get from my Award Booking Service.

  • Why could I not book the entire trip as a single United award?
  • Why did I choose Avios for the second award, and how did I choose which flight to book with Avios?
  • How did I ensure I got as close to 72 hours in Beijing as possible?
  • How did I book one way in economy and one way in business class on his United award? How did I choose which direction for each class?

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Booking Two Tickets on the Same United Flight

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Last year I wrote “How to Book Multiple Awards from Different Accounts on the Same Flights.”

The idea is that you can never transfer miles from one airline to another, even if they are airline partners, but you can book two seats on the exact same flights with two different types of miles.

Last week I used 30,000 Singapore miles and 35,000 Lufthansa miles to book myself and a friend one way First Class flights on United from Honolulu to San Francisco.

United flies one flight a day from Honolulu to San Francisco on a 767-400ER with fully flat beds in First Class (in addition to the flights to Newark and Washington-Dulles which are always on 767-400ERs.)

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Sleeping in a flat bed on a previous United flight to Hawaii

Since my friend had never flown in First Class, since I really wanted to sleep the entire flight, and since Lufthansa and Singapore have reasonable miles prices for the flight, I decided to book us two First Class tickets.

I booked one ticket for 30,000 Singapore KrisFlyer miles + $5.68 and the other for 35,000 Lufthansa Miles & More miles + $5.60.

This guide will be useful whenever you want to book two or more seats on the same flight with two or more types of miles from airline partners. One common situation is to book the same oneworld flights with American Airlines, US Airways, and/or British Airways miles.

  • How did I search for the award space?
  • How did I book the awards?
  • What big risk did I take?
  • What other types of miles work together like this?

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Why I’ll Never Use United Miles to Fly to Hawaii

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Update July 1, 2014:

The current offer on the Premier Miles & More® World MasterCard® is 20,000 miles after first purchase and payment of $79 annual fee.

  • Earn 20,000 award miles after your first purchase or balance transfer
  • Earn up to 15,000 award miles with balance transfers (1 mile per $1 transferred) within 30 days of account opening
  • Earn 2 award miles per $1 on ticket purchases directly from Miles & More integrated airline partners
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases
  • Annual Companion Ticket after first purchase
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases made outside the U.S.
  • Redeem miles for flight awards and upgrades on Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, SWISS, Star Alliance airlines and other partners
  • $79 Annual Fee, waived for SEN and HON Circle Members

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Anatomy of an Award posts highlight real awards I’ve booked to show you the techniques needed to book your dream trip.

United has very good award space to all four major Hawaiian islands from the mainland, but I’ll never use United miles to fly between the mainland and Hawaii again.

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 1.25.01 AM

The problem is that United charges more miles for its own flights than its partners like Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa Airlines charge for the exact same United flights.

All of United’s partners have equal access to the Saver award space you see on united.com before signing in, but the prices differ:

  • United charges 22,500 miles each way in economy and 40,000 miles each way in First Class between the mainland and Hawaii
  • Singapore charges 17,500 miles each way in United economy and 30,000 miles each way in United First Class between the mainland and Hawaii
  • Lufthansa charges 20,000 miles each way in United economy and 35,000 miles each way in United First Class between the mainland and Hawaii

Recently I booked myself an award in United economy from Honolulu to Chicago to speak at the Chicago Seminars (only 43 tickets left) with Lufthansa miles to take advantage of its discount relative to United miles.

Currently the Premier Miles & More® World MasterCard® offers 50,000 bonus Lufthansa miles after spending $5,000 in the first 90 days. (This offer expires June 30, 2014.) I had gotten in on the same massive offer last year, and I had over 70,000 Lufthansa miles burning a hole in my account, waiting to be used.

  • How good is United award space to/from Hawaii?
  • Which miles should you use to book the space?

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Ten Minute Three Day Trip with Avios and Hawaiian Miles

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Anatomy of an Award posts highlight real awards I’ve booked to show you the techniques needed to book your dream trip.

I recently made a last-second decision to head to Las Vegas and Phoenix for three days for a mix of work and pleasure.

I planned and booked the trip in 10 minutes with miles and points, saving myself $1,500 in the process and getting to fly First Class on one long flight. The cost? Only 40,000 Hawaiian Miles, 8,500 British Airways Avios, and $102.50.

Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 9.04.07 AM

When you need to make a last minute trip for a family or work emergency or when you want to take a last minute trip for spontaneous adventure, having balances with the right types of miles is key.

  • When I decided to travel to Phoenix and Las Vegas, what miles did I immediately think to use?
  • How did I find my direct flight options?
  • Which airlines charge a booking fee for last-minute awards and which don’t?
  • How did I search for award space?
  • How did I book my awards?

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Free One Way From Hawaii Using US Airways Dividend Miles

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Anatomy of an Award posts highlight real awards I’ve booked to show you the techniques needed to book your dream trip.

Recently the MileValue Award Booking Service was contacted by a client who was wondering if he was able to add a “free” one way from Hawaii back to his home in New York City in connection with a dream trip for two to the Maldives using US Airways Dividend Miles.

Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 2.14.39 PM

Most often we are asked to add a “free” or “cheaper” one way to Hawaii or elsewhere in the US at the end of an award but this client wanted to know if he could add one at the beginning.

By adding a one way to the beginning of an award, he would be getting the return flight home at the end of a Hawaiian vacation and then continuing onward to the Maldives several months later. He already had an outbound flight booked to Hawaii with miles, so this free one way saved him half the miles needed for trip to Hawaii.

In the end, he got two business class tickets from Honolulu to New York in September and two roundtrip flights from New York City to the Maldives in February for 120,000 US Airways miles per person–the same number of miles it would have cost for a standard roundtrip between New York City and the Maldives.

  • How did I work around the US Airways routing rules allowing a stopover or an open jaw but not both?
  • How did I search for award space from Honolulu to New York City in business class?
  • How did I search for award space from New York City to the Maldives in business class?
  • How did I book the US Airways award after identifying the desirable flights?
  • How did this “free one way” from Hawaii save the client 80,000 miles?

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Using United Miles to Fly Copa Airlines Business Class to Central America for Three

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Anatomy of an Award posts highlight real awards I’ve booked to show you the techniques needed to book your dream trip.

Recently the MileValue Award Booking Service had a client who was looking to travel to Costa Rica with his family of three in business class.

Screen Shot 2014-06-01 at 4.23.03 AM

This. Times Four. In Business.

Award bookings for three are sometimes a struggle, so I want to highlight an airline and some routes to Central America with fantastic award space for groups.

Even better the award presented an awesome opportunity to use United miles on a route that didn’t go up in price during the recent MileagePlus devaluation, and we got the client and his family a later “cheap one way” to Hawaii in First Class as part of the same award for only 12,500 miles extra per person!

  • How did I search for award space for three people traveling together in business class?
  • What airlines and routes have the best availability between the United States and Central America?
  • How did I add a discounted “cheap one way” to Hawaii, saving the client 82,500 miles on a future trip?
  • What was my workaround to the super-common error I got on united.com?

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Anatomy of an Award: Cathay Pacific First Class and Qantas First Class on a Trip to Australia and Hong Kong

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Recently a friend came to me with an award request along the lines of what I have done for hundreds of clients of the MileValue Award Booking Service.

He wanted to visit Sydney during its summer and Hong Kong on the same trip. He wanted to fly in some of the world’s nicest airline products. And he wanted to maximize his weekends because he could only budget seven vacation days for the trip.

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 3.40.00 AM

Through several rounds of Free Credit Card Consultations, he had built impressive six-figure balances with United, American, Delta, US Airways, and Ultimate Rewards.

I suggested that we use his US Airways miles now–before they are devalued next year–to get him into Cathay Pacific First Class and Qantas First Class, two of the world’s nicest First Classes. I helped book him an 11 day trip that uses only seven vacation days, gives him time in each city, and costs only 140k miles roundtrip.

He had gotten all of his US Airways miles from The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard®, which currently offers 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase.

  • How did I know that using US Airways miles would be the best value?
  • How did I search for the very rare Qantas First Class space on an A380 between the United States and Australia?
  • How did I search for Cathay Pacific First Class?
  • With what routing rules did I have to comply?
  • What were his options for a free oneway?
  • How exactly did I book the award?

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Anatomy of an Award: Summer Trip to Paris & Free Oneway Home for Thanksgiving

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My absolute favorite awards are the ones I’ve booked for family and friends. Helping them fly for (nearly) free is a great pleasure that can’t be replicated. Recently, my sister came to me asking for advice on the cheapest ways to fly from Boston to Paris this summer. She has zero miles and a tight budget. Staring at $1,500+ flights on Kayak.com, the trip wasn’t looking promising.

Main Award

Boston to Paris roundtrip with a later free oneway from Boston to Atlanta

Luckily, with the help of my AAdvantage miles, I was able to find her nonstop flights from Boston to Paris during the peak of summer travel. In addition, I helped her add a free oneway home for Thanksgiving, saving her additional money and hassle.

How did I find the award space? Was the free oneway easy to add to the itinerary? What’s the method to booking two seemingly tough awards on the same itinerary? Is there a secret way to save 10k miles on this trip?

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Anatomy of an Award: Booking Etihad Business Class Using American Miles

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Last month I booked myself an awesome award to the Maldives using AAdvantage miles and flying Etihad Airways Business Class. Etihad Business Class is one of the nicest in the world and award space is widespread and predictable between the US and the Middle East, Indian Subcontinent, and the Maldives.

Reaching the Middle East using AAdvantage miles is in general very easy with Qatar as a new oneworld member and Etihad as an American Airlines partner.

Routing from gcmap.com

Routing from gcmap.com

Though this is an extremely basic itinerary, there are several things everyone should be mindful of before tackling an Etihad award including how to search for Etihad award space and mastering the Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards.

How do you search for Etihad award space? Is Etihad reliable about releasing premium cabin award seats? Once you find Etihad seats, how do you book them? Which American Airlines rules trip up seemingly valid Etihad itineraries?

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Anatomy of an Award: Nabbing an Extremely Rare First Class Seat from Australia on Qantas

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I nabbed a scarce First Class award from Australia to Los Angeles on Qantas during peak travel season and added a first class segment on American’s new Airbus A321T from Los Angeles to New York-JFK, both in fully flat beds.

I’m incredibly excited to try out another First Class product on the Airbus A380, especially after my great experience on a Thai flight from Paris to Bangkok.

Qantas A380

Relative to other Anatomy of Award posts, this one was simple to construct and even easier to book online. However, Qantas premium cabin award space isn’t widely available. You have to find the rare space and plan your hotel reservations around it, not the other way around. That’s one of the eight tenets of Highly Effective Award Bookers, after all.

How do you nab this tough to find award space? Can you add a stopover on a one way AAdvantage award? How am I getting to Australia?

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Anatomy of an Award: Burn United Miles for Flat Bed Lufthansa Business Class Before the Devaluation

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The 50k mile bonus offer is back on the Lufthansa card mentioned in this post until 6/30/14. Get it now!

  • Earn 20,000 award miles after your first purchases or balance transfer
  • Earn an additional 30,000 award miles when you spend $5,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn 2 award miles per $1 on ticket purchases directly from Miles & More integrated airline partners and 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases
  • Cardholders receive a companion ticket after first use of the account and annually after each account anniversary
  • No Foreign transaction fees on purchases made outside the U.S.
  • Redeem miles for flight awards and upgrades on Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, SWISS, Star Alliance member airlines and on other partners
  • $79 Annual Fee. Please see Terms and Conditions for complete details

Application Link: The Lufthansa Premier Miles & More World MasterCard

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United announced a massive devaluation of its miles on Halloween to take effect for awards booked February 1, 2014 or later. Until January 31, 2014, I’ll be running posts about the best ways to burn United miles at the current rates. Previously: Get in Bed on a United Dreamliner for Cheap!

I just booked myself a one way award from Ljubljana, Slovenia to Greensboro, NC including a fully flat bed on a Lufthansa 747-8 for the long segment for only 50,000 United miles + $85 in taxes.

My award with the flat bed in Lufthansa Business Class from Frankfurt to Dulles in blue.

My award with the flat bed in Lufthansa Business Class from Frankfurt to Dulles in blue.

If I had waited until February 1, 2014 to book the same flights, I would pay 70,000 United miles for the privilege, a 40% increase!

This Anatomy of an Award will discuss:

  • Booking US to Europe with United miles before the HUGE devaluation
  • A chart comparing pre- and post-devaluation prices to Europe
  • Which Lufthansa award space you want to avoid and which you want to book
  • The award space picture for 2014 to Europe
  • Ultimate Rewards transfers and how to rack up United miles

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Anatomy of an Award: Business Class Roundtrip to Europe with Two Free Oneways to Hawaii and Canada

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Last month I wrote about using American Airlines’ distance-based Explorer Award chart to save miles and add stopovers traveling to Europe. Check out Get a Roundtrip Business Class Award to Europe with Three Stopovers for 90k American Airlines Miles before proceeding. This post compares that Explorer Award option with a “regular” award option.

On a roundtrip from New York to Eastern Europe, I was able to add three stopovers and save 10k AAdvantage miles (90k vs. 100k) on the cost of a roundtrip business award.

Old Award

I didn’t go through with this award because it might not best use of miles. I could book a better award instead which opens up the potential for three vacations on one award. It’s slightly more expensive but adds tremendous value!

What’s better than a 90k Explorer Award to Europe? How did you maximize your AAdvantage miles? Does the new award include great free oneways?

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