Category Archives: Award Booking

How and Why I Just Booked Myself an Allegiant Air Flight

Looking at my travel plans for 2014, I realized I needed a flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu in September.

I ended up booking myself a oneway flight on Allegiant Airlines instead of using traditional miles for the ticket.

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I paid for the ticket with my Barclaycard Arrival(TM) World MasterCard® – Earn 2x on All Purchases, and I plan to remove part or all of the flight charge from my credit card statement by redeeming Arrival miles for the flight. (Here’s how.)

  • Why didn’t I use Avios for the flight?
  • Why did I choose Allegiant?
  • Won’t Allegiant nickel-and-dime me with hidden fees?
  • Why did I book with my Arrival card?

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Award Space is Wide Open to the World Cup with American Airlines Miles

Saver Economy award seats are wide open from the United States to Sao Paulo during the World Cup for only 30k miles per direction per person.

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This is a marked change from four months ago when I wrote How to Get to the World Cup with Miles and Points. Back then there was very little Saver award space on any airline, and I even suggested that spending 95k Delta miles for a roundtrip award at the Standard (Medium) Level could be a good value.

Now a roundtrip flight, which is going for $1,300 to $2,000 can be had for 60k miles plus $54.

What route has all the award space? What miles can book it? Can you take advantage of the award space?

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Correcting a Common Misperception: The Seat Map and the Award Space Don’t Line Up

Lately I’ve gotten several emails that feature a common mistake. The readers assume that the online seat map for a flight should or will match up with award Saver availability for a flight.

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Just because an online seat map shows empty seats on your flight does not mean that there will ever be Saver award space on the flight.

Here’s a representative email I just received from a couple that wants to change an economy booking to a premium cabin for a flight home from Australia:

We happened to check award availability for our flight home last night, and saw online that first class had opened up. We called united and they said we have enough points and wouldn’t have to use any additional points, but that there was only 1 seat available for reward travel in first class, so we couldn’t change our tickets. However, according to the seat map on the website there are 3 open seats in first for our flight, so we’re hoping maybe another seat opens up – do you think there’s a chance another seat will open up so we could switch to first class?

What does it mean that three First Class seats are open on the seat map? Will an extra seat open up at Saver award prices for this couple?

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Using Everything I Know to Help a Friend Plan Two Summer Trips

My friend has big trip aspirations for this summer, but nothing booked.

  • Approx July 12: Boston to France, Italy, or Spain
  • July 13/14 to 24/25: work on a vineyard in France, Italy, or Spain
  • July 25: vineyard location to Croatia
  • July 26 to August 2: Yacht Week
  • August 2: Croatia to Greece
  • August 10/11: Greece to Boston
  • August 22: Boston to Colombia
  • August 31: Colombia to Costa Rica
  • Sept ~7/8: Costa Rica to San Francisco

She emailed me for my suggestions. This is how I would book this trip.

Warning: this post combines a lot of my best material and ideas. It would be too much information to spell everything out, so in several spots I have linked to longer articles on the concepts I discuss. Click the links.

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Where to Search for Award Space on All 26 of US Airways’ Partners

Since US Airways joined the oneworld Alliance on March 31, I think they have the most valuable miles of any airline. The three main reasons:

  1. The world’s cheapest award chart. See a comparison with AA, Delta, and United.
  2. The laxest routing rules of any major airline because only agents–not computers–need to validate your routing.
  3. The most diverse partners.

For partners, US Airways has the rest of the oneworld alliance, plus it maintained several Star Alliance partners, and it even has a few other bilateral partnerships.

If you want to use your Dividend Miles to book an award, you must book it on or by calling US Airways at 800-622-1015. Only American Airlines and US Airways award space is bookable online, so you’ll mostly call US Airways to book awards. (Luckily there is no phone fee for awards that can’t be booked online.)

It’s very helpful to search for award space before calling US Airways agents because they aren’t very good at it. You want to have all your flights picked out to read off to the agent to ticket the award.

So where do you search for award space for each of the 26 airlines bookable with US Airways miles?

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TAM Joining Oneworld Means Flights to Brazil for 4,000 Avios and $97

TAM, the largest airline in Brazil, joined oneworld today March 31, 2014.


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The oneworld roster with the addition of TAM.

You can now book a one way flight from the United States to Brazil for 4,000 Avios and $97.50!

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TAM flights are bookable with American Airlines miles and British Airways Avios and searchable on American Airlines and British Airways do not collect fuel surcharges on TAM flights.

TAM has flights between Brazil and New York-JFK, Miami, and Orlando. All three American cities have flights to Rio de Janeiro–Galeão and São Paulo–Guarulhos. Miami also has flights to:

I am very excited about TAM joining oneworld for three reasons:

  1. On short TAM flights, awards will cost very few Avios. For instance, Miami to Manaus is only 12,500 Avios each way or even fewer Avios with the Cash & Avios option.
  2. TAM First Class looks awesome. TAM First Class space is wide open between the US and Brazil, and American Airlines has the cheapest remaining award chart for partner first class redemptions. Between the US and Brazil, American Airlines awards are only 62,500 miles each way in TAM First Class.
  3. TAM segments are now bookable as part of an American Airlines Explorer Award, which is by far the best value around the world award.

Why am I so excited about TAM joining oneworld? What do you need to know about TAM awards?

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How to Get Two Completely Free Flights from Europe to the US in Five Steps

An active duty military member emailed me:

This December I am getting out of the Military. When I initially get out I get 2 (one for my spouse and one for me) one-way airplane tickets to anywhere in the world. We want to use this to start our trip around Indo China and Europe. We want to go to Vietnam, Thailand, India, Austria, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, Holland, and England. After visiting these places we will fly to Dayton, Ohio. What is most important to me is flying from London to Dayton, Ohio for hopefully free.

She was writing to me because she didn’t currently have any major frequent flyer mile balances.

My first thought is: don’t fly home from London. Departing the United Kingdom–not transiting it or arriving there–incurs a massive tax called the Air Passenger Duty. While Dayton to London one way would have $5 in taxes, the direction she needs–London to Dayton–has $206 in taxes.

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Not only does she have the London departure tax problem, but she currently has no miles and puts only $1,500 per month on credit cards, which makes it hard to quickly accrue miles.

Still I was able to offer a really easy strategy to get two one way tickets from London to Dayton completely free.

Which two cards did I recommend she open? How did I recommend she book the award?

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One Minor Change to US Airways Award Chart Today, One Big Change to US Airways Awards on Monday

On the US Airways award chart today, I noticed a minor change as part of the US Airways / American Airlines integration.

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Did you catch it?

On the US Airways chart, the word “Envoy” has been replaced with “Business Class.”

US Airways had previously referred to its International Business Class as “Envoy” (and it still does on other pages), but it looks like that name will disappear during the integration.

This is semantics, since the Envoy / Business Class will still be a great product–at least on the A330s where it is completely flat–but a far bigger change is coming to US Airways awards on March 31, 2014.

On March 30, 2014, US Airways leaves the Star Alliance. The following day, US Airways joins oneworld. As far as we know, all routing rules and award prices will stay the same, but the partners you can book with US Airways miles will change.

This is a huge deal because some places are easier to get to on Star Alliance partners, and some places are easier to get to with oneworld partners. That’s why I wrote a post called Which Awards to Book Before US Airways Leaves the Star Alliance March 30 and Which to Book After. Check it out.

If you have any last second awards you want to book with your US Airways miles before it loses most of its Star Alliance partners, consider hiring the MileValue Award Booking Service.


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American Airlines is Slowly Solving One of Its Biggest Weaknesses by Putting in Fully Flat Beds in Business

American Airlines has a far better award chart than rivals United and Delta, especially in premium cabins.

Unfortunately on many of its own internationally configured planes, American Airlines has angled lie flat seats in business class instead of fully flat beds. It greatly lags its rivals there.

American’s newest plane, the 777-300ER has fully flat beds in business class, and now American is refurbishing its  777-200 and 767-300 planes with flat beds.

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Flat Beds in the 777-300ER

Fully flat beds are a huge step up from angled lie flat beds in terms of sleep quality, which I think is one of the most important reasons that the premium for a business class award is worth paying on international awards.

Let’s look at the newest routes American Airlines is flying with flat beds and the award space picture.

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The Best Value Flight Across the Atlantic Has Almost No Premium Award Space

The best value flight between the United States and Europe is American Airlines’ daily 777-300ER flight from Los Angeles to London.

The 10hr40min flight east features fully flat beds in Business Class for 50k American Airlines miles each way, and American’s newest First Class product for 62,500 miles each way.

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Considering that Delta now charges 125k miles for roundtrip business class awards to Europe and United charges 115-140k for a roundtrip business class award and 160k-220k for a roundtrip first class award to Europe, American’s prices are a steal!

For a great hard product, and west-coast-to-Europe flights, you can’t beat American’s Los Angeles to London route’s Saver prices.

Award Availability

What is the award availability in business class and first class on American’s direct flight from Los Angeles to London and back?

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Anatomy of an Award: Last Second Speculative Domestic Booking with British Airways Avios

I’m using my miles and points very idiosyncratically at the moment to do something I’m sure none of my readers would want to do. But I think the lessons from my trip should be applicable for a lot of trips you would want to take.

Starting last weekend in Greensboro, North Carolina, I’ll be following around the University of Virginia’s Men’s Basketball Team for the rest of the season. I’ve been a huge fan for about 13 years, and this is our best team in that time, so I decided before the season started not to miss any of the postseason.

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That means I am booking a lot of last second flights, hotels, and car rentals because where Virginia plays wasn’t determined until last night.

Arrival miles have been the most valuable currency to me overall for this trip because I’ve used the miles from my Barclaycard Arrival(TM) World MasterCard® – Earn 2x on All Purchases to book flights, motels, and car rentals that form the backbone of my trip.

For the flights and hotels I knew I would need, the 40,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months have gotten me $456 in free bookings. I loved the Arrival redemptions because I didn’t have to search for award space, and I could choose the cheapest and most convenient option to stretch my Arrival mile balance.

But I also have to book some speculative flights.

For instance, if Virginia makes the Sweet 16, it will play in New York City 11 days from now. But if it loses in its first two games, it won’t make the trip. I don’t need to go back to New York City unless Virginia is playing, so I wanted to lock in a flight in case Virginia goes, but one that I can cancel for free if Virginia doesn’t go.

Enter Avios.

In Another Reason Miles Are Better Than Cash, I mentioned that British Airways awards can be cancelled for as little as $2.50, which was perfect for my speculative booking.

Why else did I book my next award with Avios? Why not cash? What were all the factors considered?

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The Four Frontier Airlines Awards You Can’t Ignore

Frontier Airlines is a Denver-based airline with flights throughout the continental US, Alaska, Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic.

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Frontier Destinations

Right now The Frontier Airlines World MasterCard® is offering 40,000 bonus miles after spending only $500 in the first 90 days.

That’s a huge sign up bonus for such a tiny minimum spending requirement. Making it even better is the fact that Frontier charges only 10k miles each way for a Standard award within the United States including Alaska. The sign up bonus is enough for two roundtrips within the US.

Frontier charges 15k miles each way to Central America and the Caribbean at the Standard level, so the sign up bonus is enough for one international roundtrip plus one domestic one way.

I think there are four types of Frontier awards that everyone should take a close look at:

  1. Alaska: Flights to Alaska in the summer are very expensive. If you can snag a Frontier award for 20k miles roundtrip, you are coming out way ahead! Frontier flies seasonally from Denver to Anchorage and Fairbanks.
  2. Small city pairs: Unlike most major US-based airlines, Frontier flies a lot of flights between non-hub cities like Cleveland to Orlando. If you can get a direct flight on a route that only Frontier serves, you can save a lot of time and a lot of miles by booking a Frontier award.
  3. To/from Denver: Frontier’s hub in Denver has flights to the rest of the country. Frontier miles are great if you want to go to/from Denver for only 10k miles each way.
  4. International: How does 30k miles roundtrip to go to the Caribbean or Central America sound? Pretty good to me.

What is the award space picture for these types of awards? What is my one big trick when using How else can you get Frontier miles?

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Comparison of United, Delta, US Airways, and American Airlines Latest Award Charts

Update 4/14/14: US Airways has increased the price of its awards to North Asia in business class to 110k miles roundtrip.

In December, I compiled Comparison Tables of United, Delta, US Airways, and American Airlines Award Charts to show which program had the cheapest awards in each cabin to every country you want to visit.

With Delta announcing a new award chart that takes effect for awards booked January 1, 2015, I have updated the tables for economy and business class.

Check out the updated tables, my analysis, and my thoughts on what other changes we’ll see by 2015.

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Master Thread: Holds on United Awards

Two weeks ago, I wrote that United had ended free holds online for award bookings.

Luckily, JB from the MileValue Award Booking Service came up with an extremely simple hack to regain all of the lost award-hold functionality.

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The ability to hold awards is crucial when booking a trip has many moving parts–hotels, flights for more than one person, several awards booked with different types of miles, etc–that you want to lock in completely before booking any part of the trip. That means it is great news that we can hold United awards so broadly!

Award holds on United are possible again under two circumstances:

  • You have enough miles in your United account to book the award. (PayPal trick)
  • You do NOT have enough miles in your United account to book an award AND the award contains a partner segment. (DoNotTrackMe trick)

That means there is only one time when you cannot hold an award on

  • You do NOT have enough miles in your account and the award contains only segments on United airplanes.

And even here, there’s a workaround.

How do you hold a United award when you have enough miles in your account? What about when you don’t have enough miles? What’s JB’s hack?

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Look How Easy It Is to Get a Family of Four to Europe This Summer

Look how easy it is to get a family of four to Europe this summer!

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For only 240k United miles total, there are ample options from the United States to many places in Europe. If 240k United miles sounds like a lot, it really isn’t. It’s within easy earning reach for two parents.

Why do you want to book with United miles? How good is the space? What city should you not return from?

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