Category Archives: Award Booking

How Much Does Award Space Change Day to Day?

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If award space isn’t available on a flight you want, keep checking. Award space changes all the time. This is a truism, but I have never tracked one route and flight for a few days to show exactly how true the truism is until now.

I’ve tracked First Class availability on the brand new Asiana A380 this month and next for the past few days. There were changes every day.

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Enclosed Suite for First Class on Asiana A380

I started tracking the award space for selfish reasons. I have a United award from Seoul to Los Angeles next month to return to the United States from the Asian vacation I’m taking with my brother.

The award goes the long way and features Asiana and Lufthansa First Class. Since booking the award, I’ve flown Lufthansa First Class and been to the Lufthansa First Class terminal, so I think I’d prefer to change the award to a direct flight to Los Angeles on Asiana’s stunning new product.

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I’ve started checking every day to see if award space opens up on a day that works for my schedule. I am also checking award space patterns right near departure to estimate the likelihood that award space will open up for me right before departure.

  • How much has award space changed daily?
  • What is the pattern near departure?
  • Can I automate my search?

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Incredible Asiana First Class on A380 Flying to US

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Asiana has started flying an A380 between Seoul-Incheon and Los Angeles. The daily flight includes fully enclosed suites in First Class and fully flat beds in Business Class.

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First Class on Asiana A380

Asiana is a member of the Star Alliance, so Asiana flights are bookable with United miles and Avianca LifeMiles without fuel surcharges.

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Business Class on Asiana A380

Award space is wide open in summer 2015 on the route in all cabins. Award space for this summer is less available, but if you are flexible, you can be among the first to fly the Asiana A380 in any cabin you’d like.

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  • How many miles does United charge to fly Asiana First Class and Business Class?
  • How many miles does Avianca LifeMiles charge?
  • How is the award space?
  • How does the product look?

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US Airways Now Pricing Awards as Sum of One Ways

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US Airways is now pricing roundtrip awards as the sum of two one ways. This can save you up to 50,000 miles per roundtrip awards.

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This award will now cost the one way price of Chicago to Hong Kong plus the one way price of Shanghai to Chicago

You still can’t book a one way award with US Airways miles for half the price of a roundtrip, but this is a baby step in the right direction!

Even as the US Airways program and the US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® with a 40,000 mile sign up bonus on first purchase are set to disappear in early 2015, the program is improving!

  • What does it mean to price an award as the sum of its one ways?
  • How can this change save you 50,000 miles on a single award?

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Free First Class 2014: Segment-by-Segment Searching

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This is the twenty-first post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

This is a post about the main process I use every day to search for awards.

In an ideal world, you collect the right frequent flyer miles for the trip you want, go straight to the website of the airline whose miles you have, search for award space, and your dream trip pops up.

Airlines use frequent flyer miles to give away seats they don’t expect to sell otherwise, though, which means your ideal itinerary might not have award space if it’s at a popular time on a popular route. In fact, no itineraries with award space may show up on your search.

Just because nothing shows up on an airline search engine doesn’t mean no award itinerary is available.

When a simple search produces no result, you need to move on to segment-by-segment searching.

The idea is that just typing where you live and where you want to go into an airline’s award search engine may not reveal Saver award space even when there is a legal, possible award. Searching segment-by-segment, starting with the hardest segment can yield itineraries that the search engine missed.

In this post I’ll give a step-by-step example of how I used segment-by-segment searching to find award space between San Francisco and London when united.com didn’t show any award space.

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  • What are the six simple steps to search segment-by-segment?
  • What popular non-travel website is your secret weapon in segment-by-segment searching?

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Amazing Business Class Award Space for Four People to Europe

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Until late last year, getting to Europe in business class was much easier than it has been lately, especially for traveling parties of three or more. In December of last year, Austrian Airlines stopped releasing business class award space until about three months before departure. This made advance business class award redemptions for larger parties much more difficult.

In the past I’ve booked families of four to Europe and even to the Middle East on Austrian Airlines, and it is a very solid and comfortable flat bed business class product. See my full review for my thoughts on the onboard chef concept and the comfort of the bed.

Minced veal patty, potatoes, and veggies in Austrian Business Class

I was very excited several weeks ago to discover that Austrian Airlines was again releasing business class award space as soon as the schedule opens for up to four passengers.

  • Where does Austrian Airlines fly?
  • What kind of business class product do they have?
  • What miles are best suited for travel on Austrian Airlines
  • How good is award availability?

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Excellent Finnair Business Class Space to Europe in 2015

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Finnair is offering excellent Business Class award space in a state-of-the-art bed next year from New York and Miami to Helsinki and beyond in Europe.

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Since Finnair is a member of the oneworld alliance, you can book the business class award space for 50,000 American Airlines miles each way or 100,000 US Airways miles each way.

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Finnair space is searchable on aa.com.

  • What is the Finnair Business class product?
  • What is the award space picture for Spring and Summer 2015?
  • How can you book awards with Finnair flights?
  • How can you get the miles to book Finnair flights?

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Save Singapore Miles with Hidden City Ticketing

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Singapore Airlines’ award chart has some phenomenal sweet spots, which I’ve covered extensively:

Yesterday I published comparison tables of United’s award chart for United flights versus Singapore’s award chart for United flights.

While compiling those charts, I saw that Singapore has an incredible sweet spot from the United States to the Middle East. Look at these prices (economy/business/first one way):

  • Singapore charges 27.5k/65k/85k to Europe
  • Singapore charges 37.5k/57.5k/75k to the Middle East
  • United charges 30k/57.5k/80k to Europe
  • United charges 42.5k/70k/90k to the Middle East

In case you need to brush up on your geography, the Middle East is quite a bit farther away than Europe, but Singapore charges fewer miles for a Business Class or First Class award to the Middle East than to Europe.

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United flies to four destinations in the Middle East:

  • Washington-Dulles to Dubai to Doha
  • Washington-Dulles to Kuwait to Bahrain

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We can use the Singapore sweet spot to book United’s Middle East flights cheaply in Business Class or First Class or to save miles on awards between the United States and Europe.

Singapore miles are extremely easy to get since you can transfer all of the major transferable points to Singapore KrisFlyer miles, and Singapore doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on United flights.

The major transferable points are:

How do you book Singapore awards?
What are the out-of-pocket costs?
How can you use the cheap award price to the Middle East to save miles to Europe?
How can you add a one way in United First Class to Hawaii onto this award for only 2,500 miles?

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US Airways Losing Two Key Partners This Week (BOOK NOW)

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Three months ago I wrote that US Airways would be losing five of its Star Alliance partners over the course of 2014. The final two of those five bite the dust this Thursday!

July 31, 2014 is the last day to use US Airways miles to book Turkish Airlines and Singapore Airlines flights.

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Turkish has seven routes from the United States to Istanbul

Note that the flights need only be booked by July 31. You can book US Airways awards up to about 335 days in advance. That means you can fly US Airways awards containing Turkish or Singapore flights until about July 1, 2015.

Many of us are loaded up with US Airways miles because The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® is currently offering 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase. Check out all the places you can go with just the card’s sign up bonus.

Now is a great time to use US Airways miles on Turkish’s six routes from the United States to Europe or Singapore’s flights to and within Asia.

  • What are the current restrictions on booking Turkish and Singapore flights with US Airways miles?
  • What if you want to change your US Airways award that has Turkish or Singapore flights later?
  • How is Turkish and Singapore award space?

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Roundtrip to South America, Two Free One Ways to Hawaii for 50,000 Miles

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Recently, I posted about how we can get amazing value from the fact that the Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program considers Hawaii to be part of the same region as Central AmericaWe can also use this sweet spot for great value on travel to South America too!

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On the Singapore Airline’s award chart, it costs fewer miles to fly between Hawaii and South America, routing through the continental United States, than it does to fly directly between the continental United States and South America.

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Adding Honolulu to Houston lowers the price of Houston to Buenos Aires

On the Singapore award chart:

  • Continental Unites States to South America: 60,000 miles roundtrip in economy
  • Continental Unites States to South America: 100,000 miles roundtrip in business
  • Hawaii to South America: 50,000 miles roundtrip in economy
  • Hawaii to South America: 80,000 miles roundtrip in business

This is great news for people that live in Hawaii or South America, but it is just as good for people who live in the continental United States!

People who live in the continental United States can use this sweet spot to get a complete vacation to South America and two half trips to Hawaii, all on one award redemption, for fewer miles than simply booking a roundtrip award between the continental United States!

Singapore miles are some of the easiest to get, since Singapore is a transfer partner of Chase, American Express, and Starwood Preferred Guest.

  • What are the relevant rules and tricks for this award?
  • What variations on this award could we book?
  • How can you book this award?
  • What about using United miles?
  • How can you get Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles?

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Air India Joins Star Alliance

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Air India has joined the Star Alliance. Its direct flights between the United States and India are now bookable with United miles, Aeroplan miles, Lufthansa miles, Singapore miles, ANA miles, and any other type of Star Alliance miles.

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Award space is searchable at aeroplan.com and widely available.

Air India flights from the United States to Europe have fuel surcharges on cash tickets, but awards with United miles never have fuel surcharges, and Aeroplan is currently not collecting fuel surcharges on Air India award flights.

  • Where does Air India fly in the United States?
  • What cabins does it operate?
  • What is the price of an Air India award with United and other Star Alliance miles?
  • How can you search for and book an Air India award?
  • What amazing deal related to Air India award space probably won’t last?

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LifeMiles Corrects Mistake on Chart (Another Deal Bloggers Killed)

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Avianca LifeMiles has re-classified Guam as part of the Philippines. This ends the ability to book an award from the continental United States to Japan, Hawaii, or Guam for 12,500 LifeMiles in economy or 25,000 miles in business class that lasted as long as Guam was mis-classified as part of the continental United States.

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Now an award from the United States to Guam costs 32,500 miles each way in economy and 65,000 miles in business. (Hilariously Guam is still mis-categorized; this time as part of the Philippines.)

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I countered that I doubted Avianca noticed or cared enough to swiftly fix a mistake that had persisted for months. I bet another blogger dinner that Guam would still be mis-categorized as part of the continental United States for at least a month after I wrote the post in December 2013. The mistake lasted another seven months.

Avianca has several mistakes in its categorization of airports and allowed routings. It’s a big deal because you can often buy Avianca LifeMiles for 1.5 cents each or for zero cash by redeeming Arrival miles for LifeMiles.

  • What does the end of this deal mean for sharing LifeMiles mistakes?
  • What other mistakes on the Avianca chart were not corrected?

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Amazing Flat Bed Award Space to Australia During Peak Season

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Award space is wide open in Virgin Australia Business Class between the United States and Australia during February and March 2015 for 160,000 Delta miles roundtrip.

Premium cabin award space between the United States and Australia on direct flights on United and Qantas is scarce, so this Virgin Australia award space is all the more valuable.

Since 2012, Delta has not collected fuel surcharges on Virgin Australia flights. Roundtrip Delta awards between the United States and Australia cost 100,000 miles in economy and 160,000 miles in Business Class. Virgin Australia Business Class features flat beds that get rave reviews.

  • Where does Virgin Australia fly?
  • How good is the award space?
  • How can you collect Delta miles quickly?

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Award Booking Secret: Return on United via Brussels

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United releases a ton of award space in all cabins–economy, BusinessFirst, and Global First–from Brussels to Washington-Dulles, Newark, and Chicago. These are three little-known routes that allow easy returns from Europe to the United States, even at peak times like May and June 2015, at the lower prices for United awards on United flights.

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United partner, Brussels Airlines, has service to Brussels from the rest of Europe, and awards that feature United’s flights are very reasonably priced from Europe to the United States:

Click the cabins for trip reports.

  • economy: 30,000 United miles
  • fully flat BusinessFirst: 57,500 United miles (vs. 70,000 for partner business class)
  • fully flat Global First: 80,000 United miles (vs. 110,000 for partner first class)

Other routes have more award space to Europe, but returning from Europe, United’s Brussels routes are tough to beat.

Now is a great time to book awards to Europe for May and June 2015 for 2+ passengers with United miles!

  • How good is the award space out of Brussels?
  • What if you don’t want to go to Brussels?
  • What routes have more award space to Europe?
  • Africa, anyone?

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The US Airways Sweet Spot to North Asia in Economy

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US Airways charges only 60,000 miles roundtrip in economy to North Asia. This is one of the cheapest economy awards on any American airline’s award chart.

Sixty thousand miles is the same price US Airways charges to Europe and South America even though it is quite a bit farther to China than it is to Europe or South America.

US Airways defines North Asia as:

  • China
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • Macau
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan
  • Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Mongolia

Delta and United charge 70,000 miles roundtrip to North Asia. American charges 70,000 miles to China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan and 50,000 to 65,000 miles to Japan and South Korea depending on the season.

Like Delta and United awards, roundtrip US Airways awards allow one free stopover. American Airlines awards do not allow free stopovers.

US Airways awards have extremely lax routing rules, enforced only by human agents. This means you can get away with any routing you can imagine and have the patience to attempt to ticket as long as it has at most 10 segments.

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Even though it has no flights of its own, US Airways has partners in both the Star Alliance and oneworld alliance that service North Asia. You can use either set of partners, though you can’t combine both sets on a single award.

Currently, The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® is offering 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase, and you can transfer 20,000 Starpoints to 30,000 US Airways miles during July 2014.

  • With whom does US Airways partner to North Asia?
  • What are the routing rules for US Airways?
  • How can you get US Airways miles?

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Amazing Summer 2014 Award Space to Hawaii

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American Airlines releases a ton of award space on its routes to Hawaii at the last minute.

On almost all of American Airlines’ routes from Los Angeles to the four major Hawaiian islands and Dallas/Fort Worth to Oahu and Maui, there is award space for 4+ people in the next few weeks.

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If you live in Southern California or North Texas, this is a great chance to use as few as 12,500 Avios per person per direction to get to Hawaii during high season when the weather is a perfect 85 degrees and sunny.

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If you live somewhere else, this is a great chance to use 17,000+ Avios or 22,500 American Airlines per person per direction to take advantage of the last-second award space.

If you’d rather fly a different time of year when American Airlines has released no MileSAAver award space, this is a great reminder to look again within a few weeks of departure because American Airlines has been routinely releasing award space a few weeks out on its routes to Hawaii.

  • What is the award space for four people from the continental United States to Hawaii on American Airlines flights?
  • How can you book that space for 12,500 Avios each way?
  • Why might you want to book the space with Avios even if it costs fewer American Airlines miles?

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