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.
- What were my two tricks?
- How did I save $75?
I met the author of Don’t Call the Airline (great blog name, right?), a Canadian frequent flyer miles blog, at the Chicago Seminars.
He came up to me and told me about how he had earned 20,000+ Virgin Australia Velocity miles and status by flying a Delta AWARD ticket.
- What did DCTA do to “earn” the miles?
- Is the process repeatable?
As I led a session at the Chicago Seminars this weekend on “Special Awards,” someone chimed in with an intriguing tip:
There is a simple method to avoid the $75 “close in ticketing fee” on United awards that is triggered when you try to book a ticket within 21 days of departure.
I tested out the proposed method yesterday, and I have some input on how it works. (The trick does work!)
- How can you save $75 per ticket on your next last minute United award?
- What number do you need to call?
On Sunday, I hosted a MileValue dinner in Los Angeles. Unfortunately there was a “Korean Agriculture & Marine Product Expo” across the street, which severely limited parking and caused some people to miss the dinner.
I’ll share five tips I gave to attendees. I wouldn’t classify any as secrets, but most of them were unknown to people who, in some cases, have redeemed hundreds of thousands of miles, so the tips might be pretty useful for your next award booking.
1. AeroMexico to Mexico City, Central America, and South America
Including seasonal destinations, AeroMexico serves 13 American destinations from Mexico City.
AeroMexico has excellent award space to Mexico, Central America, and South America that can be booked with Delta SkyMiles of Air France Flying Blue Miles and can be searched at airfrance.us.
The Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card comes with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after spending $2,000 in the first three months and $3,000 in the first three months of the second year of cardmembership.
ThankYou Points transfer 1:1 to Flying Blue miles. You can book a trip from the United States to Mexico City for 15,000 Flying Blue miles each way.
- What were the other four quick tips I shared?
A few days ago I flew from Honolulu to Guam in United economy and got myself five seats in a row, so I could sleep during the flight.
Even at 6’4″, I only needed four consecutive seats for sleep. I raised the arm rests, collected a few pillows and blankets, and had some great sleep for a few hours after take off. Then I switched off with my brother and he napped for a few hours.
- How did I maximize my chances of getting an entire row?
- How does a row in economy compare to one First Class seat?
- How was my sleep?
You can still pay United’s award prices from January 2014 and before for premium cabin awards.
The catch is that you need to be changing an existing award that you booked February 2, 2014 or earlier. Any award you booked before that date–no matter the origin, destination, cabin, and airline–that you haven’t flown yet should be eligible to be changed to any other award at the old award prices.
I recently changed a First Class award from North Asia to the United States to a different routing on a different airline and paid zero extra miles even though the current price for the award is 50,000 miles more than I originally paid.
I get to fly in this suite after my change!
The MileValue Award Booking Service is ready to help you if you have an old United award you want to change to something better at the old prices.
- How can you find out if you have any awards that are eligible to be changed at the old rates?
- What are the old rates?
- How do you make the change?
- What change did I make?
I actually haven’t ranked my travel tips, but I love this one because it’s super simple and saves me from getting lost all around the world.
But it’s not my #1 travel tip, which would probably be “use miles” or “travel more” or “travel solo” or something like that.
It may not even be my #2 travel tip because you can save a lot of money with these two:
Anyway, here’s how I avoid getting lost worldwide when I don’t have cell phone data. I used this trick in Slovenia last month because T-Mobile doesn’t offer free data there, and I’ve used it to navigate the dusty streets and alleys of Kampala, Uganda without issue.
I fly a lot of flights in economy class. While all my longhauls are in business or first, when I fly domestically or hop around Southeast Asia, Europe, or Australia, it’s almost always in coach.
It’s just not worth using airline miles to book short flights in first class. I prefer to book cheap economy flight with Arrival miles and save my airline miles for international first class.
Last week I read an article called “30 Pilots And Flight Attendants Confess Their Best Kept Secrets,” and one of the secrets was actually an amazing tip I can’t believe I didn’t already know.
It won’t quite give you this much space in economy, but it does make flying in the back a little more comfortable.
Cathay Pacific First Class
How have I given myself more room in economy this week?
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
United massively devalued its award chart on February 1, 2014, in particular for First Class awards on partner airlines.
Lufthansa First Class from the US to Europe went from 67,500 United miles each way to 110,000 miles each way.
Exacerbating that enormous price increase is the fact that Lufthansa First Class awards are generally only bookable two weeks before departure with United miles because that’s when Lufthansa finally releases First Class award space to partners.
While conventional wisdom was that Lufthansa First Class would only be bookable at its old 67,500-mile price for flights through early March 2014, I suggested in a post that you could lock in the old price for Lufthansa First Class through February 2015 by booking Lufthansa First Class at the old rate before the devaluation and later using the cancel-and-rebook-later trick.
What is the cancel-and-rebook-later trick? How was I able to change my award to Lufthansa First Class at the old price last week?
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.
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 united.com:
- 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?
Update 3/6/14: This post is outdated. See Master Thread: Holds on United Awards
In What You Need to Know about United Award Holds, I ran through the two ways to hold a United award online:
- Any award that contains a partner segment can be held for free if your account does not have sufficient miles to ticket the award immediately. Bill wrote about this trick at length with screen shots.
- Any award can be held through the PayPal trick as long as you do have sufficient miles in the account.
The first trick is dead!
How can you now hold a United award?
Posted in Trick, United
Tagged trick, United
Did you miss 20k Miles (or Less) to All of South America All Year yesterday? That post is a competing trick with this one, and it might be an even better deal for you.
Chicago to Santiago “should” cost 30,000 American Airlines miles each way in economy. And you “shouldn’t” be able to stop in Peru on the way to Chile (or even layover there.)
Do not pay 30,000 American Airlines miles for this award!
Instead of playing by American Airlines’ rules, though, we can combine our American Airlines miles and British Airways Avios to book dream trips to South America with more stops for fewer miles.
In the Chicago to Santiago example, we could pay only 15k American Airlines miles plus 10k Avios each way and stop in Peru either or both directions.
I’ve already explained how American Airlines has incredible off peak awards that allow you to travel for large swaths of the year at discounted rates. For Central America and Northern South America–Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, and Ecuador–you can fly one way from the US for only 15k miles for seven months out of every year.
An off peak award to Northern South America plus one or more Avios awards creates a dream vacation with more stops for fewer miles.
How do I put it all together?
TACA/Avianca is a Star Alliance carrier with a loyalty program called LifeMiles. LifeMiles are sold for 3 cents per mile, but frequent 2 x 1 sales–like the current sale through December 30, 2013–bring the cost down to 1.5 cents per mile.
Even better, LifeMiles are sold directly by TACA, not a third party website. That means buying them looks the same as buying airfare, which means you can redeem Arrival miles (here’s how) from the Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® for free LifeMiles.
LifeMiles has a solid award chart that is broadly in line with other Star Alliance carriers. It’s worse than US Airways’ chart, but better than United’s new chart.
LifeMiles has four incredibly flyer-friendly award policies that combine for some attractive deals like
- a $190 one way flight from the US to Japan
- a $190 one way flight from the mainland US to Hawaii
- or a $340 one way in business class from Europe to Asia
The four awesome policies that combine to allow those prices are:
- Cheap Miles. US Airways is currently “selling” miles for 1.13 cents, but other than that sale, you never see miles for as cheap as LifeMiles routinely sells them (1.5 cents per mile.)
- One way awards for half the roundtrip price.
- Not charging the award price for the most expensive region transited. You can route from North America to Japan to North America in one direction and pay only the “within North America” price instead of the more expensive price some airlines would charge for transiting a more expensive region.
- Treating Guam as North America. Guam is part of the US, which is a big part of North America, so I understand LifeMiles’ thinking. Other airlines’ award charts treat Guam as part of Oceania, which is often a more expensive region.
How can you put it all together to get incredibly cheap economy and business class tickets to and within many regions worldwide?
Two weeks ago, in How to Save 70,000 Miles on US Airways Awards to Southeast Asia, Bill blew people’s minds with his post about one of the biggest tricks you can pull with US Airways miles:
When routing from the US to South & Central Asia, you can save up to 70,000 US Airways miles by adding segments from Mexico, Central America, or the Caribbean to your home airport before the main award.
The four step process is not difficult, but it is new, so there was some confusion in the comments section of that post. To allay that confusion, I’ll give an example of this type of award I’ve just booked for two of my friends in Los Angeles.
They’ll be taking two vacations in the next five months–a three day weekend in Cabo, Mexico and 17 days in Thailand–with almost all the flights in business class for 90k US Airways miles, 30k Arrival miles, and zero cash out of pocket.
How did I search for award space? How did I book the award? How is there no cash out of pocket? How many miles did they save?
I was featured in a recent Forbes article called “20 Holiday Travel Secrets from Industry Insiders” about tips for cheaper and more comfortable holiday travel. My main suggestion for holiday travel that made the article was:
Use credit card points
Because airlines usually black out holiday travel dates for cashing in frequent flyer miles, “Use credit card points that are good on any flight, any time, on any airline like Arrival Miles [from the Barclaycard Arrival(TM) World MasterCard® - Earn 2x on All Purchases], Capital One miles, and FlexPoints [from the U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Travel Rewards Visa Signature® Card]. In the case of a FlexPerks award, you even get a $25 credit for baggage, food, or lounge access on the day of travel,” says Scott Grimmer, founder of MileValue.com.
What are my other top tips for cheaper and more comfortable holiday travel that didn’t make the article?