Tag Archives: Award Booking

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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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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Combining Alaska and Hawaii onto One Trip This Summer for Only 40k Points

Alaska Airlines flies a direct flight between Anchorage and Honolulu.

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I love interesting routes from Hawaii–like the Island Hopper across the Pacific–since moving to Oahu, but I think this route has some cool possibilities for everyone, like one vacation that combines Alaska and Hawaii this summer.

Anchorage and Honolulu are 2,777 miles apart. This is a sweet spot on British Airways’ distance-based award chart. The approximately six hour flight costs only 12,500 British Airways Avios + $2.50 in taxes.

Combine a one way British Airways award between Alaska and Hawaii with a few other one way awards, and you can create a really cool triangle trip to see the 49th and 50th states for as little as 40k points.

Possible Summer Trip for a Chicagoan

Possible Summer Trip for a Chicagoan

What are the best awards to combine with the Alaska Airlines flight between Hawaii and Alaska? What is the award space on these routes? In what program, do you need to amass only 40k miles to take the whole trip?

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

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 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?

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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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Value in First Class on the United Chart

On February 1, United miles became much less valuable for premium cabin flights.

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Not only did all first class awards outside of the western hemisphere go way up in price, but partner first class awards went way, way up.

Since people who want to fly first class awards want the swankiest, most aspirational flights, the increase in the partner award price is a big problem.

United Global First is good. But Thai First Class is great.

There’s no perfect solution, but I’ve come up with the strategy I’ll use to book premium cabin awards for myself with United miles going forward.

What do I think is the best value way to convert United miles into premium cabin awards?

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The Miles You Want to Go to Australia, Part 2

In part 1, I discussed the economy award options to Australia with American Airlines miles.

Australia is one of the hardest awards with frequent flyer miles. Part of it is that there are very few routes between the US and Australia, served by only five airlines:

  • United (Star Alliance)
  • Qantas (oneworld)
  • Delta (SkyTeam)
  • Hawaiian (no alliance, American Airlines partner)
  • Virgin Australia (no alliance, Delta partner)

Add in a flight from Vancouver to Sydney on Air Canada, and those are basically the options to get from the US to Australia without having to transit Asia.

The Big Deal with Transiting Asia

When I first started looking into going to Australia about three years ago, I thought: what’s the big deal with transiting Asia?

The big deal is that transiting any part of Asia but especially Southeast Asia adds hours and hours of flying, not to mention layovers, to the trip.

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According to the Great Circle Mapper:

  • Los Angeles to Sydney direct is 7,488 miles
  • Los Angeles to Tokyo to Sydney is 10,297 miles (about six extra hours of flying)
  • Los Angeles to Tokyo to Bangkok to Sydney is 13,002 miles (about 11 extra hours of flying)

My goal for award bookings to Australia is direct flights. This post will discuss the best routes, times of year, and miles to collect to book direct flights to Australia in economy.

The three best miles to have to get to Australia in economy are:

Delta charges 100k miles roundtrip to Australia in economy, which is 25-33% more than its competitors, so I will ignore the Delta and Virgin Australia award space to Australia in this post.

Save your miles by using American, United, or US Airways miles to book Qantas, United, Air Canada, and Hawaiian award space.

This post will look at booking economy space with United miles.

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Which Awards to Book Before US Airways Leaves the Star Alliance March 30 and Which to Book After

Come to Happy Hour with me today (2/17/14) in New York City!

US Airways has legally combined with American Airlines, but the airlines are still being run as two brands with two frequent flyer programs until some time in 2015.

Next month there are two key dates in the integration of the two airlines and specifically their AAdvantage and Dividend Miles programs.

This change only affects US Airways miles and does not affect American Airlines miles. It doesn’t mean that US Airways and American Airlines miles will be combined or freely combineable. All it means is that the award space you can book with your US Airways miles (or we can book for you) will change.

Which awards should you book by March 30, 2014 with your US Airways miles? Which awards should you book March 31, 2014 and later with your US Airways miles?

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Pricing Anomaly on United.com Allows Partner Business Class at United Price

United.com prices a certain one way award from the Europe to the US entirely on partner metal at the United business class price of 57,500 miles though there is a big catch:

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Austrian Airlines Business Class Opens Up Three Months Out and Economy Class Open Up Ten Months Out

For flights between the US and Europe, Austrian Airlines releases its economy class award seats to partners 298 days before the flight and its business class award seats to partners 88 days before the flight.

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Austrian routes between the US and Europe have economy award space up to 298 days out

Austrian is a Star Alliance member that operates five routes to North America from its hub in Vienna:

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Austrian operates two cabin Boeing 777s and 767s with fully flat business class seats. I flew Austrian Business Class from Vienna to Chicago in October. My full trip report is here.

 

What predictable pattern of award space have I discovered on Austrian flights between the US and Europe? Which miles do you want to use to book flat beds to Europe this summer on Austrian?

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Here’s a Complete Segment-by-Segment Award Search Example

I talk a lot about 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 the comments of yesterday’s post–Route from the US to Europe via Canada for Better Award Space–UA Phil gave a great example of an extremely simple segment-by-segment search he ran that yielded award space from San Francisco to London for only 30k United miles one way.

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I’ve recreated the steps he followed to show you exactly what segment-by-segment searching entails.

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