Tag Archives: Free First Class Next Month

Free First Class Next Month 4.0: How to Use SeatGuru to Pick the Best Seat and Flight

This is the twenty-second 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 flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go. Previously How to Use Wikipedia and Kayak for Award Searches.

Today I’ll be explaining a tool I use every time I book a flight or research an award to ensure I get the best seat possible, seatguru.com. SeatGuru is an online compendium of airline seat maps.

Along the left top of the site, hold your cursor over Browse Airlines. Select from the list.

How do you use SeatGuru to snag the best flights and seats?

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Free First Class Next Month 4.0: Wikipedia and Kayak.com

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 flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go. Previously Using Expert Flyer to Redeem Delta and American Airlines Miles.

In an ideal world if you had United miles and wanted to fly to Phuket, you’d go to united.com, type in your dates and find your trip. In the real world, often no award comes up, and you have to be creative. How can you get creative with what possible routings exist?

For me, the two best places to get routing ideas are kayak.com and wikipedia. If a client for my award booking service says he wants to go from LAX to Phuket, Thailand with United miles, I don’t instantly know all the routing possibilities.

My first thought would be that the last leg will probably be Bangkok to Phuket on Thai Airways, since I’m sure such a flight exists. But I want to know all the possibilities to figure out the best routing in terms of duration, layover quality, and airline quality.

How do I use these two free services for better flights?

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Free First Class Next Month 4.0: Using Expert Flyer to Redeem Delta and American Airlines Awards

This is the twentieth 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 flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go. Previously Using Delta.com to Redeem Delta Miles.

Expert Flyer is a paid service–$100 per year, $10 per month, free for a five day trial–that I use frequently for several distinct purposes.

Expert Flyer provides at least some award search capability on all these airlines.

I find Expert Flyer incredibly useful for Delta award searches because it shows Delta partners Aeroflot, Aerolineas Argentinas, Air Tahiti Nui, China Southern, China Eastern, China Airlines, and Saudia among others.

To perform an award search, click Awards & Upgrades on the left side after signing in.

Type in the departure and arrival city. You can also type in the connecting airport city if you want to limit the possible routings the search will produce. I am generally searching segment-by-segment for direct flights and leave that blank.

Select an airline and the classes for which you want to see award space. Pay close attention to the names. The correct fare class will usually be named something simple like Award or Classic Award.

You can select just one date if you are searching oneway or input two dates for a roundtrip. Next to each date you can specify a search of up to +/- 3 days, which is a full week search.

I usually select Direct/Non-Stop only, although that is not possible for Alitalia searches. The next screen will show results for your search, broken down by cabin. For some airlines, Expert Flyer will display 0 if there is no space. For others, it won’t show the flight at all if there is no space.

This search shows great Boston to Rome space in economy and business class on Alitalia in October.

To book on Delta, you would note the flight number and date and go to delta.com, since Alitalia was added to delta.com recently. I usually write down the fare code–the letters associated with the award space, in this case Z and U–because some agents don’t know how to find space without them.

The above search result shows one of Expert Flyer’s annoying quirks. A Boston to Toronto to Rome itinerary was returned that includes a flight on Air Canada. Air Canada isn’t a Delta partner, so there is no way to get on that itinerary. Results like that are why I prefer to search segment-by-segment on Expert Flyer.

Beyond Delta partners, ExpertFlyer is also useful for American awards on non-oneworld partners El Al and Air Tahiti Nui.

Should You Pay for Expert Flyer

Expert Flyer charges $10 per month for its premium package, $5 per month for its basic package, or $100 per year for its premium package. I have the annual premium package. The basic package only allows 250 award searches per month, which is far fewer than I do for my Award Booking Service.

This page compares Basic and Premium. If you click on Premium, you will have the opportunity to start membership with a five-day free trial.That means you can try out the service for free and see if it’s worth the money to you. Or you can use the service strategically for one award-planning session then cancel. Just remember to cancel within five days to avoid your credit card being charged.

I also use Expert Flyer for several other things like searching MPM, finding published fares, and setting award space alerts, which I explained in a previous incarnation of Free First Class Next Month.

Free First Class Next Month 4.0: Searching Delta.com to Redeem Delta Miles

This is the nineteenth 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 flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go. Previously Using qantas.com to Search for American Airlines Awards.

Delta.com is a frustrating, broken piece of junk, but it’s the first place to start when looking for award reservations with your Delta SkyMiles on flights operated by Delta, Air France, KLM, Virgin Australia, Alitalia, or Korean.

On the Delta.com home page, type your departure and arrival airports into the flight search box. I always search one way on Delta.com searches because it is so bad at pricing awards that I don’t want to give it the chance to try adding the outbound and return’s cost.

Make sure to check the boxes that says Book award travel and My dates are flexible.

What are the other tricks to searching Delta.com? What are Delta’s routing rules?

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Free First Class Next Month 4.0: Searching Qantas.com to Redeem American Airlines Miles

This is the eighteenth 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 flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go. Previously Using BA.com to Search for Awards.

Using qantas.com for award searches can help you get maximum value from your American Airlines miles. American partners with the oneworld alliance and several non-oneworld partners. Unfortunately oneworld award space searching is fragmented, and I use aa.com, ba.com, and qantas.com.

I’ve described how to use aa.com and ba.com for award searches:

Now I’ll explain how and when to use qantas.com.

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Free First Class Next Month 4.0: Searching BA.com to Find oneworld Award Availability

This is the seventeenth 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 flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go. Previously Using AA.com to Search for Awards.

Knowing how to use ba.com is crucial for making award bookings with British Airways Avios and American Airlines AAdvantage miles.

Why? ba.com displays award space for more oneworld partner airlines than does aa.com. That means you often need to search ba.com even if you are redeeming American Airlines miles. For instance, ba.com is a great place to search space on Cathay Pacific before calling American Airlines to book with American Airlines miles.

How do you search BA.com?

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Free First Class Next Month 4.0: Using AA.com to Search for Awards

This is the sixteenth 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 flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go. Previously Using United.com to Search for Awards Using United and US Airways Miles.

This post presents the basics of using aa.com for award bookings. It is not a comprehensive guide to booking American Airlines awards. For that, start at the Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards.

When to Use aa.com

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Free First Class Next Month 4.0: Using United.com to Search for Awards with United or US Airways Miles

This is the fifteenth 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 flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go. Previously Airline Partners and Hubs.

This is the first of several posts that will talk about the basics of award bookings. I want to stress that this will just be the basics of award bookings. For complicated itineraries, you will need to learn a lot more, perhaps from my Anatomy of an Award series or FlyerTalk. Or you’ll have to hire an expert award booker like me.

Today’s post will focus on using united.com, which is the best basic way to find availability when you’re booking with United or US Airways.

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Free First Class Next Month 4.0: Airline Partners and Hubs

This is the fourteenth 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 flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go. Previously Airline Miles Basics.

For a beginner, one important thing to help understand which routings are possible on awards or which alliance is the best for certain trips is to know a little bit about the alliances and the airlines that make them up.

Remember that you can always book awards using one airline’s miles on its own flights and on that airline’s alliance partners. (And usually airlines also have a few other partners not in their alliance like British Airways’, American Airlines’, and Delta’s partnerships with Alaska Airlines.)

Below is a list of each alliances’ members and those members’ hubs and codes. Knowing these lists or at least where to find them will make you a much savvier flyer.

Carriers are in alphabetical order except US-based carriers are listed first. Each entry starts with the two letter airline code, then the airline, then its hubs.

Star Alliance

(UA) United Airlines (Newark, Houston-Intercontinental, Washington-Dulles, Chicago-O’Hare, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Cleveland, Tokyo-Narita, Guam)
(US) US Airways (Charlotte, Philadelphia, Phoenix) has announced a merger with American Airlines. When the merger is complete, the new American will be part of oneworld. Even before the merger is complete US Airways will join oneworld.

(JP) Adria Airways (Ljubljana)
(A3) Aegean Airlines (Athens)
(AC) Air Canada (Calgary, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver)
(CA) Air China (Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai)
(NZ) Air New Zealand (Auckland)
(NH) ANA (Tokyo-Narita, Tokyo-Haneda, Osaka, Osaka-Kansai)
(OZ) Asiana Airlines (Seoul-Incheon, Seoul-Gimpo)
(OS) Austrian Airlines (Vienna)
(AV) Avianca (Bogota, Sao Paulo, Quito)
(SN) Brussels Airlines (Brussels)
(CM) Copa (Panama City)
(OU) Croatia Airlines (Zagreb)
(MS) EgyptAir (Cairo)
(ET) Ethiopian Airlines (Addis Ababa)
(BR) EVA Air (Taipei)
(LO) LOT Polish Airlines (Warsaw)
(LH) Lufthansa (Frankfurt, Munich, Dusseldorf, Berlin)
(SK) Scandinavian Airlines (Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm)
(ZH) Shenzhen Airlines (Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Nanjing)
(SQ) Singapore Airlines (Singapore)
(SA) South African Airways (Johannesburg)
(LX) Swiss International Air Lines (Zurich)
(JJ) TAM Airlines (Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia)
(TP) TAP Portugal (Lisbon)
(TA) TACA (San Salvador, San Jose (CR), Lima)
(TG) Thai Airways International (Bangkok)
(TK) Turkish Airlines (Istanbul-Ataturk)

SkyTeam

(DL) Delta Airlines (Atlanta, New York-JFK, New York-LaGuardia, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Cincinnati, Salt Lake City, Memphis, Detroit, Amsterdam, Tokyo-Narita, Paris-Charles de Gaulle)

(SU) Aeroflot (Moscow-Sheremetyevo)
(AR) Aerolineas Argentinas (Buenos Aires-Ezeiza, Buenos Aires-Aeroparque)
(AM) Aeroméxico (Mexico City)
(UX) Air Europa (Madrid)
(AF) Air France (Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Paris-Orly, Lyon, Toulouse-Blagnac, Marseille, Nice)
(AZ) Alitalia (Rome-Fiumicino)
(CI) China Airlines (Taipei, Kaohsiung)
(MU) China Eastern Airlines (Kunming, Shanghai-Pudong, Shanghai-Hongqiao, Xi’an)
(CZ) China Southern Airlines (Beijing-Capital, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Urumqi)
(OK) Czech Airlines (Prague)
(KQ) Kenya Airways (Nairobi)
(KL) KLM (Amsterdam)
(KE) Korean Air (Seoul-Incheon, Seoul-Gimpo)
(ME) Middle East Airlines (Beirut)
(SV) Saudia (Dammam, Jeddah, Medinah, Ryiadh)
(RO) TAROM (Bucharest)
(VN) Vietnam Airlines (Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City)
(MF) Xiamen Airlines (Xiamen, Fuzhou, Hangzhou)

Garuda Indonesia to join in 2014.

oneworld

(AA) American Airlines (Dallas-Fort Worth, New York-JFK, Los Angeles, Chicago-O’Hare, Miami)

(AB) airberlin (Berlin, Dusseldorf)
(BA) British Airways (London-Heathrow, London-Gatwick)
(CX) Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong)
(AY) Finnair (Helsinki)
(IB) Iberia (Madrid, Barcelona)
(JL) Japan Airlines (Tokyo-Haneda, Tokyo-Narita, Osaka, Osaka-Kansai)
(LA) LAN (Santiago, Lima)
(MH) Malaysia Airlines (Kuala Lumpur)
(QF) Qantas (Sydney, Melbourne)
(RJ) Royal Jordanian (Amman)
(S7) S7 Airlines (Moscow-Domodedovo, Novosibirsk)

Members elect expected to join in the next 12 months: SriLankan Airlines and Qatar Airways.

The Star Alliance is the largest alliance. It is dominant in Europe and strong everywhere.

SkyTeam is the second largest alliance. It is dominant in Asia. Its North American partner Delta has the worst frequent flyer program of the legacy carriers.

oneworld is the runt of the three alliances. It will be getting bigger with the merger of American and US Airways. It has the only Australian airline in any alliance plus several airlines with incredible premium products like British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines, and Qatar.

Tons of airlines are not part of any alliances. They usually make one-off codesharing deals or several partners across many alliances. Major unaffiliated airlines include virtually all budget airlines and several premium airlines:

Southwest
JetBlue
Frontier
Hawaiian
Allegiant
Virgin America
Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Australia
Emirates
Etihad
every other airline not mentioned in this article

Free First Class Next Month 4.0: Airline Miles Basics

This is the thirteenth 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 flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go. Previously Transferable Points Basics.

The last two posts in this series have dealt with the different types of miles and points: what they are how they’re different.

Today’s post deals with airline miles specifically, like Delta SkyMiles or American Airlines AAdvantage miles. There are five things everyone should know about airline miles.

  1. Every type of frequent flyer miles has different rules related to earning and redemption.
  2. You can almost never cheaply pool your miles in one airline program with someone else’s miles in the same program.
  3. You can never combine your miles in one airline program with your miles in another airline program.
  4. With a few exceptions, one’s miles can be used to book a flight for anyone.
  5. You can always use an airline’s miles for flights on that airline or one of its partners.

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Free First Class Next Month: Transferable Points Basics

This is the twelfth 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 flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go. Previously The Six Types of Frequent Flyer Miles.

Transferable points programs are loyalty programs, usually run by banks, that allow a person to earn points that can be transferred to several different airline or hotel programs. The three most important programs are American Express Membership Rewards (MR), Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR), and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Starpoints.

First I’ll describe the basics of those three programs, then I’ll talk about how to make the most of your transferable points.

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Free First Class Next Month 4.0: The Six Types of Frequent Flyer Miles

This is the eleventh 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 flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go. Previously How to Meet Multiple Minimum Spending Requirements at Once.

There are six basic types of frequent flier miles. I’ll detail each, including how best to take advantage of them. Then I’ll explain why it’s important to diversify across the types (not just across frequent flier programs.)

Are you taking full advantage of all six types?

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Free First Class Next Month 4.0: How to Meet Multiple Minimum Spending Requirements at Once

This is the tenth 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 flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go. Previously Best Current Credit Card Offers for Beginners.

Yesterday you were hopefully approved for two new credit cards, which I suggested beginners start with. And in the future, you may decide to apply for even more at once. Is there a best strategy to work on their minimum spending requirements at once? Yes!

How Should You Go About Meeting Multiple Minimum Spending Requirements If You Have Opened More Than One Rewards Card?

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Free First Class Next Month 4.0: Best Current Credit Card Offers for Beginners

This is the ninth 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 flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go. Previously Best Practices for Your Rewards Card Applications.

Credit cards are the way you will earn the majority of your miles. Credit cards are a free way to get the miles necessary to be able to travel anywhere you want for just the cost of the taxes of an award ticket.

But applying for a credit card requires careful consideration.

Make sure you’ve read all of Free First Class Next Month up to this point before jumping on these offers. Definitely read:

Best Practices for Your Rewards Card Applications

Why I Open Business Credit Cards

And absolutely positively don’t apply for credit cards if they cause you to spend beyond your means, if you can’t pay them in full each month, or you are applying for a major loan in the near future.

Your credit is very valuable and your responsibility. Read the terms and conditions of the offers carefully, and consult a financial professional if necessary. Most people in this hobby are using credit to their advantage to take extra and more luxurious trips. But if you don’t stay on top of your cards and balances, they will stay on top of you.

The Best Two Cards

I recommend beginners start with two cards that are very different: the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard and the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

The Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard is awesome because its sign up bonus is worth $444 on any flights on ay airline any time without blackouts. And the card earns 2.22% in travel rewards on all purchases without limit that can also be used on any flight, any time.

  • Earn 40,000 bonus miles if you make $1,000 or more in purchases in the first 90 days from account opening. 40,000 bonus miles equates to $400 off your next trip!
  • 0% introductory APR on purchases for the first 12 months after account opening. After that, variable APR, currently 14.99% or 18.99%, based upon your creditworthiness.
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • No mileage caps
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Exclusive Carry-on Miles – earn 10% of your miles back when you redeem for travel
  • Use miles for a statement credit toward any airline purchase to any destination with no seat restrictions and no blackout dates
  • Easily redeem your miles for statement credits toward flights, cruises, car rentals, hotels and more
  • Complimentary subscription to TripIt Pro mobile travel organizer – a $49 annual value!

Application Link: Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is awesome because it comes with 40,000 Ultimate Rewards as a sign up bonus. Ultimate Rewards are a very valuable transferable point that can be transferred 1:1 to United, British Airways, Korean, Virgin Atlantic, Southwest, Hyatt, Amtrak, and more.  If there’s award space out there, you can usually get it with a smart Ultimate Rewards transfer. Plus the card earns Ultimate Rewards on all purchases and double Ultimate Rewards on travel and dining.

Application Link: Chase Sapphire Preferred

These two cards allow beginners to earn two very different types of points. They allow beginners to establish relationships with Chase and Barclay’s, to work on multiple minimum spending requirements at once, and to dip their toes into the rewards waters to see whether rewards cards are right for them.

Other Cards

There are a ton of other great cards. I just don’t recommend beginners bite off more than they can chew on their first applications. Click here to see a bigger list of the Best Current Card Offers.

Personalized

If you have one of the cards listed here and want a substitute recommendation or you have a specific trip in mind and want a suggestion for the right card for the trip, I offer Free Credit Card Consultations.

Free First Class Next Month 4.0: Best Practices for Your Rewards Card Applications

Fill out this form to get a free credit card consultation in which I tell you which cards are the best for your goals and how to go about applying for them.



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