Here’s a common problem with an easy solution: two or more people want to take a trip together, but the miles that will be used to book the awards are spread across two or more accounts.

How do you get the companions on the same flights and preferably seated next to each other?

The first–and perhaps most important step–should take place well before you’re ready to book the awards.

1. Make sure you are earning compatible miles.

Compatible miles could mean a lot of things. The easiest way to earn compatible miles would be for both companions to earn the same type of miles.

For instance if you want to fly together in Cathay Pacific First Class to Southeast Asia, you should both earn American Airlines miles. Then each of your miles can be used to book your own flights.

You could also work on earning transferable miles that transfer into the same airline program. For instance if you wanted to use Avios to fly American Airlines from the west coast to Hawaii, one of you could earn Ultimate Rewards and one could earn Membership Rewards. Both types of points transfer to Avios, so in the end you’d both have Avios.

Finally you can earn miles in partner programs. For instance if you have 90k US Airways miles and your companion has 120k United miles, you can both fly roundtrip in business class to North Asia on the same Star Alliance flights. United and US Airways are both part of the Star Alliance, so they have the same access to each other’s saver award space and their alliance members’ saver award space.

The easy partner programs for American’s to earn a big balance in are:

  • Star Alliance: United, US Airways, TACA/Avianca, Lufthansa (Miles & More), Aeroplan, ANA, and Singapore
  • oneworld: American, British Airways Avios, Iberia Avios
  • SkyTeam: Delta, Air France (Flying Blue), Korean

Keep in mind that “partner programs” don’t have to be in the same alliance. If you both want to fly Cathay Pacific, one of you can use American Airlines miles and the other can use Alaska miles. If you want to fly Hawaiian Airlines from Los Angeles to Honolulu, one of you can use Hawaiian miles and the other can use American miles.

The key is that both types of miles can be used on the same award flights.

2. Search for all the seats together as if you were booking everyone on reservation.

Let’s go back to the example of using 90k US Airways miles and 120k United miles to get two people from the US to North Asia roundtrip in business class. Even though you are using two types of miles and this will take two reservations, you should search as if this would be ticketed on one reservation.

Go to the best search engine for the search you want. For this search, I would recommend united.com, which I explained how to search here. Search as if you were going to redeem United miles for both passengers. Here’s a search for two people from Chicago to Seoul.

Space is wide open on the route both directions, including on the direct flight operated by Asiana in business class. I would click through each date, selecting two business class seats.

When I got the payment page, I would note the taxes per person. These will be the same regardless of the miles used to book the award, since they are imposed by governments not airlines.

After noting the flight information of the flights with award space–date, time, flight number–and the taxes, I am ready to book. But since I am not booking both with United miles, I abort the booking in progress to move on to the actual way I’ll book the awards.

3. Use holds advantageously.

The goal is to get both people booked on the same flights. The second best scenario is to book nobody on any flights and to start searching again. The worst outcome is to book one person on the flights and then have award space disappear before the second person is booked.

To ensure one of the first two scenarios, we’ll use hold rules to our advantage. Each airline has different hold rules.

  • United: 24+ hours with the PayPal or ghost account tricks
  • US Airways: 3 days if you ask
  • American Airlines: 5 days if you ask
  • Delta: 3 days if you have insufficient miles, no holds if you have enough miles in your account to ticket

Since United and US Airways both allow holds, we have two options:

  1. Hold one US Airways award by phone. Ticket one United award for 120k miles online. Call US Airways back and ticket the held award for 90k miles by giving the confirmation number to the agent of the held award.
  2. Hold one United award with the PayPal trick online. Ticket one US Airways award by phone for 90k miles. Ticket the held United award online for 120k miles.

I’d probably choose option two since it means one fewer call to US Airways, but either will work just fine.

4. Get seats together online or by calling the operating carrier.

For icing on the cake, you can easily get seats together. If you cannot select seats online for your flights, you can call the operating carrier of each segment and select seats.

Give your confirmation number, and if they can’t find your ticket that way, give your flight date, flight number, and name. To find the operating carriers’ numbers, google “contact phone [airline]”.

Explain to the agent that you are traveling with someone else on a different reservation and want two seats together. That will be easily accommodated.

One More Thing

If you’re not on the same reservation, you may run into problems during irregular operations. For instance if one of your flights is cancelled, you may be automatically rebooked separately on different flights and need to go through some phone agent agony to get it all straightened back out.

I consider this a pretty minor concern, but it is one to be aware of. Because of it, you should try to get on the same record locator where possible. A couple tips for that:

  • You both have 135k AA miles and want to fly roundtrip First Class New York to Hong Kong. Instead of booking one roundtrip from each of your accounts, book two outbounds from one account and two returns from another.
  • You are married and both have Ultimate Rewards. Transfer them to the same United account to book two award tickets on one reservation.

Recap

Booking two or more award tickets from two or more airline accounts is common and easy. Pay careful attention to the types of miles you’re earning and to the hold policies, and you’ll be traveling with your companion in no time.

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