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If you’ve somehow made it until two days before Thanksgiving without booking a flight and would like to book one, there is award space available.

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What? You were expecting a picture of the other turkey? (from Google Maps)

I did searches on transcontinental routes with two airlines and found good award space, even premium award space for travel over Thanksgiving weekend.

This is interesting whether you still need to book an award or plan to book holiday travel this year or in the future.

  • What award space pattern did I find?
  • What miles have no extra fee for booking right before departure?

AA: Los Angeles to New York

I searched Los Angeles to New York on the direct American Airlines flight. There is space in economy, Business Class, and First Class (the last two are flat beds) for travel today, tomorrow, and Thursday. Thanksgiving Day itself is a day when almost no one wants to travel, so that has the best space.

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Economy Space
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Business Space
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First Class Space

To return in economy, you’d have to wait until next Wednesday. There is space this Saturday for a return in Business Class and First Class.
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I expect a lot more last second space to open up, so if you need to fly, check within 48, 24, even 4 hours of departure.

United: New York to San Francisco

New York to San Francisco on direct flights shows availability today and tomorrow.
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Right now, you’d either need to return Friday or next Tuesday. But I expect space to open up for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday within 24-48 hours of departure.

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Avoid Last Second Fees

British Airways Avios can book American Airlines, US Airways, and Alaska Airlines Saver award space. British Airways collects no extra fee for booking awards at the last minute.

Delta SkyMiles can book Delta flights, and again there are no last-minute fees.

United miles can book United flights. United charges $75 for booking an award within 21 days of departure, but here’s how to get around that.

Pattern of Award Space on Holidays

A lot of people want to travel around the fall and winter holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. That means award space is usually non-existent for most of the year leading up to them as airlines expect to sell seats.

Unsold seats are often released for awards in the last week or two though.

The most award space is on the holidays themselves, when people don’t want to be flying: Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas day, and any flight that is in the air at midnight on New Year’s Day. If you are willing to fly those days and book at the last minute, you have a great shot at award space. You may even get a better day to fly.


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