Tag Archives: frequent flyer redemption

Books, Tack on Rules, and the Bidding Traveler

Today you’re going to get a little of bit of everything.  The last couple of days I’ve read some really great blog posts and found a web site that I think will be very useful to people looking for inexpensive hotels.

I read a number of blogs every day.  I think of them as my morning newspaper.  Nearly all of them are focused on travel and financial related topics.  One of these blogs, Money and Map, had a great article about how your child can get a book for free this summer at Barnes and Noble.  The post explains exactly how to participate in the promotion.  Essentially the kids need to read 8 books and then they get to pick one book for free from a list of books at Barnes and Noble.  I suggest checking out the other posts on her site as well.  She has great information about taxes, family travel and other financial topics.

Another blog that I love is One Mile at a Time.  This blog is very well known in the travel hacking community for good reason – he knows a ton about the game and knows how to explain it so everyone can understand.  I’ve also found him to be one of the definitive sources for information on the American Airlines frequent flyer program.  And a post this week shows just how well he understands the program.  He wrote about the rules for the North American gateway city stopovers.

Finally, I’m trying to plan a weekend getaway for my husband and 2 friends.  I was searching the various options for booking a hotel room such as using points and Priceline.  While researching the Priceline option, I came across a web site called The Bidding Traveler.  You may recall that a long time ago I wrote bidding strategies for bidding for hotels on Priceline where I talk about how you can get extra bids each day by including other zones that don’t have hotels in the category that you want.  It is a very effective yet manual process.  Well, The Bidding Traveler web site seems to make the process a whole lot easier.  You give the web site the minimum and maximum you’re willing to pay and they execute the bids using the permutations I talked about on the bidding strategies post.  You can read more about the site on this FlyerTalk thread.  I haven’t used the site yet, but I expect to once I know exactly which city they want to go to.

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Airline Reward Redemption Rules

Gosh, I love that my sister is getting into this travel game.  It’s great to have someone else to talk over the pros/cons of different deals.  She’s also relatively new to the game so she points out to me when I’m making assumptions about what people know and she asks great questions that make me realize that I should create a post on a certain topic.  This is one of those times. 

We had a conversation this weekend about how to maximize the use of airline miles, prompted by The Points Guy’s video post on stopover and open jaws.  I would be willing to bet that most people redeem their airline miles for travel that they can book on-line with that specific airline.  And I’d also be willing to bet that they redeem them for a round-trip ticket that simply goes between 2 points.  As a result, many people are missing out on the true potential of their miles.

Each airline has different rules about how you can redeem their points, but there are some concepts across all of them that you need to understand:

  1. Who are their partner airlines?  Most airlines have partner airlines.  These are airlines that you can earn and/or redeem miles on.  The big groups are the One World Alliance, the Star Alliance and the SkyTeam.  The One World Alliance officially consists of: airberlin, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN, Mexicana, Qantas, Royal Jordanian, and S7 Airlines.  There are other affliates, members elect and other airlines that you can redeem/earn miles on outside of the alliance.  For example, you can redeem British Airways miles on Aer Lingus (but you can’t redeem American Airlines miles on Aer Lingus).  The Star Alliance officially consists of: Adria Airways, Aegean Airlines, Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, Blue1, Brussels Airlines, Croatia Airlines, EGYPTAIR, Ethopian Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, Luftansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, SWISS, TAM Airlines, TAP Portugal, THAI, Turkish Airlines, United, and US Airways.  SkyTeam consists of: Aeroflot, AeroMexico, AirEuropa, Air France, Alitalia, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Czech Airlines, Delta, Kenya Airways, KLM, Korean Air, Saudia, Tarom, and Vietnam Airlines.  As you can tell from the lists, the One World Alliance and Star Alliance are usually preferred by frequent travelers because of the airlines in the alliances.
  2. What are the rules on redeeming miles on partner airlines?  This is a big one.  Each airline has different rules around how you can redeem miles in general and also how you can redeem them on partner airlines.  There are also rules around what direction you need to fly to certain destinations (e.g. on some airlines, you have to fly over the Pacific Ocean when traveling to Asia).  My go-to resource for these types of questions is FlyerTalk.  Most airlines have their own forum in the Miles&Points forum.  Go to the forum you’re interested in.  Within the forum, most of the airlines have a “sticky” post about the FAQs for that airline.  For example, the American Airlines thread is called: “FAQ: American Airlines and AAdvantage – Please check here first!”.  There is also another “sticky” post called: “Award Desk: Information about AA, Partner, and oneworld Awards”.  These are fabulous resources to learn about how you can use your miles.
  3. What are the rules on stopovers and open jaws?  I mentioned the Points Guy’s video post earlier about stopovers and open jaws. Essentially, stopovers are when you are traveling from destination A to C via another city B.  A stopover is when you stay in city B for a period of time before traveling on to C.  So you trip would look like, flight from A to B, stay for a few days, then continue on from B to C.  An open jaw is when you’re traveling from A to D, but you travel via airline from A to B, then you take another mode of transportation from B to C and then continue on via air from C to D.  So in this example, maybe you fly from Boston to Paris, take a train from Paris to Madrid, and then fly from Madrid to Rome.  In these examples, you’re booking all the airline segments at the same time (so they aren’t considered 2 one way tickets, they are one half of a trip, with an open jaw).  Again, check FlyerTalk to learn to use these to maximize your points.  Each airline has different rules.

I’ve talked about how to use some of these tricks to book a free one-way to Hawaii when traveling from South America on American Airlines and the magic of the stopover.  Get creative and you can really stretch the value of your miles!

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How Many Miles Will it Take?

Many of us have collected miles in a number of frequent flyer programs.  Most of mine are concentrated between American and United/Continental.  So when I’m planning a trip, I want to make sure that I utilize those miles most effectively.  There are many things to consider when considering that:

  • What airports am I willing to travel from and to?
  • What time of year am I traveling?
  • Do I want to stop in multiple cities during my trip?
  • What type of ticket do I want (ecomony, business, first)?
  • How many tickets am I trying to redeem miles for?
  • Am I flexible with my dates?

Which airline you choose to redeem your miles on will depend on how you answer those questions.  An easy example of this can be illustrated using the recent changes to the British Airways frequent flyer program.  If I want to travel from NYC to Raleigh, NC, it will cost me a minimum of 25,000 miles round-trip if I use American Airlines miles.  However, if I use British Airways miles, it will only cost 9,000 miles round-trip.  Another example is flying between NYC and Hawaii.  It will cost 35,000 miles (in the off season) on American and 40,000 miles on Continental/United.

There is a free on-line tool called Milez.biz that can help you get an idea of how many miles you will need by frequent flyer program.  It doesn’t give you information about high and low seasons, but it’s a great start.  It also won’t give you information about more complicated award tickets, like if you wanted to do stopovers.  You can search between 2 cities and individually choose which programs you want to compare (or leave it blank for all of the programs that they have information on).

Searching between LaGuardia and Honolulu

Search Results

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American Airlines 2011 Q4 Reduced Mileage Awards

If you have an American Airlines credit card, you can get some award travel for only 17,500 miles for coach or 42,500 for business/first class.  Each quarter, a reduced mileage award list is released.  The 2011 Q4 list has been released.  To get the lower mileage award, a MileSAAver award has to be available.  Then you call the American AAdvantage Reservations desk at 800-882-8880 and tell them the flights you want and the Award Code.

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AA – South America to Hawaii Tack On Example

In a previous post, I talked about how you could tack on a free leg to Hawaii to a return trip from South America.  I posted about it on Milepoint and got a question about how exactly it worked.  So here are some screen shots.

You want to go to www.aa.com.  Check the Redeem AAdvantage Miles checkbox and click on the Multi-City hyperlink.

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Next, you choose the South American city you are traveling back from and the US gateway city on the first leg.  On the second leg, you choose the US gateway city and the Hawaiian airport you want to go to.  Notice how I chose February 25 for my first flight and July 28 for my second.  After you’ve filled out the other fields according to your needs, click the Go button.

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On the next screen, pick the dates you want to travel.  Notice that the Hawaiian leg has — in the box.  That means that it won’t cost you any miles to do that leg!  You can even see in the information box that American Airlines is telling you that “This international award allows a stopover at Miami – MIA for no additional miles.”  Click the flights you want for both legs and then click the Continue button.

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Select the actual flights you want to take and then click Continue.

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Fill out the final page, make your payment for taxes, and you’re on your way!  For 15,000 miles and about $66 dollar, you get a trip back from South America and a trip out to Hawaii!  Not bad at all.  You will need to book one-way award tickets to South America and back from Hawaii as well.  When you’re doing that, you can use this same type of technique to continue the cheap award travel.  Europe to any US city is the same cost (including Hawaii).  So on the return trip from Hawaii, you could, instead of just going back to your home, book a trip from Hawaii to a US gateway city with a stopover on your way to Europe.  Or you could go back to South America using the stopover trick.

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