With more people using miles than ever before, it makes it harder ever use the benefits for a ticket in fist or business class. But really this is the best usage for these miles.
The more that airlines consolidate and merge together like US Airways and American Airlines, United and Continental, KLM and Air France and so on the harder it makes it again to book a premium cabin reward seat. But they do still exist and whether you try to book these reward seats online or via an airline’s call center, a few helpful hints will help to improve your chances of securing the right tickets.
Airlines will release seats one year out. But they will only release very few. Sometimes just a few business class seats for the entire flight, so planning ahead always isn’t the best way to use those miles. This strategy also makes it virtually impossible for a family of 4 to ever get business class travel using an award.
Calling up British Airways recently was a huge frustration and even though I had previously done my homework and had lots of routing options, each question was answered with a resounding no. Not only did I get a “not available” from the BA reservation staff, I got absolutely nothing offered as a possible solution. “Not Available” was repeated on every destination I asked for. I almost started feeling intimidated to even ask. It was a remarkably bad experience for a loyal customer to have to go through.
US carriers have been using awards much longer than Asian or European carriers, so they understand the customer’s more intimately and normally have a much better search engine to find you a flight; even if it’ll take two or three stopovers.
I find American Airlines one of the easiest to use and their partners British Airways and Cathay Pacific have fantastic hard and soft products.
United have a great partners through their membership in Star Alliance too but in generally theyre not quite as easy as American Airlines to find premium cabin reward flights.
Korean Airlines are absolutely fantastic because they may ask for more miles than most other carriers, but they allow you to put a hold on a booking for up to a week before departure. That’s service. Most other airlines don’t allow you to place an award booking ticket on hold.
If you are a top tier with Delta Airlines they will allow you to book an award and cancel with no charge whatsoever, whereas most of the airlines will have a surcharge for you to cancel the booking, Even if you get your tax back, and they refund the miles in your account, you’re still possibly looking at US$150 fee.
So here are some tips and how to use those miles
- School and major holidays are out the window.
- 56 days in advance of the purchase ticket is the best chance you’re get the most discounted ticket available and this also works for using miles It’s when airlines panic a little because they haven’t filled the aircraft and they need the seats taken.
- Try departure destinations which have more than one flight daily to your arrival destination such as British Airways London Heathrow to JFK. They have over eight flights daily and so you’re much more likely to find a couple of seats using award points.
- Next up is the last minute seat particularly on Cathay Pacific and British Airways . They release all their award seats about 72 hours in advance of all their flights. It’s Your best bet but never a guarantee. Also when you’re at the airport it is ALWAYS worth asking if you want to get an earlier or later flight. They Open up reward seats at the last minute more than at any other times. You may just be able to score an upgrade on points.
- Keeps checking as flights release daily and availability changes frequently and remember this tip, a lot of Asian carriers tend to have more availability than American or European carriers because people aren’t as used to using miles in Asia like they are in the West.
- The last thing to remember is that you’ll always have more availability using your reward points on the same airline that you accumulated them with. Most carriers allot very few seats to their partner airlines making it harder if you’re not on the same program as the airline you choose
- And here’s a bonus tip. Patience is a virtue especially in dealing with airlines frequent flyer phone centers. If you’re not getting the answers you want, hang up and call back. You’ll be surprised at how many time a new Agent can find you something different than the last one you were speaking with.
Daniel Green, the Model Cook is a Celebrity Chef known for his healthy approach to food and living well. With TV, books, magazines and live appearances, Daniel spends his time helping fans to cook better, feel better and live better. He’s also an avid traveler and a self-confessed Foodie.