AWARD TICKET BOOKING- PART 2

Well, I’m brainstormingtonight about my flights for our family trip to Great Britain in 2013.  Ihad planned to fly us all first class SFO to LHR.  Now as spring is comingand I’m getting ready to book my seats for the following year I’m re-thinkingburning all those miles.  I have them saved but my frugal Momma mindset isback.  I am someone who is always looking for a deal, something on sale,the best bargain.  So when it comes to miles and points I’m always lookingto stretch them to the max for our family.  I thought I was going tosplurge and give our family the royal treatment on this trip.  Now as thetime comes near to actually let go of those miles, I feel myself being moresensible.  There are alot of mile collectors out there who are alwaysflying first class and would never take a seat in the back of the plane. But most of those travelers are not families with kids.  You reallyhave to stretch your miles/points when you are saving for family vacationswhere you need 4 or more seats and extra big rooms to accommodate everyone. So that being said, I’ve decided to be frugal.  Let me show you howthe miles would break down and you tell me if I’ve made the right choice.
PLAN A – FIRST CLASS
American Airlines – oneway
62,500 x 4 = 250,000
United – one way
67,500 x 4 =270,000
Total Miles Used: 520,000
PLAN B – ECONOMYROUNDTRIP
American Airlines
40,000 x 4 = 160,000(MileSaver – Oct. – May, 15) Sweet deal!
Total Miles Used: 160,000
Got to be practical! What was I thinking!  The difference of 360,000 miles would give me14 domestic (U.S., Alaska & Canada) tickets for future trips.  I wasreally thinking crazy!  I think I just wanted to impress my husband andshow him that I could fly our family of 4 first class to Europe.  More ofan ego thing for a mile collector.  I’m not an ego person though.  Ijust wanted him to have the experience and the comfort with the kiddos but it’sso not worth it when you look at what I’m giving up.  We could go on 3more domestic family vacations with those miles and still not have burned themall.  That is also speculating that I completely stopped earning mileswhich would never happen.  This doesn’t include my Delta miles,US Airwaysmiles, Chase sapphire points, Amex points, etc., etc.  I guess I’mstarting to realize that even if I had a lot of money some day (doubtful) andwas wealth I’d still be frugal.
Anyway, I thought I’dshare this with you all.  Maybe you’ve had similar thoughts about yourtrips with your family.  I also wanted to just give you some quick awardbooking tips that might help when you are booking your aware trips this year. There are several valuable tools to use when booking award seats. Here are my favorite ones:
Using the ANA websiteto search for Star Aliance award availability is a huge tool you should beaware of and know how to use.  You can search for award space with USAirways, Continental/United, and Air Canada.  To use ANA’s, you need tobecome a Mileage Club member and transfer a few miles into this frequent flyeraccount.  The system will not allow you to look for award seats unless youhave miles in your account.  You can transfer miles from AmericanExpress Membership Rewards and Starwood.  ;Points transfer from both ofthese programs at a 1:1 ratio with a minimum transfer amount of 1,000. There are work arounds to transferring miles into this account.  Youcan read more details about this from The Points Guy’s detail article on using this tool
 This tool isonly available to Flyertalk members.  If you aren’t a Flyertalk membersign up here. This tool allows you to search awards on all 27+ Star Alliance airlinesand all 12+ Oneworld airlines.  You can search across days, routes, andairlines sites.  You can pinpoint awards seats with their powerfulcalendar and table views.  Also, you can monitor any future award seatopenings with their automated daily search.  This tool is a must!
 You can do so much with this tool. You’ll need this in your back pocket when booking award tickets orlooking for flights.  You will be able to access airline awards &updgrades, flight availability, flight status, flight details, seat maps,travel information, fare detail, create flight alerts and more.  There aresome things you can do with a free account but to use the best features youwill need to sign up for a basic or premium account.  The basic account is$4.99 per month and the premium account is $9.99.
 This tool issimilar to Expert Flyer.  You can search for flight availability, awardavailability, upgrade availability, fare information, flight timetables, seatmaps, and much more.  There are three membership levels: Gold, Platinum,and Diamond.  For six months the cost is $20 for Gold, $35 for Platinum,and $45 for Diamond.  You can also get the top level for two months for$20 which is nice to use if you have a quick trip you want to plan.
This is a verypowerful software which is used by many online travel agencies and airlinewebsites.  ITA can find the ability and fares on almost every airline. It is a very user friendly software and gives you a weath of information. You can not purchase your tickets on this software.  You must callthe airline direct or book online with another search engine like Expedia,Hotwire or Travelocity.  You simply use the airline flight information& other details to book the exact flight you found on ITA.  This is agreat tool for those interested in Mileage Runs.
 SEAT GURU
Seat Guru is the ultimate site for finding the “best” seat availableon your flights.  Get all the details about the plane you are flying on. The pros & cons of the seat you are selecting.  This is just acoolest tool!  Check it out!
The Wandering Armenian, a fellow blogger hascreated a few nice tools to use to help frequent flyers.  His new BritishAirways Avios tool is very good.  Check it out

QUICK TIPS:

AIRLINE HOLD POLICIES
ALASKA AIRLINES
  • No award hold
  • Grace period to cancel ticket
  • Book award tickets 330 days out
  • Can book partner airlines whenever partner’s inventory becomes available.  This is helpful because some partners seats can be available to book even before 330 days and seats are gone very quickly once released to the frequent flyers.
  • $25 fee for ticket booked on a partner airline
  • Alaska will allow you to add segments to get to an international gateway city at a later time without a change fee.
  • Example: SFO – London.  I could add on Santa Barbara to SFO without a change fee.
  • Miles & Money awards are only available online and not through the call center.
AEROPLAN
  • No holds.  You can transfer Ultimate Rewards points instantly though to Aeroplan to make a booking.
BRITISH AIRWAYS
  • No award holds.  Note: There have been cases of them holding awards for two weeks on a partner airline though.
  • Domestic booking fees are $5.  So sweet!
  • International fees are killing.  Not a good deal to use BA for international flights because these fees kill the deal.
  • Revamp of the program to Avios has really made the international redemption terrible in many cases (not all though).
AMERICAN AIRLINES
  • Can hold award seats for 5 days.  Don’t require miles in account to hold seat.
  • Takes 48 hrs for points purchased to post (40,000 miles per account per year)
  • MileSaver seats to Europe are only 40,000 Roundtrip.  Excellent deal!
CONTINENTAL
  • Can hold award seats 72 hours if you don’t have miles in account, otherwise no.  So in this situation you need to hold, you can just transfer your miles over to United to hold a ticket.  Will see what happens when United & Continental actually merge together which policy they keep.
  • 24 hour only from website – domestic tickets
  • 48 hour hold for international tickets
  • The hold only applies to ticket booked online.  If you need help with a ticket to add partner flights not available online, call and get help over the phone.  Once you have agent make changes have them keep it on hold and then you can ticket it online so you won’t have to pay the $25 phone fee.  If they won’t let you, you should still be able to ticket it online while you are on the phone since they are changing you online reservation.
US AIRWAYS
  • Can hold award seats for 72 hours.  Don’t require miles to be in account to hold seat
  • Purchase miles post instantly
UNITED
  • Can hold award seats for 72 hours.  Miles must be in account to hold.  Miles are deducted with tickets are held.  Immediately.  If you don’t ticket miles are credited back
  • Miles & Money is a good option if you don’t have enough miles but not available on all flights

One thought on “AWARD TICKET BOOKING- PART 2”

  1. I agree that flying in First is generally a waste of miles. Sure, it's more difficult to fly in Coach, but the discomfort is soon forgotten (unless you obsess over it and tell all your friends how awful it was) and the frugality is a valuable life lesson for your kids.

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