I was gushing about my shiny new bonus points/miles that I’ll be receiving from my foray into travel hacking and it made me think about how to fully utilize their awesomeness. Obviously I want to get the most out of each point and that includes figuring out what type of mile gets me the farthest for a particular flight. Now, I realize I don’t have every single flight I want to take nailed down, and maybe that would be the logical place to start, but when do I ever do anything the way I should? Instead, I’m going to just look at my first flight. Hopefully this will help you see how to get the most out of your own points and I can learn as I show you! 🙂
Here are some details of the flight, my points situation, and flight alliances…
— One way from Raleigh-Durham, NC, U.S. to London, England
— Flexible on dates…probably between August 28-30
— ECONOMY class. I’d rather use fewer points, be a little cramped, and use the leftover points for another flight.
— Just as a reminder, I’ll have 35k in US Airways, 30k in Delta, 30k in American Airlines, and I have 50k Ultimate Rewards which are transferable to United, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Southwest, and Korean Airlines.
— There are 3 major alliances…One World, Skyteam, and Star Alliance. If Airlines A and B are both part of One World, you can use the miles of A (# of miles depends on the award chart of A) to buy a flight that is on B.
Ok, now, knowing all of that, the first thing I did was plug in To/From and date into Skyscanner just to get an idea of who was flying this route. I paid special attention to who flew direct. BA (British Airways), AA (American Airlines), and Iberia fly direct, but Air Canada, Lufthansa, Air France, Delta, US Airways, United and KLM also fly this route with 1 stop.
My first stop was to US Airways…where I found out that you can only use miles for roundtrip flights. Obviously not what I need.
American Airlines has one-way award flights to Europe for 30k miles for economy, peak season…but of course not for my dates.
United has one-way award flights to Europe for 30k miles on the 28, 29, and 30th. Success! It’s actually on a partner flight, Air Canada, but that’s fine with me. The fees are really low too, only $6.80 it looks like!
**Ooo, found a site (awardtravelr.com) that you can plug your date, to and from into and what airline alliance (oneworld, sky team, star alliance), and it will show you what airline has an award flight seat available…It confirmed what I had already guessed. Air Canada, a Star Alliance airline, is the only one with award seat avaliability.
I know I could use United miles (via Ultimate Rewards) to get that Air Canada flight, but I really value my Chase Ultimate Reward points because of their flexibility. I’d much rather use one of the others, like the Delta miles (sorry delta!).
To determine what other miles I may be able to use, I go to the Star Alliance website to take a look at their partners. US Airways is a Star Alliance partner, so theoretically I should be able to use those points to book this flight, even though that’s not what it looks like on the US Airways website. I scored the web and finally found this helpful article.
To summarize, it basically says that when you search US Airways website for available award flights, it only shows flights that are entirely on US Airways. To search their partner awards, you actually have to call US Airways. Before you call, you should search the internet to find out which of their partners are offering flights on that route because the agents are NOT able to search the dozens of partner flights that could get you to your destination. Be patient, be patient, be patient.
Other tips about redeeming US Airways miles can be found on this page. This includes the number you must call to book partners of US using US miles (1-800-428-4322).
By the way, I can book a one-way, but there is no discount…it costs the same # of miles as booking a roundtrip. Not a very efficient use of my miles, if you ask me. However, I might be able to book an open-jaw rt…I’ll have to see.
Wooo! That is enough for today! It looks like I will most likely book with United miles, even though I’d rather hoard those miles for something else. I’ll keep you posted as I learn any new info on this subject!