Editor’s word: This put up has been up to date with new info.
Changing into a sophisticated award traveler requires you to grasp two separate abilities: incomes factors and miles and successfully redeeming them for the utmost doable worth. By growing a portfolio of the best travel rewards credit cards, you’ll be able to grasp the primary ability. The second ability is more difficult.
Right here at TPG, we’ve devoted numerous hours to serving to you redeem your transferable Chase, Amex, Citi, Capital One, Marriott and Bilt factors on the most worth. The place most run into points, nevertheless, is discovering award area.
Sadly, there isn’t a basic rule you’ll be able to observe to make this course of simpler. Every airline and award search engine has its execs, cons and quirks to concentrate on. Fortunately, instruments like ExpertFlyer and point.me can assist you seek for award availability throughout the main applications.
In the present day we’re going to demystify this course of and have a look at the place it’s best to seek for award area relying on which airline you wish to fly with and the way web sites like ExpertFlyer and point.me can assist make your searches simpler.
Earlier than we dive in, let me clarify what this chart will appear to be.
Typically, it’s best to seek for award area with no matter loyalty program you intend to guide with. In that case, I’ll checklist the choices so as of recognition/pricing attractiveness and clarify how one can resolve which one to make use of. In some instances, it’s a matter of non-public desire. On this case, you’ll see two applications on the identical line separated by “OR.”
Let’s dive in!
In the present day, we’ll focus on which airways supply the most effective award engines like google. However there’s additionally one omnipotent device that makes it straightforward to seek for award area on a number of airways in a single place: ExpertFlyer (owned by TPG’s father or mother firm, Pink Ventures).
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Should you’re unfamiliar with ExpertFlyer, learn our beginner’s guide to award searches on ExpertFlyer to familiarize yourself. ExpertFlyer lets you seek for award stock from most main airways on one interface. You’ll be able to seek for as much as seven days at a time and seek for a number of cabins (i.e., first and enterprise class) in a single search.
ExpertFlyer doesn’t help each airline on the market (notable absences are Cathay Pacific, Delta and JAL), but when your airline of alternative is supported, it’s best to begin your search there. The one factor to recollect is that the outcomes aren’t all the time completely correct, so it’s best to double-check with the airline earlier than you switch factors over to guide your award.
Associated: How to use ExpertFlyer alerts to snag a better seat
Level.me is a comparatively new web site that checks for award area on 33 applications throughout over 100 airways. You’ll be able to search your required itinerary, the dates and the variety of vacationers. Level.me will then offer you some real-time out there award choices you’ll be able to guide. In our assessments, the platform would not all the time give essentially the most correct info (e.g., taxes and costs are sometimes inaccurate, and typically award area is wrong), but it surely’s an awesome place to begin your searches.
For instance, after I looked for a enterprise class flight from Newark Liberty Worldwide Airport (EWR) to Munich Airport (MUC), level.me instructed transferring 54,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards factors to Air Canada Aeroplan with the current transfer bonus to guide.
The usual plan prices $129 per 12 months.
North American airways
To maintain this manageable, we’ve break up up the information by geographic area, beginning with airways primarily based in North America.
You’ll discover a number of common airways are lacking from this checklist. Should you plan on flying Southwest, JetBlue or Spirit with factors and miles, it’s a must to guide immediately by way of their loyalty applications and gained’t have to fret about choosing which companion to go looking with. These airways have restricted or no airline partnerships and revenue-based loyalty applications.
U.S. legacy carriers are among the many best to take care of as a result of all of them have comparatively sturdy and complete engines like google. Extra importantly, they’re all tilting towards dynamic pricing, which suggests when you’re attempting to redeem United miles, it’s best to all the time search by way of United earlier than checking award availability with a companion.
One of many (many) downsides of dynamic pricing is that there’s much less saver-award area out there, the bottom pricing band that’s usually required to guide awards by way of companions. Even when there may be saver-level award area, it’s not all the time straightforward to determine. Should you plan on booking your United flights through a partner like Avianca LifeMiles or Aeroplan to make the most of decrease award charges, it’s best to search immediately with that companion program.
Air Canada Aeroplan is a fairly attractive loyalty program, too — particularly for enterprise class flights to Europe or Asia. Regardless, examine pricing with Avianca LifeMiles earlier than transferring your bank card factors.
Associated: How to avoid fuel surcharges on award travel
Lufthansa first class is arguably the easiest way to fly between the U.S. and Europe with points and miles, however you’ll have to be cautious about which program to seek for award area and guide your ticket. Lufthansa only releases first class award space to its companions 30 days out, so that you’ll want some last-minute flexibility to make this occur.
Avianca LifeMiles fees a really cheap 87,000 miles for the one-way firstclass award. Alternatively, you’ll be able to guide with Air Canada Aeroplan, however awards begin at 100,000 factors to/from east coast airports, with longer flights charging extra miles. Nonetheless, one of many upsides to utilizing Aeroplan is that you can add a stopover for 5,000 points on a one-way ticket.
This identical sample applies to different Star Alliance carriers as nicely. You’ll all the time wish to examine Avianca LifeMiles and Air Canada Aeroplan to see who has the most effective pricing on any given route or use United as a final resort. The Lufthansa firstclass ticket sells for 121,000 United miles. Award availability must be comparable throughout all these companions, so you might have a better time looking out with whichever program you guide with if you have already got miles available.
Oneworld flights to Europe
Typically, you’ll have the most effective luck trying to find American, British Airways, Iberia and different Oneworld companion flights to Europe with American AAdvantage. Simply word that you just’ll wish to guide Iberia flights with Iberia Plus Avios for the most effective charges. Likewise, you’ll get a greater deal reserving connecting tickets with AAdvantage miles over British Airways since BA fees primarily based on distance and per section.
All Oneworld applications tack on large gas surcharges for British Airways flights. You’ll be able to cut back them when you guide with Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. This program persistently fees roughly half the gas surcharges you’d pay with different Oneworld applications.
The 2 largest SkyTeam applications — Delta SkyMiles and Air France-KLM Flying Blue — each use dynamic award pricing, so trying to find SkyTeam awards has gotten way more difficult.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club nonetheless makes use of award charts, permitting you to guide a one-way Delta One flight from the USA to Europe for simply 50,000 Flying Membership miles.
Associated: 6 tips for booking Lufthansa first class awards
Singapore Airways premium cabin awards
With Asia-based carriers, you’ll principally wish to seek for award area primarily based on the alliance you’re flying with, however there are a number of notable exceptions. Singapore doesn’t launch any long-haul premium-cabin award area to most of its companions, besides Alaska Mileage Plan. In order a basic rule, all the time seek for Singapore Airways award area on the Singapore web site and verify the award worth on Alaska Mileage Plan earlier than deciding which program to guide with.
Cathay Pacific flights may be complicated
Cathay Pacific can be tough, as ExpertFlyer doesn’t help the airline. Cathay Pacific awards have recently before bookable utilizing Alaska’s web site. Nonetheless, when you guide with Asia Miles, search there first, as this system has traditionally opened extra Customary award area to its members.
Ensure you’re getting the most effective deal on ANA award tickets
You’re usually finest reserving with Virgin Atlantic Flying Membership factors on the ANA facet. Firstclass award tickets start at just 110,000 points round-trip, which is a superb deal. ANA firstclass flights departing the U.S. price 110,000 miles (or extra) one-way when booked with United MileagePlus miles. You’ll be able to’t guide these tickets on the Virgin Atlantic web site. Discover saver award area on the ANA or United web site, and name Virgin Atlantic to substantiate availability earlier than you switch miles to guide.
It’s also possible to guide off-peak ANA enterprise class tickets beginning at 75,000 miles round-trip from the U.S. to Japan with ANA Mileage Club. These tickets are bookable on-line on ANA’s web site. Plus, you’re entitled to a free stopover elsewhere in Japan so that you could go to two cities for the value of 1. Off-peak tickets elsewhere in Asia are a very good deal, too however will price extra factors.
SkyTeam isn’t any simpler
The identical SkyTeam woes that apply to looking for flights from the U.S. to Europe apply right here too. I like to recommend trying to find flights with Flying Blue and Delta SkyMiles for award area and pricing. Sadly, you’ll probably pay a giant chunk of factors whatever the route and airline you guide with because of the program’s dynamic pricing insurance policies.
Associated: The best ways to fly to Asia in business class
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Attending to the Center East isn’t (too) laborious
The Gulf carriers and their opulent premium cabins are a bucket-list merchandise for a lot of award vacationers. Sadly, you’ll be able to no longer use Alaska miles to fly Emirates, so if you wish to use your miles to journey on Emirates, you are caught with Emirates Skywards, this system that is infamous for some of the worst fuel surcharges.
Whereas award area is much and few between, you’ll be able to guide the Qatar Qsuite on American’s web site. Qsuite flights from the U.S. to the Center East price simply 70,000 AAdvantage miles. Etihad bookings usually don’t seem on aa.com, however Etihad award area may be discovered on Air Canada’s web site. Should you discover Etihad “visitor first” availability, you’ll be able to call American Airlines to get it ticketed.
LATAM has left Oneworld
LATAM left Oneworld in 2020 and teamed up with Delta Air Traces. You’re finest off searching for award area utilizing the Delta or LATAM web site after which calling your companion to guide your ticket. The airline has saved non-alliance partnerships with many Oneworld members, like Alaska Airways.
Associated: How to get to (and stay in) Dubai using points and miles
Now that you understand the place to search out award area to your subsequent journey, let us take a look at a number of tips I take advantage of to make the method simpler.
Search section by section
That is an odd quirk of most award engines like google, however you’ll usually get totally different outcomes when you seek for your full itinerary as an alternative of trying to find one flight at a time.
For instance, let’s say you wish to fly Cathay Pacific first class from Chicago’s O’Hare Worldwide Airport (ORD) to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK). Should you go to the British Airways web site and seek for a flight from Chicago to Bangkok, you could not get any availability. Should you do, there’s an opportunity they might be British Airways flights connecting by way of London with high fuel surcharges.
Nonetheless, when you break your search into two, one for the Chicago to Hong Kong Worldwide Airport (HKG) leg and one other for Hong Kong to Bangkok, you will discover the flights you want to piece collectively the itinerary. Then, you’ll be able to name the airline you’d prefer to guide with and have them guide the itinerary for you over the cellphone.
One other means to consider that is to try to construct longer journeys from the within out. I not too long ago helped a buddy guide a visit from Miami Worldwide Airport (MIA) to Bali’s Ngurah Rai Worldwide Airport (DPS). We looked for award flights from Miami to Bali at no level within the course of. With a minimal of two stops in that itinerary, we’re not going to have a lot luck counting on the pc to do the work for us.
We looked for flights from New York, Chicago and D.C. to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific. As soon as we discovered area on the longest section, we appeared for positioning flights within the U.S. and Asia.
Take notes and are available ready
Many airline customer support brokers are good at their jobs, however you’ll get a lot better outcomes once you do the work your self.
So earlier than you name to guide an award flight, it’s best to have the precise dates and flight numbers you need. Make that identified early within the dialog.
As quickly as I inform the agent the place I’m attempting to go, I’ll throw in, “I’ve the flight numbers right here everytime you’re prepared for them,” in order that they don’t waste any time attempting to go looking on their finish. Should you’ve carried out your homework to make sure that there may be award area and your routing is legitimate, these calls will go a lot simpler.
Associated: Book this, not that: Star Alliance award tickets
Studying find out how to discover and guide award flights is without doubt one of the hardest issues about award journey — particularly once you’re seeking to score a coveted first class seat on a protracted flight. One factor you might have seen is that regardless of the handfuls of airways coated on this put up, solely 5 or so primary frequent flyer applications preserve popping up.
Spend a while familiarizing your self with them and practising trying to find award area. That means, once you’re able to fly, it would really feel like second nature.
Extra reporting by Andrew Kunesh and Kyle Olsen
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