People have different opinions when it comes to booking award tickets with frequent flyer miles. I, for one, love booking award tickets and enjoy the challenge that comes with doing so. Booking award tickets are like puzzles to me and I love solving them. Other people hate booking award tickets, consider them too much of a hassle, or even go so far as to believing their frequent flyer miles are completely worthless. I’ve decided to put a guide together for those of you who fall in between – people who want to book award tickets themselves but feel like they need some pointers. This guide will assume some basic knowledge, namely, that you know how to log in to your frequent flyer account and check your mileage balance. Other than that, the guide is here to help you through the process – hope you find it useful! Feel free to refer to the index at the bottom of the page for other entries.
I realized while starting another post that I missed one of the key skills necessary for booking your own awards. It’s a pretty simple concept and one many of you are likely familiar with so hopefully this one won’t be too long. Whenever you are booking awards and hopefully searching segment by segment, the challenge lies in answering this simple question: “Who flies where?”
Being able to answer that question gives an award booker a lot of power and flexibility to create great itineraries. Luckily, it’s a lot easier to figure that out when you think. You just need to return to our old friend, Wikipedia. Here’s a simple guide for how to figure out which airlines fly between which airports.
1. Search Wikipedia for the airport you are looking for
Let’s say you want to fly somewhere relatively difficult, like Bali. A simple google search should help you find this Wikipedia page for Bali’s airport (DPS).
2. Click “airlines and destinations” (or whatever looks most like that) to get a full list of the airlines that fly to that airport
Clicking airlines and destination will not only get you a list of airlines that fly to DPS, but it will also get you a list of the airports that these airlines fly to as well. Suddenly you know all the airports that fly into Bali and you know which airlines are just absolutely not an option.
3. Double check the list of airlines with the list of alliance partners to determine whether you can book the tickets
Bali is a good example because there are a bunch of airlines that fly there that aren’t part of the three major alliances. So you have to search the list and know which airlines are partners of Star Alliance, Oneworld, or Skyteam (if you are using those miles to book).
That’s it! Honestly, learning to do this quickly and efficiently is one of the most important things you can do if you want to book your own awards. Once you get comfortable with this, you can start building your itineraries backwards segment by segment. For example, the Bali airport’s Wikipedia page tells me Cathay Pacific flies to Hong Kong. I then search Hong Kong’s airport and see Cathay flies to Chicago. Now I know a possible itinerary I can be looking for to get from the US to Bali – Chicago to Hong Kong to Bali on Cathay. This really helps you come up with ideas as you search for your award segment by segment. For the record, I find it as useful on domestic tickets as I do international.
Searching Wikipedia for airline destinations and routes is a simple but powerful tool that will help you a lot as you book your own awards. Know who flies where – that way you know where to search to get to where you want to go. Remember, when booking award tickets, the straightest path isn’t always a line – using Wikipedia to determine airline routes can be the difference between taking a slight detour or just staying home altogether.