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.
In Part IV, we will start getting into the more practical aspects of award booking. Using Wikipedia effectively is a way to save time and energy when booking award tickets. Obviously there is a wealth of information out there on wikipedia, but in this post I’ll talk about what I look for in terms of airline partners and how it helps me to book award tickets!
One of the keys to getting the most out of an award redemption (or sometimes to even get one at all) is knowing airline alliances and partners. If you do this all the time, eventually you’ll commit things like that to memory, but before you get to that point, Wikipedia is your best friend. Airlines websites don’t always show award spaces on partners, which is a two-fold problem. One, you won’t know space is there, but more importantly, if you don’t know a certain airline’s partners, you wouldn’t even know TO look.
Take United Airlines for example. To find out its partners just take these simple steps.
1. Go to United Airlines’ Wikipedia page
Self-explanatory hopefully, just go to wikipedia or even just google it.
2. In the information column on the right, look to see what “Alliance” United is in
Every airline page on wikipedia has a useful cheat sheet of information in a separate box on the right – here you can find what alliance an airline belongs to (if it belongs to one).
3. Click on the link to United’s alliance to look up it’s alliance partners
If an airline is a member of an alliance, you can click on that alliance to see all the member airlines of that alliance. With no exceptions that I know of, you’ll be able to redeem miles on ALL of those alliance partners using the miles of the airline you are looking up (United in this example).
4. Find and click “codeshare agreements” to look for United’s other partners
Like most airlines, United also has partnerships outside of its alliance. Generally these take the form of codeshare agreements: you can for example fly on Aer Lingus but it will be marketed as a United flight. More often than not, you’ll be able to redeem your miles for United or whichever airline on its codeshare partners (though that isn’t always the case). Wikipedia can give you a good idea of who these non-alliance partners are, though you might need to go digging around United’s website itself to confirm that you can redeem miles on those partners (in United’s case you can redeem on all of them).
5. Some airlines have entire webpages dedicated to their award partners which are linked from their main Wikipedia page
In the case of United, we could skip steps 1-4 and just click on “Mileageplus”, the frequent flyer program. In the case of United and some of the other large airlines, the frequent flyer program has an entire wikipedia page dedicated to it – that makes life the easiest! All partners you can earn and redeem miles on will be listed there.
Being able to look up an airline’s partners doesn’t help you book an award ticket by itself, but it’s information you need to know if you want to book one successfully. Once you know an airline’s partners, you can start looking for award space on those partners. In the next few posts, I will talk about the best ways to look up partner award space online for each of the alliances. Until then, feel free to check out the other posts in this series!