The reason we all collect air miles and points (or so I assume) is so that we can travel. Thus, having high mileage balances and zero experiences is not the goal here.
Today we’ll be starting a series where I’ll help you find the best ways to use your miles when booking flights.
General Award Booking Principles:
- When you have miles with an airline you can use those miles to book flights on any airline within the alliance (i.e. One World, Star Alliance, and SkyTeam).
- The amount of miles you use will be based on the award chart of the airline from which you are booking, not the airline you are flying. If you’re flying on Cathay Pacific and booking with AAdvangage miles, you’ll use the AAdvantage award chart as a reference.
- The taxes and fees are subject to the fees set by the airline you are booking with, not the airline on which you are flying. There are a few general exceptions like using AA miles to fly on British Airways.
How to Book One World Award Flights
One World Partners Include:
- Cathay Pacific
- Royal Jordinian
- S7 Airlines
Strategizing How You Want to Travel
Once you’ve decided on departure and arrival destinations, your next task is to decide which alliance has the best mileage rates. Then you need to determine the class of travel you’d like to fly.
Next, you’ll need find out what airlines fly to/from my destination, (I use Open Flights to help.) From there, decide (usually after research) what airlines have the best service to your destination. Next, you’ll probably want to research to discover what US hubs they fly out of. This is important because often you’ll end up searching segment by segment. For example, when I was doing our booking from Denver to Denpasar, Bali, I knew I wanted to fly via Toronto. No search engine would naturally route me Denver – Toronto – then onward to Bali. Instead, I searched Toronto to Hong Kong – Bali. Then I found other flights from Denver to Toronto.
Before proceeding, it might be advisable to decide if you want to go ahead and try and tack on a free one way to somewhere like Hawaii.
If you’re going to be using miles, the extra research finding the best airlines, routes, and availability will always help improve the trip.
If this all sounds like a little too much ‘research’, I do have a booking service where you can hire me to help you find flights.
Which One World Search Engine to Use?
Why not aa.com?
The problem with aa.com is that they don’t include all partner searches. At the time of this writing, when you search for award flights using aa.com they will show flights on Hawaiian Airlines, British Airways, and Air Berlin. That means you’ll miss out on a lot of flight options if you only rely on aa.com.
For example, when I search from Denver to Hong Kong, I get the following message:
There are currently no awards available on AA.com for your requested Origin and Destination. Please modify your request or contact AAdvantage Reservations for award opportunities on all AAdvantage participating airlines.
Now, I could call aa.com, but I’d rather be able to research and verify options. The person on the phone isn’t there to help you book an amazing trip. They’ll do a minimal amount of work, but don’t expect them to search every nook and cranny for availability.
As a result, I’ll head over to qantas.com (where I actually really would have started).
I like Qantas’ interface better than ba.com The only problem with it is that repeat searches require you to re-enter too much information.
When searching, I like to click on ‘flexible’ with dates because that will really help me get a full picture of flight availability.
While aa.com says there is nothing available, qantas.com is showing me several options based on my preferred class of flight (you can select which classes you’d like to search).
Now I know which flights there are available. I can simply choose the best dates and proceed.
If I were interested in the first flight, I could click on the “!” to find out that there isn’t any business class available on the flight to Chicago. If I were interested in this flight (which I wouldn’t be because I don’t want to fly American), I would just jot down the information (dates, flight times, and flight numbers) and call American Airlines AAdvantage (if those were the miles I wanted to use) and tell them the flights I want to book.
If you book over the phone with American, you’ll pay a $25 fee per person.
Double Check with ba.com
Because I’m afraid that I might miss out on an option, I’ll often confirm availability in ba.com just to see if they have the same flights open and to see if for some reason they come up with extra flights.
If you have a membership at Expert Flyer, that can also be a good resource. Since I’m often traveling with my family, I like to know how many seats are available on a given flight. Expert Flyer gives me that information. You can see a sample of what you can view with expertflyer.com
What about high fuel surcharges?
When booking flights with One World, I suggest you avoid British Airways. They are the source of most high fuel surcharges. This applies even if you are booking with AAdvantage points. If you are forced to fly British Airways, they don’t charge a lot for inter-Europe flights. Just try to avoid them across the pond.
Now, with this information in hand, you should be ready to go out and burn some of your One World miles.