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The world of miles and points keeps moving at a rapid pace. Loyalty programs devalue, banks change application rules and credit cards cut or add benefits. However, the primary goal of writing and reading all the content that we produce and consume is just one. That we should be able to fly where we want to and stay at places we love. For most people, the end goal is to book a flight or a hotel room with their miles and points. When friends often ask me how I booked a particular flight in business class, it’s often never a short answer. Hence, I thought that it would helpful for readers if I were to write a post about the different steps and considerations that go into booking an award flight.

Where to?

The first question you need to answer is what your destination is. For the purpose of this post, we’ll take a look at a simple itinerary, flying from Miami to Cancun.

When?

Time is the second consideration because that will determine availability. By simple laws of demand and supply, you can conclude that more often than not, there’d be more availability during off-peak times.

How?

An award flight can be of two types – direct booking or partner award flight. Once you decide which one you’re going to take, you then have to look at the method of booking. Certain direct as well as partner award flights can easily be booked online. For others, you need to call in order book your award flight. If the flights aren’t bookable online, you should then refer to award charts to check the award price of the flight.

How much?

Once you have answers to all the steps mentioned above, the next question you need to answer is: how much will this cost? If you’re using transferable miles, you should first check if there are currently any transfer bonuses out there. For example, I used Amex’s transfer bonus recently in order to transfer my Amex Membership Rewards points to British Airways Avios at a ratio of 1:1.4 instead of the usual 1:1, thanks to a 40% bonus.

Real Life Example

In this case, we’re looking to book a one way flight from Miami to Cancun, looking to fly American Airlines. I’m using the 40% Membership Rewards bonus, so that I can pay fewer miles for the ticket. My goal is to fly American Airlines in First Class. Here are the sequential steps.

A. Checking availability with American Airlines: The first step is to look for ‘saver’ availability on American Airlines. The AA website does a pretty good job to help you search for availability.

 

 

B. Checking availability on BA.com: In order to leverage the 40% Membership Rewards bonus, the next step is to verify whether the same availability shows up on the British Airways website.

 

 

C. Checking Qantas for OneWorld availability: If you’re looking for further verification, you can look on Qantas.com in order check for availability. If you can see the seat available on each of the OneWorld partners, I’d say it’d now be safe to transfer points to British Airways.

 

 

 

There’s a clear difference in pricing with the three One World partners. AA charges 25,000 miles for this ticket. Qantas charges 18,400 points. However, British Airways charges 15,000 Avios. However, thanks to the 40% bonus from Membership Rewards, I only paid 10,714 points for a ticket in First Class on AA!

The Pundit’s Mantra

I hope these steps and the examples were helpful in shedding some light on the basics of booking an award flight. As you go deeper into the miles and points game, you can get into more complex routings and airline partnerships. However, if you have miles/points in your account and were wondering how to use them in the best possible way, you could use this as a starter kit for booking your first award flight.

Which was the first award flight that you booked? Is there any specific award booking type that you’d like to know more about? Let us know in the comments section.

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