Advance Award Planning

Advance Award Planning

With capacity control restrictions on the less expensive “saver” awards, finding an award seat at the lower mileage levels can be a challenge, especially when you want to fly during a peak travel time or on a popular route. One way you can increase your chances of finding an award seat is to check for availability the first day (first hour, or even the first minute) award seats on the flight you want become available. When looking to book an award ticket, you might want to start your search around 11 months in advance, when most airlines release award seats. For example, if you want to fly from Los Angeles to New York the day before Thanksgiving on Nov. 25, 2009, try looking for availability around January 25, 2009. Here are the number of days in advance the major U.S. carriers release award seats: Northwest Airlines, 352 days; American Airlines, 333 days; Delta Air Lines, 331 days; United Airlines, US Airways and Continental Airlines, 330 days; Alaska Airlines, 329 days; Southwest Airlines, varies–around six months. If you are unable to secure an award seat, you should still check back periodically. Airlines frequently release award seats closer to the departure date.

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