Wise Flyer – May, 23 2014

Wise Flyer – May, 23 2014

Question: I’m trying to find the key to finding award travel for 12,500 miles with taxes and fees at $5. I liberally found destinations for 12,500 points plus five dollars, with multiple choices. But then when I try to find a return home flight, with or without connections, all were more than 25,000 miles – with $80 fees and higher.
Do you know the rhyme or reason or tips to find roundtrip award flights for 12,500 each way and 25,000 miles total?
Rick Wilson

WISEFLYER: The answer to this typically lies within the realm of a similar question and answer of why certain low fares may not be available. The types of fare buckets that are assigned to award travel are similar in nature to those assigned to discounted fares and both seem to disappear in tandem as other passengers book similar routings. By “unbundling” roundtrip awards, members are now exposed to why previous awards did not seem available at 25,000 miles – it was because while most of the award might have been available, a single unavailable leg prevented the member from being able to book.

Now, as to your question about “the key”, there actually is one that we use regularly and many other members have learned over the past five years – use different airlines for one-way travel. When Alaska Airlines first introduced one-way award travel in 2007, they were sort of an anomaly and led to the rise to the popularity of one-way awards today. American followed in 2009 and because American is a partner of Alaska, it made it easy to combine one-way awards to further the flexibility of award travel. United followed in 2010, and Delta will begin one-way awards in 2015 completing the ability for most frequent flyers to combine award travel among programs.

The “key” is two-fold: 1) Know that you can combine awards on various airlines and our experience has been almost 100 percent of finding a 12,500 mile-award on another airline to match a 12,500 award on the airline we first start our award search with. The reason this seems to work is that airlines often have strong/weak membership bases for varying city pairs and a popular route for redemption with one airline is often not so popular with another, thus the ability to find awards among all your miles. 2) The second thing to keep in mind is that you should maintain a balance of 12,500 miles in a variety of programs – and also keeping in mind that with the ability to move miles into various programs, via hotel points or credit card miles, you can create one-way awards in programs you currently do not have balances in.

Once Delta arrives with one-way awards in 2015, there is a huge upside for any frequent flyer having multiple mileage balances rather than putting all your miles in one travel program basket.
So, that’s the key – multiple mileage balances – and to consider searching award availability in programs you currently do not have mileage balances in since you can transfer hotel points into airline miles with most hotel programs.