Award booking services - who to use?

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Travel' started by ben, Feb 28, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. ben
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    ben Silver Member

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    I'm sitting on a pile of Delta and American miles and I've done very little in the way of award booking before. Frankly the prospect of dealing with Delta to not get fleeced for all my miles leaves me putting off the whole idea of an award booking. I've only flown a few carriers in premium classes and I'm pretty easy to please so I'm sure I'd be happy with most anything offered, but I think I'd like to try out one of the award booking services.

    There are three I know of:
    Gary at http://bookyouraward.com/
    Ben at http://www.pointspros.com/
    Mike at http://upgrd.com/award/

    The first two find and book the award, while upgrd.com requires me to book once they find space - a process I would rather avoid. For the fees: Gary charges $250 and the other two are $150.

    Aside from their familiarity with availability tools, I think these guys have some experience with the products out there and could offer some good suggestions and perhaps take advantage of a free stopover I hadn't thought of.

    I haven't seen too much in the way of reviews of these types of services. Have any of you guys used an award booking service before? How was it?
     
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  2. Bonnie
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    Bonnie Silver Member

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    I used Gary last year for a trip to Vietnam. He booked us in first class using a wonderful combination of LH, TG and TK first class flights. I can't rave enough about Gary's knowledge and patience! He went above and beyond in making sure we had the perfect itinerary and that our ground and flight experiences exceeded our rather high expectations. To say that Gary is worth every penny is an understatement! Right now I'm just busy trying to accumulate enough points to call him again for our next trip!
     
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  3. Surface Interval
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    Surface Interval Silver Member

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    Another to look into:
    Brian at http://thepointsguy.com/about/
    Price varies - Avg ~ $100
     
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  4. ben
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    ben Silver Member

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    I've read such great things about Gary, I'm thinking I'll go with him, but it's surprising how few reviews I've been able to find on any of these services.
     
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  5. TravelinWilly

    TravelinWilly Silver Member

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    I stumbled across this thread looking for someone who can do some awards for me. I registered here at MP awhile ago, but haven't posted here until I saw this, as I usually use FlyerTalk for my FF info.

    I've had mixed experiences with Gary; with Ben, not so much.

    The great with Gary:
    In May of 2010 or so, I needed help with a booking using UA points to go to Asia in early 2011. I decided to throw Gary some business, since he's contributed so much to the FT board. It was a quick turnaround, he came up with great suggestions, and in a week or so we were done: NH on the long-haul segments in first, regional business class on intra-Asia, best $250 I could've spent.

    The not great with Ben:
    June of 2011, I decided to give Ben a try, since he is such a rich source of travel tips. Interesting blog, twitter feed, etc. I emailed him on 6/24 asking him to look into a couple of trips for me. On 6/27 he got back to me, apologizing for the short delay, and asked me a couple of clarifying questions, the answers of which I reverted to him on 6/28. I heard nothing back from Ben, so on 7/7 I sent him an inquiry that ended with "I'm not in a giant hurry, but just wanted to make sure that we don't forget about me! :)" So there was no rancor, certainly. Then on 7/14 I sent this to Ben: "It's been ~3 weeks since I sent my first email, and if you're too busy to do this, that's fine, but please let me know, since I don't want to waste time trying to snag the awards I'd like to get." Finally, on 7/15 I sent an email with the subject line marked "URGENT - PLEASE READ FIRST" as I didn't want Ben to do any (or any more, in case he'd started, but nothing was ever communicated to me after his first reply on 6/27). I said: "I'm sorry, but after not hearing from you for almost 3 weeks, I'm going to withdraw my request for help with the below. If you find in the future that you have the time to attend to this side business, great, but in the meantime I'm going to have to go back to Gary and hope that he can help me with this."

    To this day I've heard nothing from Ben, so I'm not sure if he's even in this business any more, and I don't know if my emails were ever seen. It's easy to see how he could become overextended between his blog, twitter, the other website where he posts (I forget the name, but he links to it from twitter a lot), and all the travel he does as well.

    The not great with Gary:
    So I emailed Gary on 7/15, filling in the questionnaire from his website. He got back to me with some clarifying questions on 7/16, and I reverted with answers on 7/17. On 7/24 I re-wrote Gary this: "I hadn't heard from you, so I was curious if you got my email from last week (Sunday, a week ago today). Can you let me know?" I received no reply. On 7/27 I sent an email to Gary's personal email address, asking "Is anyone checking email at bookyouraward.com? I've sent a couple of emails, but haven't heard anything. Thanks" I heard nothing again. Finally I tried to reach Gary through a PM at FlyertTalk. I sent this message on 7/30:

    "Hi Gary,
    I sent you 2 follow up emails from my AOL account to your bookyouraward.com address on the 17th and the 24th, followed by an email to your yahoo.com account on the 27th.
    I haven't heard back from you from either address, so I was wondering if you'd received them or not, as I'm not sure if I have a problem on my side.
    Can you let me know if you've received them? I'm not in a rush to book something, I just wanted to be sure that you were able to get my emails.
    Thanks,"

    Again, and finally, I've still received nothing back.
    _______________________________________________________________
    Summary:

    With Ben, I'd love to give him a try, but I'd need to know that he can be responsive. 3 weeks is plenty of time to reply to an email.

    With Gary, when Gary is able to pay attention to his side business, he really comes through. However I don't know that he's interested in that area any more. This was very disappointing, because I was excited to work with Gary again after the great help I received in 2010.

    This is not a flame, it's a review of my experience with 2 of the individuals mentioned upthread. I'm glad to see he 2 additional mentions, as I love using this kind of a service, and for me, paying $250 a trip is money well spent.
     
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  6. ariyo15
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    ariyo15 Silver Member

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    Feel free to check out FirstClassAndBeyond.com - the charge is very straightforward and doesn't vary based on request. Flat rate - $100 per passenger.

    Of course, I have plenty of references I could send your way if you'd like :)

    Thanks for the consideration!
     
  7. cotter77
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    cotter77 Silver Member

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    my experience with awards and using others for help is the same as everything else: you can really only depend on yourself, especially if you want to get it right.
    from my experience those services will not help you with any changes you need to make to your schedule or find new flights if you life schedule changes. Given that you already have to be flexible and plan way far in advance to look, find and plan for awards, you are best of doing it yourself with some research here and on FT.
     
  8. ben
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    ben Silver Member

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    I swapped a few emails with Gary a few months ago. He gave me some great information and ended up recommending I do the booking as it was pretty straightforward. He could have easily had me pay him for the same booking. He's a class act.
     
  9. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    I think people here are probably not the perfect target market for these services. We tend to know exactly what we want, understand to some degree our options, and look for perfection (which at least in my case means refining awards after the initial booking). I don't see how the service providers can offer this for $100-$250 and be profitable (unless they outsource the actual tasks to India... hmmm, that might be an idea :D ) Much easier to satisfy someone who is not obsessed with travel hacking and just wants to put miles to good use to get comfortably to their destination.
     
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  10. Flyer1976
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    Flyer1976 Gold Member

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    HMWT,

    I am starting my own Travel Concierge company similar to these other folks however we offer quite the unrivaled product and we are undervaluing ourselves because hey... using your miles should be fun and painless...

    I'll release more details later but I can guarantee everyone for their money we will over-deliver and ensure utmost satisfaction or we won't collect a dime from them if we can't get the job done...

    We're launching sometime this month and would love to help the FT and MilePoint community as well as the Frequent & Infrequent Flier communities as well.
     
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  11. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Good luck! I might be a customer at some point (despite what I said above) because like the OP I have miles in programs like AA, DL and BD which I am not really an expert in (and more importantly, have little time/desire to become an expert in). Still, given how much effort it can be to find/book awards, I have difficulties understanding the economics of the business.
     
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  12. jwsky
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    jwsky Silver Member

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    This is an interesting thread. Thanks OP,Ben, for bringing the topic up.

    I really admire Gary for his knowledge and first rate manners, tact, and generosity. It would be a real treat to hire him to do a booking. But, I realize that it is not his main business and that he is not about to quit his day job. One would have to keep that in mind. So, buying this service through a company concentrating on just award booking for less money would be a good alternative. More like a full time travel agent with quick responses and immediate help with problems.

    Alas, poor me can not afford to hire anyone. But, maybe someday.....
     
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  13. dhammer53
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    dhammer53 Gold Member

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    Ben,

    Post your travel plans on the appropriate forum. I did that for my son's honeymoon trip to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. These were areas I wasn't familiar with in terms of how to get there. Board members have lots of experience. You'd be amazed at some of the tips you can pick up. I'm betting you'll get suggested itns.
     
  14. ben
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    ben Silver Member

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    Good idea. I have my next couple trips booked, but I will look around for on the ground itineraries.
     
  15. TravelinWilly

    TravelinWilly Silver Member

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    Any update? While I'm pretty savvy with understanding award bookings, I find that I'm one of those people with more money than time/patience, and I'd simply prefer to have someone else deal with the award bookings if I don't find something immediately via the ANA tool (for *A), etc.

    Either way, good luck with the new venture.
     
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  16. CrankyScott
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    CrankyScott Silver Member

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    I have used Ben http://www.pointspros.com/ and have been extremely happy. He does travel often, but he is very good about responding to email even while on the road and giving updates to what he is doing for you.

    When I first used Ben, I also had a problem with his email, turns out my spam filter service was blocking his messages. My spam service said his site had been reported for abuse. Ben was aware of this and I believe trying to fix it. He gave me his Gmail address and I have used that without problem.

    Ben has pulled together some incredible trips for me using my Delta Sky Pesos. He is great to work with and I give him 5 stars!
     
  17. Flyer1976
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    Flyer1976 Gold Member

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    You have been contacted! =)
     
  18. cotter77
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    cotter77 Silver Member

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    i cant remember if i mentioned it before but i was dissapponted with points pros
    it just seemed like ben didnt find anything better than i found. and in the end still wants payment and wont make changes if you need to change it. furthermore, i mistakenly thought that these guys had abilities (through status or whatever) to change your awards as part of their service (even when you would know what changes you wanted to make - which made me think it was a could price and cost investment). but in reality if you need to change your schedule, not only is it better to do it yourself but you still have to pay the fees.
    overall, i would only recommend the service for the truly lazy or too busy types. with some time investment you can learn enough of the intricacies of the awards to do it yourself.
     
  19. Flyer1976
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    Flyer1976 Gold Member

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    I have to agree with you but if they did not misrepresent themselves or if you assumed wrongly then the client is responsible however with my Travel Concierge services we state what you will get and we will follow through for customer satisfaction. With investment and time one can learn what it is we do for Travel Consulting on Awards.
     
  20. okrogius

    okrogius Silver Member

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    In general, the target audience of these services isn't anyone who actively reads this place. While Ben/Gary/etc are well experienced (and thus may be faster at this), the relevant information is here and you can spend lots of time. Similarly, the time you would be able to dedicate yourself to your flying is clearly larger than the larger number of flights they book.

    However, at the same time clearly there is a market or we wouldn't see that many of these. Not sure it's purely for the lazy -- MP/FT/etc can be a quite time consuming hobby.
     
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  21. Flyer1976
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    Flyer1976 Gold Member

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    I can say most of the client base are busy executives who have no time to look for things like these so there is a market niche.
     
  22. KyRoamer
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    KyRoamer Gold Member

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    Any recent experiences in using others to help book awards?
     
  23. jerryhung

    jerryhung Silver Member

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  24. Extra Pack of Peanuts

    Extra Pack of Peanuts Silver Member

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    Just wanted to let everyone know that I also run an award booking service as well.

    Prices currently are $150 for the first passenger and $50 for each additional passenger on the same itinerary.

    Of course, if I don't find anything, you don't pay a dime.

    Bookings are done by me, and me only, and you'll be guaranteed to get a personal response within 24 hours (but probably much sooner).

    I look forward to helping some of you in the future!

    You can check out the page here:

    Extra Pack of Peanuts Award Booking Service
     
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  25. youpaiyou

    youpaiyou Silver Member

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    That's cheaper than the competition.
     

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