Do you use a booking service for award trips?

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Miles/Points' started by Up&Away, Dec 22, 2011.  |  Print Topic

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Have you used a booking service for an award trip?

  1. Yes, I use a booking service each time.

    2.2%
  2. Yes, I have in the past but no longer do so.

    4.4%
  3. Yes & No -- depends on what I'm trying to book.

    11.1%
  4. No, I've never used a booking service.

    82.2%
  1. Up&Away

    Up&Away Silver Member

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    Curious as to how many of you use a booking service for an award trip vs. doing it yourself. Would love to hear your experiences, what service you've used, how much it cost, if you felt like it was worth it (got everything you wanted, saved money, saved miles, etc).
     
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  2. misterbwong

    misterbwong Silver Member

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    I haven't used it but I could see the value. Booking awards takes a lot of time so if I didn't have the luxury of time to research, I would hire someone to do it. The amount of time/money saved will likely outweigh the cost of booking for many people. This is especially true for families or groups travelling together.
     
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  3. dkelly1110
    Original Member

    dkelly1110 Silver Member

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    I used Gary/gleff (bookyouraward.com) in the past. It was my very first award booking and it was my honeymoon; I wanted the one of the best. He delivered. Cathay First to Bali with a 3-day stop in Hong Kong on the way out. 150K BA miles per person. Unfortunately, this award is now more expensive with the new Avios chart in place.

    I learned a lot since booking last year and snagged LAN Business class JFK-Santiago-Easter Island for my wife and I before the BA switch in November. We are off to South America in about 6 weeks.
     
  4. cotter77
    Original Member

    cotter77 Silver Member

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    I did once.... and I felt and still feel it was a waste and will never do it again. I even felt a little scammed, for a few reasons.
    one reason was that i had searched and searched on my own, and did the research here and on FT and on the blogs collecting tons of advice. I used the booking service as a last resort in hopes of finding something better or something i didnt know about and found that the options given to me were basically ones I already knew about. So when I told "the service" that "ok I will do choice 'b'-thanks anyway," he still expected payment.....what was i to do? I paid to be nice and not to create any friction in the FT/MP blogosphere because I believe in karma.

    The other half of disappointiment was because my plans changed and I thought they use their status and privileges or work-arounds to change your tickets if need be to optimize your trip etc. -now maybe that was something i accidentally dreamt up in my head after reading all their blogs and such, thinking that was how they were able to offer the services in the first place (i thought that WAS the value in their service, why else would one bother using them- anyone who didnt care about throwing away $200 would just buy tickets and not even play the miles game).
    If you read the fine print they really cant do much to help you, since they wont re-book for you unless the airline give you the screwjob first. Thus, all the rebooking, change fees etc that non-status people have to pay get stuck on you too, plus a second booking service fee for a "new trip" or worse, the redeposit fees that really suck.

    After a year of playing the miles game and reading attentively, I have learned a lot and will always try to book my own awards from now on. I didnt see any added value from the service.
    That is not to say that finding and booking the optimal awards is easy. It can take significant daily checking and research and so forth to maximize your miles...i just didnt feel it was worth it for me for 2 tickets for $200 when the all the same rules and risks come with it to get the same ticket i can find on my own with a little bit of work.
     
  5. stan
    Original Member

    stan Silver Member

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    WAS THAT $200 for one ticket or $200 for two tickets
     
  6. Bonnie
    Original Member

    Bonnie Silver Member

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    Years ago I was introduced to the concept of points for premium travel by Award Planner. While, even after years of reading and learning from a lot of travel forums, I just don't have the sophisticated knowledge (nor patience!) to get the best results. When Award Planner closed shop, I was devastated and thought I'd never fly in the front of the plane again. Last year I discovered and used Gary Leff at bookyouraward.com for the most awesome award trip. To say it was money well spent is an understatement! First class on Lufthansa, Thai and Turkish (sleeper suite!) from South Florida to Saigon and back. The flights were perfection, the first class lounges wonderful...and the personal assistant/escort services spoiled us for life! Gary managed to piece together exactly what we wanted....top serivce to the destinations and on the dates we requested.
     
  7. Scottrick
    Original Member

    Scottrick Gold Member

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    I've never used a service and wouldn't plan on it unless it were a worst case scenario. Even if some people are probably better at it, I enjoy the challenge, and each time I do it myself I get a little better. You will learn how if you ask for help, but you'll never learn if you ask people to do it for you.

    It is a lot of effort. That's why you pay for the advice. If you've already done the research, you don't need advice. I don't think there's anything that "new" or "secret" out there. A few things aren't widely known, like flying on *A to Asia via Europe, but for most trips I don't think a service will really find anything that you couldn't on your own.

    Lesson learned. They're still your miles so your status will apply. I think the best a service could do with their own status is call the elite line and use them to book a GM's award.
     
  8. iolaire
    Original Member

    iolaire Gold Member

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    I really think the services are for people who don't have the time or care to do the research. Once you understand the process and know how to look the services are unneeded.

    It’s sort of like the traditional travel agent – you could research your destination and how to get there on your own – or pay someone to do it for you. Once you figure out that everything you could ever want is on the internet the value of the travel agent seems to fall, unless they offer some sort of inside access.

    I the service is good for someone who has a ton of miles from trips that they did not book themselves. If a corporate travel office has been holding their hand in the past then a booking service is exactly what they need.
     
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  9. kyunbit
    Original Member

    kyunbit Silver Member

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    Very well said.... Things that grad school teaches you :)
     
  10. Scottrick
    Original Member

    Scottrick Gold Member

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    This is the best way to tell a good first-year rotation student from a bad one. They don't know anything, so how they handle that situation is a good test.
     
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  11. TrippePanAM

    TrippePanAM Gold Member

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    Booking award seats on own if fun the thrill of finding the availability of it then booking is part of the fun. I would never use an agency
     
  12. HaveMilesWillTravel
    Original Member

    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    I could see myself using a service for an award with a program that isn't my "home" program. E.g., I am quite familiar with UA and happily research book awards with them. But for some reason I happen to have just about enough miles for two J seats to Europe with Delta. I have no expertise with the program and also little desire to become an expert for this one trip, as I don't expect to make it my BFF program. So the question of paying someone to do the job for me isn't a silly one -- I also don't learn plumbing to fix my water heater when I don't expect this to be a common occurrence (with apologies to Gary for the analogy).
     
  13. JosephMay

    JosephMay Gold Member

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    I am generally the "booking service" for myself and all of my friends. Last week I booked in business NYC-JRO, NBO-JFK with a stop in CDG in July for my friend and his wife. $12k+ worth of flights for 120K skymiles each. Felt really good about that one...
     
  14. iolaire
    Original Member

    iolaire Gold Member

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    I also want to point out the most of the booking service providers like gleff are doing their best to teach the public the tricks of the trade. Thank you...
     
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  15. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    I am currently on a LGA-ORD-HKG-PVG-SIN-KUL-SIN-HKG-ORD-LGA award trip, which I booked as I always do: I draw up the itinerary, find out which *A carriers to take for each segment, and then get on the phone with a UA CSR to do the final booking for me because, as I understand it, to redeem miles for travel that includes *A carriers, one must call UA CSR to do it for you. Also, what exactly does "booking service" mean in this context? Do the airlines' own booking systems qualify or are we talking about third party services?
     
  16. HaveMilesWillTravel
    Original Member

    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    3rd party services such as Gary's (gleff) bookyouraward.com
     
  17. Travelmom4

    Travelmom4 Silver Member

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    I used Gary Leff last year to book six business class tickets to London and back from Paris for my family.I was very pleased with the service. I had miles and points in different programs and had to make transfers, etc. And, of course, six award seats don't pop up on every flight. I had spent some time looking into it myself and Gary was able to get each ticket for fewer miles than I had found. Probably saved me 150k or 200k miles/points total.

    Could I have done it myself? Probably, but it would have taken many hours for me to become more knowledgeable about all of the ins and outs. I ultimately decided that, as a busy working mother, the $450 or so it cost me was worth several days of my time. As a bonus, Gary was kind enough to answer some questions about where I should concentrate my flying/ spending in the future for my family.

    If you have the time and interest it can be fun to learn how to do complicated itineraries on your own. If you are too busy for all that and just want to enjoy the actual trip, I wouldn't hesitate to contact Gary.
     
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  18. misterbwong

    misterbwong Silver Member

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    They are talking about third party services in this context, not the airline's own customer service. In you scenario, you'd be paying someone to take care of all of the steps above.
     
  19. HaveMilesWillTravel
    Original Member

    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    One thing I have been wondering about: these 3rd party services usually make it very clear that they are not a travel agent/agency. E.g., http://bookyouraward.com/4601.html

    I assume that's because there are some legal implications (licensing requirements? registration with the state?) with being a travel agent.

    But what is really the definition of a travel agent and how are they actually not travel agents? Just claiming to be something (or not) doesn't necessarily make it so.

    Thoughts?
     
  20. Flyer1976
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    Flyer1976 Gold Member

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    There are legal implications, I am a Travel Concierge not an Agent because we do not have IATA Certification to operate as a bona fide Travel Agency.
     
  21. savingrace

    savingrace Silver Member

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    I tried to have someone book my flight from small town, Colorado to Nairobi. Gary Leff was busy, but gave me two names. Both said I didn't have enough miles. One was extremely nice, and found flights on BA just for us to look at for purchase.

    But I was able to book award travel by myself, and the fact that I had to pay fees on BA to fly through LHR, and could only start at DFW were minor to me. And on the return trip, I booked with CO straight through to my small town. We had to buy a few miles, but it came to just over $200. So it DID cost us about $1,000 RT to Nairobi, but we are in business/first all the way except for short USA flights. I'm happy to get there in comfort at that price.

    We have enough miles to book another trip, hopefully to Tanzania or western Australia, and I would pay to have someone do the dirty work for me. Even though I read all the pertinent blogs every day, I still have trouble understanding how to find an award flight. I can call the agent, but just finding what's out there is hard (although I have to say CO's award travel was extremely easy to use.)

    So when I ask a booking service in the future, I will be sure to explain how flexible I am, how much I am willing to pay, etc. I don't fault the booking agents for telling me I didn't have enough miles, I guess I didn't explain enough. But it was my first FF booking. Sorry for the short story long... :rolleyes:
     
  22. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    What difference does it make to the customer?
     
  23. pnoeric

    pnoeric Silver Member

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    I've found that, strangely, the more I learn about this whole game and how to book awards, etc., the more likely I find myself thinking I might need a booking service for a more complex trip! I feel like the value of these services isn't that they know the mechanics of booking... it's that they have a "feel" for what carriers, what routes and what awards will best solve my problems. I suspect I could work with Gary or Ben on a fuzzy problem like "my boyfriend and I want to explore Indochina next September/October and go first class all the way... can you suggest an itinerary?"

    There are so many small tricks and pieces that go into a query like that, which is where I feel like Gary or Ben's "institutional memory" would serve me well. Does that make sense?
     
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  24. TheTravelAbstract

    TheTravelAbstract Silver Member

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    yup that makes sense to me. It is about the operational knowledge and the redemption value management that makes the services worthwhile.
     
  25. rajuabju
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    rajuabju Gold Member

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    Usually, no. But recently I wanted to book a semi-complex itinerary for 3 stops in Asia using my BA miles, and honestly i just didnt have the time needed to do all the research on my own. So the $250 I paid to Ben (aka Lucky)... was well worth it the time and and hassle it saved me.
     
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