What are the best days to look for low miles awards online?

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Miles/Points' started by DebraI, Mar 20, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. DebraI
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    DebraI Silver Member

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    Hi all,
    I've been playing around with the various airline booking engines this weekend, I noticed that the Continental award search engine displayed really different awards from the middle of last week to the weekend. Dates available for booking were plentiful mid-week, and now there are no discount point fares 27500 *A each way, for instance, coming back form Europe to anywhere in Western Canada. Does this happen fairly regularly, like where airlines put inventory into the system regulary and then it becomes depleted and restocked, or are we really out of the cheap-o awards for the rest of the summer?

    Any enlightment you all may have on how things work and the best days to look for low miles awards would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Deb
     
  2. savydog
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    savydog Gold Member

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    I am in Australia, but I do notice that award bookings can require reduced amounts of points when Qantas and Virgin Blue have sales on tickets. If it is similar there you may need to be watching the airlines for sales and see what the point requirements are then.

    JetStar here have a sale every friday for people who have subscribed by email, keep an eye out for that sort of thing as well.
     
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  3. Randy Petersen
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    Randy Petersen Founder

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    Here's some general guidelines:
    Best Days: Within the U.S./Canada (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday), To Florida (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday), Hawaii (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday), Asia (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday), (Caribbean (Tuesday, Wednesday), Europe (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday), Mexico (Tuesday, Wednesday), South America (Tuesday, Wednesday); Worst Days: Within the U.S./Canada (Friday, Sunday), To Florida (Friday, Sunday), Hawaii (Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday), Asia (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), Caribbean (Saturday, Sunday, Monday), Europe (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), Mexico (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), South America (Friday, Saturday, Sunday).
     
  4. JohnDeere19
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    JohnDeere19 Gold Member

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    Are these best and worst days to actually book tickets or best and worst days to find award inventory?
     
  5. Randy Petersen
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    Randy Petersen Founder

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    Best days to actually travel on award tickets. When looking is more relavent to planning in advance, no specific days. For instance, the highest period for online searches for award tickets is statistically in January, as people come out of the holidays and begin to parse out their summer vacation plans ... that's a general period of six months in advance. In January there is no specific day of the week to claim an award six months in advance, there are however better days when award availability is kinder and gentler. For instance, you see in the above that the worst days for FL are Friday and Sunday, that's because of two factors, the FL weekend commuters (generally from NYC) and those are key days when cruise ships depart and arrive which is key since many people try to use awards to meet those dates for cruises.

    Now, getting back to the month of January for being among the most popular months (it varies slightly by airline0 for award redemption demand (demand being searches) the very good rule-of-thumb is to move forward of that month. I always have told members looking for the best time in which to plan out your summer vacation is actually not the wifestale of 335 days in advance, but rather plan you summer vacation during the Christmas holidays when everyone else is busy with other things. Your odds increase just in advance of the traditional January demand for awards seats for the June-August period.

    Anyway, the subtleness of knowing when cruise ships and other influences of demand and planning can help, though it certainly varies by specific city-pairs.
     
  6. AmericanGirl
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    AmericanGirl Silver Member

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    Randy, thank you for the excellent explanation. It is indeed very helpful.
     
  7. jmrich1432
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    jmrich1432 Silver Member

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    Thanks for the explanation! I don't think I would have ever thought of the cruise schedules or anything along those lines while planning.
     
  8. gleff
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    gleff Co-founder

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    Put a different way, airlines want to offer those seats as awards that they don't expect to sell for cash.

    When schedules load (depending on airline, 330 days out or 355 days out and with a bit of variation around those dates), airlines may load some award inventory on some flights. And they may not. They have some historical knowledge and guesses about what sales will be like on a flight taking off in a year, but it's still pretty speculative.

    If you call at midnight 330 days out and there aren't seats available, it doesn't mean someone got in before you!

    It's commonly believed that there are a certain number of award seats per flight, once they're gone you're out of luck. But that's not how it works.

    Airlines monitor flight loads consistently across the year as the date of flight approaches. They add inventory when it appears sales are below forecast and they expect to have empty unsold seats. And they even take away award inventory when sales are above forecast, or their forecast changes. When a seat disappears it doesn't mean someone else took it, it oculd mean that the airline decided to no longer offer it.

    As flight time approaches, gets closer and closer, an airline's guesses about how full a flight will be gets better informed and more likely to be accurate.

    Now, some airlines don't really load inventory at 330 days out. Sometimes it takes a month before they do so. And some airlines don't get generous until 90 days out.

    In general, if there are any rules of thumb at all, best availability is 11 months out (or when schedules load), 6 months out, 3 months out, 2 weeks out, 3 days out. If you have tons of flexibility you can really gamble and win with last minute bookings. Of course if flights are full then you could wind up with nothing.

    I'm a big fan of booking the best thing you can and then, if you don't have the kind of elite status that lets you make changes for free, being willing to pay a change fee to improve your award later if need be.
     
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  9. BurBunny
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    BurBunny Silver Member

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    To add on to Randy's comments vis a vis cruise schedules, in addition to January, in fact the whole first quarter is called "wave season" in our industry. Traditionally, more people book during those three months than any other for the full year. Not just for summer holidays, but also spring break gets huge bookings during that time.

    But certain markets tend to book in specific seasons. Peak Alaska booking season is 4th and 1st quarter, so any awards search should begin no later than 4th quarter the previous year. Europe likewise tends to book September-November of the previous year (though there are significant late booking patterns currently due to economic conditions especially flight costs), Caribbean spring bookings start in earnest just after the school year begins (as parents get the school holiday schedules), and summer bookings usually just after spring break (but that's actually late if you're booking families and needing triple/quad occupancy), and Exotics a year or more in advance, often as soon as schedules come out in early spring for the following year's winter/spring schedule (for example, most of my exotics clients are booking now for Winter 2012/Spring 2013).

    Cruise schedules can have a huge impact on air prices and availability, along with award and to a lesser extend upgrade availability as well. If anyone has questions about how cruise schedules might affect something they're looking at, let me know - always happy to help.
     
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