Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tips for snagging the dates you want using frequent flyer miles


CREATING WATERCOLOR MEMORIES OF TUSCANY the workshop I am teaching in Cortona, Italy is scheduled for September 4 - 11, 2010.   We have 5 deposits in so far, we need 8.

I have 50,145 frequent flyer miles with Continental's awards program.   I need 55,000 for the "Saver" seats otherwise its 100,000 for the "Anytime" seats.   So, do I book my flights using my miles now so I can get the saver rate, or wait until all 8 deposits are in and lose out on the saver seats?

Answer:  I telephoned Continental and asked what happens if I book and later have to cancel.  I learned I can cancel or change my dates up to a couple of days prior to the flight and may be charged $75.  (If I do it early enough, no charge.)  If canceling the miles go back into my account.  This varies airline to airline so always ask.

OK, I book now, but not on their web site, Here is why: 
The web site only shows the Saver seats available on that airline.  So, for my dates the Continental web site  showed nothing available.   If you call the live agent you may pay a $20. booking fee, but you discover possibilities not shown on the web site.

I telephoned a Continental agent and she said, "no problem I will check all our partner airlines, be patient it will take awhile."  She scrolled screen after screen on her computer for what must have been 10 minutes checking several airlines, through many different airports all the while telling me what she was finding.   Her persistence paid off I have Sacramento to Rome round trip tickets on the dates I wanted.  She did it for the 55,000 Saver miles using two other airline partners of Continental.  And it only cost me $30. for the four hundred or so miles I was short plus airport taxes and fees.  I saved around $1,300. the cost of the tickets not including the taxes and fees which have to be paid no matter what.  And I can cancel and my miles are returned to my account if need be. 

American Airlines Awards program allows you to "hold" an itinerary for 5 days before you have to say yes or no.  They  will request award seats from other airlines during that time if what you want is not immediately available.  You can buy the miles you are missing for a small fee.  United works in a similar way, and also allows you to buy miles if needed.  But all of this detective work is best done with a live agent who will go to bat for you, now on the web site. 

Hope this is helpful to all of you frequent flyers out there. 
Have paints will travel!  Sandy



What super advice! Just wish I'd had it a few weeks earlier. I had enough miles on United for a trip to Brazil, and really needed to use them since they'd expire next year. I asked for any connections within a ten day window and was repeatedly told nothing was available. Not through Miami, LAX, Lima, nothing . I finally got an agent who was willing to do what yours did and actually work to make it work. Brazil by way of Toronto? Yep, for some reason(freezing temperatures?) Air Canada had award seats to Toronto, then to Sao Paulo. But I had to go through several indifferent agents to get there. Have a great trip!

Sandy Delehanty said...

Guess our experiences prove one thing, when it comes to frequent flyer miles, persistance pays!