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A few weeks ago, I was preparing for a big miles and points redemption to Europe for travel next summer. At the time, I was fairly confident that I would be able to book our flights on Premium Economy or Business class based on the award availability I was seeing online for the dates leading up to our trip dates.
A lot can change in a few weeks! All of the saver award space I was seeing on multiple routes has all but disappeared. What?!?!
Where Did All the Award Space Go?
It’s hard to say. Airlines giveth award space and airlines taketh away award space. My dates are during peak summer travel, so perhaps the airlines are being stingier with saver space. Plus, everyone who has canceled their big European vacations in 2020 and 2021 is looking to travel in 2022 (3rd time is a charm, right?)
Newbies to the miles and points hobby might come across high award prices like this on their first try:
Zoinks! Over 100k miles for an economy ticket! That’s crazy.
During a recent conversation with an Uber driver about miles and points, the driver went off on a tirade about what a scam airline miles are and how they are never worth anything. I can see why he thinks that way if he bases it on a snapshot like the one above.
But since you are reading this miles and points blog, you are already doing more research than the average Joe when it comes to award travel. Bravo! I encourage you to persevere with your award bookings. While it’s not always easy, the awards are out there if you are determined to make it work.
Check Every Day
Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to when the award space opens up. You can’t go online one day and expect to find saver awards. Check back every day. Or use a website like ExpertFlyer to set up alerts. Start searching as soon as your travel dates become available. It may take weeks or months for the right award space to become available.
Check Nearby Cities/Hubs
If you’re trying to book a flight to or from Europe, try searching for award space in nearby cities. Sometimes, a cheap 1-hour flight or a few hours on a train can get you to the right starting spot.
Often, airlines have more award space available to their hub cities. For example, I’m searching for award space to Dallas from Switzerland. No airlines have direct flights to Dallas from any city in Switzerland. But, United has direct flights to Chicago, D.C. and Newark. Also, United partner airlines have direct flights from Frankfurt to Dallas.
Think Outside the Box
If you have a large family, consider splitting up your party on different flights and on different airlines. Finding saver award space for 2 people is usually much easier than finding saver award space for 5.
Consider alternate dates for your trip or change the order of your itinerary to accommodate available award space. Look at all airline transfer partners of your flexible points. Ask a miles and points guru for options you may not have thought of. Leave no stone unturned.
Let Someone Else Do the Work For You
If you don’t want to spend a few minutes every day checking for award availability, let someone else do it for you. Pay for an award booking service like JuicyMiles. These services usually charge $200+ per person. But, they have the knowledge and time to find the saver awards. I have never used one of these services personally.
Using those hard-earned miles and points can be frustrating. Sometimes, the ideal route and price doesn’t present itself immediately. But don’t give up! I am still searching for the right award flights for my family’s trip next summer. I may be driving my family crazy by feverishly searching every morning. Nevertheless, I persevere. I’ll write again when I have secured all of our flights.