Often times, people would tell me that they find points useless, mostly because of blackout dates. So what’s the point of collecting points? Today, I will provide several tips to keep in mind so that making an award booking will be a less frustrating experience.
1) Know your airport
Be sure to know which flights are available near your local airport. You need to know what options you have. The options that you have near your local airport will affect the next factor.
2) Consider airline alliances
Though it may seem obvious to many of us, keep in mind that many airlines belong to an airline alliance. This means that you can use your points to fly a other member airlines. This is especially useful because different airlines have lower tax and fuel surcharges. For example, for Canadians, Air Canada’s Aeroplan belongs to Star Alliance. There are several Star Alliance partners that have much lower tax and fuel surcharges. Personally, I use my Aeroplan points for United Airlines flights for this reason.
3)Break your trip down in segments
Some websites allow you to use the multi-city option. You would break your flight down manually into segments. This will be more time-consuming, but it may help you figure out a decent route.
4) Call the agent
Use this option when you feel that you are unable to plan your trip through the website. The agent generally has the same access to information as you do, but they may be a little more familiar with breaking down your trip into segments. However, you may need to pay an award booking fee for using the phone service. I would politely ask if the fee can be waived. Or jot down the segment that they came up with and determine whether you can duplicate their work on the website.
Also keep in mind that some agents are more patient than others. Some agents are just counting down the clock until they go home, some are too new to the system, some are too lazy to put in the work to help you, so it is easier for some of them to tell you that there are no award availabilities. I wouldn’t take it personally. Instead, I would politely hang up and call again to speak with another agent. I understand that it can be frustrating to call over and over again until you get what you want. But that’s part of the points game. Nothing is ever really free.
5) Be flexible with your dates
Personally, this is the factor that helps me alleviate the most stress. Generally the award flight that you want will be available, on specific dates. If you are not restricted on your travel dates, you should generally be able to find a reward flight. If this option is not available to you, then the next factor will be important.
6) Plan in advance
I understand that this is easier said than done. Because often times we cannot pinpoint the exact dates that we can travel. But if this option is available to you, then I would book a reward flight earlier rather than later. It will save you a lot of trouble.
7) Flight changes
After you book your reward flight, often times the airline may actually change the itinerary on you. This actually creates a new opportunity for you. When they change the schedule of the flight, you actually have an opportunity to rebook your flight to an even more desirable time, generally with no charge. Just keep in mind that the time-frame on when you can rebook your flight after a scheduling change may be limited, so stay on top of this. If you already selected email notifications for scheduling changes, you should be fine. But it doesn’t hurt every now and then to check the status of your flight to see if there are any changes to the schedule, just in case the email is delayed or not working.
8) Diversify your portfolio
This factor is for those of you who are able to earn a lot of points and are willing to invest more time to keep track of your points. My personal strategy is to earn points with at least 1 airline be airline alliance. This way, I have more flexibility on reward flights. For this factor, I would study the airlines that you frequently use to determine which airlines are available in your local airport to determine which points to stock up on.
Ideally we would love to see airlines open up more reward flights so that we do not have to do so much work-around to redeem our points. Maybe one day the reward flight bookings will get easier, but for now, we just have to make do with what is available to us.
Personally, I feel that I have been fairly fortunate so far when redeeming my points for reward flights. What made it easier on me is that I am flexible with my dates by aiming to fly during low seasons. Also, because my dates are flexible, I can generally book my reward flight ahead of time.