AwardsBooker helps you to book international first class and business class travel using your own frequent flyer program points or miles.

Thursday
Sep222011

Finding creative award travel options

Sometimes the simplest options don’t deliver the frequent flyer tickets that you’re looking for.

The challenge:  Two people who wanted to go from New York to Johannesburg South Africa for a special occasion.  On the face of it, they didn’t have quite enough American Airlines miles to get to South Africa using miles on an airline in the OneWorld alliance.   They had a bunch of American Express points too but you can’t convert those into American Airlines miles.  Also the miles they had wouldn’t work with the direct flight from New York because it’s on South African Airlines and they’re in the Star Alliance. You can convert Amex points into points to use on Star Alliance but the exchange rate makes it not worthwhile.

So I had about 100,000 American miles each to work with but a trip in Business Class using these miles would be at least 150,000 each and first class would be 200,000 each.  I suggested getting the Citibank American Airlines credit card to bump up the miles they have and then put the request away for a bit.

But the best ideas sometimes pop up when I’m out running in the morning:    Because they live in New York it’s a relatively short flight to London in the UK. That means that they could move their American Express miles over to ANA and then book Upper Class on Virgin-Atlantic for 63,000 miles each to London. They were just a bit short on this amount in the American Express account but Amex lets you take 15,000 miles in advance if you need to. So now we got them to London in style, now comes the London-Johannesburg part.

American Airlines will let you make award reservations on their partners using American Airlines miles. For 100,000 miles each you can go from London to Johannesburg in First Class on British Airways. The good thing here is that BA offers tons of availability in First Class on this route. So I would be able to get them from London to Johannesburg with the miles they had.

All in all this is an amazing way to get to South Africa on free flights. You get to use the Virgin-Atlantic club houses in both New York and in London and then you get to use the Concord room on your British Airways flights. When you do it this way, then getting there is all part of the fun.  Your vacation begins at your departure airport. 

Awards Booker’s award travel booking service can help you to book airline awards using creative solutions like this.

Saturday
Sep172011

It’s “Take Your Sister to Greece” Week

I recently took a trip with family to Greece using tricks of the trade to travel in style. I’ll be writing about the experience here in the next couple of days to highlight the benefits of using Awardsbooker.com for traveling in style at a low out-of-pocket price.

And now a few highlights, along with pictures.

Washington Dulles to Frankfurt on Lufthansa In First Class:  Ground Service.

I arrived at Washington Dulles a little early as I was meeting my sister there. She was flying in from North Carolina and would be flying the rest of the way with me. Unfortunately Lufthansa decided to have a staff meeting that day so the check-in area wasn’t staffed until the obligatory three hours before boarding happened so I had to wait a bit longer than expected before I could check-in and get my boarding passes. The process was simple and I was speedily through the premium check-in security and headed to the Lufthansa Senator Lounge on the B concourse to meet my sister. While we waited we had access to snacks and an open bar, you could also see our plane right outside the window. Once inside I found my sister and we waited for the flight to start boarding.

Lufthansa from Washington to Frankfurt First Class:   In the air.

After they called the flight and we boarded we headed to our seats in the front cabin of the A330-300. A little caveat here:  Lufthansa is in the midst of changing out the First Class seats on most of their planes except the A330-300 so we had the “old-style” seat - which in my opinion is still a pretty good product. The service is excellent and I had a book to read - so for me the entertainment system was just fine. If you wanted to watch a movie there were plenty to choose from although the screen was quite small compared to other First Class offerings.

We started off with some Champagne, followed by some great dinner selections and then sleep. We had previously declined the wake-up breakfast service because we knew we would be going to the First Class lounge for a shower and breakfast. My sister returned from changing out of her pajamas to find most of the flight crew assembled to say thank you to her and to give her a bottle of Champagne. I thought this was over the top but my sister loved it.

Frankfurt on Lufthansa In First Class:  Ground Service.

One of the things I love about the Frankfurt airport is immigration. It is just such a non issues compared to the US. We were off the plane and through immigration in ten minutes it seemed like. We then made a straight line to the Lounge.

We used the First class Lounge in terminal A because we were catching a connecting flight to Athens from Frankfurt and it didn’t make any sense to try to go to the First Class Terminal. The lounge has all the features found in the First Class Terminal except that in the terminal Lufthansa drives you to your plane. From the lounge it’s just a short walk to our gate. We took showers and had breakfast at the buffet.

Oh how we suffered waiting – moving on to Pink Champagne now.

The flight from Frankfurt to Athens was just a regular intra Europe business class trip of about two and one half hours. For those of you that don’t know, in Europe most carriers don’t really have a first/business class product for flights between European cities. What they do is to block the middle seat in the front of the plane for about eight rows. This changes depending on how busy they are in business. So you have a window seat and an aisle seat and the middle one is empty but they are economy seats so not any more comfortable than the ones in back, just not as crowded.  You also get more food, not that we needed any at this point. It was still way better than coach.

This concludes the first bit of this trip report. I’ll be writing about the land side vacation next. In the meantime you can go to our trip report pictures page for a slide show of the pictures in the links above here.

 

Wednesday
Sep142011

Don’t fly much? Sign up anyway!

Someone I know needed to take a trip for work and he needed a little friendly help in getting the ticket. I asked him what his preferred airline was and he said he didn’t really care; he always just flew the cheapest one. I then asked where he had most of his miles and to my dismay he said he didn’t have any miles.   What???

It turns out he had not joined any airline mileage programs because as he said “I don’t fly enough for it to matter”. As a miles junkie I was in shock and it prompted me to write this little note.

How many of you like to just leave money on the street and not pick it up? How about saying no to a free gift? How about someone just giving you $1,000 but you turn it down?  Well, not signing up and crediting your flying is just like doing that. Every mile you get can be worth between 1 cent to 5 cents depending on the promotions and how you use them. If you don’t collect miles you won’t be using miles and you may be just throwing money away.

The first thing I did with my friend was to get him signed up for an American Airlines Advantage account. Now the flight that he’s taking next will be credited to that account. He will have close to 5,000 miles in that account. He’ll only need 25,000 for a free round trip frequent flyer ticket to anywhere in the US (Except Hawaii). So if he takes just a couple more flights and he’ll be close to getting that free award flight.

Always, always sign up for a loyalty account on the airlines you use even if you don’t fly that much. You never know when you might need to fly and the miles add up quickly.

You can also get amazing amounts of miles by applying for different Airline credit cards BUT you have to have loyalty account with the airline first to get the miles. Some credit cards will automatically sign you up for the miles program they’re associated with but you will need to know that number to use the miles and credit future miles to the account.

Think of it this way. You will get a 75k bonus on some credit cards for spending $1,000 in three months along with your small amount of travel you could possibly earn up to 100k miles in a short time. For 100k miles you will be able to book award travel in business class to some place fun like Europe, South America or Asia. All of these tickets are over $5,000 in price and you could maybe get one for as little as $128 in taxes just by crediting a few flights to your mileage account.

How much easier could it be?

Tuesday
Sep132011

A Quick Link to an Article on Business Class Seat Differences

I thougth you guys might enjoy this article. It explains the difference of business class seats and why you really want the lay flat ones.

Have a look.

Monday
Sep122011

Virgin America will become a transfer partner with American Express

From October 5, 2011 American Express will let you transfer your Membership Rewards Points over to Virgin America.

One the one hand this is good news because at the end of September 2011, Continental will stop being an American Express transfer partner so Amex needed to fill the void left. On the other hand Virgin America is not really that great of a partner to have:   You can pretty much only use their points to book free flights within the USA and the scheme is a bit stingy.

What I would really like is for one of the big four US airlines to jump on board with Amex. United/Continental will not do it because of their agreement with Chase bank that Chase be the only supplier of mileage-earning credit cards for them. The same goes for US Airways paired with Bank of America and American joined with Citibank. The points/miles that the airlines sell to the banks have helped to keep the airlines afloat financially in the past and the airlines don’t want to lose that revenue so they will not risk upsetting their bank partners.

I know Delta is already a partner with American Express but Delta’s miles are some of the least valuable miles out there – it takes a lot of points to get frequent flyer tickets and Delta miles have picked up the nickname of Sky Pesos because of it. Transferring Amex points to Delta can sometimes be a good deal if they have specials going on and you want to book award travel on one of Delta’s partners. Right now you can get a 50% bonus for moving Amex points over to Delta miles. They are also offering a 100% bonus on purchased miles and 100% bonus on gifted or transferred miles. Picking up all those bonuses can almost compensate for the fact that much of Delta’s award availability is often at higher mileage redemption levels.  

Having said all of this, I still feel that American Express Membership Awards points are some of the most valuable out there. You just need to know all the little tricks to get the most bang for your buck when using miles to make award reservations.  This is where we can help you do that.  Just contact us and we can start getting your trip planned.

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