Welcome back to our series called Tuesday Tools and Tips. This is a series to help the traveler and runner with various tools and tips that will help to make your training and traveling easier. If you have suggestions or questions that would apply to this weekly series, feel free to contact me and let me know and I will work it in!
Tuesday Tools and Tips: Using OTAs for Award Searching
Booking award travel can be both a fun and frustrating experience at the same time. While it is great to have multiple programs to draw from with miles and points, it can also lead to confusion when you are unfamiliar with certain routes and knowing which program might be the best to use for a particular redemption.
Award travel is at its best when the user has great flexibility with the dates of travel. Sometimes, though, your travel dates are more fixed and not only the dates, but the times. I find myself in that position from time to time, especially on the return from a marathon. I have to be home by specific times and obviously cannot cut my departure after the marathon too short either. In those situations, it can take a long time to plug in the information for each of the airlines that you hold award miles with.
There are some websites that will allow more functionality and customization, but to keep it mostly simple, we will just use OTAs (online travel agencies) for our example here. You cannot book award tickets through these websites – this is for searching only. These websites will not reveal award availability but are very useful for one main thing – showing the different flight options from your departing airport and arrival airport. These options can then be narrowed by time of departure/time of landing, length of flight, length of layover, airline, cabin of travel, etc. By starting your search your award flight here, you can find out about certain routes with airlines that you may not have known about before. From there, you can go to that particular airline’s website (or partner) and book the award ticket if it shows availability.
Here is an example of what I did recently for my Iceland trip to find some flight options for the trip.
Started with Kayak – link
I went to Kayak and entered my flight info. I knew about my Star Alliance options but really did not want to go that route because of the times of the flights and trips but was looking for other options.
Checked the airlines listed
Filtered by departure time / arrival time
Filtered by # of stops
The flights I chose are not listed anymore but it showed me that there were Air Berlin flights that were perfect times. Air Berlin is a partner of American Airlines and British Airways so I went over to American Airlines to search for the ticket there. I had not thought about being able to use AA miles for this so this was an eye-opener for me and I was able to use a few thousand miles to book a ticket that I thought was going to have to be with a different airline and cost more miles.
So, next time you need to search for award tickets, start with an OTA like Kayak to search for flights and then filter according to your demands. After you have done that, go to the airline that partners with the perfect ticket (or that airline itself) to book the ticket with miles.