Guide to Effective Long-Haul Premium Award Search

This guide helps you do effective searches with Award Nexus. It focuses on the most common case of finding a long-haul award segment (3000+ miles) in First or Business class, with a travel period that is flexible within a week.

Phase I


You are starting to plan.

First step

Search for a one-way from the origin (XXX) to destination (YYY). Pick +6 days to do an initial week-long search.

Pick all the airline sites that are relevant to what miles you have. For example, if you are looking for awards on Star Alliance airlines, pick all the Star Alliance (*) airline sites. Same for SkyTeam or oneworld.

Review results

Once done, review the search to see if you find any flights that you like. Don't forget that on the viewer, you can select Direct to show direct flights only, or select Display: as routing to see what routes are available.

Continuing steps

If you have some flexibility and you don't see anything you like in the first search, run another 2 - 3 searches, changing the alliance, moving a week before/after, or pick a different award type, such as trying Business instead of First.

Points used

20 - 50

Time estimate

4 - 10 minutes (Award Nexus)
20 - 60 minutes (manual searches)

Phase II


No easy award was found. However, some award options, hidden from airline sites and agents, may be found with a segment-by-segment search.

First step

Go to Route Explorer. Enter your origin (XXX) and destination (YYY). Select 2-stop and your alliance.

Click on Explore routes.

Review all the paths found. Focus on longer-distance segments. They are usually the most critical ones.

Pick 4 long-haul segments. For example:


Run a search with the 4 segments, select +5 days and other settings as needed.

Review results

If award seats are found on one or more long-haul segments, reference it in the Route Explorer results and search for the segment that connects to/from that long-haul segment.

For example, if you found a long-haul XXX-AAA, do a follow-up search for AAA-YYY. Repeat this for any long-haul segments found, until you found a fully-connected itinerary.

Continuing steps

If your first 4 long-haul segments searches found no availability, go back and pick another 4 segments and repeat the process for another 1 - 2 times.

Points used

50 - 150

Time estimate

15 - 45 minutes (Award Nexus)
1 - 4 hours (manual searches)

Phase III


This award segment is very challenging. Most people will change their plans, but you want to spend more time on this.

First step

There are no particular steps at this point. Instead, here are a few tricks you can work on:

  1. Go back to Route Explorer and tweak the settings. Try to discover additional routes by increasing the maximum stops, maximum mileage, or include additional airline partners that your miles may be used.

  2. Continue the segment-by-segment approach in phase II, on a recurring basis. For efficiency, do 6 - 10 searches in phase II every few days, instead of launching dozens of searches in a single day.

  3. Set up an automated search on the top 4 long-haul segments or missing segments, to monitor future award opening.

  4. Consider booking what's available speculatively, in the hope that the connecting segments may become available later and you can add it. For example, if XXX-AAA is available now, book it, and wait for AAA-YYY to become available.

Continuing steps

There are no particular continuing steps. Award Nexus significantly speeds up your deep or long-term search, but you must decide how important the trip is, and how far you want to take it.

Points used

100 - 400

Time estimate

2 - 4 hours (Award Nexus)
10 - 25 hours (manual searches)

More Information

On average, it takes about 100 points to plan one long-haul segment in premium cabins. This guide is written with this baseline usage pattern in mind. Advanced users may choose to speed up the search process, by combining the steps and running bigger searches, in order to gain a greater awareness of award availability.

Because of the complexity of award planning, it is impossible to provide a comprehensive "quick" guide. You should visit the Tips page for more information such as individual airline choices, additional redemption strategies, or common troubles when redeeming.

For short-haul search strategy, because of the short distance and relatively lack of connection options, you can essentially just do phase I, and if no awards found, optionally set up an automated search to monitor award seat. A typical short-haul segment takes about 20 - 30 points to plan.

Did you find this guide helpful?

This guide was produced after multiple questions by members asking for advice to plan their award trips. If you have any question or thoughts, please submit your feedback.

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Access subject to Terms of Service May 6, 2017

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