Use these tips and and information to maximize the chance that you will find the best awards for your trip.
The most important factor for successfull award redemption is to be flexible.
Non-stop flight not available? Consider redeeming for a connecting flight (or 2-stop).
First / business class not available on a shorter flight? Take the flight in economy, so you can connect to an international flight with premium award space.
Can you leave a few days early / late? Your options would increase significantly if you can be flexible to a week, as opposed to fixing on a specific date.
Hold hold hold!
A few airline programs offer the ability to hold award for 1 - 5 days.
Whenever you find something reasonable, hold it first, even if you are not sure This way, you have time to think or make other arrangements, without fear that your found award would go away.
Here are some hold policies:
- American Airlines (AA): 5 days hold on most awards / maybe less if close-in
- United Airlines (UA): Cannot hold, but if you have enough miles you can book ticket then make changes or cancel for free within 24 hours.
- Alaska Airlines (AS): Cannot hold, but if you have enough miles you can book ticket then make changes or cancel for free within 24 hours.
- US Airways (US): 3 days hold
Hold policies sometime change. Be sure to check with your airline agent when you call.
Pick the right airline site to search
Each airline site have their own "personality" quirks. Sometimes they give some very odd, out-of-way routings, other times they do not reliably show available awards on other partner airlines.
|Site||Coverage||Date range||Web accuracy||Notes|
|AC||All Star Alliance airlines||Min: 0
|NH / ANA||All Star Alliance airlines||Min: 4
|BA||All Oneworld airlines + EC (Openskies)||Min: 0
|CX||CX/KA only||Min: 0
|CX (JL)||CX/KA only||Min: 7
|JL||JL International flights only (no domestic)||Min: 7
Most Oneworld airlines + AS + LY + JQ (JetStar) + many SW Pacific airlines details
Omissions: JL, S7, MH
Most SkyTeam airlines
|Reliable for AF/KL, inconsistent on other carriers||
|Manual Input (Beta)||All Airlines||Min: 0
Some airlines may support additional non-alliance partners (e.g. UA may display certain QR flights).
- Date range
- Due to roundtrip search requirement, on some airline programs, Award Nexus may only be able to display up to 2 days before the maximum date (e.g. for AC, Award Nexus can only search up to 355 - 2 = 353 days in advance). Those programs are marked with a *.
- Web accuracy
- Some airlines sites may sporadically not show available partner award seats online. Note that this is not blocking - you just need to call to check and to book those seats. A program that is reliable can be relied on to confirm whether a seat (on a non-stop flight) is available or not. On inconsistent programs, a lack of available flights displayed may still mean that some flights would be available by calling, checking with another program, or checking later.
To maximize your chance of finding awards, you need to build your own connection manually.
The Search Builder in Award Nexus can help you manual connections (click to use it).
For example, suppose you want to fly ORD-SIN (Chicago to Singapore) on your Star Alliance. A naive search on ORD-SIN will not return all possible ways to travel from ORD to SIN. Instead of searching:
This is just an example. Star Alliance have additional connections in BKK (Thai Airways), HKG (United), which you can add to your search.
Generally, first do a simple search to discover what is available. If you cannot find what you want, then invest the points to do a segment-by-segment search across all en-route airline hubs, to see if better award flights may be available.
Do not insist on many seats on the same flights
Generally, award seats do not come in big bundles, especially on competitive routes, and especially with premium business or first class awards. If you do a search for 4 first class seats in peak seasion for a popular route, be prepared to be disappointed.
When you are planning award trip for multiple people, you should always be ready to separate some of them. This way, everyone can enjoy an award ticket, even if not on the same exact flights.
Sometimes, you can first ticket multiple passengers on different flights (or dates). As time goes on, monitor the flights for emerging award seats, and you may be able to merge the group back on to the same flight.
Try searching only 1 / 2 seat, if 3+ people are traveling
A few airlines (such as Singapore Airlines), on select routes, have been observed to only release one or two seats at a time. Usually, if you book one of the seats, another seat is immediately released.
If you are planning travel for multiple passengers and you cannot find anything with a 3 or 4 seat search, try searching for 1 seat first, then call the airline to hold or book the seat. The carrier may then release another seat and you can repeat the process until all passengers are booked.
Search separately for domestic first class
2015 Enhancement! Award Nexus has been enhanced to automatically include domestic first class results for business class award search! This means that if you are only interested in business class awards (not international first class), you no longer need to select first class separately.
In North America, many carriers like to call their premium cabin "domestic first," even though the service is otherwise business class. This complicates award redemption, because some mileage programs allows the use of business award for domestic first, while others do not.
For example, AA calls most of its 2-class premium service domestic first. If you are redeeming AA miles, your business class award can be booked into the domestic first cabin. However, if you use another program such as BA, you may be charged the first class mileage amount (check with your program to be sure).
This discrepancy also makes award search difficult. For example, if you are searching on BA for business awards flying on AA NRT-ORD-STL, you need to break out the domestic portion. The NRT-ORD leg can be searched for business as normal, but the ORD-STL leg will depend on what program miles you use. If you use AA miles, search for ORD-STL in First. If you use BA miles, search for ORD-STL in Economy (because BA may not allow you to use business award to fly in "domestic first class").
On domestic flights with only two cabins, UA, AA market their domestic premium cabins as "First" and you need to specify for "First class" when searching:
- American Airlines (AA)
- United Airlines (UA)
Access subject to Terms of Service July 11, 2014