Tell me about your air miles flight booking

I am planning to take the family (my husband, me, our daughter, my father) to Munich this spring. I have enough Air Miles that theoretically two round-trip tickets could be covered – it would still be low season.

My father phoned this evening to warn that using Air Miles to book transatlantic flights might be a bad idea, saying that direct flights are not available through them. He cited his sister’s experience being stuck overnight in Amsterdam awaiting a connection as an example. He said he had searched for “problems with Air Miles bookings” and found a number of people with similar stories to tell.

I want to be sure we can book direct flights. I was assuming that Air Miles would be able to book all four at once. If it is likely that there will be a problem, I will simply book all four in some other fashion. I am looking to book in December.

What experiences have other people had with this i.e. a combination of paid and “reward” flights? Is it possible to book direct flights with the plans I describe?

What airline? Different airlines have different rules.

Mine are with Qantas, you can pay for part of one fair with miles and the rest with money if you want. What I find difficult is using miles to get upgraded, they don’t seem to have many upgrade seats available.

Why don’t you just go part way through the booking process and see what flights are available and what the payment options are?

I notice you capitalized “Air Miles.” Are you referring to a particular frequent flyer program with this name?

If not, then what **Scruff **said.

First you have to know whether there are direct flights from wherever you are to Munich. If there’s only one flight a day, direct flights tend to get booked quickly, and some programs may vary the number of discounted frequent flier passes that are available for each flight. For example, most rewards programs have a discounted rate – let’s say, 40,000 miles to get to Europe. Then they also have a full fare rate – which may be 80,000 miles to get to Europe. Obviously, the first rate tends to sell out quickly, while the second is generally more available, and may be the only fares available during peak travel periods (like right before holidays). You’ll have to read your frequent flier program for more specific information.

In general, I’ve had direct flights using FF miles, and I’ve had two stops to European destinations using FF miles. I only use the discounted fares. I always book using the website of whatever airline I’m flying, so I get to see all the flights available and pick which ones I like. You may wish to call the FF program you are using since you intend to pay for two and use miles for the other two. There’s nothing wrong in calling and getting all the info on flights, they won’t pressure you into booking today.

I have used tons of AAdvantage miles (American Airlines) for free travel for many years, but lately it’s been almost impossible to get seats on the exact flights I want. It seems that people are booking their trips a year in advance so for popular destinations, during high travel periods, seats are usually not available. As someone already mentioned, airlines control how many non-revenue seats they have on any given plane so in some cases there may only be 10-20 seats on the entire flight that are available for their award programs.

I would go ahead and start the booking process and see how far you get. I haven’t found that you can’t get non-stop flights with frequent flier miles, but those flights seem to sell out first and probably have the least number of non-rev seats in the first place. It may in fact be too late to get non-stop seats at this point, but having a stop over isn’t necessarilly a bad thing as long as you make your connection. Beware of tight connections (less than 90 minutes) since it’s not unusual for a plane to arive 30-60 minutes late and you could easily miss a tight connection, especially in a large airport.

Anytime I’ve flown with Air Miles (yes this is a specific program possibly Canada only) they book me with tons of connections, sometimes with overnight layovers. I’ve never flown to Europe on them though.

Your best bet is to go to the website or call the agency that handles your type of airmiles and try and book a flight. Either direct flights or reasonable lay-overs are available, or they aren’t. Most sites will let you look, search and compare flights without committing to buying them, so just log on to whatever company or carrier your points are with and have a look.

My husband and I accumulate Aeroplan points (Star Alliance) and have always been able to book flights that suit our needs/travel purposes with them. We do accumulate Air Miles, but have never booked a flight through them.

Its hard without knowing what airline and from where you are flying.

I have used miles to book flights a few times. Living near Philadelphia, non-stop flights can be tough for me since I don’t have US Air miles. I get my best availability booked non-stop from JFK which is a pain to get to.

When I have booked from Philly, its often involved a change in New York, Atlanta, Paris or Frankfurt. My experience is that I have been able to get flights with long enough layovers to avoid getting stranded somewhere in the event of a missed connection.

I have had overnight connections twice, both coming from Moscow. And neither was on an FF ticket. its just how the airline’s schedule worked out.

Thanks for all the responses – my apologies for not signing back in yesterday – killer day prevailed. :mad:

Anyway, Nunavut Boy was correct in that I am referring to a specific program. You can’t book flights with it via an online function (as far as I know) – you have to phone and talk to an agent. They use a few airlines, though not all of them. Yes, I will be testing out the process next to see what a typical booking would look like. I told my dad I would ask the Straight Dope first and if I got a deluge of “you can’t get a direct flight” responses, I wouldn’t even bother.

Can you tell me where you were flying from and to, Nunavut Boy?

edited to add: There are direct flights available from my local airport to Munich. I am guessing less than one a day.

Air Miles (the organization, not frequent flier plans in general) does not seem to be in the US, so Americans are apt to misinterpret your question.

I realize this doesn’t answer your question, but I’ve never bothered to collect points long enough to fly anywhere. I just turn the points into gift cards which I then buy stuff with. If you can’t get decent bookings with Air Miles, maybe you should just buy stuff with them.

Lufthansa is one of Air Mile Canada’s Partner Airlines.

I just flew Chicago to Rome and back on United miles; outbound leg was on Swiss Air, return on Lufthansa. They booked it for me over the phone with no problems at all. One stop each way.

Good luck, and have a great trip!

Canadjun: You bet… if I have to pay for all the tickets out of pocket, I’ll be using all those Air Miles to purchase something else fun for the family. I have in the past redeemed them for Via Rail gift cards for tickets to Vancouver – with the amount I have now, I’d be booking a sleeper.

Muffin: You would think with Lufthansa, direct flights should be available.

I think maybe I should just follow the advice of many and try booking very soon as opposed to waiting until December. Prebooking that far in advance would not necessarily be advantageous or even possible – but it sounds like the Air Miles process may encourage it.

We’ve had very good luck with the American Airlines program. We’ve been to London, Hawaii, and recently to New Mexico. We’ve never had any difficulty getting flights, although the last trip the only seats available were on the earliest morning flight. Then again, we waited until about 2 weeks before our travel date to book, and Albuquerque isn’t the top of the list for destinations. The other trips we tended to take during non-peak seasons (April, September), which definitely helps.

One one trip we did end up mixing frequent flyer miles and paid tickets, with no problems. Working via phone helped with that one, but the other trips were booked entirely on-line.

The only problem that I’ve ever noticed is that on one of our Hawaii trips we were tagged for security checks at every single boarding point, which got really tiresome, given that we had 8 flight legs (we visited 3 islands). At the time I was convinced that it was due to the use of frequent flyer miles, but subsequently I found that my name was on “The List,” which caused problems whenever I flew. After I got that straightened out, we’ve had no problems at all, and were actually tagged as “Priority Access” with better boarding opportunities during our last trip.

Hope you guys have a fun trip!

Old thread I found after searching Aadvantage (American Airlines)… hope it’s ok to ask about my current experience:

I’ve had over 75k miles for years and years. Took steps (donating miles) to keep them valid. Booked flights for two for late December yesterday.

When I got to the seat selection process I noticed that certain seats were extra but for the first two flights I was able to select available seats at no extra charge. When I got to the third flight (LAX to ORD) only the first class cabin displayed but there were no extra charges. I selected first-class seats, went on to the last flight and completed the process successfully and got confirmation of my flights.

Since there was a small fee (taxes or something I assume), I did have to provide a credit card to complete the process. It’s not like I haven’t been billed anything yet.

First-class seats, especially on that long flight seems too good to be true. Should I be concerned that something may go wrong down the road?

That seems odd and too good to be true, but you’ll find out as soon as the bill arrives. If you have confirmed first class seats AND they didn’t charge you for an upgrade, consider yourself extremely lucky.

However in my experience if something seems “too good to be true” it probably is… and I would contact the airline to verify the total cost of the flight based on the seats you have been assigned and see what they say. If it’s a mistake, and your first class seat was actually sold to someone else, you may be left without any seat.

Frequently when booking or more commonly flying with miles-purchased tickets, I am upgraded. It may be just that the flight is full around that time and 1st class is all they had. And as they don’t want to screw over a frequent customer they guaranteed the only available seats. So I really expect that you will keep them! Have fun.

If they don’t keep you in them and they bump you backwards in the plane, raise hell! And make sure that you have your current ticket and seat information available for the gate agent, et al. to see. If they bump you backward, request all of your miles back for the whole trip. Two weeks ago, I was delayed 5 hours (technically for 30 minutes due to weather and then 2 hours due to the crew timing out and then 2 hours to get our plane back into the landing and logistics at O’Hare) and they refunded my 40,000 miles for the whole trip simply by emailing them my complaint and telling them that is what I expected.

In my experience you can basically use Air Miles only if you are willing to change planes in Toronto. I hate changing in Toronto, so I never use mine.

We used Aeroplan to get from Canada to Kilimanjaro. Nice ting about them - there is an online booking process. We wanted to fly First Class (or Business, or whatever it’s called nowadays). Most hilarious is the ones that route you Business class to Toronto then coach from there to anywhere else… and figure you should pay with business miles for the whole trip. We ended up flying into Chicago with a slightly-less-than-1-hour change… but then our plane left late. Then we spent 6 hours waiting in Istanbul. Then overnight in Addis Ababa from 1230AM to 6AM. That airport is nowhere near as bad as online comments made us believe. We had planned to fly back from Zanzibar to Kilimanjaro for the return flight, but the loge owners told us the Ethiopian Air flight that went from Kili to Addis actually originated in Zanzibar; so for $150 we changed out tickets with Air Canada to return from Zanzibar instead. Again, several hours in Addis, and then several hours in Munich starting 6AM to 10AM, and another wait in Toronto for the feeder flight.

We’ve tried assorted places in N. America or Europe with Aeroplan (Star Alliance), and while it’s not unusual to get overnight stays, generally not. What happens is that there are only so many seats allocated to plan freebies; when those are gone, that flight is not an option. So the later you book, the less likely to get seats. Since everything leaves from Toronto or Vancouver, getting feeder flights to there generally turns out to be the problem. I’ve had silly flights suggested where they try to fly me west to Toronto then east again to Montreal to catch another flight south. Of course, the middle of day flights go first, so you find yourself choosing from first in the morning (5AM or so) or last thing in the evening (resulting in an overnight layover).