Friday, August 09, 2013

Navigating Frequent Flyer Ticketing Process

Using frequent flier miles to purchase tickets has turned out to be quite an educational experience.   It has taken me much more time than I expected to get flights we wanted at the lowest available cost.   Here is the complexity that I had to navigate:
  • Mileage level tiers. The airline did not have any blackout dates, but used low, medium and high mileage tiers.  There didn't seem to be any pattern (e.g. number of remaining seats, time to travel) that correlated with the lowest available price.  So finding the lowest price was an iterative process.  For example, I was able, by luck, to get one segment at the lowest price, even though some seats were already booked.

  • Hold and cancellation policies.    To prevent people from holding tickets, the airline had only a 2 day hold period before releasing tickets.  After purchase, the airline had a 24 hours no fee cancellation policy, after which it would cost $150.   This policy limits time to hold a ticket while looking for a less expensive one. 

  • Changing prices.  Prices are changing randomly.  So when a good price shows up, it's a good idea to book and hold the ticket.

  • Limited low price tickets.  I found that lowest price tickets were often available to single passengers.  So I could get a better price by booking each ticket singly instead of booking tickets for the family at the same time.
  • By checking every few hours, I was able to get an average ticket price at the mid tier price.    I'm sure if I were still working, I wouldn't have been able to spend as much time as I did working the system.

    For more on Reaping the Rewards, check back every Friday for a new segment.

    This is not financial advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

    Copyright © 2013 Achievement Catalyst, LLC

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