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December 03, 2009

Five Ways to Snag the Mileage-Award Seats You Need


How many months before a trip do you have the best shot at nabbing frequent-flyer-award seats? Is there a best day of the week or best time of day to call the airline?  Is one city better than another to fly into when you're looking for the greatest award-seat availability?

These are some of the questions raised by reader Denise McDonald in her winning entry in the FlyerTalk Challenge:

"We are planning a trip of a lifetime for our son's future graduation. He has been enthralled with Egypt since he was eight years old and is even considering studying to become an Egyptologist. I have carefully planned for years, and we will have enough frequent-flyer miles one year before we travel for four business-class tickets on United from Hawaii to Egypt. Here are my questions: How far in advance should I book? Is there a specific time of day I should call when frequent-flyer seats become available? What flights tend to have the most frequent-flyer seats available? Is one city better to fly to than another for seat availability? Should we split up and fly in twos? I have often found it very difficult to get frequent-flyer seats from Hawaii and would love to get your advice on the best way to secure four business-class frequent-flyer seats from Hawaii to Egypt."

Denise's questions are smart ones, and we now have the answers, thanks to frequent-flier god Randy Petersen, who recruited two FlyerTalk experts -- Gary Leff of View From The Wing and Lucky of One Mile at a Time -- to help solve Denise's dilemma.  You can read their complete solution to her problem in this thread on FlyerTalk.

The solution happens to include five tips for anyone who wants to redeem miles for flights anywhere in the worldnot just to Egypt. Here they are:
1. Statistically speaking, you have the best shot at nabbing the award seats you want six months ahead of your trip.

2. If you're planning to travel on award tickets during the summer months, try looking for those seats during the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so you can beat the award-request crush that comes in January. 

3. If you need several seats on the same flight or flights, plan to start your trip mid-week and return mid-week.

4. The best time to call an airline to check on award-seat availability is just after midnight on a weekend. 

5. You'll have the most luck finding award seats on flights into and out of non-hub airports. So look to connect in cities that are not hubs for the airline you're flying.

For more insight and advice, read the complete answer to Denise's question over on FlyerTalk.


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