How To Book An Award Flight
Before you jump straight into searching for an award flight, I recommend playing around a bit with Airline Route Mapper (tutorial), Flight Connections, or FlightsFrom to see which airlines can take you to your destination. Cross-reference any routes you find with the tables at How To Determine Which Airline Search Engine To Use to see which websites can search for the flights you need. From here, you can start your search. There are step-by-step guides for using miles with American, British Airways, Singapore, and United should you need them.
Here are a few additional tips to keep in mind:
- Remember that you are looking for Saver Awards. Standard or Anytime awards will generally cost at least twice as many miles.
- Become familiar with searching segment by segment and using Airline Route Mapper (tutorial) / Flight Connections / FlightsFrom / Award Nexus. The tool is pretty intuitive, so just play around with it a bit if you don’t want to follow the tutorial.
- Learn about Stopovers and Open-Jaws. You can visit more places on the same trip, essentially for free.
- If booking in business or first class, be aware that some search engines will present you with Mixed Cabin awards, which is when part of your trip will be in a different class than what you are paying for. Sometimes they will put you in first class for the domestic portion of a business class ticket (this is fine). Other times, they might offer you 10 hours in economy and 4 hours in business class for the business class price (this is bad). These are always clearly marked, so just look at the details before completing your booking.
Stopovers and Open Jaws
Q: What is a stopover?
A: A stopover is a break in your journey somewhere other than your final destination.
Q: What is an open-jaw?
A: An open-jaw is a portion of your journey for which you must arrange your own separate travel. In the following example, a flight is booked from JFK to LHR and from CDG back to JFK. There is an open-jaw between LHR and CDG.
Q: Which airlines allow stopovers (SO) and open-jaws (OJ) on award tickets?
A: Singapore (and others not discussed on this website).
Q: How many SO and OJ can I have?
A: (Singapore) 1 SO, 1 OJ per round-trip award. You can add additional SO to any award (even one-way) for $100.
example with one stopover (BKK) and one open-jaw (SYD to AKL)
In the below example, you have an OJ between SYD and AKL. If you were to book your SYD-AKL flight on Oct 11, you’d spend 10 days in Sydney, 9 days in Auckland, and 7 days in Bangkok. The price of this trip is the same as a simple round-trip between SFO and SYD would have been. Essentially, you are visiting three locations for the price of one.
Remember that you do have to separately purchase your transit for the open-jaw, so make it something you can do inexpensively if possible. I took this exact trip in 2014 (in business class for twice as many miles). The flight from SYD-AKL was purchased on Jetstar for $100.