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Why Use Award Booking Services for Flights

Why Use Award Booking Services for Flights
Anya Kartashova

Welcome to FlyerTalk 101, a guide to traveling like an expert from the experts. For more guides like this, check out our FlyerTalk 101 tag or head to the forum links in this article to have any of your questions answered.

So you discovered the world of award travel. You signed up for a shiny and new credit card, met a hefty minimum-spending requirement and earned a nice chunk of points as a sign-up bonus. You looked at your point balance while imagining Venice canals or Thai beaches or an African safari, and a pesky thought saying “Now what?” flew through your mind.

Uh-oh! You have no clue how to redeem these hard-earned points for a vacation you’ve been dreaming about for so long from the depths of your cubicle.

Have you thought about using an award booking service?

What Award Booking Services Do

Most award booking services deal with everything from finding the award space itself to calling the airline to changing and canceling your itinerary should there be a problem with your taking a trip.

Like with everything else, there are pros and cons to using a travel consultant to redeem your miles for you.

Pros: Award bookers typically know all the ins and outs of major, if not all, loyalty programs. They know that Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan offers stopovers on one-way redemptions and that British Airways Executive Club charges exorbitant taxes on itineraries that go via London Heathrow Airport. They know that American Airlines AAdvantage Miles can be used to book Etihad flights and that Qantas is a non-alliance partner of El Al.

Of course, you could learn all these specifics yourself, but unless you spend hours and hours on the internet researching every loyalty program on top of your already-busy schedule, you might miss some of the important details.

Once availability is confirmed and you’re happy with your itinerary, award bookers will take care of calling the airline should there be a need to book something over the phone while you sit back and relax…or, you know, go to work.

Cons: Award booking services charge fees. These vary, but most hover in the neighborhood of $200 per traveler.

Why Use an Award Booking Service

To save time: As per an old adage, time is money, and searching for award space is a rather time-consuming activity. Award travel consultants help you save time by checking multiple loyalty programs for availability as well as by booking the ticket either online or on the phone. If you’ve ever called an airline for any reason, you know that wait times can be longer than Cher’s career and you don’t want to be the one on the other end of that phone.

To save points/miles: Believe it or not, the exact same flights can be booked from multiple loyalty programs. Knowing which one to use can save you points, and award experts know which programs have the best sweet spots. For example, a one-way flight in Lufthansa first class can be booked with 70,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles, 87,000 Avianca LifeMiles or 110,000 United MileagePlus miles. If you have miles in multiple programs, an award booker’s knowledge can save you points and extract the most value from them.

To find more options: Award booking services have subscriptions to additional tools that assist with the search process. You might have heard of ExpertFlyer, a search engine that helps you see whether the flight you want has award seats, how many and if not, an alert can be set that notifies you when a seat becomes available. It costs a pretty penny to use this tool ($99.99 per year), and you might not have a need for a full-year subscription. However, using it can be conducive to a successful award booking.

Who Should Use Award Booking Services

Those with points and miles in multiple programs: Collecting points in multiple programs is the easy part, but learning how to redeem them for the best value isn’t. If you’re not familiar with Citi, Chase or American Express transfer partners or have no idea how airline alliances work, you might have to enlist help of an expert.

Those with little to no free time on their hands: As mentioned, dealing with airlines and their loyalty departments can eat up a lot of your time, which you’ll never get back. If you have a busy life or a demanding work schedule, leave it up to an experienced booker to take care of everything for you.

Those who have never booked an award before: New to the hobby? You’re a perfect candidate to hire an award booking service. Dealing with an expert can help you learn a thing or two and eventually you can book your own mileage flights, but for now, leave it in the hands of a professional, someone who lives and breathes airline rewards.

Those searching for complicated itineraries: Looking to fly around the globe? Most airline loyalty programs have nixed the option from their award charts completely, but a few still offer the opportunity to see the world on one award ticket. If you have no idea where to begin, ask a reputable company for help. Yes, it’ll cost you, but it’ll save you thousands of dollars, and miles, at the same time.

Who Shouldn’t Use Award Booking Services

Those who have time to learn: If you have a lot of free time, read up on some blogs to learn the process. Try a few award searches and figure out how the system works. If you do it enough times, start redeeming miles for simple itineraries and fill in the gaps as you go.

Those who understand well how loyalty programs work: Obviously, if you already know all the rules of redeeming miles, don’t spend money on something you can do yourself. In fact, you might want to look for work as an award booker for one of these service providers.

 

Have you used award booking services before? Were you happy with the end result?

View Comments (2)

2 Comments

  1. mhm4000

    August 27, 2019 at 9:47 pm

    Wait, but….names? Examples? I’ve never heard of this – can’t you give us at least a couple of names/websites?

  2. GeezerCouple

    September 11, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Here you go, from the FlyerTalk forum:

    https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/travel-tools/1296363-award-booking-services-list-some-reviews-18.html

    Read through it, for background and for reviews of first hand experiences.

    We’ve found it invaluable, not just for saving time (but it certainly does that), but because they are able to find so many different routings/combinations of airlines/etc. and partner airlines that we probably wouldn’t have thought of.

    GC

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