On Sunday my wife and I rescheduled a late winter Europe trip to early spring. This involved business class redemption flights on two different airlines (through two different programs) for three passengers, and hotel award stays with confirmed suite upgrades.
Just a few weeks ago the prospect of trying to coordinate changes to Europe awards would have given me heartburn. There was simply very little award space, save for a handful of airline and routes that I used as ‘worst-case scenarios’ when helping people to redeem their miles. And I didn’t want worst-case scenarios traveling with my wife and daughter.
Fortunately things are really looking up for those of us looking to use points for travel abroad, especially to Europe. If I’d wanted the British Airways non-stop from my home airport of Austin in April, I had my choice of nearly every single day where three or more seats were available (some dates had four or more).
That incurs big fuel surcharges, of course, though redemptions through Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles mean lower surcharges than other programs that impose them for BA travel. Cathay is a transfer partner of American Express, Citibank, Capital One and Bilt.
But take a look at a search for (4) business class passengers with connections in July:
For my original trip, booked at the height of insanity back in July, I’d had to redeem Air France KLM miles for Paris – Chicago O’Hare and then buy a ticket for the connecting domestic leg (I use miles for travel that far out making those tickets fully refundable – I’m allergic to high cancel and change fees). I had to schedule the trip around when I could make those flights work.
For the spring, however, things were much better. I was able to set up flights where my choices included a majority of dates – including my first choice of dates – for both Paris to Houston and Paris to Dallas. And searching for 3 business class seats is usually much tougher than searching for just two.
Air France KLM Flying Blue is a transfer partner of American Express, Chase, Citibank, Capital One, Bilt and even Brex (if that last hasn’t shut down your account).
These aren’t the only airlines with award space, though not all airlines have loosened their grip on inventory. Saver award space on U.S. airlines, for instance, remains sparse but those are tight-fisted with such availability even under the most favorable of conditions.
The awards I’m having the biggest problem with these days? Intra-Asia, and anything in and out of Sydney.