Sharing My Comprehensive Award Booking Techniques Talk Here on the Blog

Yesterday I gave a talk at the Chicago frequent flyer seminar on award bookings. Frequently Flying has a nice overview of yesterday’s events.

I’ve had lots of requests over time to share the information here on my blog that I share in person through these presentations. The only real barrier to doing that has been that I just know the stuff in my head and talk about it, but I’ve never sat down to actually write it out. Call me lazy, I suppose that’s why I’ve never written a book either.

But if there’s enough interest it occurs to me that I could develop a real resource, even though some of the advice does change over time and that’s been another reason I’ve been reluctant to write out the best advice — as soon as I’d write it up, it could become obsolete!

So here’s a basic outline of the talk that I gave yesterday, I’m interested to know what pieces would be most interesting and useful to you. If there’s enough interest I might even write all of it, and if that’s the project then I should probably just write it up in order. Some of them I’ve even written about in the past.

  • What miles can accomplish

  • The best value awards

  • The best frequent flyer programs
    • Partners and award availability
    • Zone versus distance-based award charts
    • Routing rules

  • Which program you choose depends on the award you want

  • How to make Delta’s Skypesos work for you

  • How to find award seats
    • Searching segment-by-segment
    • Signing up for partner frequent flyer programs just to search for awards
    • Which airlines can’t be searched online
    • Paid services that help you search: Awardnexus, Expertflyer, and KVS Tool
    • How to get there in a pinch: which ‘go to’ routes have the best availability

  • Preparing to make the phone call
    • Airline websites rarely work for booking awards (some exceptions)
    • Building the award you want
    • Developing a good rapport with the agent (be friendly, don’t argue, build trust)
    • Go segment-by-segment

  • Other considerations
    • Holding awards versus instant ticketing
    • Making changes to award tickets

Am I missing any topics that you’d like included in a series, if there’s enough interest to warrant my writing it up?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I would read it all, but understand that’d take up a lot of your time. 🙂 I’d be most interested in the value awards, “go to” routes, and best FF programs.

  2. Gary, I think you’ve touched upon many of the topics, at least in some level of detail, on your blog in the past. I’d be most interested in whatever you think you (or others) say at the seminar that you don’t think you’ve said before on the blog.

    Personally, I’d be most interested in the “how to find” section.

  3. I’m always interested in the best value awards! I think everyone has a different perspective so it doesn’t if other blogs have addressed it! But I would probably read any and all of this material should you go for it 🙂

  4. Have you considered putting this in a eBook type format? That would give you a venue to both monetize your expertise as well as bundle it together in a format that’s easy to reference and easy to update over time.

  5. Please write about Best Value Awards as well as Zone vs. distance based awards… Isn’t ANA’s award chart some combination of distance vs. zone?

  6. Gary, I’d be most interested in the “how to find” section and the “preparing for phone call”

  7. How about a section on value DREAM trips?…like that LAN business class deal with stop overs on your way to Easter Island, etc…

  8. How to get there in a pinch, and preparing to make the phone call would be most valuable to me. Thanks for all the info you provide…

  9. Gary, Id be most interested in the Delta skypeso portion. Thank you so much for writing your blog.

  10. Gary, I just wanted to thank you for the great job you did yesterday here in Chicago. Your session was the most informative while at the same time very entertaining.

  11. Gary – I think a write up of all the topics you outlined would be tremendously helpful and I’m sure myself and many of your other faithful readers would reference it on a regular basis!

  12. Absolutely interested! Every topic you highlighted would provide info. that would have likely been handy at one point or another. It’s great to read each bloggers different perspective as each of us can relate in different ways to each tidbit.

  13. I would be definitely be interested in all of the above. I try to learn something new everyday, and since getting into miles and points have been learning tons everyday. It’s like drinking from a firehose. Keep it coming!

  14. Excellent outline. I would be interested in all of it. In particular the section on “Developing a good rapport with the agent (be friendly, don’t argue, build trust).”

    My best suggestion is to record your seminar session including the Q&A. Sell the recording on Amazon as an updated audio book each year.

  15. Love to read it all. Especially a list of best value awards redemptions for each loyalty programs’ miles/points

  16. I’d read every part of it and bookmark it for future reference. Please write this, it would be extremely helpful.


  17. Zone versus distance based charts (who uses which and the benefits) and a comprehensive list of all programs’ routing rules in one place would be amazing. Thanks, Gary!

  18. Gary, I attended your Chicago DO talk last year; couldn’t make it this year. How much has changed? Suggest focusing on recent developments.

  19. I am very interested in such a resource and will definitely buy the book if one is published.

    I am also be interested in mile/point valuations for each separate program (airlines & hotels) at the time of publishing.

  20. First choice: I’d really like to see the “how to find seats” section. Second choice: the “making the call” section. And I would really appreciate this.

  21. I would read it all. However, “How to find award seats” and “Preparing for the phone call” would be my first reads. I’ve read Decoding Air Travel, which supposedly lays that out, but it’s pretty difficult to follow and very self-promoting. I have no doubt that you’d do a better job!

  22. I’d be very interested in the following topics:
    The best value awards
    How to make Delta’s Skypesos work for you
    How to find award seats – Searching segment-by-segment, Which airlines can’t be searched online, How to get there in a pinch: which ‘go to’ routes have the best availability
    Preparing to make the phone call
    Holding awards versus instant ticketing

  23. I would be very interested, but since as you said you usually dont write it down, what if you were to record 20 minute “movies” and place them onto you-tube. that way you could discuss and still keep it fresh with just a re-record. just a thought. keep up all the great work

  24. Gary

    I would read all of it. One suggestion would be to have a chapter for total newbies and/or those of us who don’t travel much for business and therefore need different strategies for acquiring awards. Also, the pros and cons of credit card churning. Thanks for all your info — it’s been great!

  25. Id be interested to read the whole section “How to find reward seats”, “routing rules” & “zone vs distance awards”. Let’s hear it…!!

  26. I would most want to know about:
    How to book award seats, and Preparing to make the Phone call!

    Please! I signed up 2 yrs in a row for the Chicago DO and both times some personal family matter came up and I was not able to attend!

  27. I would definitely read any and all of the above. Your blog has taught me how I can save miles along the way even if I don’t have much to spend or get to fly a lot to earn miles. I appreciate all of the info you have to share and would love to read any new write-ups.

  28. Hey Gary, just curious if you had made a decision on how you were going to proceed with writing this info up (assuming of course that you did decide to write it up haha)

  29. @HoKo I’m certainly planning something but it’s tedious, will take awhile I admit, and I’ve had a busy week… 🙂

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