How to Use US Airways Miles to Book Star Alliance Awards

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image21868196Someone asked me today how to book an award ticket on another airline.  I linked them to my favorite resources, but figured I would share them with everyone.

1. The Rules for Using US Airways Miles — View from the Wing

This is my US Airways booking bible.  Gary is comprehensive–how many stops am I allowed? What sort of route can I take? What fees are involved?  I reference this for every question I have, and it has never failed me.

2. What is My Availability? — The Points Guy

US Airways won’t show you the availability on other airlines–so how do you know what flights you can plan?  The Points Guy explains how you can use the ANA mileage program to search for available awards you can book through US Airways.  He explains a few ways to do this, and I always use his option #2.

3. Recognize that Algorithms are Dumb

http://routemap.staralliance.com/Or maybe I should say ignorant?  The algorithm does not know what your motivations are, so it may not be looking at the type of routes you would like to buy.  So if I want to go from New York to Paris, it may offer me some directs to Paris and let me know there’s no business class available.  But I care more about being able to book business class more than having a direct route–it’s why I save up my miles.  I want to live large on not-so-large money ;D

So I map out what hubs flight to my departure city (or even a city I know I can get to easily and am willing to fly out of!)  My last trip was booked out of NYC to Europe, so that was an easy route to find non-stops from hubs.

I eyeball the list of destinations from NYC on the route map and find ones that are hubs for airlines in the Star Alliance network.  I take these routes and search for their availability.  I don’t look for my final destination–I will piece that together later.  I am just looking for how to get to Europe in Business Class.  If I have to do a short hop in coach, so be it, but those are easier to find in business class anyway.

So sample routes I’d look for:  NYC to Frankfurt or Munich on Lufthansa.  NYC to Geneva on Swiss Air, etc.  Then once I found a flight–let’s say NYC to Frankfurt, I figure out what it would take to get to Paris from Frankfurt.

4. If You Need Specific Dates, Try This Tool

The Wandering Aramean has a set of travel tools where you can set alerts for when award availability on certain dates opens up.  I was thinking about changing one of my flight dates, but only if I could find a seat in business.  I was able to set an alert for ANY European flight to NYC in business class, and received timely alerts.

Please note, if you use this tool:

a) If you are changing a flight to be business class, you may have to pay a flight change fee, unless that was the only part of the trip not available in business class.  Even then, you may have to argue it (and see View from the Wing’s guide about this.)

b) If you are waiting to book based on availability, ALL flights may eventually become unavailable, and you’ll have missed your window.

Either way, good luck!

Hope this was useful–where do you want to take an award flight?

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Heels First is the travels and tribulations of two twenty-something frequent fliers jumping into the world of travel. Join Keri and Jeanne as they tackle mileage runs, elite status, and of course–the perfect travel accessories.

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