The most common complaint I get from people is, “I can never find a way to use my miles.” I view this as a self-fulfilling prophecy. I think most people have an unrealistic opinion of how easy it will be to use those hard-earned miles. The common request I get involves a very popular destination during peak season for that destination (oh, and usually a bunch of seats).
That just doesn’t make sense for the airlines. So, you have to get a bit creative. Maybe a bit of flexibility in your dates, possibly an alternate airport. In fact, I just helped some friends book a trip to Italy during the peak summer travel season. By changing their preferred dates by only one day, they were able to find 4 seats to and from Italy using a Saver (cheaper) award on United and Star Alliance carriers. They ended up having to pick up an extra connection on the way back instead of flying direct, but otherwise they’ve got 4 award tickets to Italy in August.
That’s why I’m so happy with the tool American Airlines just released. View From the Wing was the first one I saw discussing the new award map American is promoting. He’s got a bunch of great info, but there are a few things I wanted to summarize and touch on for my readers:
First, a link to the award map.
Finally, my two cents on why this is a good tool.
I strongly believe flexibility is the key to using your miles and points. That’s where this simple tool can be a big help if you’re just starting out. Maybe you’re trying to get to Los Angeles and didn’t know American flies into Santa Ana, just 40 miles down the road. Not perfect, but better than not being able to get where you want to go.
My wife happens to be a very visual person. For her, looking at a map of places she could go is incredibly helpful. Another small plus from this tool.
Bottom line is this tool isn’t going to radically change the way people plan vacations, but it is a helpful tool to put in your stable. I still haven’t found one tool that does everything I need. I rely on a basket of different tools to help me get the job done, and I can see myself recommending this to others in the future.