As I posted a short while ago, I was able to book four Business Class award tickets to India for my family and I. This took up 480,000 miles redeemed! While it was painful to see the miles get deducted from my account, I am really looking forward to enjoying the flat bed seats and the meals in business class. I am pretty sure I am spoiling my family and they will always want to travel only in business or first class from now on. Economy is so painful, right? Right!
I got several requests from readers asking me how I was able to get the award seats and if I had any tips. So, here they are. Understand that YMMV – seat availability is really a lottery, especially if your dates are not flexible or like in my case, only confirmed a couple of months before the travel dates. But, this should help you get going.
My Award Booking details:
Miles used: 480,000 United MileagePlus Miles, used for Star Alliance Award
Airlines traveling on:
US to India (IAD-DEL): Lufthansa
India to US (BOM-IAD): Swiss and United
All Business Class!
Have a lot of miles:
It is 120,000 miles for a round trip Business Class ticket from US to India. Have the miles in your account. If you have much more than what you need, it is even better as you can put seats on hold while you finalize your plans.
Use the site and start searching:
I started going online to search for seat availability almost every day. Looking at options, routing, airlines, etc to understand the lay of the land and see what is available of different date sets that could work for us.
…and keep searching:
Availability keeps changing. People put seats and hold which get releases if they do not book. Also, airlines release more award seats as the dates get closer. So, keep searching. When I first started looking for seats, nothing and I mean nothing was available on the dates I really wanted. Seats became available a few days later.
Look for one-way awards:
This is something that I learnt after several false starts. I kept finding Business class seats on the outbound flights but not on the return. Even if one of your segments on a booking is in Business Class, the airline charges Business Class miles for the entire trip! So, I broke my trip into two one-way award trips. I booked in Business in the outbound and Economy for the return. I then kept on searching and the following week even the return became available in Business class, but on a different airline. As long as your trip has not started and the origin and destination cities are the same, you may no change fees.
Call the airline to look for partner awards:
For United, Star Alliance awards can be seen on the website but not for partners like Jet Airways and the soon to be not a partner Qatar. I kept calling the airline to see if wards were available on these.
Hope this helps. Do post your successful award redemptions – especially those in upper class, by leaving a comment below.