Booking flights with points and miles this summer is a challenge. I’d say it’s probably the most challenging time in the history of using points to get what you want, when you want. It’s still happening every day, but it takes skill and luck.
I do think it’ll all get better soon. Airlines are understandably testing the limits of pricing with both cash and points for summer travel, but much further and they may miss the mark for a more bear winter to come.
Deals will return and points seats along with them. If you need to travel this year and are striking out with plans, there’s a sub-optimal but highly useful tip to getting things done.
New Routes For Points Success
The most logical way to think about travel is a straight line between your starting point and desired destination. A to B, simple. When presented with bad options, Going from A to C, to get to D, to put you near B might be the right solution.
For long haul trips, taking advantage of new route launches or seasonal flights can be a great way to uncover points seats. New routes often face more pressure for airlines to fill seats, and that’s one of the most likely times for seats to be release with points.
Sometimes a little side trip is worth it, if it means securing comfort on a long flight. I may want to visit Thailand, but if I can find points lay flat seats to Singapore, I’d rather have comfort for the 15 hour flight, then grind in economy direct to Thailand.
It may mean departing from “nearby” places like Atlanta instead of Tampa, and landing in London rather than Paris, but sometimes the savings or simple “yes, or no” points opportunity can be worth it. If a journey is long enough, it can be worth it.
If I have the chance to fly flat bed business class across an ocean for 43,000 points, just by buying a $75 one way ticket to a city where an airline has lots of seats, I still may be marginally winning. The higher the prices you’d otherwise face in cash, or points, from your ideal starting point, the more the diversion is worthwhile.
Secondary Cities And Bigger Planes
Airlines shrunk during the pandemic. Between major cities, they flew less frequently, or flew smaller planes. Plans to connect the world with other ‘secondary’ cities, like a Pittsburgh, Portland, or Austin in the USA were put on hold.
Airlines didn’t like that, and they want to reverse those trends.
It’s worth paying attention to some of the nerdier airline news bits, like “Virgin goes thrice daily to Los Angeles”, because although it means nothing to you at the time, it genuinely signifies that an entire third new flight will be put on sale.
Where there’s a new flight on sale, there’s often points seats released. Dates that had no points availability will likely have lots on the newly added flights.
So yes, the message is that reading some of the tangent driven stories of the airline industry may help uncover newly released points availability. More daily flights get added to preexisting routes all the time, and new routes launch all the time too.
The more you keep up with these quasi-nerdy elements, the further ahead of the demand curve you may find yourself. Looking for a great resource? Airline Routes is certainly one of them.
If it’s changing, being added, or getting bigger, you’ll know about it.