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.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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8 Comments

  1. Great points… though I would note that getting availability out of Atlanta to London on reasonable points redemption may be harder than out of Tampa! CLT and BNA to LHR, or MIA to LHR, CDG, AMS or MAD likely better options

  2. My strategy for a lot of trips has been more about deciding the destination based on where my miles will take me, rather than choosing a destination and then trying to find miles tickets to go there.
    Like I’ve got some TAP miles expiring later this year, so we’re going to Bolivia since North America to South America business class is a great deal on TAP and Bolivia is where we could get miles tickets to.
    That obviously doesn’t work for everyone for example if you want to use miles to visit family in a specific place, but it’s something to think about for pure leisure travel.

  3. Bolivia really! The last two guys that went there was Butch and Sundance. LOL have a great trip.

  4. Greeting from Thailand.
    The only reason for my point using this summer is because we needed a lot of one way txt in biz class between Caribbean to US to Asia and Europe to SA and back to US. My first choice carriers fell out so we are doing a lot of flying on second choice airlines like LOT, Finnair and TK. Pleasantly surprised by Lot Polish so far. Nice crews and good catering. Slightly disappointed by TK but have a two long legs scheduled with them from SA to US with 26 hours layover in IST. Hopefully it will be a more pleasant experience on board if I manage to switch seats. Absolutely hated seating in front of their bar/prep area in the center. Zero privacy. If we had to pay cash for all this I recon $15K per person at best. We are burning a lot of point instead.

  5. What I did when I called virgin is said I want 4 tickets premium or above, here are the dates, I want nywhere West Coast, do you magic and off she went . Managed Seattle out from London and San Fran home. Fine by us …let’s hope they now don’t get cancelled as they are leaving from LGW !

  6. I also want to chime in with using point.me for your flight searches. Many times it will show some options that you have not thought about. Yes it only shows flights between the cities you entered so yes you may need to do multiple searches between different city pairs but it’s a damn good tool. And it shows you points transfers and booking on airline B’s program to travel on airline A.

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