a bed in a plane

Points are fantastic, but finding the seats required to cash them in would require a far less complimentary adjective. If there’s one thing all points collectors share in common, it’s a hatred for the the bewildering process required just to take a single flight. From where to search to how to actually book, it’s fair to say the process is designed to confuse you. To level the playing field, we’ve created a guide to finding available seats in any cabin using points like a true booking pro…

a bar with drinks and shelves in a planeCome Again

The first mistake most people make is looking once and giving up. It’s not ideal, but airlines tinker with available seats using points on an hour by hour, day by day basis. It’s easy to say “there’s never any seats”, but it’s just not true unless you’re checking back daily. From time to time, some airlines don’t properly display available seats using points, so it’s worth consulting this guide for other great websites to search.

One and One

Assuming you’re only able to find one seat using points, that doesn’t do much good for travelers hoping to bring along a companion. The best strategy is to take what you can get and improve on it over time. If there’s just one business class seat, and one premium economy seat, take both. Keep checking back to see if a second business seat opens up. Worst case – or perhaps best case, another flight offers two seats together and you cancel for a small fee and switch. If you’re upgrading two people, and only one seat is available, try this trick.

How Much Is Your Trip Worth?

All of the tips above can be made easier by setting seat alerts. You can set an unlimited amount of alerts for $9.99 a month, letting you know immediately if a seat using points has opened up and the alert will go right into your inbox. There’s nothing better than searching once, setting alerts and then sitting back and relaxing with faith that a seat will eventually pop up. They almost always do. Airlines tinker up to 24 hours before a flight, so you never know. And if you do get a good news email, there’s no pressure to book, they’re just letting you know.

a bed and chairs in a planeDiversified Strategy

You’re always going to struggle to find available seats using points if you’ve only got one card to play. For this precise reason, we always advocate to earn transferrable points, from programs like American Express, Citi, Chase and SPG, which allow you to convert your points from these great programs into airline points with more than 15 airlines each. Basically: if you’re trying to get from Los Angeles to Zurich and only have one type of points, you stand one chance. But if you have points you could transfer to any of 20 different airlines, you’ve got exponentially better chances.

Leave It To The Pros

Is this all sounding seriously boring and far too time consuming? We don’t blame you. It is. There are great services out there which can handle all the hassle, dread, stress and phone calls required to get you your dream trip using points. We offer this service on a yearly consulting basis, but for one off trips, we highly recommend services such as Award Expert run by our friend Matthew at Live and Lets Fly and Book Your Award by the legendary Gary Leff of View From The Wing. There are plenty of other options as well, and any are welcome to leave links to their services below!

What’s been your best points success story?

Featured image courtesy of Air Canada.

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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  1. My best success came from, no surprise here, GSTP when I first started reading it. I used 30K SPG to transfer to Virgin America, giving me 35K Virgin America points. That in turn was used for a RT on Virgin Atlantic Upper Class. That netted me around 10 cents per point, which is the best I have done so far.

  2. I find your consulting practice to be very interesting, but I think there are some things that you could do to garner more clients, if that’s your goal. I followed the above link, but the page doesn’t actually say anything about what you’re getting for your $1,000. Is this for one person, one couple, an extended family? Do you actually do the bookings or is that left to the client? What other features, if any, are included? What about offering a six month membership through a raffle to drum up some buzz? I know that for myself, I need to see where I’m getting value for that kind of money. I’m certainly not saying that you’re failing to deliver value, just that it’s not really evident how much the consulting is worth.

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