Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Travel Tool for Star Alliance Members Booking Award Travel

By Mike Grasso
If you accrue miles with a Star Alliance carrier such as United or U.S. Airways, you probably have a goal at some point to cash in those miles. Today I'd like to recommend an amazing resource (hat off to the Flyertalk forums) I've used for quite some time enabling a quick and easy search for award seats.

First, a good reminder that you are not limited to redeeming with the airline you bank your miles with. Generally you can redeem with others within the alliance. For example, you have a mountain of miles with United Airlines which can be used on Singapore, Lufthansa, and Continental, to name a few. But how do you know award availability on these partner airlines? Often, your "sponsoring" carrier may have website limitations showing award availability of Star Alliance partners. So here's the workaround (other than just calling the airline):

-Join ANA's Mileage Club (free).
-Visit the award availability page.
-After logging in, select the "Use Star Alliance Members" button

From here, you can search award availability for most Star Alliance members worldwide. This is particularly useful when trying to build a complicated itinerary, or one in which you desire some creative routing's. This tool is good preparation, homework if you will, before contacting the airline directly to book your award ticket. Too often phone reps don't take the time to search all possible options (ie: something as simple as routing from Oakland, if no seats are available from San Francisco).

A word of caution though: Although results showing availability are generally accurate, there may be a few instances when they are not bookable. For an interesting, long discussion on this problem, read this Flyertalk forum on StarNet blocking. In sum, use the ANA award availability page as a tool in your award search, but realize occasionally availability and bookability may be slightly off from each other.

Full URL for award availability tool linked above: