Bravo, you have enough miles for a free air ticket, now it is time to redeem it. What do you do and how do you choose from the many options on the website? Is there any trick?
Let’s take a look at what I have on both of my airline accounts, let’s do it together: As of today my American Airlines account only shows 12,194 miles, which is not enough for popcorn right now, let’s leave it alone. Actually, not too bad considering that I just got 2 free air tickets to Madrid.
After logging into my United Airlines account, it shows 60,965 miles so technically I have enough points for one free ticket to either Europe or Latin-America, so I just have to make my mind about where and when to travel.
On United.com under MileagePlus click on Use Award Miles (on American Airlines it is called Book an Award Ticket) and fill in the grids the same way as if you were to search for a regular airplane ticket. Based on your departure date, you will get a long list of flights. You will notice that some of these free flights are crappy with long layovers or are connecting in cities which are out of way.
I don’t mind long layovers, as a matter of fact, I’m actually fishing for those because it gives me an opportunity to visit another city at no additional cost, furthermore, I don’t mind spending a night there so I can discover more.
What I do mind is the following:
- If I am arriving between midnight and 6 AM. After an overnight flight I’m very tired and perhaps even jet lagged; I can’t check into my hotel until at least noon (in best case scenario); I am wasting time. I hate to stick around airports and coffee houses with no sleep, I don’t have energy to do much even if I leave my luggage at the front desk of my hotel. Nothing worse than starting a road trip dead tired. Last November I flew to Dubai and Turkish Airlines landed at 2 AM. The flight was so rough that I almost got sick on the plane, I decided to buy an extra night at the hotel (for the previous night) so that I can check in, go to bed and sleep it off.
- If the connecting airport is out of way: I only take this kind of flights when there is nothing else, when I can’t pick another date. In August of 2007 I flew from Washington, D.C. to Alaska connecting in Dallas, Texas, which was insane but there wasn’t any better connection during peak season for a free flight, however on the way back it was much better connecting in Portland, Oregon. I just toughed it out, a little more wine helped 😉
- If redeeming the miles costs too much money. Please note that there is a small fee associated with the redeeming the miles but those are disclosed prior to the purchase. United Airlines shows this fees next to the mile needed for the flight, American Airlines shows it on the check-out page. I have a limitation for this, willing to pay up to $50 per person one way, over that I rather choose another airline with perhaps a bad connection but as long as I can save.
Beware of British Airways for free flights! I like the airline with their customer service, in-flight entertainment, food, even the connecting airport in London but when it comes to free flights, they are notorious. British Airways is affiliated with American Airlines; technically I would only need 50,000 miles for a free round trip ticket between the continental USA and Europe. This European airline has the nerve to charge over $300 just to redeem miles one way, which comes to over $600 for a round trip ticket. For the love of God, for $600 you can already (or almost) buy your own round trip ticket to Europe so there is no reason to give away your hard earned miles for basically nothing and pay an additional $600!!!
Do you remember when I said that I’m setting my budget for a European ticket for up to $600? Well, I really meant it in all aspects! 🙂