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Award Seats - How Does This Really Work?

Sat Mar 13, 2004 1:01 am

My wife and I just used our SkyMiles to book a trip from ATL to Europe.

What a fiasco!!! We booked in January for a trip that we wanted to take in early July (over the week of the 4th). We tried to get into any possible major airport flying on any possible codeshare airline (Delta, Northwest, Continental, Air France, Alitalia) and were not able to get this done. It wasn't so much an issue going to Europe as much as it was coming home. Nothing was available for the return.

As it stands, we were able to book this trip for the week of Labor Day in early September instead of our original intentions for early July due to availability (or lack thereof really). We are leaving on Sept 4th and returning on Sept 14th. We were able to get (ATL-BOS - Delta) (BOS-CDG - Air France) over. For the return it's (CDG-ATL - Delta).

It is usually this difficult to get award seats on flights even 6 to 8 months in advance? Does anyone have any insight for me as to how this process really works from the airline perspective? Thanks!!!
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Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2004 8:42 pm

RE: Award Seats - How Does This Really Work?

Sat Mar 13, 2004 1:12 am

So, from my own experience avoid peak seasons completly eg: summer, xmas easter or any other holiday in between. Airlines tend to be a bit tight in giving freebies out, check with your travel agent exactly how full the aircraft actually are in all classes, then choose the ones which look a little better. I would say the best time to travel is september anyway as thing are starting to calm down and special offers on hotels will be more available.
Have a good one.
tlaqna hi
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RE: Award Seats - How Does This Really Work?

Sat Mar 13, 2004 1:16 am

In a word: Yes. It is often easier to get seats less than 30 days in advance, since the airlines will open up more reward seats on flights that have light bookings. Until then, reward seats are very hard to come by.

Enjoy your trip!
SkyTeam: The alliance for third rate airlines finally getting their act together!
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RE: Award Seats - How Does This Really Work?

Sat Mar 13, 2004 2:06 am

Goomba, I am in the same exact boat as you. Using my skyiles, I got my flights over in mid july (LAX-JFK - NCE) but cant get ANYTHING coming back! Its really odd. They have nothing, from ANY city in europe, on ANY partner or themselves to ANY city in the US! I am currently waitlisted on the return, but I amhoping it will clear since I am gold medallion/million miler. we'll see. apparently Delta likes to send you someplace, and never wants you to come back! I compare this to my friend who I am travelling with who is using his united points. He is the lowest level in their club, but calls up and gets LAX-MUC-NCE and ATH-MUC-LAX on their codeshare with Lufthansa on the exact dates that he wants in peak season. figure that one out.
*Long live the Widget*
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RE: Award Seats - How Does This Really Work?

Sat Mar 13, 2004 2:17 am

I booked YVR-CDG for July. To get the seats I booked last year in the fall, and got the last seats. You have to plan WAY ahead.
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RE: Award Seats - How Does This Really Work?

Sat Mar 13, 2004 2:33 am

Apparently, domestically is just as bad on DL unless you don't mind making stops along the way.

I tried to book RICLAX in FIRST on DL and the availability was awful. Can someone tell me how it's better for DL to route you RICATL ATLCVG CVGLAX in First, rather than RICATL ATLLAX in First.? Seems to me like the additional flight is just added cost for DL when that seat could be revenue.
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RE: Award Seats - How Does This Really Work?

Sat Mar 13, 2004 2:58 am

That's why I asked if anyone has any airline "inside scoop" as to how they make rhyme or reason for their award seat decisions. It seems to me that there should be some rules or methods for this process.

A Million Miler should be able to pick up the phone 8 months in advance and get an award seat on any flight he or she likes. Much like Av8tir above.
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RE: Award Seats - How Does This Really Work?

Sat Mar 13, 2004 2:58 am

In my experience and with rather limited knowledge,

I can say that AAdvantage tends to have more flexibility in its award seating.

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RE: Award Seats - How Does This Really Work?

Sat Mar 13, 2004 9:08 am

Goomba & Avi8tir,
When traveling trans-atlantic during peak season, certain date ranges are more peak than others. Late July is one of them, especially Westbound. The westbound leg is the return journey for US passengers who left in late June/early July, but it is also the outbound leg for Europeans getting a jump on their traditional August holiday season.

Also, there isn't a fixed number of seats offered on any given flight for mileage redemption. The offer will be based on anticipated revenue demands. Consequently, there will be very very few seats available during this time. On a B767, I would not be surprised if the max number of Economy seats offered was less than 10 during this time of year.
It's been swell, but the swelling has gone down.

RE: Award Seats - How Does This Really Work?

Sat Mar 13, 2004 10:29 am

There is a set amount of SM seats per any given flight. This is calculated by how many Delta can allot for SM and still operate that flight at a profit. There is at least 9 per flight.

Having said that, yes SM seats sell out WAY in advance. People call at the stroke of midnight, when the new schedules come out, to book SM seats 331 days in advance.

The first problem your running into is your traveling to Europe in the summer. This is their holiday season, and flights are quite full. It does not surprise me that you can get over there, but not back on SM seats. A lot of Europeans travel to the US during this time. This is much like trying to get a SM seat in the USA during the spring break months. It's challenging, but if you're flexible, 95% of the time it can be done

Some tips: BE FLEXABLE! With your dates, times and airports. A lot of times they can find, say, seats to ONT if LAX is full, for example. If you can find something close to what you want, book it and waitlist for something better. Odds are it'll clear. Failing all those options, you always have the SkyChoice program. It costs double miles, but you can fly on any flight on and day you like, and aren't restricted to the normal allotment of SM seats.

Europe in the summer is difficult. So is south Florida during spring. Hawaii is difficult all year round, as is LAS. Passengers take this so personally, but what you have to understand the SM program is very popular, and guess what? A lot of people want to go to HNL, LAS, and anywhere in Europe.

Bottomline, be willing to work with Delta and odds are they'll have something for you.

Brian - SPOT THIS!
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RE: Award Seats - How Does This Really Work?

Sat Mar 13, 2004 11:04 am

With Continental and Northwest not being in Skyteam, and with neither of them codesharing with DL on any transatlantic flights, how can they be considered to blame for your lack of success on getting seats ?

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RE: Award Seats - How Does This Really Work?

Sat Mar 13, 2004 3:28 pm


I can understand your frustration, but it isn't always necessary to book 6 months in advance. If you are a little flexible sometimes it will work. I just booked an Air Canada reward ticket YVR-FRA [via YYC] for the end of April.

My wife and I did try to book to Greece once. We could get there, but couldn't get home when we needed to, so we went to Costa Rica instead.

It can be a little frustrating when you want to go to a high traffic destination during a busy season.

Good luck with your flights.

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