PointsHoarder 9 – Reward Tools and Routing Methods

August 23, 2012

In Episode 9 of the PointsHoarder Podcast the hosts, Stephan, Fozz, and Seth, discuss different reward booking tools, some of the different routing rules out there, and a random factoid on how to avoid the reciprocity fee in Argentina.

Length: 35 minutes

Show Notes

Award Search Tools:

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11 comments on “PointsHoarder 9 – Reward Tools and Routing Methods

  1. Jayce Aug 23, 2012

    I was just listening to your Podcast and noticed that you made a statement that Air Canada requires an account in order to search for reward availability. That is actually incorrect.

    You can go to http://www.aeroplan.com –> Use Your Miles –> Take a Flight (Book Now)

    This will allow you to search for reward flights on both AC metal and Star Alliance metal. It provides total points and taxes required in order to book.


  2. Hi Guys,

    Another great podcast; thank you.
    I detect a lot of acronyms, that are used during the podcast. Perhaps you could add a glossary of terms used in the podcast and explain in layman terms for the listeners :-).

    So how much time do you all spend when you are trying to book a trip? How far in advance do you try? Does your FF status make a difference?
    Thought I’d throw in a few questions here.

    PS: I’ve done that SAO to JNB flight; awesommmee, then I went to PER after a short rest in the JNB airport Lounge.

    Thanks; loving your stuff, can’t wait for the video version :-).

    • Good call on the acronyms, Kerwin. I try to stay away from them but they keep creeping back in on me. I’ll see what we can do about putting together a glossary.

      As for how long I spend on a booking, WAY too long. 😉

      I’m a perfectionist when it comes to optimizing my itineraries. Here’s an example of what I’ve done to make one come out just right. Yes, that’s excessive, but that’s the way I roll. When I’m booking awards for clients I don’t usually spend quite as much time, mostly because they don’t seem to like it when I try to convince them that it is a good idea to keep changing the itinerary. That said, finding a good itinerary can easily take an hour or two. Getting it booked can, too, depending on the program and the agents. There is no magic date when it comes to searching for awards in my experience, with a couple exceptions (i.e. Lufthansa and Swiss F inventory opening to partners a week or two out from travel). I usually end up booking 4-6 months out to start with and tweak from there but that’s based mostly on when I figure out where I want to travel to, not because of the inventory.

      And I’ll be getting the PER-JNB line in April. 😀

  3. Mitch Aug 25, 2012

    This was my first time listening to the podcast, but I was a bit disappointed in terms of the incorrect information that was provided in a couple of instances.

    First, the Air France tool does not search Korean Air award inventory. There is no source for checking the aware inventory Korean Air makes available to partners other than calling the partner you’re trying to book through. Select intra-Asian routes (mainly Korea-Japan) can be found on ExpertFlyer or via Seth’s tools, but that’s it.

    Second, British Airways covers more than England. Their “free” segments are flights from within the UK to/from London in conjunction with international flight(s). This includes the Scottish services and Belfast City airport in Northern Ireland.

    As to MPM, you act like it doesn’t apply to United awards. During the merger, United very explicitly stated that their new award rules would allow MPM+15% for routings. This prohibits things like SFO-IAH-IAD-NRT-SIN, as it exceeds the MPM by more than 25% but doesn’t break any rules about transiting regions. The rules against transiting certain regions basically further restrict allowable routings beyond needing to stay within the MPM (or an allowed percentage over). Delta uses a combination of MPM and published fare routings. They generally will not allow you to exceed the MPM unless there is a published fare with a non-MPM routing that allows your routing. I’ve seen the website allow a few routings that are less than 5% over the MPM, but other times it won’t allow such routings, so it’s unclear what their rule actually is. As an example of published fare routings, I was able to book an award whose outbound is OMA-SLC-LAX-ICN-AKL. This exceeds Delta’s MPM by over 42%. However, Korean Air publishes a fare from OMA to AKL that routes via ICN, so after some argument, it was priced correctly. (Note that Korean’s published routing is OMA-MSP-ORD-ICN-AKL, so there is a bit of flexibility in terms of which Korean Air gateway is used compared to the actual fares.)

    • Thanks for the feedback, Mitch.

      Glad to hear that DL is allowing routing-based awards, too. That is news to me.

      On the United side, however, I have many routings which demonstrate that MPM isn’t involved. And I’ve spoken with many of the folks at United, none of whom has indicated the MPM+15% number. If you can provide a cite for that I’d love to see it. But everything I have seen on the United side says MPM isn’t a part of the rules any more. And there are MANY examples which support this. You’ve included one, too.

      And as for the Air France search for KE inventory, I thought I made it pretty clear in the recording that I wasn’t certain on that fact.

      We certainly know we aren’t perfect, but we’re putting out pretty consistent information and I think it is reasonably useful, too. Hope you’re willing to give us a listen next time around and see how things are going.

      • Mitch Aug 29, 2012

        On the United front, I was basing things off of what United put out in February 2011 when they started allowing MPM+15%. I take it the integration totally scrapped that? I tried putting my bizarre proposal into united.com and it just barfed all over, so I don’t really have a good mechanism for comparison. You’ve got a lot more experience with United, so I’ll bow to your knowledge (especially since I’m woking on a pile of Ultimate Rewards points that I want to use through MileagePlus, so the more I know about their rules, the better off I’ll be).

        I’d have to go back and re-listen to the comments about the FlyingBlue engine, but the impression I came away with was that you (plural) were saying it would be useful for checking Korean Air inventory. Might be a subtle word choice issue. I know that no one except those of us with piles of them really tries to understand Delta award booking 😉

        I’ll elaborate a bit on my experience with Delta and routing-based awards. I put NRT-ATL on hold when I saw it in low and then started figuring out what else I wanted. Called in and added OMA-SLC-LAX-ICN-AKL for the outbound and HKG-PVG-NRT-ATL-OMA for the return (with about 36 hours in PVG). First quote was something like 435K miles, in part because the agent pulled F for OMA-SLC even though I said it was only available in Y. We then got it down to 390K or something like that when she switched to Y, but she was seeing medium and I was seeing low. Kept on hold while I went to lunch. Later called back to get them to pull enhanced elite inventory for OMA-SLC and it priced at 230K, which is US-SE Asia round trip plus SE Asia-SW Pacific round trip. I spoke with three agents asking them to pull the KE fare to validate my routing, but to no avail. Late that night, I realized that in the process, my hold had been cut down to the point where it was going to expire within a couple of hours. I thought I’d try clicking the “Redeem now” button, and voila, it came to 135K…plus $710 in taxes and fuel surcharges. That began a period of two weeks of waiting on tariff assist to confirm the correct surcharges with Korean and China Eastern. In the end, I got almost $300 of it back.

        Most Delta agents really don’t know what’s happening with award pricing and will just repeatedly invoke “MPM”. A good agent knows that published routings will allow fares that violate the MPM. Further, published fares for US-Asia that route via Europe will allow you to price that at 120K round trip, despite many of the bloggers just claiming that Delta won’t allow you to route US-Asia via Europe (or US-India via Asia…it’s possible if you pick a partner that publishes fares routed that way, which is common from the West Coast).

        Keep up the podcasting. I did enjoy listening, and I think my first comment arose largely out of two of my pet peeves being aggravated: conflating England and the UK (I lived there for almost two years) and flying by the seat of one’s pants when discussing Delta awards.

        • The United rules definitely changed on 3.3 from the prior bits.

          And sorry for the confusion on the Delta stuff. I am definitely less well versed on that front so I probably tried to couch my thoughts too much in “should” and “I think” for it to be solid information.

  4. David Sep 10, 2012

    You can also get “free” avios segments by flying intra-Spain. Price MAD-SVQ as an example.