Ask Me Any Travel Question and I’ll Try to Answer

One of the things I really enjoy doing is responding to reader questions. Here’s your chance. I will my best to cover many of your questions. Some I may answer right away, others that I answer will take me a few weeks.

Please leave requests in the comments section. Some I may answer there and some will be standalone posts if they seem like the answers would help many readers..

As my boss once wrote making a similar request on his blog, “The only promise is that of weak monotonicity, namely that your mention won’t lower the chance of the topic being covered.” In other words, I won’t promise to cover everything, though I’ll read and ponder everything that’s written here in the comments.

I’d love to hear from you!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. One more question… although not as good of a redepmtion, can I also use my Delta miles on Alaska flights? I just noticed Alaska is a partner of Delta and I have a lot more Delta miles than Alaska miles. I had no luck checking Deltas search engine would this be another case of calling to put it together?

  2. @Gary where is the best free site to search for korean airlines awards? (other than expert flyer etc pay-sites?)

  3. Thanks for the quick response Gary! Following up on the MLE-AUH-JFK-DCA through-check bags question, I was concerned about the need to pickup bags and re-check them at JFK since that is where I switch carriers from Etihad to AA, but based upon your answer I should be all set to pickup my bags in DCA since it is on the same PNR?

  4. By January 2017 my wife and I are likely to have 300,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points in the bank (we both will meet the bonus minimums on our new Sapphire Rewards cards by the end of November, and we already have 95k UR points at the moment).

    Does it make sense in January to look for award space from Europe? We will be traveling west from St. Petersburg in mid-June. Or should we simply be looking for best fares between now and then, and purchase tickets on a Star Alliance vehicle?

  5. @Sigmund correct [and in fact, while American won’t interline onto Etihad on separate tickets, Etihad WILL interline onto American on separate tickets, you wouldn’t actually need to be on the same PNR for this going MLE-AUH-JFK-DCA… you WOULD need to be on the same tickets if you were going JFK-DCA-AUH-MLE]

  6. Thanks Gary- did not realize the voluntary downgrade- will try and change withi 8 days to Lufthanza F home now that I have paid for it with a one way to Hawaii F as a free one way . I have vonuntarily downgraded (with AA) to change to a more direct route (and 777-300 LHR-LAX) but was told about it. I definitely wanted the round trip to change on Aeroplan. Thanks again for your insight.

  7. A lot of you experts don’t like putting spend on airline cards like Delta or Hawaiian, but at certain breakpoints you can get bonus miles which earns you 1.4 miles/$. I understand if it’s a carrier where you can transfer from Chase, then it’s better to earn at 1.5 miles/$ on Freedom plus have flexibility to transfer. (And of course other cards have 2x-5x on certain categories, which is always better.) And I understand a card like American that doesn’t give any bonus points, you’re better transferring from SPG at 1.25 miles/$. But if you know you could use Delta and Hawaiian points in the future, and since they don’t transfer from Chase, then isn’t 1.4 miles/$ good?

  8. Your Thoughts? I took a last minute vacation with my 3 kids to Loews Miami. Booked with Kayak. Got confirmation. Saw charge on my CC. Then the night before (8 hours before leaving) I get a cancellation email. What? Called Kayak (Getaroom) and yes it was cancelled and cannot provide me a reason NOR cannot re-instate the reservation. Call hotel and inform me that the reservation is there. Send email and again the Hotel confirms reservation. We stay. We pay the room charges etc. Now 5 months later they are asking for payment. Why because Getaroom did refund the charge but during our stay and on my cc that after checking in was compromised. Yeah that was not fun. So honestly I did not see the credit. Until now. Its $2800. They cannot charge it because the card they had on file was cancelled. The right thing would be to pay but 5 months? timing couldn’t be worse…

  9. @Cindi – I’d rather earn 1.5x Membership Rewards or more on all spend with Amex Everyday Preferred and have the option to transfer to Delta or Hawaiian or anywhere else I’d like.

  10. Hi Gary,
    I’m a frequent traveler with Air Berlins Topbonus program. Currently I am at the Gold Tier. Now, since I live in Miami most of my flights are with American Airlines (almost exclusively domestic). Only for my three or four trips per year to Germany do I actually fly with Air Berlin. Up until the beginning of the year this usually worked out Ok since the miles earned with AA could be used to upgrade my overseas trips. However, Award Space has been extremely limited since and I am wondering if it might be time for me to switch to a different program – but AA just made some significant changes themselves and I am not sure if it would end up in me getting more frequent upgrades.
    Any thoughts from your end?

  11. Is there a way to redeem Alaska miles for BA tickets without paying the ridiculous taxes and fees? $400 in fees each way?! I might as well just buy the ticket outright!

  12. Gary,
    You’ve mentioned using Korean skypass miles to book 80k roundtrip (business class?) to europe . I’ve hunted quite a bit on their site, but I seem not to be able to book it online. How do you find these? AwardNexus? Or by calling Korean?

  13. Gary,
    I’m looking to use 140K AA/oneworld miles for a business-class SFO-CAI roundtrip in Dec 2017. I realize we cant book Dec 2017 yet, but just searching by AA’s website, all their award routes they’re showing me go through LHR (so huge fee). How can I find routes that avoid LHR? Do I have to call? The AA website is pretty useless to me because any search I do for award travel to Europe or Middle-East, 95% of it goes through LHR. Any ideas on how to use AA miles w/o incurring fee to Europe/Mid-East?

  14. Gary, I recently took BA flights from Asia to the States, connecting in LHR. BA didn’t allow advanced seat selection for my paid business ticket, so I used my elite AB FFN to select seats in advance and changed my FFN back to BA at the airports. I double checked with ground staff my BA number is in the system and I retained my boarding passes to prove that. However, weeks later, I found only the flight into LHR was credited to BA while the flight out of LHR was credited to AB, even though both my boarding passes showed BA numbers. I contacted BA multiple times but they refused to admit it was their system mistake. They insisted I need to have AB return the miles before BA can recredit it. AB refused to do so unfortunately. It looks like I will finish the elite earning year just short of that BA leg for Gold qualification. I guess I am now more curious than upset if such things happen to others and what’s the possible cause?

  15. Gary,

    All of the different mileage\reward programs are confusing. In your opinion which one is the best?

    Also, I’m traveling from MSP to MEL in a few weeks with a 15 month old to see my husbands family. Do you have any travel tips?

    Thanks!
    Misty

  16. Where did the Qantas award space go? It used to be that you could find one (and sometimes 2) Qantas First Class award seats between Australia and the US. It used to be visible on the BA website, and later on the AA website if it wasn’t already taken by other partner airlines before it opened up to AA. I have been looking all year, and can’t find a single first seat on Qantas for any day, any time to/from any cities in the US/Australia, ever. Am I looking in the wrong place, or did it really all go away?
    Thanks very much!
    Jason

  17. I see you recommend using Momondo to find fares, which in turn sends you to a third-part site to book. Do you know of drawbacks of using these sites rather than the airline site? More severe restrictions, problems earning miles?

  18. @grif305 Some tickets and sites will be more restrictive than booking direct or through other OTAs, I usually point to these sites when they’re cheaper.

  19. @Misty unfortunately the answer is ‘it depends’ on what’s most important to you. Programs are both earning/redeeming miles and elite benefits, different programs will do different pieces well. And within earning/redeeming it depends where you want to travel to and in what class of service. So I’d need to know more.

    For points accumulation I like the bank programs whose points transfer to miles best because of the flexibility.

    I admit I don’t have tips for traveling with a 15 month old, I’ve never done it, I don’t have kids yet 🙂

  20. @FrustratedBATraveler this happens often especially with BA, you may need to push to get miles reversed and then credited, BA is good about reversing when the miles credit to them in error

  21. @Kamal ALi – the AA website doesn’t show partner availability like Qatar and Etihad. Search Qatar on the BA.com website, search Etihad on its own website. Then call AA to book

  22. I am a recent fan to join your amazing club–thanks for all the great info.
    You tell us about all the great deals from USA to other countries.

    How about deals from Spain to long haul areas–please

  23. Thanks, Gary. That 30 transactions a month requirement is too stressful for me. I usually do a smaller number of larger transactions and don’t want the stress of keeping track!

    I am planning to look for premium cabin space from Hawaii to the South Pacific. Some of the carriers are using old planes now and have crappy non-flat seats, but I read they are planning to upgrade the seats soon. Do you think once those are nice seats they will charge more miles for them? Its that something carriers tend to do, or not?

  24. One more, you think there’s any chance they’ll offer a Sapphire Reserve business card? I need a business card that I don’t mind putting a lot of spend on. Otherwise I’m thinking an SPG business card.

  25. Boo BA taxes and fees! Oh well, thanks Gary for confirming at least. I should be able to find availability to London on either AA or DL around my dates.

    That leads me to another question. Can you recommend any tricks or best hotel chains for getting multi-night discounts? London is still expensive even with the improved exchange rate and I could use whatever help I can get. (I have Marriott and Hilton points but don’t remember seeing any current “free night” deals.) Thanks!

  26. As a long time mileage collector, I’ve switched 90% of my credit card usage to a Bank of America travel rewards card where I get 1.5 points plus a 75% bonus, because of my Merrill Lynch account. That gets me a 2.63¢ for each dollar I spend. Given the devaluations at American and Delta, and the lack of seat availability, I feel I am getting more value. Am I right, or am I missing something?

  27. @alan that is the strongest ongoing rebate on offer, so if you don’t want premium cabin international awards that’s a great deal — in fact, take your cash offset and buy avianca lifemiles for star alliance redemptions 🙂

  28. Thanks for doing this!

    1. Whenever I look for award flights (using miles to pay), I struggle to find availability on partner airlines. I had some success with Delta, but found nothing through United or American Airlines. Do you have any tips for how to search and book awards flights on partner airlines going through the US-based airlines?

    2. With the new Chase Sapphire Reserve card getting 3X points on travel, is it even worth it to put United/Delta flights and Starwood hotel reservations on their own cards? Because those are only 2X.

    Thanks!

    Sarah

  29. Dear Gary
    Thank you for the information on the Sapphire Reserve. I got it first up!!
    1. This post is to ask if you can announce any special deals from Canada, particularly Toronto. As a US family – with US Bank accounts etc- living for the moment in Toronto- it would be so incredibly helpful, if, from time to time you can give special deals on flights from this city to either the USA or Europe. It’s not possible to fly to say Boston to get the deals you highlight to fly to Europe. There must be some in Canada but we never see them. We, and our friends do a lot of expensive long distance traveling as well as to the USA and the Caribbean.
    2. Secondly, what about deals from London to USA – in addition to the USA/Europe/London flights you list. Are you able to list anything like this on your email announcements!
    3. We would also like to see flight deals from London or other European cities to Asia/Australia.
    The Asian and Middle East Airlines which service these routes from Europe are just top class. Better than any airlines in North America and worth a detour to the EU to then take one of their flights. We go to Europe to visit family, (sometimes twice a year) and have USA Airline Loyalty programs, so it would be GREAT if you listed some occasional deals. There are lots of US people living in Europe to whom I could mention your Blogs and news items. There is simply no other web info to compare to ‘View from the Wing’ that we have found.
    Again thank you for the great service. There are too many emails to read each in detail every day, but I do my best and have found the information invaluable.
    Suz

  30. One thing I like about your blog as a differentiator from other blogs is you sharing your thoughts on various aspects of the travel industry. I had a thought about something recently, and immediately wondered what your take would be. So good timing with the open question forum!

    Do you think it’s at all related that we’re seeing a flurry of low fares that somewhat coincides with frequent flyer programs becoming less rewarding? These days it’s dangerous to buy a flight without first checking wheretocredit and other resources to ensure that it’s actually going to be eligible for mileage accrual somewhere, let alone your preferred program. Do you think the airlines are willing to lower their prices because they feel there are fewer ways for the evil tricksters to game the system? I tend to think it’s mostly, if not completely, unrelated, but would enjoy hearing your take on all the good deals out there, the major causes, and any relation to points and miles that you see.

    Thanks!

  31. Lower prices aren’t being driven by less rewarding frequent flyer programs. Lower prices are driven by greater competition allowed by lower fuel prices, and macroeconomic issues, travel is often a leading economic indicator. There are huge challenges in South America, and Europe as well and not just because of uncertainty from Brexit and terrorism in France.

    Less generous frequent flyer programs could be a challenge in that environment, as airlines have to compete to fill planes, so we could we see programs become more generous.

  32. United award search does not show Singapore Airlines. Any way to still use United miles to redeem for Singapore Airlines flight without being charged more miles? Happy Thanksgiving!

  33. @Lee you call to book SQ. Agents SHOULD offer SQ options, to avoid spending more miles you have to tell the agent your starting city and destination city you cannot feed them individual flights one at a time.

  34. I’m curious if you’ve had much success booking multiple Lufthansa First Awards on the same flight, same date. I am willing to book up to just a few days in advance.

    From expert flyer, it looks like there are 6 award seats available on my route from FRA-JFK (out of 8) but when I try to book more than one on Aeroplan or United, it shows no availability. Do you think if I book one via each website that would work? Or perhaps book one at a time on the same website? What have you done in the past? I’m worried that once I book one, the saver award will disappear from both and I’ll be left with just one ticket. I need to book two tickets in First (one for me, one for my wife).

  35. Hi Gary,
    I fly often for business, in business class. Here is my question: When flying an allied airline, is it better to credit points to the US counterpart, or build points on numbers of airlines. For example, if I fly Japan Airlines, is it better to build points on JAL or credit the points to American Airlines. My experience has been that crediting to the US based alliance partner does not usually give extra points for business class, just gives you the mileage equivalent.
    Thank you for your interesting posts! I read them every day

  36. @David Rintell – if you are working towards elite status, you want to credit flights from an alliance partner to your home airline in order to make progress towards status.

    If not, in general I think you should build up points in an existing account until you have enough miles for the award you want and then diversify.

    However consider (1) which program will award you the most miles for your ticket — a good resource is wheretocredit.com — and (2) how good/easy to work with that program is, e.g. Singapore Airlines miles expire after 3 years and you can’t reasonably extend them, but you can easily top off a Singapore account with transfers from Chase/Citi/Amex.

    JAL is a very good program, but earning JAL miles from things other than flying is tough (though Starwood points will transfer).

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