This past weekend I was in San Francisco for a meeting of Flyertalk.com moderators. The event was held at the Mark Hopkins in San Francisco, and I had a nice stay there. I’ll post photos of my Terrace Suite and a more complete review a bit later.
But just as interesting as the conversations and meetings — which were excellent — was my multi-tasking. Sure, I issued a couple of warnings to new Flyertalk members looking to sell their miles and I had to delete a couple of posts (all while everyone else was being more productive than I). But the real joy came from a reader of this blog who emailed a question about award travel. He was taking his mother on a trip to Bangkok and wanted to use United miles for the trip. He found business class seats on ANA and wanted to know what I thought of their seats, service, etc.
I asked how many miles he had; over 800,000. So I asked, “what about first class awards?” It seemed that United told him nothing was going to be available in first.
So I offered some advice on how to find Star Alliance award seats. Sign up for Air Canada and All Nippon Airways frequent flyer accounts. That lets you use their websites to search for awards, and both airlines allow you to search availability across the Star Alliance. Neither method is perfect, both because they’re just websites and because each member of the Star Alliance can’t always see availability across partners for all flights (so ANA may see availability on a flight that United agents won’t be able to pull up). But the overlap is very very close and it’s a good starting place.
Starting with all potential transpacific flights from all potential gateways I suggested searching for first class availability, and then piecing together other segments from there. Once you have some possible itineraries then call armed with that information.
I found a few flights to start him off, including first class Los Angeles to Seoul on Asiana, and with a bit of work we came up with Asiana and Thai one way and Thai and Singapore the other. First class on Singapore — the holy grail of airline awards!
And seriously, if I can be of help in your travels (especially with premium class international awards) please let me know. I don’t always have time to respond right away, but when I do I’m happy to help.