web Musings of The Global Traveller

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Christmas season travel

Normal travel patterns go out the window around Christmas / New Year, especially in the Southern Hemisphere where it is also summer break.

Savvy travellers know that to book flights and accommodation for popular destinations at this time of year you need to plan well ahead. It isn't uncommon for people on Flyer Talk, for example, to book longhaul business and first class awards for Christmas / New Year 330 days out when the awards are first released.

Conversely, business travel drys up which means last minute bargains can be found on some routes. An opportunity for that last mileage run to requalify frequent flyer program (FFP) status, or to escape the relatives?

Here is a selection of tools that can help the savvy flyer pick up award and paid availability (note an understanding of what booking codes mean and how they work is needed - watch for a later post on this).

  • for Star Alliance (*A) FFPs, sign up to Air Canada Aeroplan or ANA Mileage Club and use the online award search - no mileage is needed in your account (warning United Mileage Plus in particular has much reduced availability compared with other *A FFPs)
  • for One World FFPs, sign up to Qantas Frequent Flyer and use the online award search - no mileage is needed in your account (warning less than half of all one world destinations are included in the search engine, although the most common ones are all there)
  • I am not sure if Sky Team FFPs have a similar lookup - if a reader knows please contact me using the link
  • for paid bookings check out Expert Flyer (can also find awards on Qantas and fare listings plus rules), or Seat Counter (can also find awards on United and Northwest - expect more to be added), or T & T (set up a profile with expert mode switched on or use login "flyertalk" and password "tandt"), or Availability Public Backup.

No one system is perfect however with practice in interpreting these tools do give a good guide as to whether that award or paid fare is available.

I'll post some explanation of booking codes soon.

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