You’ve done the hard yards and racked up enough frequent flyer points to kick back and relax for that long-haul flight you’ve got your eyes on.
But you’ll need patience, knowledge and even a bit of creativity to lock down the that seat with your points, according to frequent flyer expert and Point Hacks spokesperson Daniel Sciberras.
“It’s about getting in early, turning over every stone in your research, knowing the rewards programs to book through, and being a little flexible,” he said.
If you follow these eight steps, you’ll be on your way to getting the flight you want and jet-setting your way:
1. Know the other airlines your points can be redeemed with
Airlines often operate in alliances. So if you’ve got a Qantas Frequent Flyer membership, you’re not just limited to Jetstar or Qantas: you can redeem your points with partner airlines of American Airlines, British Airways, Malaysia Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Emirates.
If you’re a Virgin Velocity Frequent Flyer, you can redeem points with Singapore Airlines, Etihad and Delta.
“When searching for Qantas or Velocity award flights using qantas.com or velocityfrequentflyer.com, partner flights show up automatically,” Sciberras said.
2. Call your booking platform to access all your options
However, not all reward flights from partner airlines will appear on the Qantas or Velocity booking platforms, Sciberras warned.
“If you aren’t happy with your flight search results, call Qantas or Velocity Frequent Flyer and ask if they can find additional flights.
“While this often comes at a small fee, it is worth it if you can find a suitable flight that is not otherwise available online.”
3. Book early
Airlines open their award seats nearly a year in advance, and if you want to secure your award flight, you’ll have to get in as early as possible.
“This is particularly useful for routes with restricted availability, such as Australia to the US, and for premium-class seats,” Sciberras said.
The Qantas award calendar opens 353 days in advance; Velocity opens 330 days in advance; and Singapore Airlines opens 355 days in advance.
“This means that those who book a Singapore Airlines flight with their KrisFlyer points will be able to book before a Velocity member.”
4. Transfer your points
Velocity and KrisFlyer – the frequent flyer program of Singapore Airlines – allow members to transfer points from one program to another, which comes in handy if you’ve found a flight on Singapore Airlines but you only have enough Velocity points, or vice versa.
5. Sign up to independent award search platforms
There are independent platforms that can help you look for specific upgrades or award spaces on flights for you, such as ExpertFlyer.com, AwardNexus.com and KVSTool.com, Sciberras advised.
“You can set some of these platforms to alert you as soon as more reward flights are released.”
6. Be flexible
You’ll have to have some flexibility with your calendar and the flight route you take.
“If a direct route reward flight is not available, be open to flying on connect flights via another city,” said the frequent flyer expert.
For example, if you can’t find the Sydney to LA direct flight on Qantas, you can still redeem your Qantas points by flying through Cathay Pacific – a Qantas partner – with a stopover in Hong Kong.
7. Elite status counts for something
“Qantas makes more award seats available to those with a Gold or Platinum frequent flyer membership,” said Sciberras.
The good news is, if you have a family member that has this level of membership and enough points, they can book on your behalf – or get them to do a family transfer of points.
But if you haven’t reached that level of frequent flyer royalty yet, Velocity might be a better option as it doesn’t reserve award seats for top-tiered flyers.
8. Keep checking up until the last minute
While it’s a good idea to book your award seats early, you can still nab yourself a good deal if you’re hunting at the last minute.
“The likelihood of cancellations increase the closer you get to the flight, so it is worth checking the calendar regularly,” Sciberras said.
“For example, Velocity have been known to release a majority of their business class award seats to LA in the final week before departure.”
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