As it is the beginning of 2020 and the decade, what is better to do than find flights for next summer. It might sound counter intuitive; after all, most people are focused on their finished holiday travels. Look for some sales now in order to save for the summer. This is a travel success story of how I managed to find and book flights for five people back from Hawaii for less than points would have cost for three people and for less cash then the Uber ride home from the airport.
Knowing that we like to go on our summer vacation the last week(s) before school starts, I had a three-day period in which we could take our flights home. We could fly from either Kauai or Oahu on the way home because we wanted to visit both islands on the trip, and we could fly into any of the three DC airports, National, Dulles or Baltimore. We wanted to use points, and since we had status on American and were booking so early, we knew that we could select the Main Cabin Extra legroom seats for free. (Great on a red eye.) Southwest was a contender for flights because of companion pass, but they were not offering red eyes back from Hawaii.
Using American’s older award search engine, I started with Lihue, Kauai (LIH), to Washington Airports (WAS) for one person. I love when airlines allow you to group all area airports together, mixing IAD, DCA, and BWI into WAS. (I’m talking to you Southwest.) Also, when looking for award tickets for a group, I tend to start off looking for one person, then make my way up for the entire group. That way if there are four seats available, I do not miss out on it altogether, rather I just pay for one ticket. The basis for prices that I was going for was under 22.5k per person, one way which is the savor award cost that American publishes. When I pulled up the month view for the first search, I saw a number of dates for 20k one way, which was a good price, but I wasn’t done just yet.
I then plugged in Honolulu (HNL) to Washington (WAS), and looked at the calendar. To my surprise I was finding almost every day was bookable for 12k points one way, which was almost half the cost I was going for thanks to American web specials. After increasing the search numbers, I found that I could fly back one of the three days I wanted for 12.5k per person, one way.
Looking through the options, the only flight that we could take at that cost was Honolulu (HNL) to Phoenix (PHX) to Baltimore (BWI). To be completely honest, they were not the greatest flights. For starters, we only had a 45 minute layover in Phoenix so if our flight was delayed, we would have been struggling to get five people onto the next flight. Additionally, the flights were into Baltimore, which was our third choice from all the Washington airports, so it meant that we would have to get into a pretty long and expensive Uber ride home compared to DCA. Finally, this one wasn’t really an issue, but compared to American’s 777 flying from Dallas to Honolulu, I would rather have been on a wide body aircraft then a single aisle plane.
The ideal routing would have been Honolulu to Dallas to Washington-National, but those flights were not showing up for any awards bookings and the one way price for economy was a ridiculous and absurd $1,500, per person. It was a no brainer to book the five flights through PHX for 62.5k AAdvantage points and $28. At that rate, we were getting just over 3 cents per point, which is definitely a really good use of miles.
Just two weeks later I checked back into the American app to find that we had just been switched from Honolulu to Dallas to Baltimore. We had a much better connection time and we were now flying on the triple seven, which was great. After some research, I found that American had discontinued their flights from Phoenix to Baltimore so their system switched us to a layover in Dallas.
From the original plan, I now had one of the two segments I needed. I then proceeded to call up the American Platinum reservation line. When I asked if there was any way that we could switch to flying into DCA due to the lack of PHX-BWI routing, the agent happily offered it. She noticed that we were already booked onto the flight to Dallas and offered to let us keep that leg, and then fly Dallas to Washington National. Without a doubt, I said yes and she switched the reservation. Now not only were we on a 777-200, we had a better layover and didn’t have to take the long Uber from BWI. We actually landed in Washington a full two hours before we would have on our original itinerary.
The switch made our flights much better. Now with the new cash price of our itinerary at $1,500, we got an insane 12 cents per point value on our flights, which is better than some premium cabin award evaluations. Needless to say, we were all very happy with the change and it proves the point that you should always book now and plan later.
Kim Martin says
Great travel ideas! Thanks for Sharing.