Wondering where to go with all those frequent flyer miles? If you know where to look, the airlines will help you choose flights with seats readily accessible to mileage program members.
In response to the outcry from mileage collectors frustrated by the lack of available award seats, the airlines are attempting to steer program members in the direction of flights which are good prospects for would-be award travelers, both by listing destinations with plenty of empty seats (hot spots) and occasionally discounting award flights to lower-demand destinations.
Some of these flights are running just half-full for good reason: They're dogs. Winnipeg in February? Thanks, but no thanks.
But among the throwaways are some real gems. Following are five award destinations the airlines are promoting for the coming month that merit special attention and are well worth your miles.
The top five picks for April 2009:
Memphis is the largest city in Tennessee. And into the 1950s, it boasted the world's largest mule market.
Of wider interest, perhaps, is the city's rich musical legacy, spanning blues, country, and rock. The area was home to the likes of Elvis Presley, Muddy Waters, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Robert Johnson, W.C. Handy, B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf, Isaac Hayes, Booker T. Jones, and Al Green.
After the White House, Graceland, the former home of rock legend Elvis Presley, is the most visited house in the U.S. Among the featured Elvis memorabilia are two of his private airplanes and his extensive automobile and motorcycle collection.
Also worth a stop on any music lover's pilgrimage is Sun Studio, where Johnny Cash, Rufus Thomas, Charlie Rich, Howlin' Wolf, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis got their starts. It's now a museum as well as a working recording studio.
For live music, visit the bars and clubs of Beale Street, where B.B. King started his career.
Locals, incidentally, are referred to as "Memphians."
Next up: our neighbor to the north, Canada.
American has seats to Montreal and Toronto. United is featuring Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Ottawa, and Montreal. And US Airways invites you to book award trips to Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver.
3. The Caribbean
Aruba, Bermuda, Grand Cayman, Montego Bay, Nassau, San Juan, and St. Thomas: Award seats to these and other Caribbean destinations are on offer from American, United, and US Airways.
Don't forget the sunscreen.
London is a perennial award favorite.
United shows award seats on its flights to Heathrow, as does American. And US Airways has seats on its flights to Gatwick.
While I've singled out London for special consideration, flights to many European destinations are open for award bookings. Although American is only highlighting its London flights, there are bonus-mile offers in place for Madrid and Moscow flights, suggesting that those routes are suffering from weak demand as well. US Airways shows availability on flights to Amsterdam, Milan, and Venice.
And as mentioned several times previously, United is discounting prices for award travel to Europe, lowering the cost down to 40,000 miles from the 55,000 miles normally required. The offer is in effect through May 14.