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. Phoenix in August? Thanks but no thanks.
Among the throwaways, however, 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 February:
Doesn't everyone in the country's colder climes want to fly to balmy Florida during the winter months?
Apparently not, since Southwest is offering members of its Rapid Rewards program double credits for flights to or from Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Myers/Naples, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa Bay, and West Palm Beach between January 4 and March 9, 2010.
And American is featuring Tampa and West Palm Beach on its hot list of recommended award destinations for February.
Nothing says "we've got seats" like an award sale. After all, airlines only make extra seats available on routes where supply exceeds demand. And United is discounting award seats—from 40,000 miles normally to 32,000—on its flights to Hawaii through May 12. Bookings at the reduced rate must be made by February 2, however.
While the deadline for booking at the discounted rate will probably be past by the time you read this, the message is clear: Flights to the Aloha state are standing by to welcome award travelers.
3. Portland, Oregon
If beaches aren't your idea of the perfect getaway, perhaps Portland will fit the bill.
The City of Roses (so-called for its annual Rose Festival) is among the world's most environmentally conscious. But Portlanders are not just about high-mindedness. The city has also become a hub of serious beer-brewing, boasting the county's highest concentration of microbreweries and brewpubs. Beer culture is celebrated at such public events as the Oregon Brewers Festival, the Spring Beer and Wine Festival, the North American Organic Brewers Festival, the Portland International Beerfest, and the Holiday Ale Festival.
United features Portland award flights from its Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., hubs.
And Alaska is offering double miles on all nonstop flights between Portland and Boston, Denver, Maui, Oakland, Ontario, Medford, or Santa Rosa through March 31, yet another signal that Portland routes are flying light.
Once again, Canada is a featured award destination.
United lists no fewer than nine Canadian cities for the month, including Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Regina, Saskatoon, Toronto, and Winnipeg. (One notable change from last month: Vancouver has been dropped off the list, due no doubt to the spike in demand caused by the Olympics.)
With award travel so readily available to so many Canadian cities, travelers should be singing, "O Canada!"
And lastly, another perennial award favorite: Paris.
Paris is a featured award destination on the February hot lists of both American and United.
The City of Lights. Oui oui!