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.
A special note on March's picks
The continuing economic slowdown has resulted in a welcome increase in award availability generally. So over and above the following specific recommendations, this is an especially good time to cash in miles.
The top five picks for March 2009:
1. Los Angeles Area
With several airports within driving distance of downtown Los Angeles, there are multiple gateways to the area. And again this month, frequent flyer program members will have a relatively easy time finding award seats to most of them.
A good indicator of that availability is Alaska Airlines' winter award sale, which discounts flights between the airline's Seattle hub and Los Angeles or Long Beach. (Through March 19, members of Alaska's Mileage Plan can redeem 10,000 fewer miles for a coach award, or 20,000 fewer miles for a first-class award, on those routes.)
In addition, United includes flights to Orange County, Burbank, and Los Angeles on its hot list.
2. Washington, D.C.
With the inauguration behind us, the nation's capital has returned to normal. Better than normal for prospective visitors, actually, since hotel rates are down and airlines have plenty of award seats available for frequent flyers.
United shows award seats to both Dulles and Washington National airports, as well as to nearby Baltimore. American and US Airways both list Washington among their recommended award destinations as well.
Aruba, Bermuda, Grand Cayman, Montego Bay, Nassau, St. Thomas: Award seats to these and other Caribbean destinations are on offer from American, United, and US Airways.
Don't forget to pack the sunscreen.
Whether you crave surf and sand or a city experience with a hip urban vibe, Mexico delivers.
Cancun, Mexico City, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta ... take your pick—award seats are available from American, United, and US Airways.
London is a perennial award favorite. And United shows award seats on its flights to Heathrow, as does US Airways on its flights to Gatwick.
While we've singled out London for special consideration, flights to many European destinations are open for award bookings. Award seats are so available, in fact, that United is discounting prices for award travel to Europe to 40,000 miles from the 55,000 miles normally required. The offer is in effect through May 14.