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. Nassau during hurricane season? 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.
Note - If you haven't already booked an award trip for October, there's no longer any reason to let the prospect of exorbitant fees deter you, at least if you're a Mileage Plus member. United has eliminated its fees for award tickets booked within 21 days.
The top five picks for October:
Denver's elevation is exactly 5,280 feet above sea level, so the Mile-High City moniker is both appropriate and technically correct. (The city, incidentally, has at least two other unofficial nicknames: Queen City of the Plains, and Wall Street of the West.)
Fall is a great time to visit—not too hot and not too cold.
Fun fact: Denver's airport, usually referred to as DIA (for Denver International Airport), covers 53 square miles, making it the country's largest airport, area-wise.
Denver is on American's hot list for October. And Frontier, which is based in Denver, has an award sale in place between October 1, 2009, and January 31, 2010—a sure indicator that it also have more than adequate seats available for mileage-redeemers.
The largest city in Florida?
Miami, nope. Orlando, ditto.
The correct answer, and one of our featured award destinations, is Jacksonville.
The city's roots can be traced back 6,000 years, when the Timucua Indians resided in what is now downtown Jacksonville. Before being ceded to the United States as part of the Florida Territory in 1821, the area had been under the control of the French, the Spanish, the British, and then the Spanish again.
Today, according to the city's promoters, Jacksonville is where "unpretentious metropolitan style meets stunning natural beauty." The stats: 22 miles of beaches, 72 golf courses, and 111,669 acres of parks.
Both American and United feature award seats to Jacksonville during October.
Repeating from last month: our neighbor to the north, Canada.
United is featuring Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ontario, Ottawa, Regina, Saskatoon, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, and Winnipeg. And American has Montreal on its list.
With award travel readily available to so many Canadian cities, travelers should be singing "O Canada!"
4. Rio de Janeiro
With the announcement that it will be hosting the 2016 summer Olympics, Rio de Janeiro becomes the first city in South America to do so.
No doubt the International Olympic Committee was impressed by the city's natural beauty, storied beaches, and samba-style energy.
You will be, too. And American has the seats to get you there.
Lastly, looking east, Shanghai is featured on the award lists of both American and United.
Shanghai is the personification of modern China, boasting one of the world's busiest ports, an ever-evolving skyline of eye-popping modernist architecture, and a cosmopolitan vibe with a distinctly Asian accent.
Speaking of accents, in Shanghai the most widely spoken of the various Chinese dialects is Mandarin. And in Mandarin, "hello" is "ni hao" (nee-how).