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 that 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.
The top five picks for July 2009:
You've probably been to Atlanta, or at least made a flight connection at the Atlanta Airport. But what about Georgia's other city, Savannah?
The self-proclaimed "Hostess City of the South" was established in 1733 and was both the first colonial capital and the first state capital of Georgia. So it's a trove of historic buildings and monuments. Some of the city's squares and cemeteries date back to pre-Civil War days. In fact, the entire downtown area has been designated a National Historic Landmark District.
2. Washington, D.C.
Also on the award hot lists of both American and United: our nation's capital, Washington, D.C.
Just a few items on the to-see list: the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court, a host of national museums and monuments, 174 foreign embassies, the headquarters of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Organization of American States, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Pan American Health Organization.
And with Congress on summer break, visitors won't be competing with politicians and lobbyists for reservations at the city's better restaurants.
The country's continuing drug-related violence makes travel in Mexico a calculated risk. But that risk also makes it a terrific potential value.
While the airlines have cut back on their Mexico flights to compensate for the falloff in demand, they still have plenty of empty seats. United shows award seats available to Cabo, Cancun, Mexico City, and Puerto Vallarta.
Further underscoring the slump in travel to Mexico, Alaska Airlines is offering a 10,000-mile discount on award flights between three California cities and seven Mexico destinations.
Hotels are also feeling the pinch, so great room rates abound.
The ancient but oh-so-modern city of Dubai is a multi-ethnic oasis between the desert and the sea, perched on the Persian Gulf coast of the United Arab Emirates. Dubai boasts some of the most spectacular buildings in the world, including the Burj Dubai, the world's tallest skyscraper. And while social conservatism is the rule, the city is also known for its nightlife. (Last year, Dubai was the New York Times' pick for partying.)
If you have the miles, United has the award seats.
No, we're not talking Moscow, Idaho—this is the real Moscow, the original, Russia's capital and largest city. It's also the home of the Kremlin, Red Square, and the Bolshoi, among a host of other historical and cultural icons.
Fun fact: Moscow has one of the largest numbers of billionaires of any city.
Moscow is on United's hot list for July award travel.