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 by 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.
(While not all airlines currently offer hot-spot lists, the suggestions of those that do should be a fairly good proxy for award availability on other airlines.)
The top five picks for July 2008:
Both American and United are showing award seat availability to various Florida destinations, including Miami, Sarasota, Tallahassee, Tampa, and Orlando. Orlando gets the nod as the best pick overall, since it's on both airlines' hot lists.
2. Vancouver, British Columbia
Also on the award travel hot lists of both American and United: Vancouver, British Columbia.
3. London, England
Award availability to London continues to be the surprise story this summer. Apparently the combination of high airfares and weak dollar has undermined demand for London flights, creating an unusual opportunity for mileage users to visit one of the most popular award destinations during what is typically high season.
American features London on its list.
4. Buenos Aires, Argentina
While the majority of summer travel attention is focused on Europe and Asia, there are award travel opportunities to be found elsewhere in the world as well.
One such opportunity is Buenos Aires, Argentina's capital and largest city.
In 2007, Travel + Leisure readers picked Buenos Aires as the world's second most desirable destination, after Florence. 'Nuf said.
American has seats for award travelers.
5. Beijing, China
The 2008 Olympics will begin in Beijing on August 8, so flights will be running full from the early days of August. But that's next month. This month, United has award seats available on its Beijing flights.
A contrarian travel play would be to sneak in a Beijing trip before the opening ceremonies. You won't see the official games, but you'll still experience the energy and excitement of China's capital city and the primary site of the Games of the XXIX Olympiad.