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 November 2007:
1. Hilton Head, SC
After the surfing and golfing days of summer are past, the Hilton Head resort area falls off the radar of vacation travelers. Which is exactly the point, and why November would be a good month to cash in US Airways miles for a visit (via Charlotte).
You'll have the beach to yourself. And a light jacket will be enough to keep the chill away on the links.
2. Los Angeles
Looking for a more mainstream destination? United shows award seat availability to Los Angeles area airports, including Los Angeles International (LAX), Ontario, and Orange County. American and US Airways also have seats to Los Angeles.
3. Vancouver, other Canadian destinations
United is showing Vancouver award availability from its Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, and San Francisco gateways. Canada travel is also being featured at US Airways, which has seats to Edmonton, Montreal, and Toronto.
Not the least of Canada's attractions: Members of U.S. airline programs can book free flights to Canada for the same price as award flights within the continental U.S., typically starting at 25,000 miles for a round-trip coach ticket.
The launch of American's new flights to London's Stansted Airport combined with seasonal fall-off in demand for London flights make this a particularly opportune time for travelers to set their sights on the other side of the pond. American has flights to all three of London's major airports—Gatwick, Heathrow, and Stansted. And United has seats to Heathrow from Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco.
5. Mumbai, India
Got Continental OnePass miles? Want to get away? Far away? How about Mumbai (Bombay), India?
This is a new route for Continental, and they're offering bonus miles to attract paying passengers. That suggests above-average seat availability, and a limited-time opportunity for award travelers.