If you’re using miles and points to try and get a free trip, you know the struggle. You find that perfect “over the water” flight (that is, the most important flight – the longest one that flies over the ocean, or the longest segment), but can’t find any domestic availability to either to get you to the international departure point, or to get you home.
Take for example my flight from Hong Kong to Washington Reagan. I found award availability on my desired day from Hong Kong to Los Angeles in Cathay Pacific First Class, a true gem. I was happy because out of all of the flights on my trip home, this was the most important one to find award availability (heck, no one wants to be stuck in coach over the Pacific).
However, I was stuck with an issue. There was no availability on American to get me from Los Angeles back home to Washington DC:
- No availability on any non-stop flights.
- No availability through Chicago/Phoenix/Dallas/Philadelphia/New York/Miami/any American hub.
So, I was stuck. I could get from Hong Kong to LA, but not from LA to DC in First Class. Agent after agent told me it wasn’t possible, and I couldn’t find anything better online. In many cases I could get to one city, but then not from that city back to DC, so it just kept going in circles.
But I had an idea, which ended up working. I found availability from Dallas to Washington Reagan in First, so I decided to back-track from there. There was no non-stop flight from LAX to DFW, but there was availability to Oklahoma City, out of all places. So, I pieced together an itinerary that got me from Los Angeles to Oklahoma City, then Oklahoma City to Dallas, and finally Dallas to DC.
As you know Oklahoma City isn’t a hub for American. It’s not a city American would normally route you through, but because in this scenario the flights end up meeting the minimum connecting time, I’ve essentially made my own connection in Oklahoma City.
The lesson learned here is to not give up in finding award availability. It may not be on your preferred routes, but if you look at random cities that could end up “making a connection” you could, in many cases, piece together an itinerary that will get yo to where you need to be.
Remember, don’t think obvious. Think strategic.
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