My wife and I have a lot of United miles and would like to go to Europe.Ive had no luck on the internet and called and had even less.How long in advance do the airlines release FF seats?What is the best way to go about getting seats?Thanks for any help
I know Qantas release seats precisely up to a year in advance. So if you want to travel 5/17/08 the seats will be released at midnight on 5/16/07. United may be the same.
For two years now, I have gone on-line at the 330 day mark that Northwest Airlines supposedly releases future travel reservations in an effort to score FF tickets from Seattle to Europe (anywhere).
I try on-line every day and call them every week for about two months - all to no avail. I do acknowledge that I am trying for summer travel but my dates are flexable. Both of the last two years I have given up and purchased tickets on SAS as a way of not contributing to NWA. Unfortunately, I put all my miles into NWA program, and, even tho I have tried all of their partners, nothing. SO, don't be suprised at the difficulty of scoring FF seats. Good luck.
I believe United releases seats 331 days in advance. Main cities with a lot of flights are the easiest to get. I couldn't get in and out of Amsterdam from San Francisco, but when I called the SFO-LHR non-stop on United was available. I then asked if their partners had any availability from LHR to Amsterdam. BMI did and they were able to book it together as one award ticket. I ended up with my SFO-AMS itinerary after all. Securing each leg separately instead of trying for all flights together just might get you the itinerary you want. Just keep calling until you get an agent that will work with you and is patient in checking availability. If you can only get into cities like London or Frankfurt without connecting flights, there are usually plenty of cheap flights on the European airlines. Calling United after midnight central time also helps as you can get right through and I believe held flights not ticketed expire at midnight.
Definitely follow Julie's advice. United is difficult as many of those seats released for FF miles are also further restricted to elite members, their 1K customers they treat like gold. London is the first and Frankfurt is second with the number of passenger seats between those cities and US destinations. London's my preference. From there, if I can't book a continuing leg with miles on BMI or Lufthansa, I can easily pay for an inexpensive BabyBMI, EasyJet, RyanAir or a handful of other low-cost carrier flight. Plus, London's always a decent place to spend the first or last night of a trip if you can't combine the legs on the same days.
I have found that the single biggest factor in using ff miles is getting an agent on the phone who is patient and resourceful.On the same day that I've been given abrupt"no way"answers repeatedly,I kept calling and found someone who was able to patch together a flight with partners when no one else could.Sometimes I've spent hours on the phone with absolute angels who would try every possiblity to get our family of 4 to our destination.Each leg of the trip is variable(I live in Bend, OR..to get out I can fly Redmond to Denver, Portland to LA or Seattle..the possiblities are almost endless.)Ask agents to try every possibility you can imagine.If they are impatient, call back until you get someone who sounds happy to be at work and cares about people.It makes all the diference!I always check with each carrier months ahead about their specific rules.Some people have given me hints about calling at certain times in the early morning hours,when their seats open up,etc.Keep trying&good luck!
I just this week booked a flight on Northwest FF miles from Detroit to Madrid in late August. I looked on the Northwest website for award travel, and it looked impossible, but I called anyway. To my surprise, the agent found me roundtrip tickets on Continental (a code sharing partner) for only 50,000 miles a piece. This is the second year in a row I have booked using Northwest FF miles with only 3-4 months notice trips from Detroit to Europe, and both times ended up using only their code sharing partners (Air France and Continental were my friends last year). I agree with finding the right agent, however, since the good ones will look at all the partner airlines, others will just brush you off.
I used FF miles to book first class to Italy for April of 2005 on USAir. I booked in August of 2004. I was told however that the airlines only allow something like 4 or 6 seats per flight to be booked with miles; another option is to try booking somewhere close by with FF miles and take a connecting flight which you'd pay outright for to your desitination which would be cheaper than paying full fare from home.
I've been successful now for the last 8 years using FF miles for the Caribbean and this year secured FF tics for Rome at the mileSaver level via internet. I fly AA and have never had a problem but I start planning at the 331 day mark. The recent changes to their website has made it very easy to look for yourself as often as you like and to try different combinations of OB/IB flights, dates and departure /arrival cities. I even changed my tickets when a better connection opened up with no penalty. The trick is to be persistent and not get discouraged at first look and to think creatively. People can put a 'hold' on a resie for up to two weeks so it is worth looking often and I agree that soon after midnite is when new seats open up. I've also seen seats open up mid-day. I have put holds on resies even if its not for my date choice,knowing within two weeks there a good chance my date choice will become available. When I absolutely need to I call and hope I get a helpful agen
They open the seats for frequent flyer travel about 330 days before your travel date (you can call and get the exact date). Call that day because they go fast.
I'd like to second Dean's suggestion about being flexible and using connecting flights from ANY city in Europe.
We checked almost a year ahead of time and a two round trip tickets from Seattle to Milan would have cost us a total of $2800.00 for summer travel. We were fortunate to talk to (I would never use online searches for anything this difficult) a very helpful American Airlines agent who was able to book free flights into Rome and out of Paris. We will take the train from Rome to Milan and fly on Ryan Air from Rome to Paris(very cheap even with the extra fees) but it will save us a ton of money. You have to be creative though for the summer months at least.