Finding Cheap Airline Award Redemptions


We have had a lot of people complaining about having trouble finding cheap award redemptions – especially in business class. We recently were planning a trip to Croatia and found the same trouble. What is going on? I can always find a business class seat in United to Europe for 75K and this time we had to be creative. Let’s talk about how you can find cheap award redemptions.


The biggest key to finding cheap award redemption is flexibility. If you want to go on May 15th and that is your only date, you may have problems. If you just want to go sometime in May, you will be more successful.

If you only want to fly out of one airport, you also may have problems. Here is what we found for a reader flying to Rome in June out of her chosen airport of Chicago. She wanted business class. You would think that going out of a major airport like O’Hare would be easy to find a good seat.

Screenshot Award Redemption on United Chicago to Rome

That doesn’t look good! Let’s open the 30-day calendar to see other options. You will just click the “view 30-day calendar” under the week listing. Be sure and select business/first class on the dropdown for business class.

Screenshot Award Redemption on United Chicago to Rome

This doesn’t look good either. To tell you the truth, most of the time, you will find a few days available when opening up the 30-day calendar. This was unusual.

Change Your Airport

At this point, we need to consider taking a positioning flight. I actually do this quite often to get a good award redemption. This is where you fly out of a different airport to find better award travel. We just pay for a cheap flight to get us to the first airport we are trying to go out of. For our trip to Croatia in May, Alex and I are flying to Chicago for our first flight but were able to find tickets back to Salt Lake City.

Here is what I found for flying out of Minneapolis for our reader who is looking to visit Rome.

Screenshot Award Redemption on United

If you look at this, there are plenty of options. That is the key to finding cheap award redemptions, flexibility in dates and airports.


Large city with many buildings

Flexibility was key in finding cheap award redemptions to Rome.


Look At Different Airlines

It is important to have options in what airlines you can use which is why we always recommend having transferable points credit cards. Being able to look at several transfer partners makes it easier to find good redemptions. On our trip to Croatia, my daughters booked on United Airlines using miles from their United cards to Split for 77K in business class out of Chicago. I have American Express Membership Rewards from several American Express cards and Capital One miles which both transfer to Avianca. I was able to book the exact same flight that they are on for 63K.

Bottom Line

Airlines open up a limited amount of award seats, particularly in business class. It is fairly easy to find economy class redemptions that are reasonable. Right now, the business class redemptions are more expensive, particularly in the summer. The key to finding cheap award redemptions always is by being flexible. Don’t be freaked out that initially, you can’t find what you want. Try some of these other tricks we often use to eventually find just what we need.




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