Positioning Flights for International Travel


When it comes to traveling on points it pays (or in this case saves) to have some flexibility. One area that can offer you huge savings is positioning flights. Positioning for a flight means taking a flight from your home airport to a bigger international airport. This is something that can save you a lot of points or if you are using cash, a lot of cash!  Alex and I both do this often when traveling internationally. 


Why Positioning Flights

Nothing beats using award points and traveling for free, especially when you can grab lie-flat seats! Unfortunately, sometimes you just can’t find award availability out of your home airport, or if you do, it might cost a ridiculous amount of points. I live near Denver, Colorado and DIA is a huge airport. You would think it would be easy to find award travel. But when you have a certain destination, dates, or class of travel in mind it sometimes isn’t that easy.

If you are booking a flight and all you see are flights that are costing a fortune in points then it is time to consider a positioning flight. To give you a gauge as to what is a fairly standard price on international award flights, economy often goes for around 30,000 miles each way. In business class, you are looking at around 70,000 each way. This changes depending on the airline but anything a lot more than this and you should look into a positioning flight.

This economy, one-way flight from Denver to Paris on United Airlines is going for 67,000 miles! That is more than the cost of a round-trip flight! I would look at taking a positioning flight in this circumstance.

This flight one-way flight from Denver costs 67,000 points

This flight from Chicago to Paris is 30,000 points. That is what one could expect to pay when booking a one-way economy class ticket to Europe. I would then look for a cheap flight and buy a flight to Chicago from Denver or use Southwest Rapid Reward Points.

This one-way flight from Chicago costs 30,000 points

Airports to Consider Taking a Positioning Flight to

When looking to book your award flight out of another airport consider these international airports:

  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • Seattle (SEA)
  • Chicago-O’Hare (ORD)
  • Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW)
  • Houston-Intercontinental (IAH)
  • Boston (BOS)
  • New York City-JFK (JFK)
  • Newark (EWR)
  • Washington, D.C.-Dulles (IAD)
  • Atlanta (ATL)
  • Miami (MIA)



Times I’ve Used Positioning Flights

I wanted to go to Vietnam in business and couldn’t find business class seats from Denver. But I could find business class seats from San Francisco on EVA airlines. Using United miles, I took a positioning flight to San Francisco and then, using Citi ThankYou points, flew EVA from San Francisco to Vietnam. 75,000 miles on EVA for lie-flat seats was amazing!!! My willingness to take a positioning flight gave me an incredible lay-flat experience and let me feel rested once I got to Vietnam!

Phu Quoc vietnam beach

A positioning flight to another airport allowed me to grab business class seats to Vietnam

Recently, I needed to book tickets to Dubai for my husband and me. That is a long, long flight, 16+ hours, and there is no way I would do that in economy class. I couldn’t find award travel from Denver so I booked positioning flights on Southwest, using points, to LAX. Using Alaska miles, I then booked a business class seat on Emirates airlines.

Woman sitting in business class on airplane

It was totally worth taking a positioning flight to LAX for these amazing Emirates business class seats!

This summer I was flying to London to visit my daughter and had trouble getting award redemption from Denver. So guess, what? I positioned to EWR (Newark, New Jersey). Don’t get frustrated when you can’t find award redemption out of your home airport, just take a positioning flight!

Next month I am going to Chile with a Spanish Immersion group. Again, I had trouble flying out of Denver so I am taking a positioning flight to Atlanta and then business class to Santiago, Chile on Delta Airlines.


Word of Caution

One thing I need to add is this: Always give yourself plenty of time between the two flights to make your redemption flight. Because your positioning flight and award flight are two separate flights you can’t rely on the airline to help you out if there are any delays and you miss your flight. They might be willing to help, but don’t count on it!

I have had two close calls. When I went to Vietnam, I had a connecting time of four hours. Plenty of time to get my luggage and check in on my next flight. Or so I thought! The flight in Denver was delayed and the plane sat on the tarmac for 1 ½ hour. I was getting really stressed about not making my connection!! Luckily I made it but I was wishing I had gone to San Francisco the night before.

Most recently, on our Dubai trip, the weather changed in Denver and the day we were supposed to fly out they projected a blizzard! Luckily, I got us out the day before and used free nights I had at Hyatt to stay at the Hyatt Regency LAX so we wouldn’t miss our Emirates flights. Those flights go for $6000+ each and missing them would have been horrible. I think that flying in the day before and staying at a hotel I can get free nights with might be my new plan.

Besides giving yourself plenty of time, I recommend traveling with a carry-on. The last thing you want to worry about if there are delays is waiting at the baggage claim, rechecking your bag, and going back through security!

I recommend giving yourself 4+ hours between your positioning flight and your long flight. That may seem like a long time but you never know what can happen! If everything goes well and you have a lot of time on your hands, get a good book and go enjoy some snacks in an airport lounge!

When it comes to flying home I don’t stress as much. Your longer flight will be first and then your positioning flight. It’s a lot less of a big deal to miss your positioning flight than your long award flight!


Bottom Line

Positioning to another airport is a great way to get a cheaper award redemption! I have had great success getting better award travel by positioning for a flight at another airport. You don’t want the stress of not making your flight though so make sure and plan in the what if’s! Give yourself time to make those connections or go the night before! Positioning flights open up the world when you are trying to book award travel so get creative with where you start. As always, contact us for help!


A pinterest graphic about position for a flight


Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Want to know the most popular card for beginner travel hackers? 

click here

Affiliate Disclosure: Travel Hacking Mom uses affiliate links. We may receive compensation if you use our links when applying for a credit card at no extra cost to you. This compensation does not impact how or where products appear on this site. Travel Hacking Mom has not reviewed all available credit card offers on this site. Thank you so much if you use our links!

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this site is not provided by credit card issuer. All opinions, reviews, and recommendations are expressed by the author, not the credit card issuer.