Friday, December 23, 2011

South American Adventure - Booking

  1. Booking
  3. Miami
  4. MIA-SCL
  5. SCL-IPC
  6. Easter Island
  7. IPC-SCL
  8. Santiago
  9. SCL-MVD
  10. Montevideo

I only have 10 days off a year and they don’t roll over, so I have to be careful with their use. I wind up sitting on them and using them as needed.  Then October comes and I have 8 left, so I start planning a year end trip to finish them off.  I have always had a fascination with South America, but never had an excuse to go there.  Then I collected about 160,000 British Airways miles through a credit card bonus and buying coins at face value with free shipping.  British Airways charges exorbitant fuel surcharges on their own reward flights, but not on partners.

I ran a search one day and found a round trip to Santiago and found it was 80,000 miles and $60 in business class.  A round trip to London in business was 100,000 miles and $840.  My mind was made; I was going to South America.  British Airways allowed (this policy and pricing has changed since I booked) unlimited stopovers in a region, as long as you stayed on the same airline.  I wanted to go to Easter Island and then as many other places as I could manage. 

I made a spreadsheet to track availability by day for the segments I wanted and started searching each leg online.  I did one way searches for each takeoff to get the most granular detail I could.  From there I could just assemble the different legs into a trip, call the agent, and book.  I found no availability into Buenos Aires in December, nothing at all, but Montevideo was a wide open alternative.  I wanted to fly the longer flights in business and found a options for MIA-SCL and back, very limited JKF flights, and nothing out of LAX or SFO.  I was able to put together a trip, from MIA-SCL-IPC-2 nights-SCL-2 nights-MVD- 1 night-SCL-MIA.  I reran my search to confirm the flights were all still available and then called to book.

Booking was totally drama free.  After about 10 minutes on hold, not bad for a general member really, I got a friendly agent based in New York.  I gave her the flights, segment by segment and she found each one as expected.  She put it all together, priced it (80,000 miles and $120, as expected), and booked it.  A confirmation email landed in my inbox, I gave it a look, thanked her for her help, and that was it.

The key to booking this was doing the leg work before calling.  It took me several hours to plan it out and find the best routing.  Open ended bookings like this can be a very complex challenge because you are not constrained by locations and dates.  If I relied on the phone, it would have taken much longer and I would have been far less likely to find such a nice trip and timing.  I’m available to help with award bookings if you would like to use my award consulting service, just shoot me an email.

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