I spent the last several days trying to book award travel for 5 to Paris. I knew that it was going to be a challenge before I even got started because the dates were pretty firm (about a week, with travel mostly on the weekends over a specific week!). I started out by looking at the American Airlines site for availability. That, not unsurprisingly, showed no availability for the time that I wanted–or, in fact for the next month. After that, I tried calling American. I know that this is not the conventional wisdom since their tools for searching partner availability seem limited, but I figured it would save me some time if it worked out. This was not the case. I spent an hour on the phone with them–almost all of which was on hold–and came up with nothing despite the very courteous agent’s best efforts.
After that, I called a friend of mine who has a subscription to KVS Tool. We put each other on speakerphone and set out to find what we could. A couple of hours later, we had an itinerary that looked like it would work. It was a bit painful, involving a day-long layover in Miami, but it got the 5 seats there and back. I called AA to book the segments and, with a few minor modifications, had a successful booking (multiple airlines, same alliance).
In retrospect, I should have started with KVS Tool or ExpertFlyer (where I have a premium subscription and which would have likely found me the same availability), but I tried for the shortcut and missed. Learn from my fail and save yourself some time. Only bother the telephone agents when you already have your itinerary unless it’s a straightforward award with likely availability. It will save you time.
On an unrelated note, I have a fair bit of travel coming up over the next three months, so expect a few trip reports. At the least, there will be:
- Abingdon, VA (I will only do a trip report here if I do something worth reporting on 🙂
- Crescent City, FL (again, only if I do something worth reporting on)
- Greensboro, NC
- Palm Springs, CA
- At least one other to-be-determined domestic US destination
Then, during 2012, there will be at least 2 international trip reports (Paris and Berlin) and a bevy of domestic activity.