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Award Upgrades – Is there any logic?

Award Upgrades – Is there any logic?

I am at a loss about award upgrades


I recently booked flights on Emirates business; Heathrow to Dubai and then onward to Bangkok.

I registered for the award upgrade alerts. Frequently, usually timed just after 4am and 11am I received an email informing me that n upgrade was available. I logged onto the Emirates website anywhere from a few minutes to several hours after the email alert. (After all I am usually asleep at 4am!) Often the upgrade was no longer available. Occasionally the upgrade from Dubai to Bangkok remained available for just over 50000 points. This felt a lot to me so I reset my alerts and left it.


Today I received another alert. This time for London to Dubai. I was almost not bothered. However, I clicked on the “upgrade with miles” link and noted that this upgrade was for something like 36000 miles. Why was this different form the Dubai to Bangkok flight as they are similar durations? No idea.


I also noted that this DXB to BKK upgrade (previously at over 50000 miles) was still available. I ticked the boxes on both upgrades and clicked on the “recalculate miles button”. The miles needed was just over 68000 rather than the almost 90000 that I had been expecting.


So why the difference?

I cannot see why there is;

  1. There is a different in the mileage between different legs of a similar duration
  2. Why it is cheaper to upgrade 2 legs rather than one.

Thank goodness I did not upgrade the DXB to BKK leg when first offered.



I am sure there are omplex algorithms behind the calculations and offers but for me it is a black art.


Learning points

  1. Do not rush in at the first opportunity.
  2. Wait until close to departure of all outward or inbound legs are available to see whether a multiple flight upgrade is better than individual ones.
  3. There will always be a risk. It may be had I waited longer then I would have got a better deal.
  4. Upgrade when you are happy with the deal. So  i have upgraded and will have 2 great flights to Bangkok soon in First. I will not worry if I could have done better, I have done OK!



Logic? Not a snowball’s chance in hell of understanding this. Play the odds and enjoy it!!!

Second Guessing Airline Offers

Second Guessing Airline Offers

When I flew to Australia last month I had booked my flight in September. I felt I had got a good deal as I booked with Thai Airways during a sale offer. I was pleased with the price I got.

Since I booked I noticed that other companies had a number of sales so it is possible I could have got a cheaper deal.


So when do you book?

How long is a piece of string?!

Many blogs I have read suggest booking almost as soon as the flight is released – is about 11 months before flying. I am not sure if this is for rewards flights – paid with airline points or for paid with cash  flights. However, I am really not convinced that this is the best strategy for paid with cash flights unless you are reserving a space with a ticket that can be cancelled. It seems to me that you need to take a punt and book in a sale. But which one and when?


Booking a sale price – and changing your mind

The problem with sale prices is that they have lock in clauses. Usually you are billed immediately on booking and cannot change the flight without cost. So in essence you are committed and cannot change your mind.

The exact timing of a sale and which airlines offer sales is variable. It seems they offer sale prices around the same time but never at exactly the same time so you cannot really compare, and book, one airline’s sale prices to another’s.


What about upgrade offers?

Once you have booked your tickets what then? I recently received a reduced points upgrade offer. It is on the airline’s website and is a shortlived offer for a few days only. I have no idea of the award availability so decided to snap up an upgrade to Emirates first simply because I had the points and like the offer. I should, perhaps, have looked at the costs and decided if spending my points had value. Interestingly because I had booked and paid for the original flights through a travel agent, again at a time of an offer, I was unable to upgrade the flight with cash on the airline’s website. It seemed OK, however, to upgrade with points with this offer. I thus had no way to compare upgrade costs. I went for it and am looking forward to Emirates First and a shower in the sky!

But again, the whole thing seems predicable and is pot luck.


As I commented about hotel booking,  a good airline deal is a lottery and a mug’s game. I suppose there are some predictable times when airlines have sales but it by no means certain and I can see no way of predicting if and when they are going to offer points upgrade deals.

So look out for a sale. Decide if the offer looks attractive on an airline you want to fly and book. Accept it and grimace when you see a better offer with another airline a few days/weeks later. Hey that’s the way of it.

But grab an upgrade (especially to first) if offered and you have the points.

That will be my policy anyway!

Trust the Travel Agent

Trust the Travel Agent

I have had an exciting few days planning my holidays for the next few months.

I had all the apps and websites open across my desktop and iPad. I have read many expert blogs espousing on the ease and efficiency of booking directly with the airline and online. Well, I am not so sure. I have already explained how I managed to do something wrong on the Thai Airways website such that the price of my flight increased and the variations in website capability when looking for an open jaw flight series.


So when I came to book the open jaw flights I thought I would call Trailfinders and see what they could do for me. Before I called I opened ITA matrix, Seatguru and a few airline websites. I identified prior to calling, the flights I thought I could get and had considered some pros and cons of various airlines (eg direct or indirect flights, how long the layover etc).


Despite ticking the boxes about  only showing flights with available seats etc it turned out not to be and certain websites suggested flights were available when they were not (I checked this on the airline’s own booking engine) and so  Trailfinders were really helpful. They identified truly available flights and I was able to discuss the issues of long layovers versus cost and they also identified that with Emirates I could get a discount if I also booked a hotel, something not flagged on the websites and something you need to check separately if you do it yourself. The agent spent over and hour with me and in the end I really feel I got a good deal, with some compromise, but also better than I could have done on my own and probably in less time.

Many experts seem to write off travel agents but if you are a beginner and do not have access to certain industry search tools I would wholeheartedly recommend taking the advice of a travel agent.