You’ve been working to booking your dream trip for as long as you can remember. You had a goal and worked diligently to achieve it. Finally, the day has come. You’ve booked the award ticket you’ve been looking forward to all this time. If you are flying on the same airline you redeemed your miles with, using AAdvantage miles to fly on American for example, the process is relatively straightforward. While making a reservation with your miles, you provided all of your information and were also able to make your seat selections. For those who are newer to points and miles, flying with the same airline you’ve booked with is often referred to as “Flying on the airlines own metal.”
What if your dream ticket involved booking a ticket with partner airlines? First of all, I hope you’re aware of the challenges when using miles for such a ticket but it’s often the best use of your miles. It does add some extra steps to the process.
Make Sure The Award Was Finalized
When you make an award booking through one program to fly on a different airline, there’s a step where the two companies need to talk to one another. Considering the number of transactions that take place every single day, for almost all instances things go through without a hitch.
Shortly after booking the award, you should receive a confirmation email from the program where you made the reservation. This will have the record locator number on it. (That’s the six-character code used to track your booking). Some places might refer to this as your reservation number or your booking number but they’re all talking about the same thing.
While getting this number might make you think everything is booked, it’s not always the case. You have a reservation, but not necessarily a ticket. What you want to look for is that you have a ticket number. This is the difference between actually having a ticket in your hand instead of someone just telling you that you’re all booked. Airlines have gotten better about sending the E-Ticket number in their emails. I’d look in the confirmation email first and if you don’t see a ticket number, you should follow up with the airline you booked the award with to make sure everything is OK.
Update Your Personal Information
Once you’ve made sure that your booking has ticketed, it’s time to make sure that your information is connected to the reservation.
From here on out, you’re going to be dealing with the airline you are going to be flying on, NOT the one where you booked the award. Got it?
Say that you used 8,000 United MileagePlus miles to book a short flight on Lufthansa. I need to go to Lufthansa’s website to update my information. From the main page, click the Menu dropdown tab.
From there, go to the “View and amend flight details section”.
Here’s where you’ll enter your last name and the Booking Code. That’s the number provided by the airline when you booked the award.
You’ll find that often when your reservation pulls up, the booking code may be different than the one you have. That’s OK. United assigned your booking a number in their system and Lufthansa gave the booking a different number in their system. Fortunately, many computer systems now recognize both numbers. However, there still may be instances where the airline you’re flying with will not recognize the locator from the airline you booked the ticket and you still might have to call and have the booking airline provide that number so you can log into the website.
Even if the record number from the booking airline works, it’s a good idea to write down the record locator of the airline you’re flying on in case you might need it.
Now that you’ve gotten into your reservation, go ahead and update your information. Make sure your contact information is correct. Put in your passport info if necessary and your Known Traveler Number so you can get TSA Precheck (if you’re traveling in the U.S.). Make sure to do this for all the people traveling on the reservation.
Pick Your Seats (And Maybe Even Your Meals)
Once you’ve finished updating your information, it’s time to pick out your seats. If you’re flying with an airline that lets you pick out your meal, this is when you’ll get to do this as well.
The seat selection process is the same as it is for any ticket. It’s just easier to forget to do it since you’ll have to go through all of the other stuff first.
For the same Lufthansa flight, I went back to the same menu on the main page and selected “Advance seat reservation”
While it’s possible to book an award ticket that’s for a basic economy type fare, most award tickets are for regular economy fares. For most airlines, but not all, that will include some type of fee-free seat assignment. However, if you book a British Airways flight, you’ll have to pay to reserve a seat, even when booking an award in business class.
The seat selection process for Lufthansa was easy. Pick the seat, point and click. The seats with the stars cost extra, but seemingly have no advantage above being closer to the front of the plane.
There are just a few things you need to do when booking an award flight. These things will save you time when checking in for your flight, make sure you get the benefits you deserve and enhance your flight experience. It would be a shame to go through all the work to book your dream ticket and then forget to select a seat and be stuck in the middle for your flight.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary
Cover Photo By Triple Tree – http://www.airliners.net/photo/China-Eastern-Airlines/Boeing-777-39P-ER/2544054/L/, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link