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Thread: Airline travel FAQ

  1. #1

    Airline travel FAQ

    This information applies predominently to United Airlines, as it is the airline I most frequently use, but the principles apply to nearly all airlines. So, feel free to add information on your airline of choice and I'll update the FAQ.

    Some acronyms I'll be using here:

    PNR = Passenger Name the airline tracks a person's reservation. Agents also enter comments into the PNR, so it's not a good idea to piss an agent off

    BIS = Butt in seat....actual flight miles where the pax is on the plane.

    COS = Class of Service.... First Class, Business, and Economy. Airlines have different names for these, but essentially they're the same.

    EQM = Elite Qualifying Miles... a UA term, but basically applies to all airlines with elite programs, although the acronym will be different in most cases. One earns EQM's from BIS travel, as well as from COS bonuses and promotions. They are used to determine which elite level the flier has achieved.

    RDM = Redeemable miles....the number we see in our frequent flyer accounts which can be used for award tickets and upgrades.

    Y/B/H/M = fare buckets on UA....other airlines have similar designators. On UA, these are usually the most expensive economy fares. As a comparison, I usually fly on L, S, and T fares, which are the cheapest (L is usually the cheapest of any publicly available fares).

    Elite = Someone who has flown (or otherwise acquired) a certain number of EQM's on their airline. On UA, it's 25K or 30 segments for 2P (Premier), 50K or 60 segments for 1P (Premier Excecutive) and 100K or 120(?)segments for 1K (Premier Executive 1K). There is also a level known as UGS (United Global Services), which is by invitation for folks who spend a lot or control a lot of spending on UA. There are many advantages to achieving and maintaining elite status, miles and awards being amongst them. Once you get there, it's hard to go back.

    IIRC = If I recall correctly....and often I don't

    More to come....


  2. #2
    Below are links to sites by which air travel options can be analyzed and fares and routings found. Other than the online TA's they are not booking engines (no travel can be purchased there), are not necessarily free and are listed in no particular order of importance. I'll add to this list as I discover more.

    Airfare sites: These are what I use to search and analyze airfares to find the best possible combination of cost and benefit. Remember, the lowest price isn't always the best price
    This is a site geared towards mileage runners, with detailed fare drilling, metrics and historical data. It is also very useful for the casual traveler and has comprehensive alert capability.
    This is a text version of the output of the Yahoo Dream Maps provided by an industrious FT'er
    The original Yahoo Dream Maps
    This is a subscription access to the GDS which I use to quickly peruse many parameters of air travel purchase and function. Anyone who wants more information on this, contact me privately. Anytime I post code on this forum or in Travel Deals, it nearly always eminates from ExpertFlyer. If a person flies regularly (I fly between 50 and 100K miles per year), it's worth every nickel, IMO.
    This is a free tool (with various revenue enhancements available) that many mileage runners swear by. It provides much the same output as ExpertFlyer, with some functions better and some not as good.

    Routing/availability engines:
    ITA.....This is a web-based booking engine which is used by some airlines and online travel agents. Free registration is required for access. Very informative and useful, allowing for different forms of search, output and fare metrics. Learning the coding language to enter with search parameters results in a very powerful and precise search engine. Can't say enough good things about ITA.
    This is a back-end GDS fare bucket counter. It checks fare buckets in revenue and, in some cases, award inventory of certain airlines. Very fast way of seeing what's available.
    Another back-end GDS access, this time through ITN (internet travel network) which is the reservation engine UA used to use prior to contracting with ITA. Offers fare buckets and seat maps, though I've noted elite maps are blocked out.
    Another airfare search engine with alert capability.
    Haven't used this much, but many travelers swear by it.

    Below are the links to the big online TA's:

    More to come

  3. #3

    How I book a mileage run (or, how to find a cheap fare)

    I'm a mileage run beginner, so this tutorial should be of help for those just looking for inexpensive fares. All links are in the FAQ above

    1. Where are the fares?
    Good question. Most folks tend to look for fares out of the airport closest to where they live. I know I do. In our case, the runways at our airport must surely be plated in gold, given the astronomical airfares there. So, I've had to find alternatives.

    My first stop is either FareCompare or the Yahoo Dream Maps (official or the FT iteration). I just type in a number of airports, including my local, to see what's going on.

    If I find something which interests me, I investigate further to see when the fares are available; also, I take a look at the fare rules to see what restrictions there are and what possible routings I can use.

    Once I have a date range and possible routing, I go to ITA (Orbitz works to, since it uses ITA for routings) and begin to construct a combination of routing and carrier(s) for the prospective trip. This is the part of the process which takes the most time and requires the most education to execute efficiently. Orbitz likely is better for novices who aren't yet conversant with coding ITA to focus on specific fares/routings/carriers. It takes a bit more time but is more user-friendly, IMO.

    If the foregoing gives me something I can make into a mileage run (or trip for us), I then take this information and go to the airline web sites and begin to reconstruct the precise flights/routings there, using the multi-city booking feature. Time and education regarding the nuances of each airline's site is usually necessary to coax it into giving one what they want. UA's site is particularly frustrating in this regard. I liken it to Las Vegas

    Sometimes, these inquiries reach a dead end. Sometimes they bring possibilities I hadn't before considered.

    I've excluded my use of ExpertFlyer, which is a paid subscription service, simply because it is not free and also because it offers up information which is frustratingly complex to the novice user, as I often note when reading responses to my informational posts here utilizing its information. On ExpertFlyer, I can see precisely on what flights and to what extent each fare code is offered, what those flights seat maps look like, and what alternatives there are for my desired dates/locations/flights are. It's almost, but not exactly, like the interface a travel agent has.

    I would say about 90% of my inquiries go nowhere, or do not match up with our time/finances, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the other 10% of the great adventures I've been able to afford by learning such skills.

    I think the biggest advantage has been developing the ability to instinctively know a good deal when it comes by, even though it may not be obvious (the cheapest). Very similar to knowing the great trades in the timesharing world



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