Brandon was thrust into the world of points and premium travel as a university student, and has made the most of it since. Now graduated, working from Launceston and somehow a Velocity Platinum frequent flyer, he eagerly awaits for more opportunities to explore the world from the pointy end of the plane.You can find him on Instagram as @bloo.per, as well as running a food/travel account @flightandbites with his partner.
Hopper’s signature rabbit may seem a bit childish at first, but this bunny knows its stuff. The flexibility feature is especially useful: put in your home city and desired destination and Hopper will map out the entire year for you with color-coded prices. The dates are shown as month-long calendars, with colored boxes telling you when prices fall into certain categories, like less than $300 or +$500. The app-only service also predicts whether or not the price for your chosen dates may drop or not (they monitor up to 15 billion flight prices per day) and allows you to “Watch the Trip” —  a feature where Hopper will send you alerts if the price changes. If you know you need a vacation, but are flexible on your destination or dates, you can also set alerts for the app to tell you when there are destinations deals. This app is free to download. 
Yapta.com allows you to set up an alert for a specific flight. They call it a “refund” alert, since they set it up for watching a flight you’ve already booked but want to know if the price drops in case it’s with an airline (such as Alaska in my case) that gives refunds without fees if your price drops after booking. However, they don’t actually check whether you’re on the flight, so you could use it to simply watch a flight that you’re interested in but HAVEN’T YET booked. This wouldn’t be practical if there’s a wide variety of flights flying the route you want on the day you want in the time span you want, but in those cases where there are only a few flights that fit your needs, it might be practical to use this feature at Yapta.com to set up a fare alert for those specific flights.
I like Skyscanner.com because it has the open-ended “everywhere” option. You just type in your departure city (or general area such as your state) and in the destination box, you can select “everywhere.” What I don’t like about this option that it will only populate for departures from major cities. When I type in my airport, I have to click on each destination to get prices, a bit labor intensive. It does offer a nice map view of the entire world populated with the lowest-priced fares from any departure city. You can easily set up an alert for any combination of cities but not to “everywhere.”
Be reasonable. Being overly demanding or demeaning just inspires agents to pick someone else to upgrade if the opportunity arises. And don’t waste everyone’s time and good will if you know that you are a poor candidate. If you are traveling with your whole family, have a pet lobster in a cage as your carry-on or purchased a ticket for an extremely low fare, you probably don’t want to spend your energy demanding upgrades.
Airline computer booking systems have become so sophisticated that most upgrades are doled out based on a complex brew of data, and it’s now much more likely that a computer (rather than a helpful airline agent) decides if you get an upgrade or if you are stuck in a middle seat in the back of the plane. This article includes a couple of interesting graphics on how Delta and United assess upgrade eligibility.
Here’s where the power of ExpertFlyer comes into play. Let’s say that I wasn’t interested in crossing the Atlantic in economy. Instead of coming back to the site multiple times in the weeks and days leading up to my desired flight, I can actually set up a flight alert by clicking on the exclamation point icon (red arrow in the above screenshot). That would open up a window like this:
For international flights, you are talking about an entirely different situation. Much more critically than better food and drinks, first- and business-class seats in most international aircraft convert into beds that are actually pretty darn comfortable. On a flight back from Tokyo in first class a few years ago, I was actually disappointed when we began our final descent; when is the last time that happened in coach?
Sometimes you might be planning a trip but can’t fully commit to buying the tickets just yet. Price Alerts let you monitor the price history of your chosen flight so you can pounce if the airfares suddenly start to creep up. Or perhaps you want to go away on a specific weekend but the flights are far too expensive. Set a Price Alert and you’ll be sent an email immediately if there’s a price drop. Flight prices change frequently, but Price Alerts mean you won’t be caught on the hop if flight prices skyrocket – and you won’t miss out on a deal if prices plummet.
The other nice thing about the results page is that it’ll show you connecting options (as long as you don’t limit it to nonstop flights at the outset), though bear in mind that every leg of a one- or multi-stop itinerary must have award availability in the desired class of service in order to book the entire trip with miles. Remember too that most award seat availability shown on ExpertFlyer will be at the saver level for all programs. This is nice in that it should be bookable using any partner program’s currency, but it won’t show you the expanded award inventory that’s sometimes available through certain programs.
Your flight may only have one or two upgrade places available, so maximise your chances of bagging them by rocking up at check-in ten hours before the scheduled departure. If it backfires, you’ll have to kill a murderous amount of time in Starbucks, but it worked for Product Manager David Low: “My wife and I were flying to the Dominican Republic. We’d got to Glasgow Airport far too early but at least there was no queue. The check-in lady told us that they had two spare seats in first class, and since we were first to arrive, we could have them for free. So we happily accepted.”
The way you dress could be the extra push you need to get your first-class seat, the Huffington Post says. The day you’re hoping to upgrade is not the day to wear flip flops and ripped jeans. According to Bankrate, if there’s a seat open in first class, it’s most likely going to the person who’s dressed like they should be sitting there. No need to go overboard with a full suit — nice and neat will do.
The other nice thing about the results page is that it’ll show you connecting options (as long as you don’t limit it to nonstop flights at the outset), though bear in mind that every leg of a one- or multi-stop itinerary must have award availability in the desired class of service in order to book the entire trip with miles. Remember too that most award seat availability shown on ExpertFlyer will be at the saver level for all programs. This is nice in that it should be bookable using any partner program’s currency, but it won’t show you the expanded award inventory that’s sometimes available through certain programs.
This information flow can be incredibly helpful when trying to book award seats not available online or with programs that have challenging phone agents. If you wanted to redeem Etihad miles for a business class flight from Prague (PRG) to Seoul (ICN) on Czech Airlines for the amazing price of 25,610 Etihad miles, don’t rely on hit-or-miss Etihad phone agents to find space; use ExpertFlyer and have the flight number and date in hand for this one-of-a-kind award flight:
ITA Software Classic Matrix Tool - This tool allows you to search for fares in different sales cities so that you can accurately plan purchases in any city around the world. Additionally it has an undocumented feature that allows you to specify specific fare buckets. If you want to, for instance, search for A bucket availability on the HKG-JFK route on Cathay Pacific you would enter the search as From: HKG:: cx+ / f bc=a and To: JFK:: cx+ / f bc=a. You can substitute the "cx" with the proper airline code for the airline you wish to check, and substitute the "bc=a" with "bc=X" where X is the fare bucket you wish to check. If you wish to check multiple booking-codes and not place any restriction on the airline format the request as JFK::/ f bc=x|bc=y|bc=z to check the x, y, and z buckets. Another undocumented feature is the ability to request multiple segments on specific carriers (useful for mileage runs). If you want to travel from Los Angeles to New York and take 4 American Airlines segments, you would enter the departure city as LAX::AA AA AA AA and the destination city as JFK::AA AA AA AA. This will search for a 4 segment connection in each direction on AA. You can also force connections in specific cities. So, for instance, if you wanted to connect in STL from LAX to JFK on American Airlines you would enter the departure city as LAX::AA STL AA and the destination city as JFK::AA STL AA You can find the syntax by clicking "advanced routing codes" and then clicking on the little question mark next to the routing codes box. There is also a useful discussion of how to use this tool to the fullest on Flyertalk.
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