Booking Airfare One Seat at a Time — Reader Success Story
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
One of the things I love most about being The Points Guy is getting to hear stories from readers about how award travel has affected their lives — the exotic vacations they’ve planned, the trips they’ve made to be with family and friends, the premium seats and suites they’ve experienced and so much more, all made possible by points and miles. I love to travel and explore, and it’s an honor to be able to help so many of you get where you want to go.
I like to share these success stories to help inspire you the way you inspire me! From time to time I pick one that catches my eye and post it for everybody to enjoy. If you’re interested in sharing your own story, email it to email@example.com; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. If we publish it, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure!
Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Aravind, who saved on a family trip by booking airline tickets individually. Here’s what he had to say:
Earlier this year I was planning a spring beach trip for my family to escape the Midwest winter. Since I wasn’t picky about the location and had some flexibility with the dates, I used Google Flights and Fly.com’s fare calendar to browse possible options. I found some reasonable fares to from Chicago to Ft. Lauderdale on United, and after clicking through to United.com, I learned there were nine seats remaining at the lowest fare for the outbound flight.
I needed some time to discuss plans with my wife, so I didn’t book the flights right away. After getting her approval, I went to the Chase travel portal to book with Ultimate Rewards Points earned through my Sapphire Reserve card. While searching for the three seats we needed, I noticed the cost of the outbound flight had increased. I checked the United website to see what had happened, and noticed that the lower fare was still available if I searched for just one seat.
With that information, I went back to Ultimate Rewards to book one seat separately at the lower fare, and then booked two more seats at the higher fare. Once all three tickets were secured, I called United to link the reservations so that one of my travel companions could share my elite benefits (I have United Premier Silver status thanks to my Marriott Platinum Elite status.)
Although I was disappointed to not get the cheaper fares I found previously, I was able to save 4,600 Ultimate Rewards points by booking one seat separately from the other two.
When you buy airfare for more than one person, you may notice that the price per ticket is higher than it would be for a single passenger. This happens because airlines sell tickets in different classes and fare buckets; when there aren’t enough seats left in a lower (less expensive) bucket to accommodate your reservation, all your tickets may end up getting sold from a higher (more expensive) one.
That appears to be what happened to Aravind, as only one seat was available at the lower rate. His solution is a good one: When you’re buying airfare for a group, I recommend checking the price of a single ticket to make sure you’re not paying extra by booking them all at once. You may be able to save by booking some tickets separately, but you should weigh that against the risks involved with traveling on separate itineraries.
Another tool to keep in mind is the 24-hour cancellation period for flights operating within or to the US. Fares change quickly and often unpredictably, so if you find tickets at a great price, you can feel confident about buying them even if your plans are uncertain. Lock in the lower rate, and then take advantage of the cancellation period to verify your plans.
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Aravind for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 Visa gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you.
Again, if the strategies you’ve learned here have helped you fly in first class, score an amazing suite, reach a far-flung destination or even just save a few dollars, please indulge me and the whole TPG team by emailing us with your own success stories (see instructions above). Feel free to also submit stories of your most egregious travel mistakes. In either case, you’ll have our utmost appreciation, along with some extra spending money for your next trip.
Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer ends 7/28/21.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $200 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
- Limited Time Offer: Plus, get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable 15.74%-24.74%. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
- Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees