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Quick Points: Save miles or money and unlock better availability with positioning flights

Jan. 27, 2023
4 min read
Delta Air Lines Boeing 737 at the gate in Los Angeles
Quick Points: Save miles or money and unlock better availability with positioning flights
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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information and offers.


If you’re looking to fly to a particular destination, it’s natural to search for flights from your nearest airport to your destination. However, you may be paying more than you should by doing so.

Savvy travelers often save points and cash by booking positioning flights. I frequently book positioning flights for my own travel. For example, last year I booked a flight from Los Angeles to Bangalore, India, on a $950 round-trip British Airways premium economy ticket; the fare will earn me more than 46,000 American Airlines Loyalty Points toward American elite status.

However, I didn’t have plans to be in Los Angeles. So, I booked a positioning flight to the city before this inexpensive premium economy fare. I plan to start another trip from Los Angeles once I return from India.

The fare — and its American Airlines elite earnings — was just too good to pass up. My positioning flight — an 8,000-mile and $6 American Airlines flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles — carried minimal cost, especially compared to the earnings from my British Airways fare.

Here’s a quick look at how and when to use positioning flights when planning a future trip.

Unlock better award pricing and availability

COOPER NEILL/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Of course, positioning flights aren’t only useful for paid fares. They can also let you unlock better award pricing and availability.

For example, let’s assume you want to fly to Hawaii from 13,000 Avios each way or to Ireland from 13,000 Avios each way. These Avios sweet spots require you to depart from select airports (on the West Coast for Hawaii and East Coast for Ireland) to get the best pricing. If you don’t live near eligible airports, you can still take advantage of these sweet spots by booking positioning flights to East Coast or West Coast gateways.

Related: Strategies for booking great award tickets from non-hub airports

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Or, perhaps you want to book a discounted Flying Blue Promo Reward, but your home airport in the U.S. isn’t on the list. You may want to book a positioning flight before or after your Flying Blue award to use the Promo Reward pricing.

You may also discover better award availability when searching for other arrival or destination airports.

For example, if you’re looking to snag Qatar Qsuite award availability, you’ll want to search for awards from all of Qatar’s U.S. gateways, not just the one closest to your home airport. Even though you could theoretically connect domestically to one of Qatar’s U.S. gateways via a Oneworld partner, availability might not appear for your domestic leg. So, you may need to book a positioning flight on a separate ticket.

Related: What I value most when picking award flights

Notes about booking positioning flights

ROBERT ALEXANDER/GETTY IMAGES

I often redeem miles for positioning flights, especially when I can redeem a modest number of American miles, Southwest points or Delta SkyMiles for a trip. However, it’s also worth checking cash rates.

Need to position from New York to Boston? You can often find low-cost award flights on Delta. DELTA.COM

You should also consider whether the complexity you add by booking multiple tickets is worth the gain. After all, canceling or changing multiple tickets can be time-consuming and expensive.

Finally, consider that there’s some risk in booking separate positioning tickets. If your positioning flight is late and you miss your onward flight, the carrier may not be sympathetic since in its eyes you missed the first flight of the itinerary.

Likewise, if one carrier changes your flight schedule and now your connection is too short, you may not get rebooked to an earlier flight unless the change is more than a few hours. I usually leave myself an overnight of at least 12 hours (ideally more than 24 hours) between tickets to minimize the chances of missing my flight.

Related: Here’s how to book the flight you want when award space is limited

Featured image by DANIEL SLIM/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023