Combining Standby Nonrev Travel with Award Tickets

In this post I am going to talk about how we used nonrev standby travel to position ourselves to take advantage of a great award ticket.  Caveat emptor– do not fly nonrev if you absolutely have to be somewhere at a specific time!

We hadn’t seriously considered visiting Hawaii before.  We considered it too be too touristy, and when we travel we usually go to foreign country, unless we are visiting family.  We knew that the Big Island was, of course, the biggest, and had the active volcanoes, green sand beaches, and many other beauties.  But it was never foremost in our minds as a destination.  We always had somewhere else to go first.  Then an opportunity presented itself.

We were looking to book a ticket to somewhere in southern Europe or Africa for a November vacation to celebrate my retirement. We decided to us AA miles to London, and then BA (British Airways) Avios from London to Tunisia.  At that time, you could add a free domestic segment on a one way American Airlines award ticket.  I booked two business class tickets from JFK to  London (this would be our first time in lie-flat seats.) for November, and then added a one-way segment from Kona to New York in September. 

jfk lhr awardNovember segment JFK-LHR

KOA-JFK award ticketSeptember segment KOA-JFK

This was two trips, but this is what the ticket looked like to American Airlines when we booked it:

total award ticket koa-lhr

So we had to get ourselves from Atlanta to KOA in September, and from Atlanta to JFK in November.

Here’s where our Delta flight benefit came in handy.  Two weeks before our ticketed flight from KOA to NYC, we listed as nonrevs for a flight from Atlanta to KOA.  We figured we would have a good chance of getting there in September sometime within that two weeks.  We had friends that were going to meet us for the trip in Hawaii, and as it turns out we made the first flight out and met our friends within two hours of our arrival at KOA.  I will talk about our fantastic trip in my next post–Dirtbag Camping on the Big Island.

ATL-KOA nonrevNonrev ATL-KOA

When it was time to leave we boarded our plane in KOA, and enjoyed our business class seats to LAX, PHX, and finally LGA.  We visited family in New York for a couple of days, then listed on a flight from LGA to ATL.  This is a great segment to fly standby because there are flights every hour LGA-ATL.  We many have had to wait through a couple of flights but we got out the same day.

Shortly before we were to leave for Tunisia, British Airways cancelled our flights from London to Tunis, due to the unrest there.  We decided it would be best to not visit Africa at this precarious time. We thought, “Where can we go from London that is reasonably warm in November.”  We decided we would go to Malta for a week, and then western Sicily for a week. We booked Easy Jet from Gatwick to Valleta, Malta for about $40/person.  We  then travelled from Valleta to Trapani, Sicily on Ryan Air for about $25/ticket, then Palermo, Sicily to Rome on Easy Jet again for about the same price. By the way, we had no problems with Ryan Air, and thought they were comparable to Easy Jet in customer service and amenities.

paid tickets lgw-fco

Purchased flights on Discount Carriers within Europe

To get from Rome back to Atlanta, we booked one-ways on United for 30K miles each. We probably could have non-reved it back from Rome, but I don’t like being standby in European airports, and I had the miles.  I think we were lucky to get to Hawaii so easily.  Mainland US to Hawaii is a tough nonrev trip, but by going off-season and being flexible, we were able to pull it off. This is not recommended for the faint-hearted, however!

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