December 2, 2016 As Told To FCF
Bernie Baker, a banker, lives in Boise and often travels to Budapest for business.
Bernie’s been a First Class Flyer subscriber for a while now, so how many times has he spotted a FCF deal with “Boise to Budapest” in the headline?
In fact, there has never been a “Boise to Budapest” FCF Alert.
So what’s a Boise boy to do? Or a Baltimore, Baton Rouge, or Kansas City boy?
The answer is to think about what they did as kids: skip stones.
When you skip a stone on a lake, you get down low, make sure the smooth, flat stone is parallel to the water, and throw firmly. Now, that first throw is usually close to shore. If it’s done right, you then get a nice long skip—and then a shorter skip or two before the stone sinks.
The Ripple Effect and Airline “Hubs”
Importantly, each skip leaves ripples that spread across the lake.
Now think about travel. When you live in Boise and you want to get to Budapest using miles, you’re never going to find a deal that specific in FCF’s newsroom—so you look a little wider—you play zone coverage, not man-to-man (or city-to-city).
Well, whaddya know: you see Seattle to London with great availability; saver level: Cheap.
Get your rock out. The first short skip is Boise to Seattle, then a long but comfortable Business Class flight to London. Like a stone skipping over water. And then it’s just a relatively short hop to Budapest. That first ripple (to an airline hub) in the U.S. takes in a lot of places, from Seattle to the Florida Keys, in fact, it includes all 48 states in the continental U.S., while the ripple on the other side of the pond, London, spreads across most of Europe. As those little kids keep singing: it’s a small world after all.
Smart travelers use the readily available, discount long-haul Business Class flight as a “bridge”. All they have to do is get to and from the bridge gateway.
Skip a stone, not a deal.
Now here’s a little more polish for that rock: U.S. mileage charts are zone-based, so if you fly American (or partner Alaska), the Boise to Seattle flight is a free “tack on”. The “bridge flight” on American or British Airways, a mileage partner with AA, from Seattle to London is the discounted mileage award ticket, and the British Airways skip flight from London to Budapest is also free because BA is an American partner.
For this example it goes like this:
Boise to Seattle: Short flight—Free on American or partner Alaska
Seattle to London: Long Flight—Discounted Business Class on American or partner flight with British Airways
London to Budapest: Relatively Short Fight—Free on British Airways
All for 57,500 miles one-way (115,000 round-trip), which is the same cost as the flight from Seattle to London. See screenshots below.
So, next time you run your eyes over a FCF Daily Alert such as:
Think: innumerable cities in the U.S. to New Zealand and Australia.
The “bridge” concept works with mileage programs that use a zone chart, meaning they divide the world into regions (usually the 48 contiguous states and Canada, for example), with every destination within the zone costing the same number of miles. When using a zone mileage program, the only thing travelers have to do is get to and from the bridge.
When searching for free award travel, most people make the mistake of not focusing on the long-haul segment, which is the most difficult segment and the prize. So what if you have to fly coach from Boise to Seattle? Find an available bridge and you’re 80% home.
See charts below for sample American, Delta, and United routes on which you can get a free tack-on ticket and the airline partners you could possibly use. (By the way, this also works to Asia.)
Get Free Tickets on American Beyond the Non-Stop Bridge Flight
|Region||American U.S. Departure Cities||American's Foreign Gateways||Get Free Tickets Beyond the Gateway, Throughout the Region, With Partners||Number of Cities With Partner Airline||Sample of How Far You Can Fly With Partner Airline, Free|
|Asia||Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles||Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo||Cathay Pacific||30+||Bali or Sapporo|
|Japan Airlines||30+||Kuala Lumpur or Dhaka|
|Malaysia Airlines||25+||Beijing or Tokyo|
|Europe||Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix||Barcelona, London, Madrid, Milan, Paris, Zurich||airberlin||45+||Moscow|
|British Airways||45+||Istanbul or Moscow|
|Iberia||35+||Melilla or Moscow|
Get Free Tickets on United Beyond the Non-Stop Bridge Flight
|Region||United U.S. Departure Cities||United's Foreign Gateways||Get Free Tickets Beyond the Gateway, Throughout the Region, With Partners||Number of Cities With Partner Airline||Sample of How Far You Can Fly With Partner Airline, Free|
|Asia||Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Washington, DC||Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai, Tokyo||Air China||45+||Singapore|
|All Nippon||25+||Kuala Lumpur|
|Thai||48+||Dhaka or Sapporo|
|Europe||Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Washington, DC||Brussels, Frankfurt, London, Munich, Paris, Rome, Zurich||Austrian||25+||Moscow or Oslo|
|Brussels Airlines||50+||Tel Aviv or Moscow|
|LOT Polish||45+||Moscow or St. Petersburg|
|Lufthansa||50+||Istanbul or Moscow|
|Scandinavian Airlines||50+||Moscow or St. Petersburg|
|SWISS||50+||Moscow or St. Petersburg|
|TAP Portugal||45+||Moscow or St. Petersburg|
|Turkish||50+||Helsinki or Moscow|
Get Free Tickets on Delta Beyond the Non-Stop Bridge Flight
|Region||Delta U.S. Departure Cities||Delta's Foreign Gateways||Get Free Tickets Beyond the Gateway, Throughout the Region, With Partners||Number of Cities With Partner Airline||Sample of How Far You Can Fly With Partner Airline, Free|
|Asia||Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis, New York||Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai||China Airlines||15+||Denpasar|
|China Southern||45+||Singapore or Sapporo|
|Garuda||30+||Beijing or Tokyo|
|Korean||45+||Kuala Lumpur or Singapore|
|Vietnam Airlines||35+||Kuala Lumpur or Sapporo|
|Europe||Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis, New York||Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, Milan, Paris||Aeroflot||40+||Helsinki or Malaga|
|AirEuropa||30+||Helsinki or Moscow|
|Air France||40+||Istanbul or Moscow|
|Alitalia||35+||Moscow or St. Petersburg|
|CZECH Airlines||40+||Malaga or St. Petersburg|
|KLM||40+||Moscow or St. Petersburg|
And so it goes. FCF may publish a dozen or three “Sweet Redeems” per month, yet they, in fact, represent an infinite number of deals. Because it’s not from where the rock is thrown or where it lands, it’s the ripples that spread far and wide from those points.
When it comes to this big beautiful planet we live on, your destination could be just a hop, skip, and jump away from a fantastic deal.
Now that your horizon has spread far and wide, have a fresh look at our Search Tool – bet you can find tons of deals that you previously overlooked.