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Booking a 6-week trip using FF miles?

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We earn a lot of Alaska Airlines miles and have been fortunate in the past to use them for two separate trips to Italy on British Airways. Those were trips of about 2 weeks and I just booked them 11 months ahead of the return date, going by the "330 day" rule. I was able to get something close to my first choice of dates in both cases.

But how does this work for booking a trip that will last 6 weeks? If I wait until 330 days before the return date, I am afraid all the outbound seats will already have been booked. Yet I assume I cannot book my return if I call 330 days before my outbound flight, as those seats will not be open yet.

Do they let you book each leg separately as a one-way, 330 days in advance of the travel date for that leg?

I should mention I am looking to use Alaska miles to book on British again, so will be doing this over the phone with their partner desk.

Thanks for our help!

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    Unfortunately Alaska doesn't allow one-way bookings with partners (it's been promised for years now, but so far nada.) So your choice is to wait on the outbound until return seats become available, or else book both directions using available dates, then change the return portion (for a hefty change fee) when your "real" dates open.

    Now that said, it's a pretty common misconception that you need to be lurking at the 330-day mark to get seats, or else you'll miss them. In reality, allocation of seats for revenue vs. redemption is a dynamic process; all part of the airlines' yield or revenue management operations. 330 days out (360 for some airlines, less for others) is when airlines publish their schedules with the GDSs. They may or may not (often not) release seats into redemption inventory then.

    Seats for mileage redemption are not released on any preordained schedule. They roll them out depending on how the flight is doing in terms of sales, historical patterns on seat takedown, and numerous other factors that the computers in RM ponder in their secret ways. Trying to guess ahead is pointless; I like to say that the RM programmers all learned their art at Hogwarts.

    So bottom line, I don't think you're risking too much by waiting for the window to open for both directions.

    One thing to note, and you probably already know this, is that redeeming Alaska miles for BA (a) requires more miles than it would for other partner carriers, and (b) exposes you to horrendous BA fuel surcharges, which can be hundreds of dollars per ticket, even over a thousand for long-haul itineraries (such as US > UK > Africa.) Add the fuel surcharges to the de-valued worth of the miles (compared to using, say, Delta or American, both AS partners) and BA redemptions can be downright lousy deals. Sometimes you have to go with them, of course, as Alaska doesn't allow mixing carriers on awards, so if you want to go someplace that only BA flies to, you're stuck.

    Be flexible, and good luck!

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    Thanks, Gardyloo. We will be fairly flexible, and I am aware of the fuel surcharge charges. We have been getting business class seats with these miles and are kind of spoiled now. If we wanted to fly economy, we'd just pay.

    We're not going until late 2013 but I'm getting my strategy in place. It looks like the game has changed since 2010 when we got our previous seats on BA with Alaska miles.

    We have also used BA miles to upgrade a seat but that looks like a nightmare now that they have changed to "Avios" whatever those are. I was just looking around the BA website for upgrades with miles and the whole thing functions very differently now. Before, you put in the class you wanted to upgrade FROM and it would show you the price for an "upgradable ticket" to the next class. Now, half the time it showed the same class, no upgrade, and half the time it showed a double upgrade and an outrageous price. Once out of 10 tries, using different dates, I got it to behave and show the correct class. Maybe the website just isn't functioning since it's almost midnight in the UK. Or maybe the Avios thing is just a bad deal.

    That's why I'm hoping to use our Alaska miles. Maybe I'll look into the change fees and do it with a fake return flight and change it when they become available.

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