Finally! How A Last Minute Booking Came Together Perfectly

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Last Minute Booking

Finally! How A Last Minute Booking Came Together Perfectly

As many of you know we have a reader appreciation event in Las Vegas on Saturday.  I had booked my flight there over the summer to arrive on Saturday morning.  I was unable to find a suitable flight home for months but finally settled on a less than ideal Southwest flight a few weeks ago.  I had thought everything was finally settled and then Shawn convinced me to do a presentation with Bethany from Bougie Miles (which we mentioned in last week’s podcast).

Knowing that it was now more important than ever that I be there early I was getting nervous that my Saturday morning flight would be cutting it close. If everything was on schedule it wouldn’t be a problem but we all know how airlines can be. So I was scrambling last minute to find a flight on Friday instead.  I am shocked to say that everything came together perfectly when it looked like it was hopeless.  I wanted to share with you how it played out so you can get some ideas if you end up in a similar position.

Last Minute Booking

Checking Cash Rates

I started off late last week checking cash prices a few different times a day on Google Flights.  Nothing was really great with a $200+ Spirit fare being the best option.  Then one morning a Frontier flight popped up for $120.  I figured I would book it when I was at the airport the next morning and save the $20 fee for booking it online.  Well the price of course went up to $160 the next morning when I was ready to book it.  I figured I would wait to see if it dropped back down when I came back through the airport a few days later.  The price jumped up to $190 and then the flight disappeared all together.

I was now kicking myself for not booking it online and paying the stupid $20. Sometimes our drive to get the best deal gets the best of us I guess. The flight came back online again later this week and I was ready to swallow my pride and book it but it was phantom space on Google Flights. Everything else was now $250+ and the big 3 were closer to $400.

Using Miles

While doing all of this cash price checking I was checking miles options too.  Everything was 30K plus.  American, Delta, Southwest, United etc. There was no hope anywhere.  I had got to the point I was going to pay close to $300 to fly Spirit one way…the horror!


Then on Wednesday I decided to check United first because they release award availability close in quite frequently.  I found a flight that could work Friday morning but it would be a struggle to make it on time after dropping the kids off at school. United had a $75 close in booking fee but I was able to find the same flight on the LifeMiles website. That would allow me to avoid the close in booking fee. Score! I needed to confirm a few things before booking and record a podcast episode with Jeff from Award Travel 101 so I put it to the side for an hour.

That of course was a mistake because when I came back an hour later it was gone.  The inventory had been moved so that only United credit card holders could see it.  Ian Snyder has the card so he was able to pull it up and was willing to book it for me for 12,500 miles and $55 in taxes and fees (they are lower with his status).  I wanted to check some other options first.

Last Minute Booking

American Airlines

I went back to American’s website to see if I could get lucky and wouldn’t you know it I struck gold!  This may have been because of their massive award sale Wednesday night but an 8K ticket popped up.  The flight times were not ideal, putting me in Vegas at around 1AM ET, but it was something.  There was also a close in booking fee of $80.  That put a little bit of a damper on the find but it was still a great deal.

I kept looking though and found a much better flight for 14.5K. Be sure to sort the American Flights by price since they like to play games with what they show you. This is when it dawned on me that I had American Airlines Gold status from the Hyatt match.  That meant the close in booking fee went poof and I could book it for $5.60.  Now we were cooking and I wasn’t going to let this one slip away.  I booked it right away!

Cancelling My Saturday Flight

This whole plan was only possible because of the flight I had booked for Saturday.  I had used Virgin Atlantic miles to book a Delta flight, one of my favorite booking options! At the time I thought there was a $50 cancellation fee to get my 22.5K miles back. Yes I had booked first class to treat myself 😉.

Wouldn’t you know it, that Tuesday morning Nick from Frequent Miler wrote an article saying there should be no cancellation fee with Virgin Atlantic. If the taxes and fees are under $50 they just keep those.  Much like the system British Airways has in place.  That made this flight swap a no brainer.

Final Thoughts

This worked out better than I could have imagined.  I was able to get to Vegas a day earlier without paying a large close in booking fee because of Hyatt and American’s partnership.  Then I was able to cancel my flight on Saturday because of Virgin’s amazing cancellation policy and it only cost me $5.60.  I won’t get to fly in first class but my free American Gold status should get me into Main Cabin Extra.  I think I can live with that 😁.

These types of moments are when having a varied stash of miles and points come in handy.  As well as taking advantage of every promo and status match possible. I had a few different choices to skin this cat and it wouldn’t have been possible if I wasn’t flexible. Being on top of things also saved me a nice chunk of change in fees.

Hopefully I get to see some of you in Vegas on Saturday!

Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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