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Positioning Flights

Discussion in 'Mileage Runs/Travel Hacking' started by 77W, Mar 3, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. 77W

    77W Active Member

    Being based in southwest Ohio, I often find I have to purchase positioning flights in order to take advantage of a good fare. Last week we were in Santiago, and took advantage of a good MIA-SCL fare on LAN. That meant positioning from CLE to MIA on AA. The outbound was fine, but on the return the SCL-MIA flight was delayed for 3 hours. Since we had a 2.5 hour connection in MIA, I knew that we would misconnect. I knew we were not protected since it was two separate tickets. I called AA anyway from SCL (what did we do without Skype), and true enough, they said a misconnect would mean reissuing with change fees, making the ticket essentially worthless. Worst, due to a recent snowstorm in CLE the next available was over 36 hours after arriving in MIA. I called LAN and was told LAN would not protect us either (I didn't expect them to). Since we absolutely had to be back that day, we ended up purchasing new one-way tickets from MIA to CLE on CO ($750 per person, ouch!). Luckily we bought it while waiting in SCL because by the time we arrived in MIA the flights were sold out.

    So, 2 questions:
    1) Has anyone encountered a situation where a positioning flight was going to result in a misconnect, and the airlines protected you regardless? This did happen to me once in BKK, where a late BR flight caused a misconnect to PG. BR protected us with PG and even met us at the gate and escorted us to the PG desk for a no-fee re-issue. This could just be an Asia thing, were customer service is usually much better than Stateside.
    2) Any tips to avoid this situation? I'm thinking in the future at least 5 hour transit time between positioning flights.
    Tenmoc and chollie like this.
  2. WonderBret
    • Original Member

    WonderBret Silver Member

    In the past I have tried to make my layover an entire day. It really reduces the stress level if anything gets messed up and cities like Miami or even Dallas can turn into a fun day trip. It also gives me reason to watch the different hotel deals forums in order to make it that much better.
    alphaeagle, gemac and Morgan like this.
  3. joejones
    • Original Member

    joejones Silver Member

    I agree with that advice. I usually separate tickets with a layover of at least 24 hours, just in case I am forced onto a flight the next day.
  4. chollie
    • Original Member

    chollie Silver Member

    I've asked the question many times, but the truth seems to be that there's nothing anywhere that obligates the airlines to protect you. I've gotten protected when the separate tickets were on two different airlines (TG and UA). And I've also worried when I had two separate tickets on the same airline (positioning run to an originating city for a mileage bonus).
    Building a long layover or even an overnight makes sense...except, of course, in the relatively rare instance when things really go sideways.
  5. hobo13
    • Original Member

    hobo13 Silver Member

    One way to deal with this is to hedge your risk. Assuming you are a 1K (etc) you can make an award booking for the next day, and then cancel it if you get on your flight -- no penalty. If you do this early enough, you can get it at the saver level, hopefully, or if not, pay the standard level which still beats $750.
    hulagrrl210, geoffco and WonderBret like this.
  6. Travel2Food
    • Original Member

    Travel2Food Silver Member

    I've been protected, but only when the positioning flight was on the same airline on a different PNR. There is no obligation to protect you...

    A couple of ways to avoid taking a bath financially:

    1) If possible, do the positioning flight on an airline that you have status and offers free (or inexpensive) Same Day Change. AA's pretty good in this regard (and allows free standby for some elites), DL is less generous.

    2) WN is your friend. Yeah, you may have to pay more for a last-minute ticket, but you won't lose the value of the flight you missed.

    3) Depending on where you are and your routing (and what the originating airline will allow you to do), you may find a cheaper positioning flight from a different gateway city. For example, if you're flight into MIA is very late, perhaps the airline has a flight to DFW that will allow you to make a connection there. Then see if positioning airline will allow you any credit for the original ticket against your new ticket home (see "WN is your friend").

    4) I'm in DC so I consider airports along the NE corridor to all be options: BOS, JFK, PHL, BWI, and IAD are all possible options because there's decent competition and good rail service between the cities.
  7. misman
    • Original Member

    misman Gold Member

    Would this fall under the "flat-tire" rule that some of the airlines have?
  8. gemac
    • Original Member

    gemac Silver Member

    Maybe, but the "flat-tire" rule is undocumented (at least on AA), so they can do whatever they like. My experience has been like those posting above - AA will cover me if both PNRs are on AA. If one is on another airline (even an alliance partner), I will expect to be on my own. If on two PNRs on different airlines, I will stay at least overnight in the city where I switch, and don't schedule last-in, first-out. I also don't schedule that switching city to be in the Northern U.S. in winter. I've seen flights turn to poop too many times.

    If your contingency plan covers you 100% of the time, you are probably in overkill mode. Mine seems to cover me about 90% of the time when things go FUBAR. Life was never meant to be totally without hiccups.
  9. rich7462

    rich7462 New Member

  10. rich7462

    rich7462 New Member

    I called AA and they no nothing about positioning flights. Who did you guys call to inquire about such a thing?
  11. gemac
    • Original Member

    gemac Silver Member

    "Positioning flights" is our term, not AA's. If we have a flight that is very favorable for earning redeemable miles or Elite Qualifying Miles, we will want to take it - often more than once. If it doesn't begin where we live, we need to get to that flight's starting point. The flight get there from home (and the flight to get home when done) is a positioning flight.

    For example, I live in St. Louis. Three years ago, VS was trying to start service on the BOS-LAX route. I could get 10,000 EQM and 20,000 RDM for flying BOS-LAX-BOS. Fares were just over $200. I found that attractive, and ended up flying that itinerary several times. That was the mileage run, the flights STL-BOS and BOS-STL were positioning flights.

    Since the positioning flights are normally on a different PNR than the mileage run, this thread discusses what happens if a delay causes you to miss one or the other.

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