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MMMondayMemo: What is a positioning flight?
Each Monday, Miles has decided to drop a tip, hint, tutorial, trick that maybe you’ve missed or haven’t heard before. If you’re an expert in this field, some of these may be things you already know, but there are a lot of beginners out there who are just getting their feet wet which is why we created the Monkey Miles Monday Memos. This week we will explain the benefits and uses of a positioning flight, but before we do we’ll explain what it is. Without further adieu…MMMondayMemo: What is a positioning flight?
Use a positioning flight to fly on Singapore Suites from New York to Frankfurt on the A380.
Positioning flights can get you to an award ticket starting point, often a hub.
My parents live in Indianapolis which isn’t a hub for any airline; however, Chicago, New York, Atlanta, and New York are all short flights away, and offer an immense amount of award tickets in comparison because they are hubs. They are also pretty cheap to get to from Indianapolis. This means that when we’re looking at award flights to send them off on a trip, I’ll first look at Indianapolis, and if nothing pops up, I’ll plug in various other cities with the intent to potentially “position” for the available flight.
I used a positioning flight on my very first International premium cabin flight: Virgin Atlantic Upper Class from SFO to LHR.
I needed to get to London for a wedding, but there weren’t any award flights available from Los Angeles to London, BUT, there were flights from San Francisco to London using Delta Skymiles on Virgin Atlantic Upper Class. Unfortunately there weren’t any award tickets available that allowed me to route from LA to San Fran to London…soooooo what did I do?
I booked the flight from SFO to LHR for 62,500 Delta Skymiles + $5.60 and then bought a separate ticket from LAX to SFO earlier in the day using British Airways Avios to fly on American. At the time it only set me back 4500 Avios. They’ve since changed the pricing to 7500 Avios, but you get the idea.
I use positioning flights ALL the time to save bundles of money…not just on award flights.
I’ll be going to Europe a couple times this year and when I fly back to the states I will position to cities that offer incredibly discounted business class tickets: Dublin, Stockholm, and Copenhagen. Here’s how it works. You see a flight from London to Los Angeles on British Airways at 4pm. Coach is $1200 and Business is $6000. However, if you were to fly to one of those cities I just mentioned in the morning and route back to London and get on THE SAME 4pm flight from London to LA, coach falls to $500 and business to $1800. It’s worth it to me to spend a few extra hours and $100 to get to Dublin to save A LOT of money.
Positioning flights are also great excuses to see a city you’d never visited, like Stockholm
As I mentioned above, I’ll be positioning myself for a flight back from Europe later this year. For one of those trips I chose Stockholm because the price was JUST right. I’ve never been to Stockholm, so instead of flying in a few hours before my flight, I’m going to use some Hilton points to stay free for a night and fly out early the next day. A win-win.
A reader, Michael, commented below addressing the potential hazards of positioning flights. He’s made some great points so we’re quoting him in the main post:
Hey Miles, I know you’re an optimistic, fun-loving primate, but I think it’s important to address the “danger” of poorly planned positioning flights: missed connections, which are generally going to be unprotected. I know too many people that have missed the “main” flight thanks to a delayed positioning flight. Even if both flights are on the same airline, the best they’ll do is check your luggage thru – but if you miss the connection, you’re SOL with no recourse! So, when I book a positioning flight, I make sure that there are MULTIPLE later flights on the same route on which I can be re-booked in case of mayhem; this normally means a block of 6+ hours between the arrival of my positioning flight and the departure of my big flight, at a bare minimum. Overnight stays can in the transit city CAN be helpful, but not if you’re arriving on the last flight in, and departing on the first flight out. One must have a BACKUP PLAN that can get them to the main flight on-time. – signed, Michael the Pessimist