DDFB Question Of The Day, 10/17/13: Booking A Flight

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I spend hours every day browsing the DansDeals Forums and the DansDeals Facebook group (which seems to have become an unorganized forum for people too lazy to sign up for the actual forums) looking for tips and trying to help people out.

I run across lots of questions so I figure I may as well feature them on occasion. Here’s one for today.

Eliezer F. posted on the DD Facebook group looking for a one-way ticket from NYC to Pittsburgh on 10/21, 10/22, or 10/23.  Some people suggested a bus.  Here at DansDeals we don’t do buses.  At least I haven’t stepped on a long-distance one since graduating high school.

I went away to high school in Pittsburgh as a 13 year old in 1998 and remember the NYC guys having to take long Greyhound rides as USAirways monopolized the market and tickets were a fortune. Then Airtran came along and tickets dropped to as little as $19 each way. Unfortunately USAirways flooded the market with capacity and matched their fares so people naturally booked the more convenient USAir flights.
Airtran cut the route and moved their valuable LGA slots over to Akron, OH where there were no NYC flights except from Cleveland some 50 minutes away. Those flights still continue today.

JetBlue then saw an opportunity a few years later once USAirways had dismantled their Pittsburgh operations which left most of the airport a ghost town. Their flights to JFK though never caught on as they thought they would and the route was cancelled earlier this year. Which of course sent airfares skyrocketing yet again.

At any rate, back to the question at hand. The first order of business is to check the paid fares.  With ITA software this is very easy. (Note that ITA Software does not actually sell tickets.  When you find something that looks good just plugin your dates into a site like Orbitz).

Choose one-way, search from NYC-PIT, search exact dates (though their calendar is awesome if you are more flexible), type in 10/22, and add plus/minus 1 day so that 10/21 and 10/23 are searched as well:



The results page isn’t pretty.  Nonstop from Newark on United from $383. Nonstop from LGA on Delta and USAirways from $461, nonstop from JFK on AA from $624.  Or fly on Airtran via Atlanta for $186:



Next let’s take a look at some hidden cities.  Booking a hidden-city ticket isn’t something the airlines love and you shouldn’t make a habit of it… book at your own risk.  It’s usually a good idea to credit the miles to a partner airline.

Here’s how I search for a hidden city with ITA software.  Click on advanced routing codes.  Enter the correct origin airport. Enter the airport code where you actually want to end up in between the origin and destination field.  For the destination field I copy/paste the entire list of the top 100 US airport codes that I compiled and posted in this DDF Wiki.

Effectively I’m asking ITA to find me a flight to anywhere in the country as long as it stops in Pittsburgh:



These results are more palatable.

ITA found a flight on USAirways from LGA to Raleigh/Durham that stops in Pittsburgh for $115.  Note that you’ll only be able to being carry-on luggage on a domestic hidden-city flight.  Not the end of the world-you can always send luggage via UPS ground for about the same price as checking a bag.




Now that we know what a paid flight would cost it’s time to move onto miles.  Now I have no idea what kind of miles that Eliezer might have but we know the 4 carriers that fly from NYC to Pittsburgh.

-Delta has 10 flights a day from NYC to Pittsburgh but they don’t allow for one-way awards. Luckily their partner Air France Flying Blue does.
-USAirways has 7 flights a day from NYC to Pittsburgh but they don’t allow for one-way awards. Luckily their partner United does.
-United has 7 flights a day from Newark to Pittsburgh and allows one-way awards.
-American has 1 flight a day from JFK to Pittsburgh and allows one-way awards.  As there’s just 1 a day this can be a tough flight to find with miles.  Compare this with the 5 flights a day between NYC and nearby Cleveland where award availability is significantly better.

-You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to British Airways (currently 1,000:1,200 with the 20% promotion running until 12/31) and Flying Blue (even exchange) from cards like the American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card.
-You can transfer Starwood Starpoints to American, British Airways, and Flying Blue at an even exchange or at a 20K:25K ratio from cards like the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express.
-You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to British Airways and United (even exchange) from cards like Chase Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card® Card and Chase Ink Plus.


Plenty of availability on Delta when booked via Air France Flying Blue for 12.5K+$2.50:



Also plenty of flights on United and USAirways.  Note that the United flights are 10K as short-hauls on United are 10K instead of 12.5K  The flights on partner USAirways are 12.5K.

United charges a $75 expedite/close-in fee for booking within 21 datys.  The fee is waived for certain elites and United Club cardholders (click on Club tab).  And it’s waived for everyone who attends a DansDeals seminar 😉



American charges 12.5K for a MileSAAver award.  Of course British Airways can also book any nonstop MileSAAver that you find on AA’s site as well.   To find nonstops flights on the calendar just toggle the number of stops to nonstop only.  If there is no toggle then there are no nonstops.  In that case click through the see where the flights stop and you’ll know what to search for on British Airways as 2 separate flights (though their phone reps may be able to combine them onto 1 ticket to save you some tax, just be sure to get them to waive the phone fee.)


American also has that $75 expedite fee, waived for elites:




And of course the ideal option for this route, British Airways booking you on American for just 4,500 Avios plus $2.50.  Even better is that you’ll only pay $2.50 to cancel the ticket and redeposit the Avios if you cancel online before 24 hours of departure.  Compare that with the $200 change fees on regular tickets!

This is a $624 flights for 4,500 Avios (or less than 4K Membership Rewards/Starwood).  That’s a value of nearly 14 cents per Avios.  Or using the $461 figure for a flight from LGA it’s a value of over 10 cents per Avios.  Now multiply that by the 50K you can get for opening a credit card 🙂




Sure I could’ve just started with the BA option, but what would be the fun in that 😀

Plus the rest of the stuff can help when that 1 American flight a day doesn’t have award space, for example if Eliezer had to travel on 10/21.

The Chase British Airways card gives 50,000 Avios (good for more than 11 free short-haul flights which can go for over $400 each) for spending $2,000 plus 1.25 Avios per dollar spent. For a limited time the annual fee waived for the first year.

Get more details on credit card offers and compare to other cards:
Click Here To Explore & Compare Credit Cards

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86 Comments On "DDFB Question Of The Day, 10/17/13: Booking A Flight"

All opinions expressed below are user generated and the opinions aren’t provided, reviewed or endorsed by any advertiser or DansDeals.




Love these posts! Keep em coming!


Nice read, thanks! I like your writing style. For those that missed the seminar and don’t live in CLE what’s the way of avoiding the expedite fee on UA within 21 days?


“It’s waived for anyone that attends a dansdeals seminar”. How so?


Dan this is awesome! You just saved yourself a few questions I was going to ask at the seminar in a few weeks 🙂

Azis Papa

Nicely done. A nice, entertaining story that delivers a whole lot of useful information clearly and succinctly. I just wish I had known that tip about crediting miles to a partner airline a day earlier. Just flew in to CLE today from FLL paying a cheaper fare by booking a one-stop,one-way to LGA. What are the chances that I will get miles credit for any part of the flight? Thanks again for the write-up.



Great post! Finally flight booking 101 – now I’ll have where to send people when they ask…

My US list that A.G. and I assembled way back when:

Trust me there are some highlights there I don’t see on the forums… Use half the list at a time

Very clear



“Sure I could’ve just started with the BA option, but what would be the fun in that :D”

lol, I was skimming through this and wondering wth is going on here, 4.5k avios…


Great post. Very clear and concise.


Great post dan!!!
Can u post a DETAILED AND EASY tutorial on how to use ita matrix to its fullest?
If you already did this then please post a link to the article


Does one have to have a flying blue air france account to check availability? How does it work using delta miles? I have lots of delta miles, but it seems from what you write that its better to book via flying blue.

Deal Guy

Why am I getting this response from matrix?

The search failed with QPX Warning. Bad route specification


This was great. Keep them coming.


Dan I was out of country when you gave your seminar, now how is the $75 United waived?
As i need to book a ticket for next week


Was wondering and planning something like this for an Israel trip. Since I have to pick up luggage at JFK anyway, will have it – flights are on Delta. Would they give me frequent flier miles or should I put them on air France instead?


Nice post but you stopped mid cheshbon – if you were willing to book a hidden city ticket for $115 then that is the value of your 4500 avios, which is <.025


awesome post!


Agree with other posts! Thanks for the step by step tutorial. Great stuff.


If delta has no availability left on a particular flight (but there are still plenty of full price tickets available) is it bookable on air France or do they only have the same flighs you’ll find at delta.com?


Is it possible to fly EWR to JFK with a stopover in London?


Dan we need such a post daily


Thanks Dan. I guess one hazard of the hidden city ticket is if the 1st flight (to your intended destination) is cancelled the airline can re-route you and your plan would be foiled.

Challa Lover

interestingly, was also looking for NYC-PIT R/T. If I only knew this. AA has certain times of the day, so Avios would not work. (needed late evening depart, no such option with AA) SO time of the day is also a factor. Ended up using precious 25000 delta miles, if I only knew this hidden city..
well done!

any good flights NYC-TLV-NYC around 12/22? Pessach? Summer?

Challa Lover II

to do a r/t of same, would you do 2 one way? how would it work for r/t?


I’m only halfway through this post but it’s AMAZING! Thanks so much!



Is there a way to do a hidden city for a round trip? For example, let’s say I were to fly from NYC to FLL. My origin is NYC, advanced route code is FLL, and destination is your list of codes. What can I do for the way home for the flight to land up anywhere but stop in NYC?


Ita software shows 3 blanks for you:
1. nyc
2. pit
3. 100 codes

my window shows only 1 and 3. how do u get window 2?


great post pls keep it coming!


Regarding the hidden city flights….can a situation arise where an airline will decide to keep the passengers on board instead of letting them off and switching planes? I can imagine a scenario where there is a very short layover and either the next flight has mechanical issues or for some other reason they tell everyone just stay on the plane for the next leg. Is this a concern? Thank you from 260 miles down 75 in Cincy.


is there any way to do similar for flights to israel?


This is awesome! thanks for taking the time to teach us all this atuff, really amazing. Thank you, you’re the man


How can I avoid expedited close in fees with United without having a club card and not attending a seminar?


@WOW!!: @Cholentfresser:
Thanks for the wonderful feedback everyone!

Attend and you’ll find out?

@Azis Papa:
You will probably get the miles, but do it too often and it will raise red flags, especially when you credit the miles to their own program.

Wow, that’s quite a list.
Are there a few that are missing from the top 100 that you see having cheaper airfares?

That would take dozens of posts. It’s a very powerful tool.

You do need an account.

@Deal Guy:
What did you write in the advanced routing code line?

I’d credit the miles to Alaska.

Except that with hidden city you can’t take luggage and raise the possibility of raising the ire of the airline.

So I don’t think that’s full comparable, but I get your point.
Still even 2.6 cents value per Avios is fantastic. That gives the 50K signup bonus a value of $1,300.

It corresponds to their saver award availability.

So tell the agent you planned on meeting someone in the stopover city.

@Challa Lover:
Delta miles aren’t precious, they stink.
No shame in using them on this route.

@Challa Lover II:
You have to book 2 one-ways.

Click on advanced routing code, which I drew a red box around.

Of course not.
Do you really think that everyone going from New York to Pittsburgh is planning on flying onto to Raleigh/Durham?
And the odds are that it’s a different gate/plane anyway.


Figure it out on your own?


does flying blue have a close-in fee?




Post #17 is spot-on. I agree that Avios are an excellent value, but let’s not say that their value, in this case is $450+, when you clearly show how you can book a $115 flight, assuming you are willing to carry-on bags.

Also, while the bus may not be an option from NYC-PIT, I have used Amtrak for that same routing and found it to be a very pleasant mode of transportation – less hassle than any airport, convenience of arrival and departure points, comfortable seating, lax carry-on rules re: food and beverage….and favorable pricing, even relative to the shady hidden city ticket, so long as tickets are purchased in advance.


Notice your contradictory logic.

On the one hand you say it’s unfair to assign value to Avios against a regular ticket and that its value should be assigned against the cheapest hidden city option.

Then you call that option “shady” and acknowledge that you can’t check luggage with that option.

The reason I compared the Avios award to a regular ticket is because it is a regular ticket!
It’s not shady and you can bring checked luggage.

Even better while a regular ticket has a $200 change fee the Avios ticket only has a $2.50 cancellation fee.

As far as Amtrak goes it looks like the only train between NYC and Pittsburgh makes 17 stops and takes over 9 hours. The cost is $73 for the dates in the post.

I’ll stick with the nonstop 45 minutes in the air even if I do have to put up with the TSA, thank you very much.


Perhaps we should assign value of the Avios against the lowest possible Amtrak cost. Though at 1.6 cents per Avios (4,500/73) it’s a still a good deal that would value the 50K signup bonus at more than $800 😀


dan I think an ANA Israel flight search tutorial is long due what do you say?

Dan Fan

Thanks Dan for this wonderful and informative post! I hope that you will see how valuable and appreciated they are, and continue with more like them, maybe once a week?

One question – I was at your seminar in Boro Park and don’t remember anything about bypassing the 21-day fee of $75. Do I need to check my notes again, or is this something you’ve added on more recently?


I actually don’t see it as contradictory logic. All I said was that IF you are willing to book the hidden city ticket, then the value of your Avios should be based on the opportunity cost of booking the lowest cash out-of-pocket, not the dollar cost of the same flight. *I* have no problem booking hidden city tickets, but some people do. Most would consider this an “advanced” option, as far as booking flights, in general. Is it shady? Again, *I* think so, but that doesn’t mean that I am not willing to do it. It *is* against most carriers contracts of carriage, but that doesn’t mean that some won’t use this method.

FWIW, Southwest also offers fares as low as $120, with advanced purchase between NY (to include EWR or ISP) and PIT, with no hidden city booking. I know these won’t work for the near-term dates described above, but could work for someone else.

If you don’t want to take Amtrak, don’t take Amtrak. But, it is another cost-effective way to get from one city to the other. I LIKE train travel. I don’t mind the extra time it takes to travel. When you cut out the time you need to arrive early at an airport (or travel to said airport), plus the time you take on the back end getting from the airport to the city, the time is not quite as different as 45 minutes versus 9 hours. The posted flight time for this route is about 90 minutes, plus two hour early arrival (as long as we’re exaggerating, let’s go with the time that the airline recommends you arrive), and the thirty minutes it takes to get from the inconvenient PIT airport to the city and you have four hours. Add in the convenience and Amtrak’s very flexible change/cancellation policies and the difference isn’t as stark as you make it out to be.


One of these days.

@Dan Fan:
I talked about it.

1. I think a legit ticket with checked baggage allowance is an apples to apples comparison. Add in free cancellation with Avios and there’s even more value there.
But feel free to compare it to hidden city, amtrak or even greyhound, no matter how you do it the Avios will come out to be a fantastic value.

2. Southwest flies to Pittsburgh from EWR/LGA via Chicago. May as well take Amtrak. And last-minute tickets will always be where miles shine as the Southwest flight from LGA via Chicago is $250.

3. Who is exaggerating exactly?
I show up at the airport 45 minutes before my flights. And 90 minutes is the blocked time only so that their on-time stats look better, the in air time is half that.

Spending the entire day on a train sounds like a treat if you have nowhere important to be though.


Thanx for a wonderful post!!!

What would be the best one way from NYC to Israel with miles. I have United, Avios, Amex points & Starwood points?

Thank You


Dan , thanks for the detailed list , if you keep this up , i hope you will still fill up by ur seminars !!!


I have taken the megabus between NYC and Pgh. several times. I booked half a dozen tickets in 2012 when Megabus was giving them away for free. I traveled overnight on “Halcyon-Class” and arrived refreshed after each journey without having killed any time.

I do like flying but the PIT-NYC trip is challenging for miles/points junkies.

Although, I am hopeful that the potential USair-AA merger will increase our options for booking with avios.

Question: on one occasion, an AA ticketing agent allowed me to check one bag for free b/c I had my (authorized user) AA credit card. The ticket was booked using avios. Is that the official policy or was it just a nice agent?

Average Joe:

Hello dan,

Thanks for everything you do, you’r a great man with all your information.

The link to apply for the premier rewards gold card from Amex is not taking you in the application, I tried a few times, but can’t get to the application.

please correct it, and let me know when it’s corrected.





It’s YMMV for a AU card.

@Average Joe::
Try another browser or incognito.


Thanks Dan for the very informative post. These type of posts are a great help for me!!


This has got to be one of the top posts you’ve done! Thanks!
What do those who have not had the opportunity to participate in a DANSDEALS seminar do to avoid the united fees? can you do an online seminar via online classroom? or can you have a post about it? i have paid the fee too many times… this will save me serious money.


Thank a lot! Very helpful.


Excellent post! Thanks Dan for consolidating the info in one place.


I learn something new everyday. Thanks Dan.


@Deal Guy:you have to write the airport code not city

Deal Guy

I just copied and pasted from Dan’s wiki in the forums, and got that message. I tried origin NYC, destination MIA, and then copied and pasted all the airport codes in the next line. I even tried breaking then up into groups of 10. I tried October 27 with ‘one day after’

Deal Guy

@eli @ dan
edit-Its working today, although for my above route, hidden city ticketing is more expensive than direct to miami.

Oscar Asher

Great post Dan. Thanks.

Never knew about using Air France points for Delta; that’s awesome.

I also saw that there are flights to Israel from NY for as little as 25k miles and $40. Albeit it has an overnight stopover in Europe.

Weird how a domestic round trip on Delta is no less than 40k and to Israel 120k, but using FlyingBlue points is so much cheaper.


OSCAR, which flight to tlv is only 25k miles and $40?

count me in!

Oscar Asher

Booking through Air France, with an overnight stopover in Amsterdam. But if you look you will find better options.

I even found a direct flight from jfk to Tel Aviv direct for 25k miles and 19 dollars and change. Flight operated by Delta.

Oscar Asher

I remember that post; don’t know how I missed that.

It shows up though as a “classic award” which seems to allow cancelation along with a 45 EUR fee, and not as a “promo Award” which I believe does not allow cancelations at all.


Wow I wish I had seen this a week or two ago – my cousin took an 18 hour greayhound bus to Chicago because it was ‘only’ $85, and i see there are regularly one way flights for about $100 using this trick. Would have so been worth it for him! Thanks for the tip!


Awesome Post! I heard about this at your class in crown heights, but this is valuable information. Keep these types of posts coming!


Is there a chance they will actually ban you from flying that airline again after doing this once or a few times? Thanx!


Lol, no.


@oscar asher, which airline is 25k to tlv?
how can I get there with Ultimate rewards? transfer to?
Thank you


hey dan great post! was wondering ,im looking for a flight in a few weeks from nyc to Detroit and ba shows there is nothing available that day for avios should I keep on checking as it get closer ? does aa/ba open up more reward seats as the flight draws closer? thanks!


Dear Dan,
Need to fly to London November 18 to December 1 for two how can I get cheapest airfare – published fare now is .880.00.Thank you
You have great resources

Oscar Asher

@yy it’s Delta through air france miles. Dont think you can transfer UR to AF. SPG or Amex MR works.


so need to open air france miles account? many dates available? anyone I can trade delta/united/british/AA for air france?


What about the return from Pitt to NY
Do I use the hidden city trick too?
If so how ?
Can you explain how to do the return ?


this is an awesome way to get good price(especially because its home town)


Im confused..trying to look up ticket bt no way of choosing to go n e where as long as stops where i need to go…how do i do that?


is there a reason why it wont accept plattsburgh or vermont as stop over?


when i write PBG? the search works but nothing to do woth landing or stopping in plattsburgh

susan h

i have 130,000 chase ultimate rewards. Is this worth anything when booking a trip to israel. Hw about American Express miles? How is the best way to use those? Delta American Express?

yussie lieber

Having trouble setting up twitter to receive your israel deals only….can you help?

Looking already for aug 12 departure jfk to tel aviv and return on aug 26
my colleagues at school rave about you


Dear Dan,

I’ve been reviewing your blog for quite some time and have been very impressed.
However, there are 2 pointrs I would truly appreciate if you would refer to:
1. Why are flights to Israel always cheaper than from Israel? Even in a round trip ticket – the to-Israel leg is less expensive than from Israel. I’ve noticed that to be true of all flight to and from Europe as well.

2. I’ve tried finding a decent priced ticket leaving Israel for Pesach from a week or 2 before Pesach, All dates that I’ve plugged in have been about 150%-200% more expensive than the prices you have listed for the opposite trip (US-Israel-US), including hidden cities! Would you possibly be able to help your expatriots in Israel see their families in the US for Pesach without making a huge hole in their pockets?
thank you so much!


Were the codes removed from the OP on for the HC matrix search? They were there one minute then gone.. thanks


This post needs to be updated since the app has changed significantly.




@Dan (or anyone with an answer) : how do you credit your miles to o Alaska when you fly say, delta, or united? and is there any chance it might be refused/not succeed?

Does it have to be Alaska, or can it be any FF mileage, or does it have to be to any FF that is a partner of the actual airline being flown?


Great post! Dan, I’ve tried to book from NY to LAX and it worked great! But for the return the carrier goes from Washington DCA, Is it possible to book a 2 way ticket with ita?


Dan I have no words to thank you for this! Trully an amazing post (don’t know where to start to ty! ;))keep up the amazing work of urs!


It keeps on saying bad route specification. I need Lon – TLV 22 AUG 1 passanger one way


Dan, my AA account xpiring soon, i have a skipped legged flight i recently took. is it a risk to post now request for credit miles for flight not completed? thank you