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If you are traveling with the family, chances are you won’t find 4+ award seats on a flight, especially in the premium cabin; some routes offer more award availability than others, but generally speaking, finding more than 3 award seats in Business Class on a long-haul flight will be challenging – especially if your dates of travel are not flexible. Airlines gradually release seats over the year – and they only do so if they do not think they will be able to sell that seat with cash. Thankfully, there are a few tricks you can use to potentially book all of your family on the same flight when there’s limited award availability.

don't let limited award availability stop your dream trip

don’t let limited award availability stop your dream trip

Book Available Seats

Firstly, you are going to want to actually book the available seats on your desired flight. If there are limited seats, decide who should be booked first on the desired flight in the desired cabin and take into consideration the following:

  • is there a child traveling? they need to be on the same ticket as an adult
  • can someone fly in Premium Economy Class (or a lower class) on the same flight?
  • can someone fly on the same day but on a different flight?
  • can someone buy a cash ticket on this flight?

If you are traveling with children, they need to be booked on the same ticket as the adult – depending on the airline, there are different age cut-offs for children traveling alone. If you are going to be booking tickets separately, you will first want to plan out who will be booked on what tickets and with which other person.

Is there Award Availability in another Class?

Long-haul flights generally have four travel classes:

  • First Class
  • Business Class
  • Premium Economy Class
  • Economy Class

If you are booking First or Business Class, chances are there won’t be enough award seats for the whole family. Consider booking another family member in a different travel class. Before doing any booking, survey the flight you want to fly on and see how many award seats are available in what cabin and then decide how you will book the family on the same flight.

Remember that award availability changes quite frequently, so you can always book someone in a different cabin as a placeholder (to ensure they are on the same flight) and if the desired award seat opens up later, you can always change the award ticket (as award tickets are usually more flexible and less expensive to change than revenue tickets).

Is Another Flight Available?

If you are flying between two major cities, like London and New York, for example, there are lots of daily flights. Can the other half of your travel party fly on a different flight the same day? If you are wanting to fly the whole family in a premium cabin, you will usually end up selecting this option – 2 people could fly on one flight and the other 2 people could fly an hour or two later, for example.

While this isn’t ideal if you want to fly together, if the flights are only an hour or two apart, this could be the key to securing a premium cabin ticket for everyone. Remember that you could always change the award ticket later if more seats open up on another flight – but this way, you would have tickets secured for everyone on the same date at least.

Is a Decent Cash Fare Available?

If you definitely want to confirm the entire family on the same flight in the same cabin and there isn’t enough award seats, consider looking at cash/revenue fares on this specific flight and see if someone could be booked on the flight using cash. Remember that premium cabin tickets will cost more than Economy Class and that cash tickets cannot be as easily changed or cancelled as award tickets – keep in mind what the rules are in case you wish to change or cancel the tickets in the future.

If you have flexible and transferable points from a bank program, you could go through their travel portal and book the cash ticket on the flight through that portal and apply some of your bank points towards the cost of the cash ticket (and since this would be a cash ticket, you would still earn miles on it).

Is there Standard Award Availability?

While we always want to be booking flights only if there is saver-level award space, there is always going to be more standard-level award space on a flight. While standard awards are usually much more expensive than saver awards, this could be a way whereby you could book the whole family on the same flight. First you would book up all of the saver-level seats and then book the remaining tickets at the standard-level and then you can monitor the flight and rebook when/if more saver-level seats open up.

monitor flights for new award availability

monitor flights for new award availability

All in All

There are several ways you could book the whole family on the same flight, even with limited award availability. The most important thing to remember is that airlines constantly evaluate their flights and they do release more saver-level award seats on flights if they don’t think they will sell those with cash. Keep checking your desired flights and if more seats open up, be sure to book those right away. It is always a good idea to book a placeholder on a certain flight as this ensures the entire family will at least be on the same flight – that can mean someone is in Economy Class or would need to buy a cash ticket. Always monitor your flight closely as there is a good chance that another award seat will be released if the flight isn’t completely full.

Travel Miles 101 has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Travel Miles 101 and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.