A positioning flight is one you take to reach an airport where you can find better flight deals, promotions, or even start a mileage run. These flights are generally shorter and more affordable than your primary flight, and can be a good strategic use of frequent flier miles.
Example: Imagine you’re based in Philadelphia and planning a trip to Brazil. You notice that flights from Miami to Brazil are significantly cheaper than flying from Philly.
So you decide to take a cheap positioning flight from Philadelphia to Miami using cash or miles, and then book your main roundtrip ticket from Miami to Brazil, potentially saving hundreds of dollars on your airfare.
By using positioning flights strategically, you can:
- Save money on airfare
- Access better flight options
- Maximize your frequent flyer miles by having greater choice into which airline you fly
Consider using frequent flier miles
Many flyers strategically take advantage of their points/miles for positioning flights, as the redemption rates for short domestic flights can be very low compared to international fares.
Over time you can often get more “bang for your miles” by using miles to reposition to a larger domestic airport, and then pay cash for your main flight.
*Painfully obvious disclaimer: to be clear, you should book your itinerary ahead of time. Do not think you can just fly to a bigger airport and then book a cheap flight to your final destination the same day. Your wallet will have a very bad time.
How can you find and book the perfect positioning flight?
To find positioning flights, it’s good to cast a wide net.
- Explore Flight Search Engines: Search for flights using Google Flights, Skyscanner, or Kayak to compare fares from your home airport to the desired positioning airport vs to your final destination.
- Keep an Eye on Low-Cost Carriers: Check for low-cost airlines flying to your desired positioning airport, as they can offer competitive fares. For instance, you might find a great deal on Southwest Airlines for a positioning flight within the US (and Southwest isn’t usually included in Google Flights results).
- Use Flight Alerts for Inspiration: If you’re not already signed up for cheap flight email alerts, sign up now and use the deals you receive as inspiration for your jumping off airports.
- Use Frequent Flyer Miles or Points: If you have airline miles or credit card points, consider using them to book your positioning flight. This strategy works well for short-haul routes, as the points required are usually lower than international fares.
- Stay Flexible: Keep your travel dates and times flexible to find the best deals on positioning flights. Weekdays, early morning, or late-night flights may have lower fares.
- Separate Bookings: Book your positioning flight independently from your main flight. This way, if there are any changes or cancellations, it won’t affect your entire itinerary. Remember to book your return flight back home too!
How to make the most of your positioning flights experience
Here are some tips to ensure a smooth and enjoyable positioning flight experience:
- Allow enough time between your positioning flight and your main flight, considering possible delays or cancellations.
- Keep an eye on the weather, airport conditions, and any travel advisories that may impact your positioning flight.
- Pack essentials in your carry-on bag, such as a change of clothes and toiletries, in case you need to spend the night at the positioning airport.
- Embrace the adventure and consider exploring the city where your positioning airport is located. If you build in a long layover or a few days stay, you can turn it into a second mini-vacation!
Final Thoughts on Positioning Flights
Positioning flights can be a fantastic way to save money or access better flight options and preferred airlines, as you’re no longer limited to the often-limited options of your nearest airport.
As long as you understand the considerations to keep in mind, you should be well on your way to saving more as you explore everywhere!