When planning travel, figuring out how to reach a desired destination can be overwhelming. This is when a skilled travel hacker reaches into their toolbox to save time and frustration. The first tool in my travel toolbox is FlightConnections!
Let’s take a look at FlightConnections and how you can use it to take your trip planning to the next level when making your next award travel booking.
What is FlightConnections?
FlightConnections is a search engine that allows travelers to research which cities are served by which airlines. It’s powerful as it will make your itinerary search more accurate and prevent extra time searching on Google Flights.
The most powerful filters for Award Travel include filtering by specific Alliances and Airlines. Filtering by Aircraft can also be useful as a flight from Vancouver to Toronto in Business Class on an A321 vs an A330-300 is quite a different experience!
FlightConnections Pricing & Plans
You can use FlightConnections for free and access most of their services – except for access to Alliance, Aircraft, or Class filters. I will review all the features FlightConnections offers, including the premium ones.
The difference between the free and premium FlightConnections membership include:
|Filter by Airline
|Filter by Dates & Prices
|Filter by Star Alliance
|Filter by Class of Service
|View 12-Month Flight Schedule
Simply put, premium FlightConnections comes with significantly more utility and will be far more beneficial to planning your next award redemption.
The premium version is marketed as a monthly price, but it is billed annually. There is also a Lifetime option available if you see yourself using the service for more than 3 years and a few months.
There have been data points of signing up for a FlightConnections account but not buying premium may result in you being emailed a voucher for additional money off a membership. This may be something that you want to explore if you are considering FlightConnections premium and want to save a few extra bucks.
Another option may be pooling funds and purchasing a premium account with some friends to share the cost. You will need to share one log-in, but this is absolutely possible with FlightConnections and other similar tools.
How to Use FlightConnections
When logging into the website, the home screen is a beautiful map filled with blue, yellow, and red dots. These indicate how well connected an airport is –blue being most connected, and red being least connected.
At the top of the screen, we have the “From” and “To” boxes, which are where you can enter either your desired departure airport, desired arrival airport, or both. Directly below that are the filters, which include dates, prices, alliances, airlines, classes, aircraft, and same airline.
Searching for Direct Flights
By clicking on a dot or by entering an airport in the “From” box, you can see all the destinations with direct scheduled flights to and from that city. Below is an example of my hometown, Winnipeg!
Certain cities are only served for portions of the year, which will be highlighted when you hover over their respective dot. As we can see, no polar bear visits after March.
Searching for all direct flights between two cities can be an excellent way to get excited about planning your next vacation. Perhaps an aspirational carrier has added routes since you last traveled!
Searching for Flights Between Two Airports
There may not be a direct route when searching between two specific airports. In this case, the search engine will default to one-stop itineraries and sort the options by total travel time in the left column. Let’s take the example of a Toronto traveler who wants to visit Bangkok as their final destination.
There are 20 different one-stop locations, which I see as an exciting proposition as an avid traveler. Rather than accept whatever one-stop route a Google Flights search produces, this traveler could stop for a 24 hour layover on the same ticket and add a whole new element to their adventure!
Let’s say Amsterdam is appealing; by selecting that option in the left column, we can see the flight schedules for this route that is operated by KLM every day of the week. However, if you want to change carriers mid-trip and try a different product, EVA Air also offers service three days per week (and offers EVA Air business class, a stellar business class product).
Many award programs also offer a stopover option for redemptions, such as Aeroplan or Air France. This tool gives a great comparison if you have points in multiple currencies.
Searching for Airline-Specific Flights
As a free or premium member, Flight Connections makes it easy to find all flights operated by a specific airline. To engage this feature, click on the Airlines tab in the header at the top of the page. From there, a seemingly endless list of airlines appears.
I find this feature one of the largest rabbit holes that a traveler can dig into using Flight Connections and it makes it very easy to see all flight routes for a specific airline. Whenever Aeroplan announced a new partner, something that happened a lot last year, I would find myself dreaming up all the places I could go with my points. For example, look at what shows up when we select Bamboo Airways.
While they don’t have any flights that serve North America, a savvy traveler could grab a business class ticket from Atlanta to Frankfurt on Lufthansa (a flight I’m taking later this year) and then carry on through Hanoi to Melbourne. This is absolutely the scenic route to get to Australia. Still, in a world where award availability to The Land Down Under is scarce, more opportunities to redeem are always welcome.
Searching for Classes of Service
Almost every airline route on our blue marble will have both Business and Economy cabins available for booking. The most effective use of this tool is figuring out where Premium Economy and First Class Cabins are available. Let’s say that a Vancouver-based traveler wants to book an aspirational trip, traveling only in First Class. By typing in our origin airport and selecting First Class from the drop-down, we can see five destinations available.
Maybe you’re not quite at that part of your travel journey but want an extra few inches of room on a long-haul flight. The premium economy filter will make things much easier than using a traditional search engine.
Searching for flights based on classes of service can set you in the right direction in knowing what routes to be searching for award space on should you want to fly first class or premium economy.
Searching for Flights by Airline Alliance
One of my favorite features of the premium product is the Alliance filter. All three major alliances: Star Alliance, One World, and SkyTeam, are available to select through.
To show the power of this filter, let’s use the example of a Toronto-based traveler who wants to collect or redeem only Aeroplan miles by traveling on Star Alliance carriers.
Pulling up our search, this traveler wants to head to Monaco for the Grand Prix and then carry on for some relaxing in the Maldives after an adrenaline-filled weekend. Our first stop will be Nice, which we can get to by flying Air Canada to Zurich and connecting on Swiss Airlines.
After that, we are presented with two options to carry on to Male: Austrian Airlines via Vienna or Turkish Airlines via Istanbul. Either would make an excellent 24hr stop!
Now the trick of getting back to where we started! Upon searching Male (MLE) to Toronto (YYZ), we can see the only Star Alliance carriers available are the same as above: Austrian Airlines and Turkish Airlines.
Now that’s all well and good, and both will give us a good experience. But what if you’re looking for an extra memorable experience to end this fantastic trip but still want to take advantage of your loyalty to Air Canada?
That’s when our favorite treat of Flight Connections combined with miles and points arrives…
The Best Uses for FlightConnections & Award Travel
You’re probably not reading this unless you are interested in award travel and travel hacking. Flight Connections can be a great tool for understanding your options when it comes to certain airline alliances.
For example, you might be interested in finding all OneWorld flights between two cities if you are interested in redeeming a chunk of British Airways Avios points that you have accrued from your RBC Avion Visa Infinite card.
Or maybe you used Frugal Flyer’s ITIN service to get into US Credit Cards and have a big stash of Virgin Atlantic points. Using the SkyTeam Filter you can find any Delta, KLM, or Air France routes to fly home on products the Canadian points market has a hard time serving.
As mentioned earlier in the article, Aeroplan has many partners beyond Air Canada and Star Alliance, a more notable being Etihad Airlines! Using Aeroplan miles, booking a Male to Toronto itinerary through Abu Dhabi is possible if the partner space is available.
That’s where this tool starts to shine as a reminder for us when award space is limited; perhaps a roundabout itinerary is available. Sometimes it can be as easy as booking a positioning flight to a neighboring city.
Whether using the free or the premium version, Flight Connections is a powerful tool that travelers can use to improve almost every itinerary they have ever dreamt of. It’s an essential part of award travel to remind us which airlines fly where and gives a few more options when redeeming points.
Whether you want to travel around the world or optimize the routing of your next flight in North America, Flight Connections can help you get there. Before you book, ensure you are aware of the best practices when making a flight award booking. Not to mention, there are various other trip planning tools, such as TripIt, that can also assist with other parts of the travel planning process.
One thing I would like to see improved is the ability to search not only by an alliance but also by points currency (For example, Aeroplan). However, I think Air New Zealand would release four business class award seats on a single flight before that happens!
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