Travel has become quite different over the last few years. Booking airfare is a lot more flexible than it used to be, as travelers can now cancel flights without large penalties or fees. This flexibility can change the way one travels, and books, depending on travel preferences. In sports betting, hedging a bet means you make an additional wager, different from an already existing wager, in order to reduce the risk of a net loss or guarantee a net profit. With travel hedging, your bets means booking multiple flights for a trip. This method can be used with points, miles or cash. The major difference being cash may result in travel funds being left in your account. Also, do not forget to use our airline incidental credit guide which may help as well.
Why Use Travel Hedging?
This reason may vary for some, but for me, it is a combination of reasons. First, different airlines may respond differently to irregular operations (IRROPS). This means while a storm or issue in Detroit or Atlanta may severely impact Delta (DL), it may have almost no impact on Alaska Airlines (AS). If something goes wrong and my Delta flight gets cancelled, or I see issues ahead of time, I can cancel and keep the Alaska flight.
Secondly, I use travel hedging because of my airline status. Some who have status may prefer to fly in a better class of service or better seat. While we do not recommend chasing status, for those that fly a lot, it can be valuable. Once an upgrade clears on one, you could cancel the other. Additionally, I may not like a price on my flights but can book and monitor for price reductions and take a cheapest option.
Finally, it may just be not knowing what time of day you want to fly. For me, if I am trying to get the day off, I may book one flight in the morning and one for after work on different airlines. For those wondering, booking multiple flights on one airline, on the same day, may result in the flights being canceled. This varies by airline. Usually the flights need to be possible to be taken for it to have a chance to stick. So the further spread apart the better your chance.
Being Flexible On Routing Can Help Too
I will note that I am known to book some crazy routes and itineraries in the interest of time or saving points, miles, and cash. Sometimes I use this method in combination with repositioning. I once flew Seattle to Las Vegas to save tons of points on a Delta flight to Baltimore. It is not for everyone. You can use travel hedging and / or repositioning to make sure you get what you want in terms of price, class and seat. That is on ToP of using travel hedging to ensure you get to your destination, or home, when you need to.
How I Book My Trips, Leveraging Multiple Airlines
Once again, this may vary based on where you live and what airlines you fly. I still use all the award booking tips we have shared in the past, and I follow the award booking guide step by step as well. Many of these steps, such as identifying routes and airports, works for cash bookings as well.
A lot can depend on your home airport too, and that plays a role for me as a Seattle (SEA) based flyer. I have often discussed how I chose a secondary airline in my hub. This means potentially less competition for upgrades, especially on west coast routes. Delta has been my primary airline for quite a few years, even though Alaska is the big dog in town. This does create more reasons for me to get into travel hedging.
I guess two airlines weren't enough for me, and I ended up obtaining American Airlines(AA) Platinum Pro status via a status match last year. I kept it past the match period by utilizing shopping portals and credit card spend. While my attempt was frustrating at first, I was able to maintain that status long term. Many might be wondering why a Seattle based traveler got American Airlines status? The key to my decision is that Alaska Airlines is a Oneworld partner which means my American Airlines status gets me upgrades on Alaska Airlines.
My final option I go to most of the time is Southwest Airlines (WN). For me, routes are not as good, but it provides me another option and gives me even more flexibility. If I have issues during my trip, but can get to a Southwest hub or airport with a heavy presence, it may save me.
Travel Hedging Booking Example
Here is a breakdown of a recent booking I had to Tampa. I will go over the different options I lined up and how I used travel hedging to my advantage.
Flight 1 – Delta
I had my Delta flight booked on Delta early on, locking in a good price.
Flight 2 – Finding My Own Way
I thought that flight may get in too late since I had things that needed to be taken care of early in the morning. It could be possible for me to get out work early too, so I decided to do some more searching.
Google Flights is my usual first stop. If not that, then I go to the airport's Wikipedia page to see which airlines fly through there.
Unfortunately, the Alaska price was too high for my liking even though the time worked out well. The fact that I had paid significantly less for my Delta Flight was also front of mind. So, as I often do and recommend in travel, I built my own itinerary as a back up instead.
I started searching for other routes out of Seattle, like this flight to Atlanta. Why Atlanta though? Alaska Airlines can have very completive pricing on Delta routes, and my upgrades have a better chance of clearing. I finalized the trip with this Southwest flight because it was cheap on points.
This gets me in to town about 5 hours earlier, although I sacrificed with the layover. Wondering about my short connection time? Our guide may ease your fears. Plus, I already stated that I do some crazy things in travel and I am comfortable with this airport. I have routinely switched terminals and airlines in under an hour here.
I had another option out of Seattle with American Airlines and then Southwest, but I liked this set up a little bit better.
Travel Hedging The Delay
Finally, I have checked later flights and if anything went wrong I have multiple airlines to bail me out. This includes low cost carriers like Frontier.
That is important, since I am booking flights from two different airlines to build this trip. If the first airline is delayed, then the second airline won't help get me on a later flight because it wasn't their fault I was late. This is a risk you need to be aware of and decide if it is worth it for yourself. If the entire route is on the same airline then they will help rebook you on another flight since it was their fault.
I Find Myself Booking Multiple Flights More & More
The above example is just one recent such example. However, I find myself doing it more and more. Some of my recent flights where I used travel hedging were bookings from Seattle to Las Vegas, Seattle to Mexico and Seattle to Milwaukee.
For a trip to Detroit I booked both Delta and Alaska, even though both were non-stop flight around the same times because of upgrades. Detroit can be tough for upgrades on Delta, but my Alaska Flight upgraded with ease.
Bad Weather Reminder
I wanted to wrap this up by reiterating that a storm will not impact every airline the same. Last year, I had American Airlines cancel my flight leaving Dallas DFW and the Travel On Point(s) meet up in Dallas. I was able to instead use Alaska who flew in and out of Dallas with no issues. That was all while the departures board was lit up with cancellations from Southwest and others.
Hedging Your Bets: ToP Thoughts
While it is not for everyone, I love travel hedging with multiple flights and find myself doing it for most trips now. I use it to help improve upgrade chances, monitor for different price drops or schedule changes and have back up options when issues arise. It will require some more planning and monitoring, so like many things in the hobby you must be organized. Above all else, remember to cancel the flights you don't use!
Do you book back up flights too? Come over to the ToP Facebook group and share your thoughts.