The 3 Reasons You May Need To Book A Positioning Flight

Recently, I posted an article about positioning flights and wanted to write a follow-up article that dug a bit deeper into the topic.

There are a numbers of reasons that you may want (or need) to book a positioning flight. In the previous article, I had plans in New York so I was unable to fly directly from Atlanta to Zurich (or connect in another Europen city on my way to Zurich). However, ATL is a gateway city and offers plenty of flights to Europe. In fact, Delta offers a non-stop flight direct to Zurich.



If you read the previous article, you understand why I didn’t book the non-stop flight from ATL. Additionally, I would NEVER pay ~$9000 for a one-way, business class flight. However, you may find that you need to book a positioning flight for other reasons.


Again, when you start searching for an award flight, your first instinct is to enter your origin and destination cities and that is the right impulse. However, sometimes when a flight crosses an ocean from the U.S., the longhaul may be available but the short flight to the gateway airport may not be. Here is why…

1. Neither your airline, it’s subsidiaries, or partners fly to/from your city
2. The flight between your city and the gateway airport is unavailable on miles or;
3. It is available, but requires a convoluted routing consisting of 2 to 3 segments (<–This routing should be avoided if possible.)

The reasons listed above are major reasons why you may need to book a positioning flight, however, there are nuances as well. Sometimes, the flight between your hometown and the gateway city is available, but in a different class of service, and the airline doesn’t allow you to travel in different classes on the same award ticket. For example, Swiss business class was available EWR-ZRH for the same date, however, business class was unavailable for ATL-EWR so Swiss was not shown as an option.

No Swiss option via

Other times, and this is particularly true for many foreign carriers, you may not be allowed to add a partner flight into the equation. All flight have to to be on their own “metal” (that means who’s logo and name is written on the side of the plane).

Another additional hurdle with award redemption is….sometimes, things just don’t pan out. It happens.

Remember, it may make sense to, simply, pay cash and save your miles for another trip.


When you begin searching for award tickets, you may come across a number of scenarios that don’t make sense. It’s part of the hobby. Be encouraged that you will fly and pay a lot less than the person sitting next to you.

Additional Note: Even if I didn’t have a meeting in New York City, I would’ve never used Delta Skymiles to book the non-stop award flight…

screenshot via

320K!?!? C’mon Delta!!

Believe it or not, this isn’t the most that I’ve ever seen Delta require for an award ticket.

What has been your experience with booking positioning flights?

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