How to Get to the Maldives (or anywhere else in the world) Using Frequent Flyer Miles

Relaxation, personified.

Relaxation, personified.

Want to go to Hawaii, London, or Tokyo using frequent flyer miles?  No sweat.  All the alliances fly there, and fly there often.  In fact, you’ll most likely have your pick of partners.

But what about trying to get to a more remote destination, like the Maldives?

This is where using frequent flyer miles can take a bit of work and planning.

And while it might be a bit of a pain, I’m guessing it will all be worth it once you see this:


I’ll be using the Maldives, one of the world’s hardest spots to travel to, as an example.  However, this step by step process can be used for any destination you wish to travel to.

3a. how to get the maldives

Step 1:  Use Wikipedia to Find Out What Airlines Fly in To The Airport

We all know Wikipedia is an invaluable resource for basically anything, and it doesn’t disappoint here.  If I’m not familiar with an airport and what airlines fly there, I always first turn to Wikipedia.

Here is the list for airlines flying in and out of Male International Airport (MLE), the main airport in the Maldives.

How to Get to Male Airlines Flying In

Step 2:  Figure Out Which Airlines You Can Use

Most of the airlines on the list above aren’t of interest to us because they aren’t part of an airline alliance.

What you’ll need to do is figure out which airlines are part of one of the three major alliances:  OneWorld, Star Alliance, and Skyteam.

If you’re not a complete frequent flyer nerd (what, you don’t have them memorized?), head back to Wikipedia to see a list of all 3 airline alliance members.

Here are the airlines flying in to Male, broken down by alliance:

OneWorld:  British Airways, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar (joining late 2013), SriLankan Airlines (joining late 2013)

Star Alliance:  Austrian, Singapore Airlines, Turkish

Skyteam: Aeroflot, China Eastern Air, China Southern, KoreanAir

Step 3:  Determine How Many Frequent Flyer Miles it Will Cost

This step is easy.  Simply head to and plug in your starting point and your destination.

Check to see if any of the carriers happen to be cheaper than the others.

For Philadelphia (PHL) to Male (MLE), United, USAirways and Delta costs 80k roundtrip in economy or 120k in business, whereas American Airlines costs 90k and 135k.

Step 4:  Take Inventory of Your Points and Consider Transfer Partners

Now that you know how much it costs for each airline to fly to your destination, you’ve got to figure out if you have enough points to get there.

Don’t forget to consider points, such as Chase, American Express, or Starwood Preferred Guests (SPG), that you can transfer to airlines.

Here’s a sweet infographic about what points transfer to what airlines:

(courtesy of idoru at Flyertalk)

(courtesy of idoru at Flyertalk)

Since I’m looking at flying using United, USAirways, AA, or Delta miles, I have the following transfer options:

Chase points –> United.

American Express points —> Delta or USAirways (if you use a work-around).

SPG points —> AA, Delta, USAirways

After considering transfers, determine which airlines you’ll have enough miles in.

Step 5:  Check for Flight Availability

Now, for the (sometimes) hard part.  Luckily, there are some good tools out there to make it easier.

The first place to start is Award Nexus, you can get a free login by using your Flyertalk login on this page.  This site is great because it allows you to search across all three alliances, but it can be a bit complicated to use

Of course, there will be plenty of times where you won’t find availability right away.

If you are not finding availability with Award Nexus, here are a few tricks to try:

1.  Search each alliance individually.  To do that, check out my guides, complete with video tutorials, on how to find OneWorld availability and how to find Star Alliance availability.

2.  For more complicated itineraries, such as PHL to MLE, you may need to search in segments.  The computer systems may not be able to handle a request with so many layovers.

In this case, if I was looking for OneWorld flights, I’d search from PHL to Kuala Lumpur (KUL), since I know Malaysia Airlines flies from KUL to MLE.  Then, I’d search separately for the KUL to MLE route.

3.  Look for routes from other close airports.  For example, I may choose to look for flights from New York (JFK, EWR, LGA) since there are many more international flights from those airports than PHL.

Check the bigger airports in your area, as they will often have a lot more availability, especially for long international flights.

Step 6:  Book Your Tickets

After finding the flights you want, write down all the information, including times, flights numbers, and the airports you are flying from and going to.

Most likely, you won’t be able to recreate the tickets on the airline’s website whose miles you are using, so you’ll have to call the airline directly and spoonfeed them the information you’ve found.

For example, the two flights I found on AwardTravelr above from PHL-MLE would not show up when I searched for them on USAirways or United’s websites.  Depending on what miles I decided to use, I’d have to call up that airline and book the tickets over the phone.

While I usually fly economy class, I would consider splurging and flying business for this trip.  With 28+ hours of total flying plus numerous layovers, the extra comfort and lounge access during the layovers would probably be worth it.

Final Word(s)

Using frequent flyer miles to get to some destinations, especially remote places like the Maldives, can sometimes be difficult.

However, if you follow the six steps above, you should be able to use your frequent flyer miles for any dream destination you have, no matter how far away it is.

What are some of the tricks you have for using frequent flyer miles to get to remote destinations?  What are some of the more obscure places you have traveled to?  Inspire us in the comments below!

(photos courtesy of marcinbaranowski, mrwallpaper)






The Free Flight Primer, Part Five: Using Award Nexus to Find Award Availability

The Free Flight Primer is a series of posts which will show, step by step, how to earn and then redeem frequent flyer miles.  We’ll start at the very beginning of the process and work our way through every step, from picking a destination all the way up to booking the ticket.  In between we’ll talk about tips for figuring out how many miles are needed for a certain flight, how to earn those miles, how to find seat availability, and much more.  I’ll be providing links to tools and websites that are helpful, tons of screenshots of various steps that may prove confusing, and of course, my own thoughts and opinions on the process.  It will be broken in to multiple sections and multiple posts, which will make it easier to read and easier to use as a reference at a later date.  I’ll also be providing a real-life case study using an actual client to better illustrate the process.

Part 1: Intro and Taking Inventory of Your Points 

Part 2:  Determining Airline Routes to Your Destination

Part 3:  Finding OneWorld Award Availability

Part 4:  Finding Star Alliance Award Availability

Using Award Nexus to Find Award Availability

Award Nexus is one of a few paid subscriptions tools (KVS and Expert Flyer are the other two main ones) that many frequent flyers will use to search for award availability.  For most people, using the tools I showed you in Parts 3 and 4 are enough (and they are free).  However, if you plan on earning a good amount of miles and redeeming them fairly often, it might make sense to look in to paying the small fee for one of these sites.  While it does the same thing as the airline’s websites, it allows you to search ALOT quicker and ALOT more efficiently, as you’ll be able to see both OneWorld and Star Alliance flights at the same time, and compare and contrast them on the same screen.

While I’ve dabbled a little bit with the other two, and found them useful, I use Award Nexus most often.  Best of all, it is free for a certain amount of searches and your points can be replenished, so if you aren’t using it heavily, you’ll never have to pay.

The video below shows you exactly what you have to do to use Award Nexus.  I’ve also provided some written instructions, and as always, if you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to comment below.


 Step 1:  Sign up for an Award Nexus Account

In order to sign up for an Award Nexus account you  must be a member of Flyertalk.  If you are not already a member of Flyertalk, you probably should be anyway, so go there first to sign up.  You’ll then have to enter your exact Flyertalk handle (screename) in the box and your email.  Your Award Nexus account may not be active right away (I can’t remember the steps that occur) but if it isn’t, it should be shortly.

Step 2:  Find Awards Now

There are a lot of tools to dabble around with on Award Nexus, so when you get a chance, have a look around.  For searching availability, click on “Find Awards Now”.

Step 3:  Enter Your Information

Most of it is straightforward except for the boxes that you have to check.  Whichever box you check determines which airline’s search function Award Nexus uses.  To understand which ones you should choose, you can click on “Help & Info” and then the “tips” link.  For Star Alliance, I have found that CO (which is Continental) and ANA work the best.  However, don’t check both, as this will just give you duplicate results but cost you more points.  For OneWorld, I only use QF (Qantas).

Step 4:  Tailor the Results to Your Liking

Other than saving tons of time, Award Nexus is also great for allowing you to tailor the results exactly how you want.  If you only want to see Star Alliance flights, then unclick QF box and it takes away all the Qantas (OneWorld) flights.  If you want to sort the flights by departure time, click on the Depart heading and it resorts it.  Want to see the results in a calendar view, then click on any of the numerous tabs at the top of the page.  I usually like to use list or list (detailed) but anything is fine.

Step 5:  Write Down All Your Details

If you find a flight you like, click on it and it will bring up a box with all the flight details, including total time, layover time, cities in and out of, etc.  Remember, you can’t book on Award Nexus, it is only for searching, so write down all the details of the flight you like and call up the airline you have points with to book your ticket.


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