Airlines have not yet updated their schedule with the FAA ordering a ground stop across all 737-9 MAX aircraft. I had a client traveling from Seattle to Los Angeles, and even though we knew her flight would be cancelled, we could not do a rebooking until the cancellation had been announced by Alaska. You could argue that Alaska possibly could find another plane to route them to Los Angeles, however, I personally find that situation unlikely. That obviously caused plenty of problems, however, I later recognized, there exists a silver lining by booking your flights strategically. This is how I planned a trip with the intent of taking advantage of the Boeing 737-9 MAX grounding.

Sky High Prices

Recently, I found myself in Orlando. I already had a flight to Toronto booked but fell extremely ill and wanted to get back to Canada sooner. I looked at the prices for a 9.05pm departure from Orlando. The non-stop flight was $887 for a standard ticket. A rather expensive option.

screens screenshot of a phone

I thought I would do a quick peek at award availability, just in case, Air Canada is releasing some X space to partners. Unfortunately, nothing was available. They were all dynamically priced redemptions at 57,900 miles. Considering I typically spend 90,000 miles for flights to India, I went against this approach.

screens screenshot of a phone

In fact, I could leverage Air Canada Same Day Change to actually fly in Business Class for fewer points. I could book the 6.25am flight for 39,200 miles and then do a same day change to the 9.05pm flight. I called this my backup option. This option would save me nearly 20,000 miles and give me a complimentary business class upgrade.

a screenshot of a phone

What I did notice was multiple flights in X or I class, that was scheduled to be flown on United Boeing 737-9 MAX aircraft. That meant United had not yet updated their schedule to reflect the upcoming cancellations. I still wanted to be on the evening departure from Orlando, so I booked two of these flights knowing I have 24 hours to cancel without any fee. One of the flights I booked was the following schedule:

a screenshot of a flight schedule

This was a horrible schedule if I was actually intending on taking the flights. But I had no intention of taking the flight. I paid extra for Flex to have an opportunity to use my e-upgrade credits on the flight.

Taking Advantage of the Boeing 737-9 MAX Grounding

Later that evening, I returned to the hotel to notice that one of my flight had been replaced with a Boeing 737-900. That flight will be operating on time. I promptly cancelled that reservation. My other reservation, however, was showing the flight as cancelled, though Air Canada was still showing it on time. I knew it would be only a matter of hours before Air Canada recognized the cancellation.

I woke up in the morning to the cancellation email from Air Canada. Unfortunately, they did not allow an online rebooking. I was also feeling very ill the morning of, so decided to update my flight a lot later in the evening.

Calling Air Canada

I woke up in the evening to notice the afternoon Air Canada flight was heavily delayed. I immediately called up Air Canada and asked them to put me on that flight instead due to the cancellation.

Even though I could not use my e-upgrade since the flight was past it’s originally scheduled departure time, I was glad to have received an emergency exit seat for my flight into Toronto that evening after taking advantage of the Boeing 737-9 MAX Grounding.

Air Canada Rouge Emergency Exit Seat

Conclusion

While the Boeing 737-9 MAX grounding continues for a longer period, this would be a great opportunity to book the perfect award flight by intentionally booking multiple legs on a Boeing 737-9 MAX aircraft with the intent of expecting a cancellation. My simple approach helped me save at least 38,900 miles.

For any last minute travel, where fares are expensive, I continue to scout flights on the Boeing 737-9 MAX aircraft, relying on flight cancellations, until the airlines update their schedule.