Scott Grimmer

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Let’s talk about how to use American Airlines miles for awards to the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent. American Airlines has the best award space to the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent by far and some of its nicest partners fly these routes.

Etihad First Suite on 787
Etihad First Suite on 787. I have mine Booked for May.

What You’re Reading

This is the eighth post in one comprehensive guide that tells you everything you need to know about American Airlines miles. Now is the time to write this guide because now is a special time to earn American Airlines miles.

American Airlines and US Airways have merged legally, but they maintain separate frequent flyer programs. The two programs will combine some time between April and June 2015, and your balances in the two programs will be combined as American Airlines miles.

Getting the American Airlines personal card, American Airlines business card, and US Airways personal card now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines miles by mid-2015.

This guide will explain the rules, quirks, tricks, and options for redeeming those 156,000 American Airlines miles all in one place. It might just put my Award Booking Service out of business when it comes to redeeming American Airlines miles.

If you find this guide to redeeming the most valuable miles in the world to be useful and want to apply for the credit cards that earn them, please use my links. The commission is what allows me to dedicate the time to writing this series.

“Redeeming American Airlines Miles” Series Index

Middle East and Indian Subcontinent

The Middle East and Indian Subcontinent is one very large region on the American Airlines award chart. It contains:

  • Afghanistan
  • Bahrain
  • Bangladesh
  • Egypt
  • India
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Israel
  • Jordan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kuwait
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Lebanon
  • Maldives
  • Nepal
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Syria
  • Tajikistan
  • Turkmenistan
  • the United Arab Emirates
  • Uzbekistan

The Partners for Middle East and Indian Subcontinent Awards

As I noted in the post on American Airlines award routing rules, awards to the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent must fly directly from North America to the Middle East/Indian Subcontinent or can transit Europe. They cannot transit East Asia even though trips from the West Coast to India might be as convenient or more convenient via Asia.

American Airlines partners with direct flights to the Middle East or India from North America:

  • Etihad Airways (Abu Dhabi)
  • Qatar Airways (Doha)
  • Jet Airways (Mumbai)

Other American Airlines partners with hubs in the region:

  • Gulf Air (Bahrain)
  • Royal Jordanian (Amman)

Plus any partner that flies between the United States and Europe or Europe and the Middle East can be potentially useful, so don’t forget about:

  • American Airlines
  • US Airways
  • Airberlin
  • Qantas (London to Dubai)
  • Finnair
  • Iberia
  • British Airways

Award space on American Airlines, US Airways, airberlin, British Airways, Finnair, and Qantas is searchable on aa.com. Here’s how to search aa.com.

Awards space on Iberia, Royal Jordanian, and Qatar is searchable on ba.com. Here’s how to search ba.com.

Award space on Gulf Air is searchable on Expert Flyer. Here’s how to search Expert Flyer.

Award space on Etihad is searchable on etihad.com. Here’s how to search etihad.com.

Award space on Jet Airways is searchable by calling American Airlines at 800-882-8880.

Pricing

From North America to the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent, American Airlines charges:

  • 45,000 miles one way in economy
  • 67,500 miles one way in Business Class
  • 90,000 miles one way in First Class

Compared to competitors, American charges fair prices. Compared to the rest of American’s outstandingly cheap award chart, these prices are unfortunately more expensive than I’d like. Ultimately though I have paid 90,000 miles for one way in Etihad First Class from Egypt to Washington DC.

American is not the leader to the Middle East and India because of its pricing as much as its partners. American partners with two of the big three Middle Eastern carriers, and the third, Emirates, only partners with Alaska Airlines among American airlines. Add in the other Middle Eastern and Indian partners, and American really has a lock on the region.

Booking the Awards

To book 99% of Middle East and Indian Subcontinent awards, you need to call American Airlines at 800-882-8880 to book. You will have to pay a $35 phone fee per passenger. I recommend searching award space on aa.com, ba.com, Expert Flyer, and etihad.com before calling and feeding the agent the date, cabin, and flight number of each flight with award space instead of relying on the agent’s searching skill.

Routes

There are too many routes to cover all of them, so I’ll restrict myself just to the direct Etihad and Qatar flights from the United States the Middle East.

Etihad flies from six American cities to Abu Dhabi and from there throughout the region including 11 cities in India and five in Pakistan.

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Etihad flights feature First, Business, and economy class.

I find award space to be excellent on Etihad. This is my go-to airline when I am looking for award space for MileValue Award Booking Service clients to the Middle East and India. With flexibility, you can find two seats in any cabin.

Qatar flies from seven American cities to Doha and from there throughout the region including 12 Indian cities.Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 7.00.44 PM

Qatar’s flights to the United States do not feature First Class, just Business and economy.

In my experience, Qatar award space is not as strong as Etihad award space.

I realize I haven’t said much useful about the award space to the Middle East, but it is difficult to sum up space on dozens of routes across several airlines and cabins. Better to just tell you which airlines to start with and where to search that award space.

Bottom Line

American Airlines has amazing partners to the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent, topped by Etihad and Qatar.

Awards are pricier than most places on the American Airlines award chart at 45,000/67,500/90,000 miles one way in economy/Business/First. Awards must fly directly from North America to the region or connect in Europe. They cannot go via East Asia.

Right now the personal and business American Airlines cards are each offering 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months.

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

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The Cave Man has generously donated two Admirals Club passes that expire February 8, 2016 to one lucky reader.

American Airlines operates Admirals Clubs in these locations. My favorite is at Honolulu International Airport, overlooking the garden, and stocked with better food (and soup!) than usual since Japan Airlines uses the lounge for its premium passengers.

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Last time in AA lounge at HNL: minestrone, potato chowder, and mini-donuts that are just too dang good

 

There are two ways to enter the drawing. On Thursday at 11:59 PM PT, I will select one winner. You can enter both ways to doubles your chances to win.

Way #1: Comment on this post with how you’d use the passes.

Way #2: Follow @milevalue on twitter and retweet this tweet.

If you don’t win, don’t forget that you can use your Citi Prestige® Card for free Admirals Club lounge access for you plus two guests. My full review of the Prestige’s benefits.

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Application Link: Citi Prestige® Card

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Flying Blue–the loyalty program of Air France/KLM, Air Europa, Kenya Airways, and TAROM Romanian–has released its newest Promo Awards that let you fly from select US cities to anywhere in Europe or to Israel for as little as 12,500 miles each way with only modest fuel surcharges.

Flying Blue is a 1:1 transfer partner of ThankYou Points, Membership Rewards and Starpoints. You can get over 50,000 ThankYou Points from the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card: 20,000 points after $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening and an additional 30,000 points after another $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of your second year of being a cardmember.

My Review of the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

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These Flying Blue Promo Awards must be booked in February 2015 for travel in April and May 2015. There are four American cities on the discounted list with discounts for economy travel. There are also three Brazilian cities on the list, which is a huge deal.

  • What cities are these Promo Awards good for? What if you don’t live in one?
  • Why do you care that Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and Brasilia are on the Promo Awards list?
  • How do you book a Promo Award?
  • How do these awards compare to awards with lower fuel surcharges?
  • How can you eliminate the out-of-pocket cost of the award?

Flying Blue Promo Awards Explained

Miles Price

Every month, Flying Blue releases a new list of Promo Awards, which allow travel from specified American cities to anywhere in Europe for 25% or 50% off the normal miles price. Flying Blue’s definition of Europe includes Israel.

The current list of promo awards is available for booking through February 28, 2015 for flights from April 1 to May 31, 2015.

There are four American cities on this list: Boston, Washington DC, Chicago, and Dallas.

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  • Flights from Boston in economy are 25% off and only 18,750 miles one way. These awards must fly Air France.
  • Flights from Washington DC in economy are 25% off and only 18,750 miles one way. These awards must fly KLM.
  • Flights from Chicago in economy are 25% off and only 18,750 miles one way. These awards must fly KLM.
  • Flights from Dallas in economy are 50% off and only 12,500 miles one way. These awards must fly KLM. These awards are only for travel from May 8 until May 31, unlike all the other American cities, which allow travel in all of April and May.

Chicago and Dallas are American Airlines hubs, which greatly expands the number of cities from which you can get in on the deal with Avios. For only 4,500 Avios each direction, you can get from much of the country to Chicago or Dallas and from there to Europe.

Out-of-Pocket Cash

Promo awards have the same out-of-pocket taxes and fuel surcharges as normal Flying Blue awards. The taxes are the same as you would pay on any award ticket. The fuel surcharges are listed on this table (click to enlarge):

From the US to Europe, the fuel surcharge each way is 50 euros in economy, 110 euros in premium economy, and 180 euros in business or first.

That works out to:

  • a modest $113 + taxes out of pocket on roundtrip awards to Europe in economy
  • an annoying $249 + taxes out of pocket on roundtrip awards to Europe in Premium Economy
  • a punitive $407 + taxes out of pocket on roundtrip Business Class awards to Europe.

Booking

To book a Flying Blue Promo Award, go to the Flying Blue Award Search and sign in or create an account. You can search with zero miles in your account, but you need to be signed into an account.

Promo awards are valid for one ways or roundtrips.

Under “Which class?”, select your cabin and leave “Show Flex options only” unchecked.

In your search results, the discounted Promo Award prices are already coded into the price displayed on the calendars, which will display the one way price.

Examples

These examples are from a previous round of Promo Awards. Everything is basically the same this time except that the euro keeps weakening making the out of pocket expense in dollars lower.

Here was a roundtrip economy class search from Detroit to Paris. The green dates are days with Promo Award space available for 12,500 miles each way. That’s basically every day in November.

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Flying Blue classifies Israel as part of Europe, so the Promo Awards can fly to Tel Aviv.

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Many days had multiple possible routings available at the discounted price.

Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 1.43.31 AM

I priced out an award from Detroit to Barcelona roundtrip in November. It came to 25,000 miles + $283 all in, including $132 in fuel surcharges.

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I priced out the Washington DC to Paris roundtrip in Air France Premium Economy in November. It came to 50,000 miles + $433, about $300 of which is fuel surcharges.

Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 1.49.14 AM Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 1.49.47 AM

By the way, the Air France Premium Economy product is roughly equivalent to domestic First Class on American airlines.Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 1.54.00 AM Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 1.54.15 AM

Triangle Trip to Brazil and Europe

In “Incredible Trick: Flying Blue Promo Awards with No Fuel Surcharges,” I explained that Brazilian law prohibits fuel surcharges on all tickets including Promo Awards.

Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Brasilia to Europe are on the current list with discounts for economy travel.

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 12.33.17 PM

If a triangle trip to South America and Europe in a few months sounds amazing, this is an unbeatable deal for the hypotenuse of that triangle.

Getting the Miles

Flying Blue is a 1:1 transfer partner of ThankYou Points, Membership Rewards, and Starpoints. And as usual, increments of 20k Starpoints transfer to 25k Flying Blue miles.

You can get over 50,000 ThankYou Points from the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card, which has a huge sign up bonus and big category bonuses.

My Review of the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

 

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  • Earn up to 50,000 bonus ThankYou® Points. Bonus points are redeemable for up to $500 in gift cards, up to $625 for airfare or other great rewards
  • Earn 20,000 points after $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn an additional 30,000 points after another $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of your second year of being a cardmember
  • Annual Fee: $125 (fee waived for the first 12 months). On  4/19/2015, this fee will be reduced to $95 on all accounts
  • Points do not expire and earn unlimited Thank You Points
  • Travel with ease and enjoy chip based technology

Application Link: Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

Bonus

The drawback for the Promo Awards is the out-of-pocket cash needed to book them. You can eliminate the out-of-pocket cash needed by paying for the Promo Award with your Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®.

The Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® comes with 40,000 bonus miles after spending $3k in three months, and the Arrival miles are worth 1.14 cents toward any flight, hotel, car rental, cruise, or other travel expense.

The $250+ out of pocket for these roundtrip awards can turn into zero out of pocket by redeeming about 25,000+ Arrival miles.

Application Link: Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®

Recap

Book by February 28, and fly in April or May, and you can enjoy up to 50% off awards from four American cities to Europe or Israel.

Roundtrip economy awards are only 37,500 miles + $113 + taxes.

Get Flying Blue miles by transferring points earned on the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card, and avoid the out of pocket expenses with Arrival miles from the Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®.

————————————————————————————————————
Never miss a post again! Follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook. And sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts!

Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

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Thai Airways First Class on its 747 operates daily between Bangkok and Sydney. Thai Airways First Class is luxurious with renowned Thai service, awesome Thai food, and free hourlong Thai massages for First Class passengers departing Bangkok.

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The price for 9+ hours in Thai First Class: only 40,000 United miles!

For whatever reason, when United jacked up the prices of flying Business and First Class on partners in February 2014, it dropped the premium-cabin prices between Southeast Asia and Australia/New Zealand.

I flew First Class on the Thai A380 in September 2013–unfortunately I lost my camera, so I never wrote a trip report–and I was sufficiently impressed by the bed, food, massage, and service that I would happily fly Thai First Class again. On that trip, I even got an hour in First Class on a Thai 747 from Phuket to Bangkok, and I found this specific seat/bed combo to be very comfortable as well.

The Massage

Most international First Class, at least on Asian airlines, is going to have a great bed, great service, and delicious food. What sets Thai apart is the ground experience.

I connected in Bangkok and was met at the plane door by a Thai employee who escorted me to the lounge. Once there, I was handed off to another employee who took my food, drink, and massage order.

First Class passengers departing Bangkok get a free massage. You have four options, and I went with the hourlong Touch of Silk oil massage. I’m not much of a massage guy, but the time flew by, and I came out feeling relaxed and fantastic.

All else equal, you really want to fly Thai First Class out of Bangkok instead of into Bangkok to take advantage of Thai’s ground service.

Award Space

Award space is very good from Bangkok to Sydney for two passengers in Thai First Class. You can search on united.com. Here’s a search for November and December for only the direct Thai flights.

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 6.17.59 PM

There’s premium cabin award space several days a week. There’s no way to distinguish from the calendar which days have Business and which have First Class, but my experience is that a lot more of the space is First Class than Business Class.

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From Sydney to Bangkok, there is even better award space in February and March for two passengers.

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 6.08.43 PM

Some days feature two flights between the cities on Thai. On February 4, there is award space on both flights in all three cabins for two people!

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THINK BIG Options

In Bangkok, you can connect throughout United’s South Asia regions for zero extra miles:

  • Bangladesh
  • Bhutan
  • Brunei
  • Cambodia
  • Hong Kong
  • Indonesia
  • Laos
  • Macau
  • Malaysia
  • Myanmar (Burma)
  • Philippines
  • Singapore
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam

In Sydney, you can connect to New Zealand on Air New Zealand for zero extra miles.

Thai First Class could connect SE Asia and Australia into one trip. I’d look to fly to Australia in Etihad First Class on its A380,  Qantas First Class on its A380, or Virgin Australia Business Class with Delta miles. I’d look to fly to SE Asia in Cathay Pacific First Class with American Airlines miles.

Bottom Line

I mainly use my United miles these days for economy awards and United Business awards, but there are a few gems left on the chart for partner First Class. Thai First Class, nine hours in luxury preceded by a one hour massage, is available between Bangkok and Sydney for only 40,000 United miles. Award space is excellent in both directions.

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

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Now is a special time to earn American Airlines miles.

The personal deal has been the official offer since late October and the business deal since late November, so they’ve been around for three and two months respectively.

How much longer can we expect these amazing deals to last?

First, a quick word on why the deals are so amazing: American Airlines has a much better award chart than its competitors. If United or Delta are publicly offering 50,000 mile bonuses on their cards, that’s great, but not as good as these American Airlines offers.

Delta and United both jacked up the number of miles needed for premium-cabin awards in 2014. American hasn’t touched their award chart in years, so it’s like you can pay the last-generation miles price for premium-cabin awards with American Airlines miles. I gave an example the other day in my post about using AA miles to East and Southeast Asia:

  • American charges 55,000 miles one way to Southeast Asia in Business Class and 67,500 miles in First Class.
  • Delta charges 70,000 miles in Business Class. Delta miles cannot be used to book international First Class.
  • United charges 80,000 miles one way in partner Business Class and 130,000 miles in partner First Class.

These massive savings on premium-cabin awards compared to its competitors run throughout the American Airlines award chart.

Even on economy awards, Delta and United only bumped a few award prices up, but American still has by far the best economy award prices because it offers “off peak” awards in economy for much of the year to much of the world. For example:

  • American charges 17,500 miles one way in economy to Hawaii for much of the year and 20,000 miles to Brazil and Argentina for much of the year.
  • Delta and United charge 22,500 miles to Hawaii all year and 30,000 miles to Brazil and Argentina all year.

So 50,000 American Airlines miles does not equal 50,000 Delta or United miles. The American Airlines miles are worth more.

How long can we earn 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles on one card?

I don’t have any inside info, so I’ll look to clues from what competitors have done and what American Airlines is up to.

United publicly offered 50,000 bonus miles online on its basic personal card for one month last year. Delta also ran a few very short-term 50,000 mile public, online offers.

These American Airlines offers have been around for 2-3 months, so that’s not a good sign.

What is a good sign is that the US Airways credit card has been offering 50,000 bonus miles for the last two months.

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While American Airlines and US Airways are the same company, the American Airlines credit card and US Airways credit card are competitors. The cards are issued by two different banks.

Barclaycard, which issues the US Airways card, will lose its ability to issue new US Airways cards when the US Airways Dividend Miles program disappears, some time before the end of June. Barclaycard will retain the right to service those accounts, and will convert them to American Airlines cards.

That means Barclaycard has a strong incentive to sign up as many new customers as possible right now, which probably explains the prolonged 50,000 mile sign up bonus.

Right now I consider American Airlines miles and US Airways miles to be nearly identical. There are differences, but some time in the next few months, they will both be American Airlines miles, so the easiest way for me to think about them is 1:1 equals.

Since the main competitor of the American Airlines card is offering 50,000 bonus miles, that puts pressure on Citi to offer 50,000 bonus miles on the AA card.

I am cautiously optimistic that the US Airways card and American Airlines cards will both offer 50,000 bonus miles until the AAdvantage and Dividend Miles programs combine, some time between April 1 and June 30, 2015 according to the airlines. The offers could disappear at any time, but this is my best guess from competing banks.

I don’t mind putting my guesses out there and being proven right or wrong. Feel free to put your guess publicly in the comments. The range of guesses will be interesting, and we’ll see who gets it right.

Getting the Miles

American Airlines miles are super easy to get.

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings.

The business version, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, also comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. This card comes with 2x miles on select business purchases and a 5% miles bonus on renewal. One person can have both cards.

We also know that The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will no longer be offered to new applicants as soon as the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs integrate, some time by June 2015. That means that the chance to earn 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase on this card will disappear soon. Check out all the places you can go with just the sign up bonus.

All US Airways miles not redeemed on the US Airways chart by the time of integration will become American Airlines miles, and American Airlines has committed to not devaluing its award chart at the time of combination. The two types of miles are roughly equal in value. Getting all three cards now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines miles by June.
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Never miss a post again! Follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook. And sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts!

Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

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The Etihad A380 is the plane I most want to fly in First Class. The suite is so big, you get a seat and an entire couch/bed next to you. The suite is so big that First Class is in a 1-1 configuration on an A380. (Most airlines are 1-2-1.) The suite is so big that I might barely want to leave it to check out the onboard shower or Lobby lounge. Here’s the Etihad page on their “First Apartments.

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I booked myself First Class on the Etihad 787, but I really want to get on the A380 which already flies from London to Abu Dhabi and begins flying from Abu Dhabi to Sydney on June 1, 2015.

I’ve mentioned a few times that award space between London and Abu Dhabi in both directions is available for up to two people per flight, and that it costs only 40,000 American Airlines miles each way in First Class. That’s a steal!

There are no fuel surcharges. Taxes out of London are high, but here’s how to dump them.

An even better deal, though, is paying only 60,000 American Airlines miles one way in First Class between Abu Dhabi and Sydney for 14+ hour flights–again with no fuel surcharges and just modest taxes.

Award space between Sydney and Abu Dhabi is excellent in both directions, and I often see two award seats on the same flight in First Class.

How to Search Award Space and Award Space Picture

As I mentioned in Where to Search All American Airlines Partners, Etihad award space is searched on etihad.com’s award search page.

First I searched Abu Dhabi to Sydney. This flight leaves at 10:15 PM and lands at 7:05 PM the next day. It’s just shy of 14 hours.

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Since I would most like to visit Australia near its summer, I searched as late in the award calendar as possible. Award bookings are currently available through about Christmas.

I found no award space in December on the A380 in First Class. But I found ample space in November–on some flights for two passengers–until November 21. That’s already late Spring in Australia, so the weather should be pretty good by then.

Here’s what a typical award search result looks like.

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Let’s break it down a bit. At the top is a calendar that shows how many miles First Class is each day. We will never pay these amounts. We’ll either pay 60,000 American Airlines miles if there is award space accessible to American Airlines or have no chance to book the space if there isn’t.

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The miles listed are important though because you pretty quickly distinguish the cheapest price (121,000 in this case) from other prices (612,000 and 823,000.) Only days with the cheapest price have “GuestSeat” availability.

GuestSeat availability is the space that American Airlines miles can access. AA miles cannot access OpenSeat availability.
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On the results, you’ll see how much space is available on each flight and which aircraft operates each flight.

Here you can see that on November 5, there are two seats available to American Airlines miles on the A380 flight.Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 10.15.43 PM

I also ran the search from Sydney to Abu Dhabi, and award space was basically the exact same. There is no space in December at the moment. There is great space in November for 1 or 2 people, and again the last day with award availability this year is November 21.
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The Sydney to Abu Dhabi flight is also a nighttime departure. It leaves at 9:50 PM and lands the next day at 5:30 AM. It is nearly an hour longer at 14 hours, 40 minutes.

I’m not sure which I’d prefer to take. Since take off time is almost the same, I assume I’d get about the same amount of sleep on each flight, probably a few hours after take off. I’d lean toward the westbound flight because it is 50 minutes longer.

To book any Etihad award space, note the date, cabin, and flight number and call American Airlines at 800-882-8880.

You Don’t Live in Abu Dhabi or Sydney

Hopefully I don’t need to inspire you to THINK BIG with your trip ideas. Miles allow you to make an Abu Dhabi to Sydney flight part of a round-the-world trip booked with a combination of miles. For only 60,000 miles in First Class, this would be a luxurious middle leg that you would definitely enjoy.

Australia and New Zealand have more than you can see in a lifetime, so I wouldn’t hesitate to return no matter how many times I’d been, and Abu Dhabi can be an interesting destination or connection point to somewhere else in the Middle East that you prefer to see.

Getting the Miles

American Airlines miles are super easy to get.

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings.

The business version, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, also comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. This card comes with 2x miles on select business purchases and a 5% miles bonus on renewal. One person can have both cards.

We also know that The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will no longer be offered to new applicants as soon as the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs integrate, some time by June 2015. That means that the chance to earn 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase on this card will disappear soon. Check out all the places you can go with just the sign up bonus.

All US Airways miles not redeemed on the US Airways chart by the time of integration will become American Airlines miles, and American Airlines has committed to not devaluing its award chart at the time of combination. The two types of miles are roughly equal in value. Getting all three cards now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines miles by June.
————————————————————————————————————
Never miss a post again! Follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook. And sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts!

Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

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British Airways Avios has gutted its award chart for some awards booked April 28, 2015 or later.

All the best deals on the chart, though, are untouched, and mostly the bad deals were made worse. In my mind, the devaluation is no big deal.

Here’s the first sentence of my beginners’ post on Avios:

British Airways Avios are very often the best miles to book short, direct, economy flights.

That remains 100% true as no economy awards went up in price. Some Premium Economy awards, some Business Class awards, and all First Class awards went up in price. I already thought those were not a very good deal with Avios and didn’t book them.

For most Americans, British Airways Avios are best used for economy awards on American Airlines, US Airways, and Alaska Airlines on direct, economy flights within the Western Hemisphere. These awards are cheap in miles and have no fuel surcharges. None of these awards went up in price.

Here is the new Avios award chart:

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 1.00.40 PM

 

Economy award prices are unchanged. First Class awards went from triple the economy price to quadruple. Business Class awards used to always be double the economy award price. Now for flights 2,001+ miles in distance, they are triple the economy price.

I have never, to my knowledge, booked one of the awards that is increasing in price. Here are the awards I book:

Domestic and Hawaii Awards for 4,500 to 12,500 Avios

I just booked Tampa to Charlotte for 4,500 Avios. It would have cost 12,500 American Airlines miles. The award still costs 4,500 Avios under the new Avios chart.

(I booked the award speculatively because the cancellation fee is only $5.60.)

In the last year I’ve booked several 12,500 Avios awards between Los Angeles and Hawaii. Other airlines charge 15,000 to 22,500 miles for the same award.

(There are 10 cities with 12,500 Avios awards to Hawaii.)

Intra-Australia, Intra-South America, Intra-South Africa, Intra-Asia, Intra-Europe

I’ve booked myself awards on the other five inhabited continents with Avios:

None of these awards are going up in price either. Some were in Business Class, but they were all less than 2,000 miles flown–the part of the Business Class award chart that stays the same.

Am I Overstating my Case?

Am I being too flippant by saying this just isn’t news?

I don’t think so.

There are conceivably a few good-value awards that are going up in Avios price. For instance, New York to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Vancouver in American Airlines and Cathay Pacific First Class goes from 37,500 to 50,000 Avios for awards booked April 28 or later. That stinks. But the vast, vast majority of great-value Avios awards are untouched by this devaluation.

Also, people who have the British Airways Travel Together companion pass from spending $30,000 a year on a British Airways Visa card are seeing the value of that pass go down as longhaul Business and First Class prices go up. That stinks too. But I already argued against getting that companion pass in the first place. The fuel surcharges make it worth so little that there are many better ways to spend $30,000 across other credit cards for better rewards.

The bottom line is that this is the first time British Airways has touched its chart in three years. Airlines don’t like to constantly devalue their charts (except Delta with back-to-back devaluations last year) because it upsets customers. That means this devaluation might buy us a few years until the next one from British Airways. If this devaluation buys us another three years of current economy award prices, that changes today’s devaluation from “mostly no news” to “fantastic news.”

I always say that we are better off because of Avios. It’s nice that different programs have different strengths. Collect AA miles for international First Class; Avios for short, direct, economy awards; and Arrival miles for low-cost carriers and super-cheap cash flights. The fact that each program has very different strengths means we can use our miles in each program for the best awards and maximize the value of our hobby.

The best awards with Avios did not change today, so the “devaluation” is tiny or non-existent for most folks.

Beat the Devaluation

If this is a devaluation for you, you can beat it by booking your award before April 28. By April 27, you should be able to book all partner airlines into March 2016.

You can also transfer Membership Rewards to Avios with a 40% bonus through January 31.

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

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ANA’s “First Square” is one of the nicest First Classes in the world.

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The fully enclosed suite featured on ANA’s 777-300ERs is a top of the line hard product, including a fully flat bed.

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In addition, it comes with–from the reports I’ve read–typical, excellent service you would expect from a top Asian airline and fancy touches like caviar.

ANA has announced schedule changes that put the 777-300ER on new routes this year.

  • Tokyo-Narita to Houston starting June 12
  • Tokyo-Narita to Singapore starting March 29
  • Tokyo-Narita to Seattle starting May 6
  • Tokyo-Narita to Frankfurt starting May 7

The only one of these flights that I consider accessible with miles is Tokyo to Singapore. On that route, you can get seven hours of one of the world’s nicest First Class products for 60,000 United miles + $22.

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Award space is wide open on the flight with many dates having two First Class award seats.

 

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United charges more for partner First Class than its own mediocre offering, but in this case, not much more. United’s First Class on the route is 55,000 miles.
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You can even get the Tokyo to Singapore leg for only 50,000 AviancaTaca LifeMiles or 25,000 LifeMiles + $375.

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Unfortunately LifeMiles are not easy to earn and basically need to be purchased for 1.65 cents each.

United States to Asia

Of course, you can fly from the United States to Asia on the 777-300ER, but that starts to get prohibitively expensive.

United charges 110,000 miles one way in First Class from the United States to Japan and 130,000 to Singapore.

LifeMiles charges 90,000 miles one way in First Class from the United States to Japan and 99,000 miles one way to Singapore.

Air Canada charges 105,000 miles one way to either in First Class, plus fuel surcharges.

For these reasons, I’d be inclined just to book the seven-hour daytime flight from Tokyo to Singapore with United or LifeMiles. You’d get to enjoy all the service and relax in luxury for a manageable 50,000 to 60,000 miles.

I’d probably make the flight part of a much larger trip hopping around East Asia, and I’d consider using American Airlines miles for the flights to and from the United States. The AA award chart is much cheaper, and they partner with Cathay Pacific, which has just as nice of a First Class product.

Bottom Line

ANA’s schedule changes make getting in the First Square affordable for 50,000 to 60,000 miles one way.

Hat Tip One Mile at a Time

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

Singapore miles are fantastic for booking domestic awards on United flights. Singapore has access to all the exact same Saver award space on United flights that United miles have access to (except extra space set aside for elites), and Singapore charges fewer miles on some routes.

Singapore miles are also easier to get than United miles. Singapore miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, AMEX Membership Rewards, and SPG Starpoints. (And 20,000 Starpoints transfers to 25,000 Singapore miles automatically as with all 1:1 SPG partners.)

Last week I needed to book myself a one way ticket from Washington-Dulles to Houston, and Singapore miles were perfect for the task.

Why Singapore Miles?

I have to fly from Washington-Dulles to Houston on a Sunday in April. I have no date flexibility. Because that’s two United hubs, and they are the only carrier with a direct flight, the convenient direct flights are very expensive at $277. Even one-stop flights are $174, and I hate to connect when I don’t have to.

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United and Singapore charge the same amount for an economy award within the continental United States: 12,500 miles each way. Singapore is much cheaper on other awards.

  • 20,000 Singapore miles vs. 25,000 United for a one way in First Class within continental US
  • 17,500 Singapore miles vs. 22,500 United for a one way in economy to Hawaii
  • 30,000 Singapore miles vs. 40,000 United for a one way in First Class to Hawaii

But for the award I had in mind, Singapore miles and United miles were the same price. I chose to use Singapore miles instead of United miles to use some orphan miles balances and because United miles are more versatile overall, so I’d rather save them.

I had 625 Singapore miles, 7,200 ThankYou Points, and plenty Ultimate Rewards. I was able to use almost all my Singapore miles, almost all my ThankYou Points, and just 5,000 Ultimate Rewards for the ticket.

Transferring, Searching, Booking, Timing

The timing of the aspects of a Singapore award are very important and are dictated by the fact that transfers into Singapore miles take about 36 hours. Here are the steps:

  1. Search for Saver space on united.com
  2. If found, transfer points to Singapore miles.
  3. Wait 24-48 hours and hope space doesn’t disappear.
  4. Book your award with Singapore miles.
1. Searching on United.com

I headed to united.com to search from Dulles to Houston. I selected “Nonstop Flights Only” because that was my strong preference. (Don’t sign in before searching. Signing in may show you extra award space Singapore miles can’t access.)

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 12.31.29 PM

Despite sky-high cash fares, the award availability on direct flights between the two hubs is wide open. There is economy award space every day and First Class space around half the days.Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 12.31.43 PM

Here are the results for a typical day. I’ve highlighted the Saver Award column because that is the only space that Singapore miles can access.
Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 12.31.58 PM

Ignore the miles prices listed. Since we’ll use Singapore miles, we pay the prices on Singapore’s chart. In this case, that would be 12,500 miles in economy and 20,000 in First Class. Even that modest premium is not worth paying for a three-hour flight in my estimation. (The one exception is that I might pay it for First Class on the 5 PM flight. It is operated by a 767-300 with fully flat beds in First Class. You can check that out by clicking View Seats and seeing the bed icon.)

 

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 12.32.56 PM

The perfect flight time had economy award space, so I noted the date, cabin, and flight number.

2. Transferring the Points

Since award space existed on my preferred flight, it was time for me to transfer my points. Transfers from all the transferable points programs take about 24-48 hours.

There is nothing you can do in the interim except hope space doesn’t disappear. I was never worried because my route has so much award space.

On some routes, during some transfers, space will disappear. That stinks, but the good news is that Singapore miles are pretty valuable and have a decent number of uses, so even if your plan falls through in one instance, you can still use the Singapore miles later.

I went into my thankyou.com account and transferred 7,000 ThankYou Points to Singapore miles. ThanYou requires transfers in multiples of 1,000, so that was the most I could transfer from my account which had 7,200 points. I quickly got a confirmation email of my transfer.

 

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 12.36.01 PM

Then I went to ultimaterewards.com and transferred 5,000 Ultimate Rewards to my Singapore account. I got another confirmation email.
Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 12.35.39 PM

Both of the transfers posted about 36 hours later on January 18. The date in my Singapore account reflects the transfer date, not when they actually posted.Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 12.37.03 PM

3. Hoping Space Stays

Once the points transfers posted, I checked united.com, and Saver space was still present on the flight I wanted.

4. Booking the Ticket

I called Singapore at (213) 404-0301 to book the award. I fed the agent the date, cabin, and flight number of the flight I wanted. He priced it at 12,500 miles and 7.5 Singapore dollars ($5.60.)

I ticketed the award.
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I went to united.com and typed in my confirmation number from Singapore, and I was able to get my United confirmation number and select a seat on the flight.

Getting Singapore Miles

Getting Singapore miles is extremely easy now.

Citi ThankYou Points transfer 1:1 in 22-36 hours to Singapore miles. If I had all four types of points in this section, transferring ThankYou Points would be my first choice. This is the best ThankYou Points transfer partner, and the other options like redeeming the points for 1.25 cents each toward any flight aren’t nearly as valuable.

To get 55,000 ThankYou Points after spending $5,000 over 15 months, start with the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card.

My Review of the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

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  • Earn up to 50,000 bonus ThankYou® Points. Bonus points are redeemable for up to $500 in gift cards, up to $625 for airfare or other great rewards
  • Earn 20,000 points after $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn an additional 30,000 points after another $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of your second year of being a cardmember
  • Annual Fee: $125 (fee waived for the first 12 months). On  4/19/2015, this fee will be reduced to $95 on all accounts
  • Points do not expire and earn unlimited Thank You Points
  • Travel with ease and enjoy chip based technology

The card also offers 3x points on dining and entertainment and 2x points on travel. (These categories flip flop on April 19.)

Application Link: Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

SPG Starpoints transfer 1:1 to Singapore miles in about a week. Like all SPG 1:1 transfer partners, for every 20,000 points transferred, you’ll get 5,000 bonus miles. Try to transfer in exact 20,000 Starpoint increments to maximize this 20,000:25,000 transfer ratio.

You can earn Starpoints from the Starwood Preferred Guest personal and business credit cards from American Express.

Chase Ultimate Rewards earned from the Ink Plus and Sapphire Preferred transfer to Singapore KrisFlyer miles in a day or two. Points from the Freedom can transfer to any of those three cards‘ accounts and from there on to Singapore.

Ultimate Rewards are the only one of the four points that also transfer 1:1 to United miles, so people with Ultimate Rewards should definitely bookmark this post that compares awards using United and Singapore miles.

American Express Membership Rewards transfer to Singapore KrisFlyer miles in a day or two. Any Gold, Platinum, Green, EveryDay, or corporate card will earn Membership Rewards.

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Let’s talk about how to use American Airlines miles for awards to East and Southeast Asia. Awards to East and Southeast Asia are some of the best value awards with American Airlines miles.

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Hiking the Great Wall of China outside Beijing in September

What You’re Reading

This is the seventh post in one comprehensive guide that tells you everything you need to know about American Airlines miles. Now is the time to write this guide because now is a special time to earn American Airlines miles.

American Airlines and US Airways have merged legally, but they maintain separate frequent flyer programs. The two programs will combine some time between April and June 2015, and your balances in the two programs will be combined as American Airlines miles.

Getting the American Airlines personal card, American Airlines business card, and US Airways personal card now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines miles by mid-2015.

This guide will explain the rules, quirks, tricks, and options for redeeming those 156,000 American Airlines miles all in one place. It might just put my Award Booking Service out of business when it comes to redeeming American Airlines miles.

If you find this guide to redeeming the most valuable miles in the world to be useful and want to apply for the credit cards that earn them, please use my links. The commission is what allows me to dedicate the time to writing this series.

“Redeeming American Airlines Miles” Series Index

Asia 1 and Asia 2

This post deals with American Airlines awards to what it calls “Asia 1″ and “Asia 2.”

Asia 1 is Korea, Japan, and Mongolia.

Asia 2 is:

  • Bhutan
  • Brunei
  • Cambodia
  • China
  • Guam
  • Hong Kong
  • Indonesia
  • Laos
  • Malaysia
  • Myanmar
  • the Philippines
  • Saipan
  • Singapore
  • Sri Lanka
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam

The Indian Subcontinent is part of the Middle East region, which will be covered in a later post.

The Partners for East and Southeast Asia Awards

As I noted in the post on American Airlines award routing rules, awards to Asia 1 and Asia 2 must fly directly from North America to East Asia. They cannot transit Europe, the Middle East, India, or any other continent. That means I’ll focus just on airlines with direct flights to East Asia and within East Asia.

To East Asia, American Airlines miles can be redeemed on:

  • American Airlines
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Malaysia Airlines (does not fly to North America)
  • Japan Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • SriLankan Airlines (does not fly to North America)
  • any combination of the six

Award space on American Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines is searchable on aa.com. Here’s how to search aa.com.

Awards space on Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines, Japan Airlines, and SriLankan Airlines is searchable on ba.com. Here’s how to search ba.com.

Pricing

To Asia 1 (Korea, Japan, Mongolia), American Airlines charges:

  • 25,000 miles one way in economy from October to April
  • 32,500 miles one way in economy from May to September
  • 50,000 miles one way in Business Class
  • 62,500 miles one way in First Class

To Asia 2, American Airlines charges:

  • 35,000 miles one way in economy
  • 55,000 miles one way in Business Class
  • 67,500 miles one way in First Class

The off peak awards to Korea and Japan are a steal. The premium cabin awards year round are outrageously cheap. Consider that you can fly Cathay Pacific First Class to China or Southeast Asia for only 67,500 miles one way.

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Cathay Pacific First Class is one of the nicest First Class products in the world, and for inferior products, Delta and United charge more miles.

  • Delta charges 70,000 miles one way to Southeast Asia in Business Class. Delta miles cannot be used to book international First Class.
  • United charges 80,000 miles one way to Southeast Asia in partner Business Class and 130,000 miles in partner First Class.

American’s under-pricing of awards to Asia relative to its competitors is one of the main reasons that American miles are the best miles to Asia.

Booking the Awards

To book an American Airlines award to Asia that features only American Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines flights, you can book right on aa.com.

If you want to include even a single segment on Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, or SriLankan Airlines, you need to call American Airlines at 800-882-8880 to book. You will have to pay a $35 phone fee per passenger. I recommend searching award space on ba.com before calling and feeding the agent the date, cabin, and flight number of each flight with award space instead of relying on the agent’s searching skill.

Routes and Award Space

To Asia 1, the possible routes are on Japan Airlines, American Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines. You cannot route from North America to Asia 2 to Asia 1 on a single award, so these routes are key to know. (For instance, Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Seoul would price as Los Angeles to Hong Kong plus Hong Kong to Seoul. Read the award routing rules post.)

American flies:

  • Dallas to Tokyo-Narita
  • Chicago to Tokyo-Narita
  • Los Angeles to Tokyo-Narita
  • Dallas to Seoul

Japan Airlines flies:

  • Boston to Tokyo-Narita
  • New York to Tokyo-Narita
  • Chicago to Tokyo-Narita
  • Honolulu to Tokyo-Narita
  • Los Angeles to Tokyo-Narita
  • San Diego to Tokyo-Narita
  • Vancouver to Tokyo-Narita
  • San Francisco to Tokyo-Haneda
  • Honolulu to Tokyo-Haneda
  • Los Angeles to Osaka-Kansai
  • Honolulu to Osaka-Kansai
  • Honolulu to Nagoya-Cetrair

Hawaiian Airlines

  • Honolulu to Seoul
  • Honolulu to Tokyo-Haneda
  • Honolulu to Osaka-Kansai
  • Honolulu to Sapporo-Chitose (Japan)
  • Honolulu to Sendai (Japan)

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The American Airlines flights to Asia 1 have OK economy award space, especially during the off peak window, and terrible Business and First Class space. The only consistent time I found Business and First Class Saver award space was in the last 1-3 days before departure in both directions.

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The Japan Airlines flights show a lot more Business Class than First Class award space. Th best route is probably San Francisco to Tokyo-Haneda, which has award space four days in a row the first week of March. I found award space on every route I searched, though, so with flexibility, you can fly Japan Airlines Business Class with American Airlines miles.

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Image of Award Nexus Searching BA.com

To Asia 2, you can route via Asia 1. That means you can fly any of the transpacific flights above and connect on intra-Asia flights to Southeast Asia. Or you can fly directly to Asia 2 on American, Hawaiian, and Cathay Pacific.

I’m going to focus on Cathay Pacific’s award space “rules” because it has one of the nicest Business and First Class products in the world and the most consistent award space.

Cathay Pacific Routes

Cathay Pacific has seven current North American destinations and adds Boston in May 2015. All routes offer First Class except Newark and Toronto, which top out at Business Class.

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Cathay Pacific Business Class Award Space Rule

Cathay Pacific opens up 2 Business Class award seats on a ton of flights when the schedule opens 11 months in advance. I ran a search 10 months from now (not 11 because that’s Christmas when all award availability suffers) on the following routes:

  • Boston, New York, and San Francisco to Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong to Los Angeles and Chicago

Over the seven day period I searched all the routes had multiple flights with 2 Business Class award seats except Boston to Hong Kong, which had none. The others all had 3-4 days with at least one flight with 2 Business Class award seats.

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Award Nexus Searching BA.com

Many days had multiple flights with award space. December 1 has three different Hong Kong-to-Los Angeles flights with 2 Business Class award seats and three different New York-to-Hong Kong flights with 2 Business Class award seats.

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Award Nexus Searching BA.com

 

To get Cathay Pacific Business Class award space, try to book 11 months in advance. Space gets worse from that point, though it does reappear in the last few days before departure.

Cathay Pacific First Class Award Space Rule

Some Cathay Pacific First Class award space is available throughout the schedule but not a ton.

Within 36 hours of departure though, Cathay Pacific releases all but one unsold First Class seat on every flight. This usually translates to 1-4 more seats on almost every flight.

The following screen shots come from November. The snow storm on the East Coast today is messing up Cathay Pacific First Class award space.

Here are today’s flights from Los Angeles to Hong Kong. The far right column shows that the flights have 1, 1, 2, and 3 First Class seats respectively.

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Here are tomorrow’s flights. They have 1, 2, 0 (not pictured), and 1 seats available in First Class.

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If you can wait until the last 48 hours, you and your companion are very likely to be able to snag two of the six seats in Cathay Pacific’s mind-boggling First Class. Review of Cathay Pacific First Class.

Just because you want Cathay Pacific First Class doesn’t mean you want the stress of not having any flights booked until 48 hours before departure. That’s not what I’m recommending.

American Airlines does not charge a change fee to “upgrade” an award reservation, so a great strategy is to book two Business Class seats on Cathay Pacific when the schedule opens and then change the award to First Class in the last two days. This would cost 55,000 miles each way per person when first booked and 12,500 more miles per person at the time of the change. And if the plan fails, your consolation prize is Cathay Pacific Business Class–hardly a loss.

Beyond Hong Kong

Cathay Pacific and its affiliate Dragonair–both bookable with AA miles, both searchable on ba.com–offer excellent award space from Hong Kong throughout China and Southeast Asia.

Bottom Line

American Airlines miles are by far the strongest miles to East and Southeast Asia. First, American charges way fewer miles than its competitors–as low as 25,000 miles one way to Japan and Korea and only 67,500 miles in First Class to Southeast Asia. Second, American partners with very nice products on Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines.

Cathay Pacific award space, which is useful to China and south, is widely available in Business Class 11 months out and First Class 36 hours out.

Japan Airlines Business Class award space is available on all its routes if you have date flexibility.

Hawaiian Airlines Business Class is widely available if you don’t mind routing through Hawaii.

American’s own flights have good economy award space, but Business and First Class are only widely available in the three days before departure.

To fly to Asia 1 (Japan, Korea, Mongolia) on a single award, you must fly directly there from North America without connecting in any other region. To fly to Asia 2 (China and Southeast Asia) on a single award, you must fly directly there or connect in Asia 1. You cannot connect in Europe or the Middle East on a single American Airlines award to East or Southeast Asia from the United States.

Right now the personal and business American Airlines cards are each offering 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months.

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

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Etihad First Suite on 787

I booked myself a First Class award ticket from Cairo, Egypt to Washington DC with 15 hours on the brand new Etihad 787-9 Dreamliner for 90,000 American Airlines miles and a few dollars in taxes. Take a look at the suite:

The Trip

I had already booked myself from the United States to Dubai to Bangkok on two flights in Emirates First Class on its A380. Read that Anatomy of an Award.

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And from Bangkok to Luxor, Egypt in Business Class on a Qatar A380. Read that Anatomy of an Award. After a week in Thailand, I’ll head to Egpyt for a week.

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I plan to spend a few days in Luxor and a few days in Cairo. Here is the trick I used to save 47% on my flight from Luxor to Cairo.

To get back from Cairo to Washington DC, I wanted to use American Airlines miles to fly Etihad Airlines. Etihad serves its Abu Dhabi to Washington DC route with a brand new 787-9 Dreamliner.

Award Search

To search for Etihad Awards, create a free Etihad Airways account, and go to the award search page.

My first search was from Cairo to Washington DC in First Class.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 1.05.36 PM Results look like this.

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I’ve highlighted the GuestSeat column because that is the award space that American Airlines phone agents can access. They cannot access OpenSeat award space.

My first search showed no GuestSeat award space from Cairo to Washington DC in First Class. The problem is that Cairo to Abu Dhabi doesn’t have First Class, just economy and Business, and Etihad’s search screen won’t mix cabins.

It was time to search segment-by-segment. I started with the longer segment and searched Abu Dhabi to Washington in First Class. Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 1.08.36 PM
There was award space on my top-choice date. Note the calendar above the search result.

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The calendar is useful because you can change dates without re-running the search. You can pretty easily tell which dates which will have award space on the calendar by the number of miles listed. OpenSeat prices are usually like 10 times the price of GuestSeat awards in Etihad miles, so on the calendar above, all the days that say “Miles 114650″ have OpenSeat award space and all the “Miles 949486″ or “942226” days don’t.

Of course, we are not going to pay the number of miles listed. Since I used American Airlines miles, I follow American Airlines routing rules and award chart. This is just a handy trick for figuring out quickly which days will have GuestSeat award availability.

I noted the date, cabin, and flight number of the award space I found from Abu Dhabi to Washington DC and moved on to Cairo to Abu Dhabi in Business Class.
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There is award space on this route basically every day. There is a flight that connects in Abu Dhabi with only a two hour layover. I noted its date, cabin, and flight number.Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 1.10.04 PM

If You Don’t Live in Washington DC

I was done with my award search because I want to go to the Washington DC area. If you want to go somewhere not served directly by Etihad, you’d have another step. You’d want to go to aa.com and find award space from where Etihad flies to your home airport. Then you could move on to the last step, booking the award.

Award Booking

I called American Airlines at 800-882-8880.

I fed the agent the date, cabin, and flight number of the two flights I had found with Etihad GuestSeat availability.

She quickly put together my two flights.

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As I mentioned in “Anatomy of an Award: Qatar A380 Business Class for 30k American Airlines Miles,” I booked my awards from Bangkok to Egypt and Egypt to Washington on one record locator to save $35 on the phone booking fee. (Usually you are only charged one fee per person, no matter how many awards you book at a time.)

The flights from Egypt to the United States cost 90,000 American miles. To the Middle East (including Egypt) and Indian Subcontinent, American charges:

  • 45,000 miles one way in economy
  • 67,500 miles one way in Business Class
  • 90,000 miles one way in First Class

The total taxes for both awards were only $72, so let’s attribute $36 to this award.

American only collects fuel surcharges on British Airways and Iberia award flights, so there were no other taxes, fees, or fuel surcharges.

Getting the Miles

American Airlines miles are super easy to get.

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings.

The business version, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, also comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. This card comes with 2x miles on select business purchases and a 5% miles bonus on renewal. One person can have both cards.

We also know that The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will no longer be offered to new applicants as soon as the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs integrate, some time before 2015. That means that the chance to earn 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase on this card will disappear soon. Check out all the places you can go with just the sign up bonus.

All US Airways miles not redeemed on the US Airways chart by the time of integration will become American Airlines miles, and American Airlines has committed to not devaluing its award chart at the time of combination. The two types of miles are roughly equal in value. Getting all three cards now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines miles by June.

Bottom Line

American Airlines miles are ideal between the United States and the Middle East because American has several partners that fly the routes with excellent products like Etihad and Qatar.

I booked myself Etihad First Class on its brand new 787-9 for 90,000 miles one way plus low government taxes, no fuel surcharges, and a modest phone fee. I saved myself $35 in phone fees by booking this award at the same time as my Qatar Business Class award on the same trip.

The American Airlines personal and business cards are each offering 50,000 bonus miles after $3,000 spending in the first three months.

Etihad First Suite on 787
Etihad First Suite on 787

Searching for GuestSeat space on etihad.com and calling American Airlines to book the flight were a snap.

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

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Plastc Card could replace every card in your wallet.

Plastc Card is a credit-card sized mini-computer that stores up to 20 credit cards, debit cards, loyalty cards, access cards for doors, and more, so that you don’t have to carry all of them individually. Take a look:

According to the FAQ:

What type of cards can I store on my Plastc Card?
Your Plastc Card can store many types of cards, including loyalty cards (even cards with only barcodes), store cards, gift cards, debit/credit cards, and even access cards. We not only support traditional magnetic strip cards, but also newer cards which have Chip and PIN or contactless technology.

Looking through my wallet, it would be a real space saver since I generally carry two debit cards, four credit cards, a Public Library card, and a Golf ID card (the last two with barcodes), all of which could be replaced with Plastc. When I’m in the States, I usually carry a few gift cards too. Those could go on the Plastc card also.

According to the FAQ, Plastc will not immediately be able to be inserted into chip and PIN (EMV) machines, but that will be corrected with an “over-the-air firmware update shortly after the product ships.” Similarly, Plastc will not be usable abroad until an over-the-air firmware update.

Other than those two deficiencies, which I hope are soon corrected, Plastc looks awesome. It can be a space saver in your wallet, more secure to lose than losing a normal credit card, and the syncing with your phone is a cool feature.

I definitely plan to buy one to test out, but since I don’t know when it will ship or where I’ll be then (probably Europe), I’ll hold off on pre-ordering for now.

The all-in cost is $155. If you use a referral link, you get $20 off, so you pay only $135.

Is anyone else going to give Plastc a try?

Hat Tip View from the Wing

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Meeting the minimum spending requirement on the Arrival Plus give you about $500 worth of free flights on any airline with no blackouts.

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Aer Lingus has decided to accept IAG’s takeover bid, which would mean that one company would own the flag carriers of the United Kingdom, Spain, and Ireland, since IAG already owns British Airways and Iberia.

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The deal is far from done because the Irish government owns a 25% stake in Aer Lingus and governments always seem to fear losing control of their home airline. Ryanair even owns 30%, though presumably they’d be happy to sell for the right price.

The BBC has some trenchant analysis of the deal:

For Ryanair, any takeover of Aer Lingus by IAG is about the money, for BA it is about the landing slots at Heathrow airport, and for the Irish government it is all about jeopardising the main transport link into an island economy.

From a purely business point of view it makes sense for the deal to proceed once a decent price has been agreed.

But it will really struggle to get political blessing in Dublin – especially a year out from a general election.

If the deal happens, what will it mean for you?

There are two things that could possibly happen that would have a big impact on your miles.

  1. Aer Lingus could join oneworld. This would be good. You’d have another option with your American Airlines miles. This would probably be offset by losing United as a partner.
  2. IAG could add much larger fuel surcharges to Aer Lingus flights to match British Airways’. This is terrible because it would take the value out of booking Aer Lingus flights.

Aer Lingus to oneworld

If Aer Lingus is part of the same company as British Airways and Iberia, it would make sense to join their oneworld alliance (again since it actually was a member until 2007.)

Currently Aer Lingus is not a member of any alliance and has one-off partnerships with British Airways, United, and more. You can use British Airways and United miles to book Aer Lingus award flights.

The big deal about joining oneworld is that it would give another option with American Airlines miles to and within Europe.

This would be nice, but it would most likely be offset by Aer Lingus needing to cut ties with United, a member of the Star Alliance.

So overall, for me, Aer Lingus joinging oneworld would be a wash.

Bigger Fuel Surcharges on Aer Lingus

Right now Aer Lingus adds tiny fuel surcharges to award flights between the United States and Ireland–under $100 per roundtrip.

That’s fantastic because it means there is another cost-effective way to redeem Avios to Europe. (The only other Avios partner without huge fuel surcharges to Europe is airberlin, which has none.) Famously, Boston to Dublin is 12,500 Avios one way in economy and 25,000 in Business Class plus these tiny fuel surcharges.

But British Airways charges over $800 roundtrip in fuel surcharges between the United States and Europe.

While fuel surcharges do not matter for paid flights–because the base fare can be lowered to get the total fare where the airline wants it–they matter a ton for awards on which you have to pay them. If IAG decided that the smartest way to run an airline was to have $800 fuel surcharges to Europe, and it added them to Aer Lingus flights, there would no longer be good value redemptions on Aer Lingus flights.

This would sting doubly if Aer Lingus cut ties with United, which never collects fuel surcharges on award tickets.

Bottom Line

I’m sure consolidation makes sense in the European airline industry. I’m not sure IAG will be allowed to buy Aer Lingus because governments are always very nationalistic with their airlines. I don’t want IAG to buy Aer Lingus, purely because I think my miles will get less valuable.

I don’t think Aer Lingus being bought by IAG would add useful partners on net. Aer Lingus would probably join oneworld, meaning it added American Airlines but lost United as a partner.

Aer Lingus would probably jack up fuel surcharges, meaning that it became much less valuable to redeem Avios on the airline.

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

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The MileValue Award Booking Service is seeking a talented award booker to have fun, get paid, and help people book their dream trips.

The MileValue Award Booking Service is the premier service for booking people their dream trips with frequent flyer miles. It was started in March 2012 and in the last 34 months has redeemed tens of millions of miles on behalf of our clients.

The service is receiving so many requests that to maintain our renowned standard of customer service, speed, and excellence, we need to add an award booker.

About The Role
  • get paid handsomely for each successful booking
  • work from anywhere
  • choose your own hours
  • have time to work at least 15 hours per week
About You
  • You have a strong base in award booking with all major programs and are willing to quickly learn what you don’t know.
  • You are reliable and responsive.
  • You like a challenge.
  • You are a clear, succinct, and grammatical writer.
  • You have a strong desire to help others.

I think this work is ideal for folks of any age who are looking for a lucrative and fun way to spend 15+ hours a week. Excellent performers will have opportunities for more responsibility, more work, higher pay, and advancement.

Interested parties should email scott@milevalue.com with the subject line “NEW BOOKER”:

  • name
  • phone number
  • reason(s) the work appeals to them
  • relevant experience with redeeming miles
  • rating on a 1-10 scale with your knowledge of the following award programs and award search engines

programs:
United
Delta
American
US Airways
British Airways
Aeroplan
Singapore
Flying Blue
Alaska

search engines:
united.com
ana.com
aeroplan.com
aa.com
ba.com
qantas.com
delta.com
airfrance.us
Expert Flyer
KVS tool
Award Nexus

We will follow up with more questions until we have found our new booker. This post will be deleted in 72 hours and submissions will not be accepted after that point.

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In My Credit Card Strategy for 2015, I mentioned three credit cards I would never cancel:

There are a few reasons I would never cancel a credit card, and these cards check those boxes. I wouldn’t cancel a card:

  1. With no annual fee. There’s not much point, and eventually these old accounts will improve the average age of my credit accounts which will help my credit score. Plus presumably the card offers at least one benefit that has some value to me.
  2. With a renewal bonus more valuable than the annual fee. Several cards offer bonus points or free hotel nights every year you pay the annual fee. When that bonus is more than the annual fee, why cancel?
  3. With some killer benefit. If you love American Airlines lounge access for you and guests, you will never want to cancel the Citi Prestige® Card. If you love getting your last night free on hotel award stays, you will never want to cancel the Club Carlson card.
  4. On which I put a lot of bonused spending. If you rack up a lot of purchases at office supply stores, you’ll never want to cancel your Ink Plus on which you earn 5x points.

Club Carlson Card

I initially got the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card for its 85,000 bonus points and because it gives cardholders the last night free on all 2+ night at award bookings. Just meeting the minimum spending requirement is up to 20 free nights at Radissons!

But the original bonus points are not a reason to hold the card year after year while paying a $75 annual fee. If I cancelled my card, the points would still be safe in my Club Carlson account.

The two big reasons to hold the card?

  1. An automatic 40,000 point anniversary bonus every year when you pay the $75 annual fee. That’s like buying points for 0.19 cents each, something I am more than happy to do.
  2. I don’t want to lose the last-night-free benefit. That is just such a killer benefit, which I explained (including the tricks) here. No other card routinely offers you 50% off award stays.

Unless one or both of these things changes, this card will be open for a long time.

Hyatt Card

I initially got the Hyatt card for its two free nights at Hyatt’s worldwide. I was able to use the benefit at the Park Hyatt in Chicago and Andaz Maui at Wailea.

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Sunsset over the Andaz Maui’s many pools

 

I keep the card because its $75 annual fee is worth paying for:

  1. One free night a Category 1-4 Hyatt every year as an anniversary bonus.
  2. Hyatt Platinum status for as long as I hold the card.

I can get $75+ of value out of the free night, and the Platinum status on every stay (1-3 stays a year) is worth another little bit.

This one is more of a marginal hold than the Club Carlson card, but I am confident that I get my $75 worth each year.

Chase Freedom

I got the Chase Freedom because every quarter you can earn 5x Ultimate Rewards on $1,500 of spending in a rotating category. That can be 30,000 Ultimate Rewards per year from max-ing out each category.

Freedom’s Ultimate Rewards are worth 1 cent each in statement credits, but I also have an Ink Plus, so I transfer my Freedom’s Ultimate Rewards there. Once in my Ink Plus account, the Ultimate Rewards magically become transferable to airlines like United. Here’s the full process.

I keep the Freedom because it has no annual fee, meaning there is no cost to take advantage of the 5x rotating categories.

Eventually if this card gets very old, maybe it can provide a nice boost to my credit score because it will increase the average age of my accounts.

Your Take

Are there some cards you will never cancel? Why?

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