Scott Grimmer

1623 POSTS 5715 COMMENTS

Waikiki Sunset

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

You can get both the Citi Prestige and Citi ThankYou Premier, each with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after spending $3,000 in the first three months, as long as you apply at least eight days apart.

Meet both minimum spending requirements, and you’ll have at least 106,000 ThankYou Points, in one account if you follow the simple steps to combine your accounts.

Here are the top eight ways I would use the 106,000 point sign up bonus for flights in Economy and First Class to Hawaii, Europe, South America, or anywhere else in the world.

1. ~$2,300 in American Airlines Flights

Each of the 106,000 points can be used like cash toward any American Airlines or US Airways flight at a rate of 1.6 cents per point. That’s ~$1,700 worth of American Airlines or US Airways flights.

And on every one of those flights, you’ll earn American Airlines miles because the airline sees your ticket as a cash ticket. The exact number of miles is determined by where you actually fly, but 25,000 American Airlines miles is a reasonable estimate. That’s enough miles to redeem for one way cross-country in American Airline’s new flat bed Business Class or one way in economy to Europe, Asia, or South America at off peak prices. Redeeming these 25,000 miles well should be worth around $600.

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American’s Flat Bed Cross-Country Business Class

That’s about $2,300 in American Airlines flights from the 106,000 original ThankYou Points. I covered this topic more thoroughly in Get $2,800 in American Airlines Flights in Five Steps from Only Two Cards. (The extra $500 in that title comes from the $250 Air Travel Credits on the Citi Prestige.)

2. Four Roundtrips to Europe or Israel

You can transfer 100,000 ThankYou Points to AirFrance Flying Blue miles and book four roundtrip Promo Awards to Europe.

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Head to Munich for Oktoberfest for 25,000 miles

Every month, Air France releases a list of American cities. You can fly from the listed cities to anywhere in Europe or Israel for as little as 12,500 Flying Blue miles + taxes + a $55 fuel surcharge each way. Usually you have one month to book awards that must be flown 1-4 months in the future.

Right now, Promo Awards are bookable for summer travel, so the list isn’t as good as usual. But in June and July when Fall travel becomes bookable as Promo Awards, I’d expect to see more cities offered like New York, Dallas, Houston, Washington, Miami, and other places where Air France and KLM fly.

Award space is usually widely available during the Promo Awards dates, and because Flying Blue groups Israel with Europe, you can also fly to Israel for as little as 25,000 miles + taxes + $110 roundtrip.

If your city isn’t on the Promo Awards list, you still have great options to Europe with ThankYou Points. You can transfer 110,000 ThankYou Points to Singapore KrisFlyer miles and book two roundtrips to Europe in United economy with NO fuel surcharges. Singapore has access to the United Saver award space on united.com, so I was easily able to book myself Washington DC to Madrid for 27,500 Singapore miles + $20 last month.

3. Two Roundtrips to Buenos Aires or Rio

You can transfer 90,000 ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic miles and book two roundtrips in Delta economy to Southern South America including Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. Delta would charge 120,000 miles for the same award space.

Virgin Atlantic will have access to any Delta award space to Southern South America that you can find for 30,000 miles one way on delta.com. Search from your home airport to South America or your home airport to Atlanta and Atlanta to South America separately if necessary.

I don’t want to over-sell or under-sell this award space. It isn’t available every day, but there is plenty even at great times to travel if you are flexible. For instance, here is the available space in orange to Rio de Janeiro in September and October.

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Here is the space in orange to Buenos Aires in November and December.Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 1.51.55 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 1.52.21 PM

To book the space you find on delta.com with Virgin Atlantic miles, call Virgin Atlantic. Expect to pay 45,000 Virgin Atlantic miles and about $80 in taxes per person for a roundtrip.

4. Four Roundtrips to Hawaii (120k)

You can transfer 120,000 ThankYou Points to Air France Flying Blue miles and book four roundtrip awards to Hawaii with Delta award space. Delta would charge 180,000 miles for the same award space.

Waikiki Sunset
Waikiki Sunset

You can initially search on delta.com or airfrance.us; the latter is where you’ll eventually book.

Award space is more available than you might think, especially if you search in winter. Even though I think winter is the best time to visit Hawaii for a contrast between 40 degrees at home and 80 degrees at the beach in Hawaii, it is the low season.

Here is award space from Los Angeles to Honolulu for four people in March. All the orange days that say 22,500 will have space that is bookable for 15,000 miles one way on airfrance.us. Search from your home airport to all four major Hawaiian islands to find your dream award space.

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5. Two Roundtrips in First Class (flat bed) to Hawaii (120k)

You can transfer 120,000 ThankYou Points to Singapore miles and book two roundtrips in United First Class to Hawaii. You would need 160,000 United miles to book the same award space.

All United First Class seats from Newark and Washington DC to Hawaii are flat beds and some flights from Houston and San Francisco also feature beds. I’ve flown all four routes on flat beds, and it’s very nice to be able to get some great sleep on flights that are often longer than flights from the East Coast to Europe.

To book United flat beds to Hawaii with Singapore miles, search united.com for Saver award space then call Singapore. In addition to the miles, you’ll just pay about $11 in taxes roundtrip per person.

If you’re not sure whether your flight will have seats or beds, click View Seats on united.com. These squares mean regular recliner seats.

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These icons mean beds.

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Right now the flat bed award space isn’t fantastic to Hawaii, though there is some via San Francisco on the daily 767-400ER flight with flat beds in First Class. United tends to open up more award space in the last few weeks before departure, though, and Singapore doesn’t charge a fee for booking within three weeks of departure like some airlines. Waiting may be your best bet.

6. Six One Ways to London

7. Four One Ways to London in Premium Economy (110k)

Transfer 105,000 ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic miles for six one ways to London in Virgin Atlantic economy or 110,000 ThankYou Points for four one ways in Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy, which looks a lot like domestic First Class in the United States.

Award space is fairly good in both cabins and is searchable and bookable on virginatlantic.com.

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Here is the award space for three people in October from Washington DC to London.Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 2.26.43 PM

So why did I phrase this as six and four one ways instead of three and two roundtrips?

Not only do these awards have fuel surcharges, but there is a gigantic tax for departing London.

For economy, one way to London costs 17,500 miles + $134.60. That’s $129 in fuel surcharges, and $5.60 in taxes.Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 2.27.25 PM

The return costs the same miles + $323. That represents a fuel surcharge plus almost $200 in taxes for departing London.Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 2.27.29 PM

Three roundtrips would cost 105,000 miles + $1,373.

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 2.27.42 PM

Six one ways to London would cost the same miles but only $808 in taxes and fuel surcharges. Then move onto somewhere else in Europe with the $570 in savings and return with a different type of miles to save on taxes and fuel surcharges.

We see the same story for Premium Economy redemptions. You pay 27,500 miles + $235 going east…
Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 2.28.51 PM …but more than $300 extra heading west.Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 2.28.55 PM

I can make a strong case for paying 27,500 miles + $235 one way in Premium Economy. Most airlines charge 27,500 miles or more in regular economy, and Premium Economy is a much bigger seat with more legroom, and more freebies. It’s worth paying an extra $200, I think.

But the return is too much. Fly back from the continent with miles that don’t collect a fuel surcharge.

8. Three Roundtrips to Peru

You can transfer 105,000 ThankYou Points to Flying Blue miles to fly three roundtrips to Peru or anywhere else in Northern South America on Delta flights. Delta would charge 135,000 miles for the same award space.

Search on airfrance.us and book there with no fees or fuel surcharges.

Bottom Line

You can get both the Citi Prestige and Citi ThankYou Premier, each with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after spending $3,000 in the first three months, as long as you apply at least eight days apart. Meet both minimum spending requirements, and you’ll have at least 106,000 ThankYou Points, and probably more since both offer 3x and 2x category bonuses.

You have a ton of options with 106,000+ ThankYou Points. You can use them like cash toward American Airlines flights or transfer the points to Singapore, Flying Blue, or Virgin Atlantic miles. Great awards are available to Hawaii, Europe, and South America; or when using the points like cash you can fly any flight to anywhere.

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Until May 25, 2015, the Chase Ink Plus business credit card is offering 60,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months.

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Existing cardmembers get 5,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards for each person they refer to the card who is approved, up to 50,000 bonus points total. Put your referral link in the comments below. Here is my referral link:

This 60,000 point offer, which seems to come along once a year, is currently the best credit card offer on the market. The normal offer is 50,000 bonus points.

Quick Facts

  • Sign Up Bonus: 60,000 Ultimate Rewards after $5,000 in spending in the first three months
  • Category Bonuses:  5x at office supply stores and on cable TV, landline, cell phone, and internet bills on first $50k spending in 5x categories per year; 2x at gas stations and on hotels booked directly through a hotel on first $50k spending in 2x categories per year
  • Value of Ultimate Rewards: Can be transferred to 6 airline miles, 4 hotel points, and Amtrak points or used like cash toward the purchase of any flight at a rate of 1.25 cents per point. I value Ultimate Rewards at 2 cents each.
  • Global Acceptance: Chip technology and no foreign transaction fees
  • Annual Fee: $95 annual fee (waived if you apply in branch)

Sign Up Bonus

Until May 25, 2015, the Chase Ink Plus business credit card is offering 60,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months.

Ultimate Rewards have two primary uses.

  1. Use them like cash to purchase any flight on any airline with no blackouts at a rate of 1.25 cents each. Please don’t use your points like this.
  2. Transfer them to miles or points with 11 travel partners. This is the best way to use them.

Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to:

  • United miles, which gives you access to all 27 Star Alliance members’ award space with no fuel surcharges
  • British Airways Avios, which are great for short, direct, economy awards within the Western Hemisphere and a few other places
  • Korean miles, which give you access to SkyTeam International First Class and cheap awards to Hawaii
  • Southwest points, which are worth 1.43+ cents toward Southwest flights
  • Singapore miles, which are better than United miles for United’s own flights to Hawaii, domestically, to Europe in economy, and to South America
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, which is perfect for one way economy and Premium Economy awards to London and some partner awards
  • Hyatt points, which are perfect for awards at Hyatt properties worldwide
  • Amtrak points, which have some value for long train rides in First Class

Category Bonuses

The Chase Ink Plus offers 5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar at office supply stores and on cable TV, landline, cell phone, and internet bills on the first $50k in spending in 5x categories per year.

Office supply stores sell a lot of gift cards, so you can greatly expand the reach of the 5x categories.

The card also offers 2x at gas stations and on hotels booked directly through a hotel on the first $50k spending in 2x categories per year.

Can You Get a Business Card?

The Chase Ink Plus is a Business Card. Here is some information about getting Business Cards. I noticed that I got approved more easily for business cards when my business had revenue, and I estimated I’d spend at least $1,000 per month on my new card.

Referral Bonus

Post your referral link in the comments. I’m going to remove mine from this post in a few days because the 5,000 bonus points per successful referral is capped at 50,000 referral bonus points per person.

Fees

The Chase Ink Plus has no foreign transaction fees. It also has chip technology for global acceptance, so it’s a great card for overseas travel.

The card has has a $95 annual fee that is not waived, though I’ve read that it is waived for the first year if you apply at a Chase bank branch.

Bottom Line

The Ink Plus was already my favorite business card because of its sign up bonus, category bonuses, and transfer partners. That was with a 50,000 Ultimate Reward bonus. For the few weeks, it has a 60,000 Ultimate Reward bonus.

This card is not for everyone. It isn’t for you if you spend more money when you pay with a credit card than when you pay with cash. It isn’t for you if you don’t pay your cards in full each month. It isn’t for you if you can’t meet the minimum spending requirement.

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

The new IHG PointBreaks hotels will be bookable May 26 for stays May 26 to July 31. The cost will be 5,000 points or $35 per night.

Below is a map and list of the properties. If you don’t know what PointBreaks are, read IHG Rewards PointBreaks List Means $35 Hotels Until May 31. I will update that master post on May 26 when these awards are bookable.

Asia

China:

India:

Indonesia:

Korea:

 

Vietnam:

The Americas

Canada:

Argentina:

Brazil:

Panama:

Mexico:

United States:

PointBreak hotels in Europe:

Andorra:

Germany:

Italy:

Poland:

Russia:

Serbia:

Slovakia:

Spain:

United Kingdom:

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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!

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Copa, the Panamanian Star Alliance carrier, has long been part of United’s MileagePlus program. That relationship will end June 30, and Copa ConnectMiles will launch on July 1, 2015.

Copa has released two award charts in anticipation: one for flying Copa and one for flying Star Alliance partners.

The charts are nearly identical to United’s award charts. Compared to United, the only value I see is in economy on the Copa-only award chart.

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 2.58.30 PM

  • You need 17,500 United miles to fly to Panama, Central America, and the Caribbean. You only need 15,000 Copa miles to fly Copa flights there. (Cuba anyone?)
  • You need 20,000 United miles to fly to Colombia and the rest of Northern South America. You only need 15,000 Copa miles to fly Copa flights there. (Peru anyone?)
  • You need 30,000 United miles to fly to Southern South America. You only need 25,000 Copa miles to fly Copa flights there. (Argentina anyone?)

These are really nice deals, though only valuable for people for people who live in a city served by Copa. Copa flies to 10 American destination and adds New Orleans on June 24, 2015.

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 3.32.47 PM

The rest of the award charts really disappoint me though–not because they are bad, just because they are a copy of United.

The ideal situation would have been underpriced award charts, but since everyone creating a new loyalty program can see everyone else’s award charts online (except Delta’s), I don’t think we’ll get new award programs that are substantially underpricing their awards. At a minimum though, I want a new award chart or way of pricing awards.

If Copa’s award chart showed half of the awards cheaper than United and the other half of the awards at triple the price of United awards I would have been ecstatic. I don’t need each program to be the best for every award; I just want each program to be best for some awards. That way we can use many different programs for their best awards and really maximize our miles.

Unfortunately Copa’s Star Alliance award chart is identical to United’s partner award chart. I don’t see any reason to redeem Copa miles for partner awards compared to United miles. Even Copa’s Business Class award chart for Copa flights is identical to the prices United would charge for such awards, at least from the United States.

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 3.13.11 PM

The bottom line on the new award charts is that I am mostly disappointed because they are nearly identical to United’s, meaning no new sweet spots for us to enjoy. The exception is on the economy award chart for Copa flights where you can save 2,500 to 5,000 miles each way, compared to United’s prices, as long as you live in a city served by Copa.

Getting Copa Miles

No co-branded credit cards or partnerships with transferable points have been announced. I’m sure that information will come out soon, and partnerships could be the game changer.

Remember how these miles are almost identical to United miles?

How excited would you be if Citi ThankYou Points, AMEX Membership Rewards,  or SPG Starpoints transferred 1:1 to United miles? I’d up my valuation of each one if they could transfer 1:1 to United.

Copa miles are basically going to be the same thing because of the identical award charts, so I’d be equally ecstatic if any of those three programs partnered with Copa.

Are you excited about possible partnerships with Copa ConnectMiles? Which points would you most like to transfer?

Hat Tip View from the Wing

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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!

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Two weeks ago, I gave away the same thing and Ty won. Same prize this week, but you need to enter again to be considered.

Global Entry is amazing. If you apply and are accepted into the program, you can cut the immigration and customs lines every time you enter the United States for five years. Plus when I add the “Known Traveler ID” that Global Entry members get onto my reservations, I invariably get TSA Precheck, which allows me to save time in the security lines at American airports on domestic and international flights.

But there’s a $100 fee to apply for Global Entrey.

Maybe you haven’t gotten Global Entry because of the $100 fee. Well, leave a comment on this post or retweet this tweet to enter the drawing for me to pay your $100 application fee. You can enter both ways to double your chances; I’ll pick a winner next Friday.)

Even if you don’t win the drawing, you can use your Citi Prestige® Card to pay your application fee and get a $100 statement credit to offset your Global Entry Application fee. (If you already have Global Entry and a Citi Prestige, you can use the credit to pay someone else’s Global Entry fee like I’m doing today.)

Process to Get Global Entry

Having Global Entry allows you to skip the immigrations and customs queues when arriving in the US. Instead of spending time in line and talking to an agent, you tap a few buttons at a kiosk and get to the curb in a few minutes. Global Entry membership is valid for 5 years, and having Global Entry also lets you skip immigration queues in Australia and New Zealand.

There are two steps involved in obtaining Global entry: an application and an interview.

Application

Here’s my experience from a few years ago:

First, you need to fill out the online application.  To do this as efficiently as possible, make sure you have on hand:

  • proof of Citizenship documents (I just used my passport)
  • your driver’s license, if you have one
  • your addresses for the last five years
  • your work history for the last five years

The online application process took me about 30 minutes to complete.

If you have never registered with GOES (the Global Online Entry System), you will be prompted to register when you click the online application link above.

Once you are registered with GOES, log in to the system. You will see that you are not a member of any programs. Click “Enroll in a New Program” to begin your Global Entry application.

Select the link that allows you to start the application for the trusted traveler program.

From here, you will have to fill out a variety of personal information. There are 16 categories of information.

Fill out all the sections and submit your application. You will be prompted to pay the $100 application fee–I’ll pay it for you if you win this drawing–otherwise pay with your Citi Prestige® Card to be rebated the $100.

Unfortunately, the GOES system doesn’t email you when your application is approved or denied. I set a reminder on my calendar to check on the status of my application in a week. Once your application is approved, you can use the GOES system to schedule your in-person interview, which will take place at any airport that participates in the Global Entry program.

Interview

The interviews start and end right on time, so they can be scheduled for a time when you know you’ll have to go to an international airport. For instance if you know you have a 2:30 PM flight out of LAX, you can schedule your interview for 12:40 PM and kill two birds with one stone.

In the interview, it seems like they are trying to assess the risk that you are a terrorist or smuggler. They asked me questions about my job, how often I travel, and where my upcoming trips were headed. I just answered honestly and concisely, and we spent most of the 20 minutes talking about poker.

At the end of the interview, they show you how to use a Global Entry kiosk. They also input your fingerprints and scan your passport. They don’t officially accept you into the program during the interview; they tell you you will receive an email saying to sign back into the computer system where the process began to see your changed status.

My email came within a week, and I was enrolled in Global Entry. Now I can skip the line and head straight to the kiosk. I don’t even have to fill out the customs form flight attendants distribute to everybody.

After you land, the kiosk takes about 30 seconds. You scan your passport, hold your fingertips on the machine, and select “No” to all the customs questions (if that’s the truth), and a receipt is printed out. You flash the receipt to an agent in the passport area and give it to the an agent in the customs area, and you are on the curb.

My record, after I landed at LAX from London, was 7 minutes 21 seconds from airplane door to curb. It would have been faster, but I beat the customs agent to his station I was so fast.

Bottom Line

Comment on this post or retweet the tweet embedded in this post to enter for me to pay your $100 application fee for Global Entry.

This is money well spent for the average traveler, but you shouldn’t have to spend it. Even if you don’t win the drawing, you can use your Citi Prestige® Card to pay the $100 fee and have it credited back to you automatically.

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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!

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

Possibilities with Qantas flight. Source: gcmap.com

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Yesterday I published “Awards Between South America and Australia or New Zealand” because two days ago I published “How to Book a RTW Trip in 2015. Use These Underpriced Awards Around the World,” which lists the best awards between far flung regions. Take a look at those if you’re an adventurer who wants to take a BIG trip.

I got thinking about other interesting ways to move on from Australia. There are two direct flights to Africa.

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South African flies to Perth, Qantas flies to Sydney. Source: gcmap.com

South African Airways, a member of Star Alliance like United, flies from Johannesburg to Perth. Qantas, a member of oneworld like American, flies from Sydney to Johannesburg.

Award space is excellent on both routes, but the Qantas route is much cheaper with American Airlines miles than the South African route is with any type of miles.

What is the Business Class Product

South African Business Class on its A340 is ever so slightly angled. I flew it from Buenos Aires to Johannesburg and filed this trip report.

Lounging in the cradle position. The bed gets flatter than this, but not fully flat.

Qantas flies its 747 on its Sydney <-> Johannesburg route. According to Seat Guru, the Business Class is in the nose and upper deck and is fully flat. Here’s my review of Qantas Business Class on the A380.

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Source: http://www.seatguru.com/airlines/Qantas_Airways/Qantas_Airways_Boeing_747-400RR_V2.php

How to Search Award Space

South African award space can be searched on united.com. Here’s how.

Qantas award space can be searched on aa.com. Here’s how.

Award Space Picture

South African Flight

Award space is excellent in economy and Business Class on the South African flight between Johannesburg and Perth for two people for the next 11 months. Many of the daily flights have award space for two people in both economy and Business Class.
Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.16.45 PM

Here are all the award calendars. Yellow means economy award space for two passengers that day. Blue means space for two passenger in Business Class that day. Green means award space for two passengers in both cabins that day.

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It shouldn’t be any trouble at all to find award space in your preferred cabin between Johannesburg and Perth as part of your round-the-world (RTW) trip.

Qantas Flight

The Qantas flight doesn’t have such consistent award space. For instance, for the next month there is no award space for two weeks then award space in economy basically every day.

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Business Class space is very rare for long stretched. The next day with Business Class award space is August 6.

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Business Class space starts to get less rare throughout our Fall, their Spring.Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.27.53 PM

Then Business Class space becomes fairly available in October and November.

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Come December, all award space disappears.Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.28.28 PM

Then Business Class space is back to being wide open in January and February, summer in both destinations. Note the gray 37.5k days, indicating that most days without Business Class space during this time period at least have economy space.Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.28.41 PM

Economy space is excellent for most of the year, though with several gaps of a few weeks each.Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.28.48 PMAll the preceding calendars were for 1 person, but I didn’t see a big difference when I switched to searching for two people:

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Connections

The South African flight, when booking with United or other Star Alliance miles, has few connection options in Australia and New Zealand. The only partner in the region is Air New Zealand, and it only has flights from Auckland and seasonally from Christchurch to Perth.

This flight has much better connection options in Africa because of South African’s hub in Johannesburg. You can connect for zero extra miles within South Africa or within Southern and Central Africa. A few examples:

Possible Itineraries with South African Flight
Possible Itineraries with South African Flight. Source: gcmap.com

By contrast, the Qantas flight offers far more connection options in Australia and New Zealand from Qantas’ Sydney hub. It also offers a few connection options in Johannesburg on British Airways (operated by Comair) flights within Southern Africa. This map offers a few possibilities in Australia and New Zealand and all the options in Africa.

Possibilities with Qantas flight. Source: gcmap.com
Possibilities with Qantas flight. Source: gcmap.com

How to Book

Depends on which miles you want to use.

For the Qantas flight, you definitely want to use American Airlines miles. American charges:

  • 37,500 miles one way in economy between Australia or New Zealand and Africa
  • 50,000 miles one way in Business Class between Australia or New Zealand and Africa

You can find the British Airways and Qantas space on aa.com, so just book right there. Taxes are $66 from Sydney to Johannesburg and $71 the other way. There are very mild surcharges on the British Airways flights within Africa if you book those as part of the award.

For the South African flight, there are a few options–none very cheap. United (book online) charges:

  • 50,000 miles one way in economy between Australia or New Zealand and Africa
  • 85,000 miles one way in Business Class between Australia or New Zealand and Africa

Avianca LifeMiles (book online) charges the same.

Booking with another Star Alliance carrier’s miles will incur fuel surcharges of about $171 per person.

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There are no cheap deals with other Star Alliance carriers:

  • Lufthansa wants 50k/92k one way
  • Singapore wants 45k/72.5k one way
  • Asiana wants 60k/90k

All these carriers you’d need to call and give the date, cabin, and flight number of each flight you want to book.

Basically the South African flight is very expensive with miles. Book the Qantas flight with American Airlines miles.

Pay your award taxes with the Citi Prestige® Card. The first $250 in award taxes, airfare, or airline fees per calendar year are refunded to you as a statement credit. If you’ve already maxed out the statement credit, you will still earn 3x ThankYou Points on the award taxes.

Getting the Miles

The Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard offers 50,000 bonus American Airlines 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. There is no annual fee the first year, then $95.

Getting United miles is even easier with 55,000 mile offers on the United personal and business cards plus a 45,000 point offer on the Sapphire Preferred and a 60,000 point offer on the Ink Plus. Points earned on the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus transfer 1:1 instantly to United miles.

CKANbanner_300x250_v6b

Bottom Line

There is good award space between Australia and South Africa with connections in both regions.

The best value awards will use 50,000 American Airlines miles to fly Qantas Business Class between Australia or New Zealand and Southern Africa on the Sydney <-> Johannesburg route. Award space is very good on the route for most of the year in economy and part of the year in Business Class. With flexibility, Africa <-> Australia can definitely be part of your big RTW award.

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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Last month Citi improved the offer on the Citi Prestige® Card, which comes with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open, a $250 Air Travel Credit per calendar year, access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and a $450 annual fee.

The Citi Prestige® Card competes at the top of the market with other high annual fee/high benefit cards like the American Express Platinum and Citi Executive American Airlines Card. I compared the Citi Prestige and AMEX Platinum in Citi Prestige vs. American Express Platinum. Better Card? Now I’ll compare the Prestige and Executive, two cards from Citi with identical annual fees and similar lounge access. I’ll break down the comparison by:

  • value of points
  • sign-up bonus
  • category bonuses
  • lounge access
  • statement credits
  • other benefits
  • annual fee

I’ll foreshadow a little bit by saying that overall the Citi Prestige® Card is the much better card UNLESS you use American Airlines lounges quite a bit when NOT flying American Airlines or US Airways (a rather rare condition probably) or only want to earn rewards that are great for international Business and First Class.

Note: I am using the this link for the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard, which is the best offer I see (50k miles). Last year there was a 100k link for the card.

Value of Points

The Executive card earns American Airlines miles, which I value at 1.8 cents each. The Citi Prestige® Card earns ThankYou Points, which I value at 1.8 cents each. Despite the identical valuation, the rewards have completely different uses. It’s like how your phone and laptop might each cost $800, but they aren’t used for the same things.

American Airlines miles are ideal for international Business and First Class on luxurious American Airlines partners like Etihad, Cathay Pacific, and Japan Airlines. They are also ideal for international economy awards to South America, Asia, and occasionally Europe at off peak times for steep discounts.

American Airlines miles are weak in the same way all airline miles are weak. You shouldn’t collect them if you generally have to travel fixed dates or want to travel over peak times like Christmas and New Year. Airline miles work best when you are flexible.

Citi ThankYou Points transfer to 11 airlines and one hotel:

  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
  • Etihad Guest
  • Garuda Indonesia Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Airways Royal Orchard Plus
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Qantas miles
  • Hilton HHonors

My two ThankYou Points favorite transfer partners are Singapore Airlines and Air France Flying Blue. (Click links to see why.) ThankYou Points have a transfer partner in each of the three major alliances meaning they can be used to book approximately three times as much award space as American Airlines miles. However, most ThankYou Points partners impose fuel surcharges on nearly every award, while American Airlines miles impose fuel surcharges only on British Airways and Iberia award flights.

Beyond transferring to miles, ThankYou Points have another excellent use for which the Executive card has no answer.

  • ThankYou Points earned on the Prestige offer you 1.33 cents toward any flight or 1.6 cents toward any American Airline or US Airways flight.

That makes ThankYou Points good for saving cash on low-cost carrier tickets–which are often impossible to book with miles–or American Airlines and US Airways flights if you are going for status on American Airlines, so you want to fly paid tickets. (Airlines see tickets purchased directly with points as paid tickets because Citi is buying the ticket on your behalf.)

Bottom Line: American Airlines miles and ThankYou Points have complementary strengths. Ideally you’d earn both or at least the one that fits your travel goals better. I value them equally, but they are not similar.

Sign Up Bonus

I already mentioned that I value the points equally, so this would be a wash except that the AAdvantage card has a higher spending requirement. That’s important because you could take that extra money and nearly meet the spending requirement on a second card that earns ThankYou Points, the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card.

Here’s a post about Getting $2,800 in American Airlines Flights in Five Steps from Opeing the Prestige and Premier about a week apart.

Category Bonuses

  • Executive: 2x miles on AA/US purchase and 1x mile on all other purchases
  • Citi Prestige® Card
    • Earn 3x points on Air Travel and Hotels
    • Earn 2x points on Dining at Restaurants and Entertainment
    • 1 ThankYou® Point per $1 spent on other purchases

After hitting the minimum spending requirement on the Executive card, it doesn’t offer an attractive proposition to continue spending on the card. The only category bonus is 2x on purchases from American Airlines or US Airways. Even those purchases are better with the Prestige, which offers 3x on air travel and hotels.

The Citi Prestige® Card aims to attract continued spending. It aims to be a card you actually use day-to-day, and I think it succeeds. All the benefits of the Citi Prestige® Card are primarily valuable to travelers, so I will assume the average cardholder spends quite a bit on air travel and hotels, which rack up ThankYou Points at a rate of 3x per dollar. Restaurants and entertainment–common costs while traveling and at home–earn 2x per dollar.

I know a lot of people, for simplicity, only want to have one card. I don’t think the Executive has any case to be your one card because the earning rate is so low. The Citi Prestige® Card could be that card if you want a card with good earning and great benefits (below) as long as you can get good value out of ThankYou Points (above.)

To figure out the extra value of the Citi Prestige® Card‘s category bonuses to you, multiply your dining and entertainment by your valuation of ThankYou Point as if it were a percentage and your air travel and hotel expenses by double your valuation of a ThankYou point.

For instance, I spend about $7k on dining and entertainment and $3k on airfare and hotels per year. I value ThankYou points at 1.8 cents.

7000 * 1.8% + 3000 * 3.6% = $234

That’s $234 of extra value per year from having the Citi Prestige® Card‘s category bonuses versus basically none on the Executive. I imagine many people spend quite a bit more than me in those categories. For them, the Citi Prestige® Card would be even more valuable.

Lounge Access

  • Executive: American Airlines Admirals Club Membership (free access no matter who you’re flying for you plus your immediate family or any two guests)
  • Citi Prestige® Card: Priority Pass Select + American Airlines Admirals Clubs when flying American

Holding an Executive card makes you a member of the Admirals Club. Membership entitles you to free entry to American Airlines lounges no matter which airline you’re flying. For instance, last month I was flying Alaska Airlines out of Honolulu, but I could still access the Admirals Club lounge there with my Executive card. I could even bring in my friend for free because every visit members can bring in their spouse and children free or up to two guests free.

The Prestige card offers American Airlines lounge access when flying American Airlines, NOT membership. The difference is that you have to present a boarding pass on American Airlines or US Airways for a flight in the next 12 hours or one that landed in the last 12 hours to get in.

If you are flying American Airlines or US Airways that day, the same guest policy as the Executive applies to the Prestige: you can bring in your immediate family (spouse, domestic partner, children under 18) or up to two guests for free.

In addition to American Airlines lounge access, the Prestige comes with Priority Pass Select Membership. I use that at least as much as American Airlines lounge access to get into airport lounges worldwide like the LAN lounge in Bogota, the Alaska Airlines Board Room in Seattle, the Virgin America Loft at LAX, and many, many more. To Priority Pass lounges, you can also bring in your immediate family (spouse, domestic partner, children under 18) or up to two guests for free.

I think for 99% of people the Prestige’s lounge access will be better than the Executive’s. You’ll tend to be flying American Airlines when you’re at an airport with one of the 50 American Airlines lounges, and the cards offer equal access in that case. In addition, the Prestige has Priority Pass, which give access to 700 more lounges in more than 120 countries and 400 cities worldwide.

The only scenario in which Executive’s lounge access is more valuable is a very weird one in which you never travel to an airport with a Priority Pass lounge, but you travel through airports with Admirals Clubs all the time while NOT flying American Airlines. I doubt many people have that travel pattern, maybe a Delta loyalist in Miami.

Most people who are paying the $450+ annual fee year after year for one of these cards are primarily doing it for the lounge access, so think carefully about which set of lounge access works better for you.

Statement Credits

  • Executive: $100 once every five years for Global Entry
  • Citi Prestige® Card: $250 per calendar year for airline fees or airline tickets. $100 once every five years for Global Entry

Both offer a Global Entry Statement credit, but the Citi Prestige® Card is the clear winner in the statement credit game. The Citi Prestige® Card has a $250 per calendar year credit that can apply to airfare, award taxes, baggage fees, or pretty much any other charge from an airline.

This benefit alone makes the Prestige a great idea for at least one year, since you can get two calendar year credits in the first year of cardmembership plus the Global Entry credit. You’ve already more than offset the big annual fee on the Prestige before considering the lounge access and sign up bonus. These credits are a big reason why I value the sign up bonus on the Prestige at $1,250.

Other Benefits

The Citi Prestige® Card offers the 4th night free on hotel stays booked through its travel provider and three free rounds of golf per calendar year.

The Executive offers priority checkin, security, and boarding on American Airlines flights plus a free checked bag on American Airlines flights. (Remember the $250 Air Travel Credit on the Prestige could pay for 10 checked bags per year.)

Which benefits you more depends on your travel style.

Annual Fee

The annual fee on the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard is $450. You pay it with your first statement, and again 12 months later if you don’t cancel the card.

The annual fee on the Citi Prestige® Card is $450. You pay it with your first statement, and again 12 months later if you don’t cancel the card.

For a person who wants Admirals Club membership for $450 per year, the Executive’s fee is worth paying in perpetuity. For a person who can use his $250 Air Travel Credit every calendar year–AKA everyone reading this blog–the Citi Prestige is definitely worth getting in year 1 and worth keeping if you value its lounge access at $200+ per year.

Which Card is Better?

Which card is better depends on you. Hopefully I’ve laid out how to think about each card’s benefits, but the actual thinking is left to you.

For folks who want Priority Pass access, American Airlines lounge access when flying AA/US, big category bonuses on spending, $600 in statement credits in year 1, and great rates on using points to pay for airline tickets (especially on American/US Airways), the Citi Prestige® Card is better.

For folks who want American Airlines lounge access no matter which airline they’re flying and want American Airlines miles for partner premium cabin redemptions, the Executive is better.

I have both currently. I’ll cancel the Executive in the next few weeks to avoid paying its annual fee again. I’ll keep the Prestige indefinitely because its annual fee is more than offset by the Air Travel Credit and lounge access.

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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You can book Lufthansa First Class for 50,000 Asiana Club miles–40,000 Starpoints–one way. This is Asiana’s award chart from the mainland United States for roundtrip awards. One ways are half price:

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 7.39.26 PM

There are a lot of STEALS on the chart. This post will focus on Europe for 40,000 miles one way in Business Class and 50,000 miles one way in First Class. How good of a deal is this?

  • United charges 57,500 to 70,000 miles one way in Business Class to Europe
  • United charges 80,000 miles one way for its First Class and 110,000 for Lufthansa First Class.

Even with the mild fuel surcharges on Asiana awards of Lufthansa flights, these are great deals. And if you want to avoid fuel surcharges, book United flights with Asiana miles.

Test #1: Lufthansa First Class

I wanted to call Asiana and price out awards to see whether I could get agents to follow the award chart and to see what the taxes and fuel surcharges would be.

I’m considering flying Tallinn, Estonia to Washington, DC next month, so I took a look at that routing though there’s nothing special about it.

Lufthansa First Class would be awesome to get into the Lufthansa First Class Terminal again, and to enjoy the luxury onboard.

First I found this award space on two Lufthansa flights.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 7.28.59 PM

In case you’re not adept at reading united.com (which is where I searched because Asiana should have access to all Star Alliance space found on united.com):

  • There is award space in Business Class from Tallinn to Frankfurt
  • There is award space in Business and First Class from Frankfurt to Washington DC

I noted the date, flight number, and cabin of the award space. I called Asiana and these are the prices I got:

  • For Business Class on both flights (what United is charging 70,000 miles for), Asiana charges 40,000 miles + $311.44.
  • For Business Class on the short hop and First Class on the long one (what United is charging 110,000 miles for), Asiana charges 50,000 miles + $311.44.
  • Drop the short hop altogether. For just Lufthansa First Class from Frankfurt to Washington DC, Asiana charges 50,000 miles + $348.34.

A few notes:

  1. I can’t quite figure out how they got that amount of dollars though each agent was consistent.
  2. One agent priced Business + First at 75,000 miles, but two priced it at the 50,000 price quoted above.
  3. Taxes and fuel surcharges vary by country and route, so fewer flights actually can actually result in higher charges.

1. The Dollar Amount

I would expect Lufthansa to collect the taxes and fuel surcharges of an equivalent paid ticket. Here’s the equivalent paid ticket to Tallinn to Frankfurt to Washington DC in Business and First Class.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 7.38.03 PM

That’s 223.37 euros ($248) of taxes and fuel surcharges. Asiana wanted $311. I don’t know why.

2. Differing Miles Prices

I called Asiana a few times, and I got different miles prices. Two out of three agents priced the short hop in Business plus longhaul in First Class at 50,000 miles total. One said 75,000 total. When pressed she explained that it was because I had the shorthaul Business Class segment, which was another 25,000 miles on the Asiana chart. Her computer was adding inta-Europe Business (25k) to Europe-to-USA First (50k.)

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 7.45.39 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-20 at 7.45.53 PM

I believe she was wrong and that Asiana agents should price your Lufthansa First Class award, even if there is an intra-Europe segment, at 50,000 total miles.

The agent who said 75,000 miles said the computer had priced it like that. That might be because I had first priced Business/Business with her and then switched to Business/First and for that reason the computer saw my trip as two awards.

Bottom line: please report if a connecting segment in Europe drives up your miles price in the comments, but I don’t believe it will happen.

3. Taxes and Fuel Surcharges Vary

The dollar price went up by dropping the Tallinn to Frankfurt segment. That’s just because airlines price fuel surcharges by origin/destination city pair and taxes and vary by country.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 7.46.48 PM

Play around with your country of origin if the taxes and fees are very important to you.

Test #2: United Premium Cabins

Asiana doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on United award flights. I tested that out by pricing out this itinerary on the same route.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 7.29.10 PM

I tested out:

  • Lufthansa Business Class TLL-FRA + United Business Class FRA-IAD (57.5k United miles above)
  • Lufthansa Business Class TLL-FRA + United First Class FRA-IAD (80k United miles above)

The agents all priced them at:

  • 40,000 Asiana Miles + $133.71 for the all Business Class award
  • 50,000 Asiana Miles + $133.71 for the mostly First Class award

The short Lufthansa flight had slight fuel surcharges plus the rest is taxes. Overall, these are steals.

Searching

Asiana is a member of Star Alliance. You can book any of these partners with Asiana miles.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 9.14.50 PM

Almost all of these are searchable on united.com very quickly, so that’s where to search. Here’s how. When you find award space in the Saver column, note the date, cabin, and flight number.

You will pay a different number of miles and dollars than the amount shown on united.com.

Booking

Booking, or pricing out awards is a bit of a hassle. You have to call Asiana at 800-227-4262 from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM Pacific Time Monday through Friday.

First you need to talk to reservations and have them piece together and price the award. Then you are transferred to Asiana Club to pay.

When the phone connects, hit 2-5-# to get to reservations. You need an Asiana Club account. If you have zero miles, just tell the agent you want to know the price in miles and taxes and fees before transferring points to Asiana Club. There is occasionally a language barrier, but you can usually get done what you need to.

Asiana can only ticket departures that are more than 72 hours in the future.

Pay your award taxes with the Citi Prestige® Card. The first $250 in award taxes, airfare, or airline fees per calendar year are refunded to you as a statement credit. If you’ve already maxed out the statement credit, you will still earn 3x ThankYou Points on the award taxes and fees.

Getting Asiana Miles

SPG Starpoints transfer 1:1 to Asiana miles with the customary 5,000 bonus miles for every 20,000 points transferred. At that rate:

  • 35,000 Starpoints transfer to 40,000 Asiana miles
  • 40,000 Starpoints transfer to 50,000 Asiana miles

Unfortunately, in my experience, SPG points took 17 days to show up in my Asiana account. I just made another transfer now; hopefully it shows up quicker.

The bonus on the SPG card is 25,000 Starpoints, and the minimum spending requirement just dropped to $3,000 in three months.

Bottom Line

It’s a bit of a hassle to book Asiana Club tickets and tough to get the miles, but you can’t argue with 40,000 miles + $131 for United flat bed Business Class to Europe or 50,000 miles + $311 for Lufthansa First Class.

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Yesterday I published “How to Book a RTW Trip in 2015. Use These Underpriced Awards Around the World,” which I am very proud of. Take a look if you’re an adventurer who wants to take a BIG trip. In the comments, John Domingo asked about getting between South America and Australia.

The best flights to get between South America and Australia/New Zealand are the direct flights on LAN Airlines and Qantas, booked with American Airlines miles.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.47.01 PM
Source: gcmap.com

Qantas flies directly from Sydney to Santiago. LAN flies the same route but breaks it up with a layover in each direction in Auckland. LAN has the rights to carry passengers on any segment or the whole route. Between Australia/New Zealand and Southern South America, American Airlines charges:

  • 37,500 miles one way in economy
  • 50,000 miles one way in Business Class
  • no one serves the route with First Class
  • American doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on either airline, just minimal government taxes

Award space is excellent on the Qantas flights in economy, though Business Class award space is super rare. Award space is rarer on the Auckland <-> Santiago LAN longhaul, but excellent on the Sydney <-> Auckland portion.

What is the Business Class Product on These Routes?

Business is such a tiny premium over the economy price on this route that it’s the obvious choice if you can find award space.

Qantas flies its 747 on its Sydney <-> Santiago route. According to Seat Guru, the Business Class is in the nose and upper deck and is fully flat. Here’s my review of Qantas Business Class on the A380.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 4.07.13 PM
Source: http://www.seatguru.com/airlines/Qantas_Airways/Qantas_Airways_Boeing_747-400RR_V2.php

LAN flies its 787 Dreamliner from Santiago to Auckland to Sydney.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.37.36 PM

The LAN Dreamliner has fully flat beds in Business Class. Here is a video about the LAN Dreamliner in Spanish.

How to Search Award Space

Qantas award space can be searched right on aa.com. Here’s how.

LAN award space is not searchable on aa.com. Search it on ba.com. Any space you see there should be bookable with American Airlines miles.

What Is the Award Space Picture?

Award space is excellent between Sydney and Santiago on the direct Qantas flight in economy for most of the next 11 months, especially next Southern Hemisphere summer.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.32.03 PM

The flight operates four days per week, and for stretches of the year, award space is available on all four weekly flights in economy.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.32.28 PM

Even over Christmas and New Year, the height of the tourist season in early summer, there is award space.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.31.35 PM

Unfortunately Business Class award space almost doesn’t exist. There is only one award seat in Business Class between Sydney and Santiago for the next 11 months, July 10.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.29.13 PM

LAN flies its route seven days a week, but with worse award space than Qantas. I searched the next month from Santiago to Auckland and found only one award seat in Business Class and none in economy.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.37.02 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.37.08 PM

Then I searched all of October 2015 and found just three days with economy award space and zero with Business Class.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 4.19.23 PM
Source: Award Nexus

February 2016, a time I’d rather fly the route, has better award space, on eight days with LAN.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 4.14.31 PM

The above images just look at the longhaul from Santiago to Auckland. The plane continues to Sydney, and you can book just the trans-Tasman hop. Award space here is excellent. Almost every day has some award space on the route.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.41.21 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.41.27 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.42.01 PM

Oddly some of the award space is in First Class. I can’t even figure out what that mistake represents because the LAN 787 has only economy and Business, no third cabin at all (not First, not Premium Economy.)

Connections

As long as your connection follows the published-fare rule, you can start your trip anywhere in Australia/New Zealand and end anywhere in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, or Bolivia for the same number of miles. Or vice versa.

It was easy on aa.com to pull up Perth to Santiago awards for 37,500 miles…

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.33.40 PM

…or Auckland to Santiago awards for the same price.Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.34.50 PMIf you want to use LAN flights intra-South America, you’ll have to search that award space on ba.com.

How to Book

If all your legs were searchable on aa.com (ie all Qantas flights), book right there.

If one or more of your legs is not searchable on aa.com (ie LAN flights), note the date, cabin, and flight number of all the award space you find on aa.com and ba.com, and call American Airlines at 800-882-8880 to book. Give the agent that information, and book with no phone fee.

Pay your award taxes with the Citi Prestige® Card. The first $250 in award taxes, airfare, or airline fees per calendar year are refunded to you as a statement credit. If you’ve already maxed out the statement credit, you will still earn 3x ThankYou Points on the award taxes.

Getting the Miles

The Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard offers 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. There is no annual fee the first year, then $95.

Bottom Line

The only two flights between Australia/New Zealand and South America are flown by American Airlines partners, so American Airlines miles rule this part of a possible RTW trip.

Award space is good-to-excellent in economy and extremely rare in flat bed Business Class, which at only 12,500 miles extra is a steal if you do find space.

You can start the award anywhere in Southern South America and end it anywhere in Australia or New Zealand for the same number of miles. You’re only on the hook for government taxes, not fuel surcharges or a phone booking fee.

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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The Starwood Preferred Guest personal credit card has lowered its minimum spending requirement. Now to get the 25,000 bonus Starpoints, you need only spend $3,000 in the first three months after opening the account.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 2.28.45 PM

Previously the spending requirement was $5,000 in six months. American Express tested out this new, lower requirement last August on both the personal and business SPG cards, and was apparently satisfied with the results for the personal card. The business card remains with its traditional $5,000-in-six-months minimum spending requirement.

  • Are you eligible for these offers if you’ve had Starwood cards before?
  • Should you wait for a 30k offer on the Starwood cards?
  • What are the best uses for Starpoints?
  • Why get the offer?
  • Why not get the offer?

What is Different about This Offer?

Other than the minimum spending requirement and time frame, this offer appears identical to the offer we’ve seen on the Starwood Preferred Guest card for months.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 2.28.39 PM

  • Earn up to 25,000 bonus Starpoints
  • 2 points per dollar on SPG stays, 1 point per dollar elsewhere
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $65.

Who Is Eligible?

Having the SPG business card is irrelevant to whether you can get the SPG personal card. You can get both SPG cards on the same day no problem if you’ve never had either card before.

If you’ve ever had the personal SPG card before, you are ineligible to earn the sign up bonus on the card again. This is a new American Express policy as of May 1, 2014 for personal card sign up bonuses.

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 3.07.38 AM

Should You Wait for a 30k Offer?

About once a year, American Express offers both SPG cards with a 30,000 point sign up bonus instead of the standard 25,000. The deal came up in August 2012, August 2013, and June 2014.

Based on that data, it seems like we may see a 30k offer in the next few months, but I have no inside information. I also wonder, if we get a 30k offer, what the minimum spending requirement will be. Will it be $3,000 or will it come with a higher spending requirement like $5,000?

Best Uses for Starpoints

Here is my Starwood primer, so you can understand how to use Starpoints for transfers to airline miles, hotels, and all the other great uses.

Here are some in-depth articles on top uses:

Why Get This Offer

Starpoints are the most valuable currency in the mileage world. I value them at 2.5 cents each since they transfer at a rate of 20,000 points to 25,000 miles to several important types of miles like American and Alaska or can be used for free hotel nights starting at 2,000 points.

If you spend a ton of money per year on credit cards that isn’t going to category or sign up bonuses, that spending should be on this card, so that you are accruing valuable, flexible points.

If you want SPG status, this card offers 2 stay credits and 5 night credits toward status.

Why Not Get This Offer

If you’re a small spender, it’s possible the new offer is worse for you. The total spending requirement has been lowered, but actually works out to more per month on average ($1,000) than the previous offer of $5,000 in six months ($834.) Maybe you could average $834 per month a new card, but not $1,000. (Although there are easy ways to bridge that gap and spend more on credit cards now without spending more money overall.)

If you think a 30k offer will come up on the SPG card this summer as it has the last three summers and don’t need your SPG points immediately, don’t get the card.

If you are irresponsible with credit cards (don’t pay them in full each month, incurring interest or spend more than you would if you just stuck to cash and debit cards), don’t get the SPG personal card or any other credit card.

Get a Referral

If you want to get the SPG personal card with its lowered $3,000-in-three-months minimum spending requirement, you can do it through a referral link that will earn me 5,000 Starpoints or through a bank link that won’t.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 2.27.10 PM
My referral offer as an existing cardholder

 

To get the referral link, leave a comment to this post asking for a referral. Fill in your real email address in that blank of the comment form. Your email address will NOT be displayed publicly, but I will use it to have the referral sent (and for no other purpose.) I promise to use my referral Starpoints for frivolous adventures!

If you don’t want to do that, here is a direct link to the new offer.

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11

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Until 2014, the best way to use miles to book a round-the-world (RTW) trip was to save a lot of one mileage currency and book a special RTW award with those miles. If you’ve saved up miles for years to book yourself such a once-in-a-lifetime trip, you’re probably dismayed that the best two RTW awards from American Airlines and Delta were eliminated in 2014.

You can still book RTW trips in 2015, but now the best way is as a series of one way awards across many different programs to take advantage of sweet spots on each airline’s award chart.

In this post, I’ll list some of the cheapest awards, or sweet spots, from each region. When planning your RTW trip in 2015 or beyond, refer to these lists to piece together your trip. For instance, if you know you want to visit South America, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Australia, look under each of those headings to find cheap awards to the next region.

But before getting to those lists, let’s consider other types of tickets that should be part of your RTW award.

Avios & Cash

All of the awards on the lists in the next section are from programs with region-based miles. These miles usually offer the best value for international awards.

But before using region-based miles consider using Avios or cash for appropriate flights on your RTW trip.

Cash

Use cash if the possible awards are not getting you a good return on your miles (1.2 to 1.8+ cents each, depending on the miles.) This will be very likely when a low cost carrier flies the route you want to fly, especially within Europe and Southeast Asia or to Iceland.

When cash flights are the best option, you don’t need to actually use cash to book them.

You can book them with points that can be used like cash toward any flight like ThankYou Points or Arrival miles, or you can use the $250 per year airfare statement credit on the Citi Prestige.

Avios

British Airways Avios are fantastic for short, direct, economy awards especially when you can fly a partner with no fuel surcharges. There are tons of times you would want to use Avios on your RTW trip. A partial list:

  • West coast of United States to Hawaii
  • Miami, Dallas, or New York to Latin America or Caribbean
  • Intra-Latin America international flights
  • Intra-Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay, Ecuador (including Galapagos), and Chile (including Easter Island)
  • Intra-South Africa
  • Intra-Australia
  • Intra-Europe, especially on airberlin or Niki for no fuel surcharges
  • Boston to Ireland on Aer Lingus
  • India to Sri Lanka to change zones on the American Airlines chart from India/Middle East to Asia 2
  • Europe to Israel

Region-to-Region Awards

For the longhaul awards, you’ll almost certainly get the best value by using airline miles that allow one way redemptions with the price based on a region-based award chart. A partial list of such airline miles:

  • American Airlines AAdvantage (transfer partner of SPG)
  • Delta SkyMiles (transfer partner of AMEX Membership Rewards and SPG)
  • United MileagePlus (transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards)
  • Alaska Mileage Plan (transfer partner of SPG)
  • Singapore KrisFlyer (transfer partner of AMEX, Chase, Citi ThankYou Points, and SPG)
  • Asiana Mileage Club (transfer partner of SPG)
  • Air Canada Aeroplan (transfer partner of AMEX and SPG)
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (transfer partner of AMEX, Chase, Citi, and SPG)
  • Air France Flying Blue (transfer partner of AMEX, Citi, and SPG)

Some of the awards below are listed because they cost very few miles. Some are listed because they present amazing value in a premium cabin. Links take you to longer articles on that award. Any prices listed are one way unless otherwise noted. If no cabin is listed, the award is in economy. If no fuel surcharges are mentioned, the award has none. Remember to check Avios redemptions and cash tickets before booking any awards on these lists.

From United States

To Europe

To Korea or Japan

To China or Southeast Asia

To Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, or Ecuador

  • with 15,000 American Airlines miles each year from January 16 – June 14 or September 7 – November 14 (these off peak awards must be flown on American Airlines metal)

To Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, or Uruguay

  • with 20,000 American Airlines miles each year from March 1 – May 31 or August 16 – November 30 (off peak awards)
  • with 45,000 Virgin Atlantic miles roundtrip on Delta flights
  • in Business Class with 35,000 Asiana miles on United flights
  • in Business Class with 45,000 Alaska miles on AeroMexico flights, try to fly the Dreamliner
  • in First Class with 45,000 Asiana miles on United flights

To Hawaii

To Fiji

To Australia/New Zealand

From Europe

When leaving Europe, don’t fly your longhaul flight out of London. You’ll pay $200 to $300 in taxes for starting a premium cabin itinerary in the United Kingdom. Hop a low cost carrier flight from London to somewhere on the continent and fly your longhaul award to the next region from there.

To United States

  • See From United States to Europe above

To Hong Kong

To Middle East/India/Maldives

To South America

To Australia

  • in Qantas First Class on the A380 with 80,000 American Airlines miles

To South Africa

  • in British Airways Business Class with 37,500 American Airlines miles plus about $550 in taxes and fuel surcharges
  • in British Airways First Class with 50,000 American Airlines miles plus about $550 in taxes and fuel surcharges
From the Middle East

To Europe

  • See From Europe to Middle East above

To Australia/New Zealand

  • in Qantas Business Class on the A380 with 45,000 American Airlines miles
  • in Qantas First Class on the A380 with 60,000 American Airlines miles

To East Asia

  • in Business Class with 30,000 American Airlines miles
  • in First Class with 45,000 American Airlines miles
From North Asia

To United States

  • See From United States to Korea or Japan and From United States to China or Southeast Asia

To Australia/New Zealand

  • in Business Class with 45,000 American Airlines miles
  • in Business Class with 45,000 United miles
  • in First Class with 50,000 United miles
  • in First Class with 60,000 American Airlines miles

To Oceania

  • with 15,000 United miles
  • in Business Class with 35,000 United miles
  • in First Class with 40,000 United miles
From Southeast Asia

To United States

  • See From United States to China or Southeast Asia

To Europe

  • See From Europe to Hong Kong

To Australia/New Zealand

  • with 17,500 United miles
  • in Business Class with 35,000 United miles
  • in First Class with 40,000 United miles, try for Thai First Class
From South America

Flights leaving Brazil cannot have fuel surcharges, so miles that otherwise collect fuel surcharges on most awards are especially well used from Brazil to Europe.

to United States

  • See From United States to Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, or Ecuador and From United States to Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, or Uruguay

to Europe

  • See From Europe to South America. Note that traveling South America to Europe is better than Europe to South America because flights leaving Brazil cannot have fuel surcharges.

Intra-South America

to Central America

  • (from Northern South America) with 10,000 United miles

to Africa

Please add your other favorite awards in the comments, and I may include them in this post. Bookmark this post for reference when you want to book a RTW trip.

16

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Getting both the Citi Prestige® Card and Citi ThankYou® Premier Card offers about $2,800 in free American Airlines flights. This isn’t a deal that should just get some ink. This is one that should be shouted from the roof top.

The path is easy:

  1. Get the Citi Prestige® Card and Citi ThankYou® Premier Card eight days apart, each with a 50,000 point bonus.
  2. Combine the two ThankYou accounts into one, and meet their minimum spending requirements.
  3. Spend the 106,000+ points you have on about $1,700 in American Airlines flights.
  4. Use the Citi Prestige® Card‘s $250 Air Travel Credit in 2015 and in 2016 for $500 in American Airlines flights.
  5. Use the 25,000+ American Airlines miles you’ve earned from flying $2,200 in paid flights for an award ticket worth $600.

That’s $2,800 worth of American Airlines flights from opening two credit cards and using their benefits. This is the kind of deal you should be telling your friends about who are jealous of your free travel and want a fast start in this hobby.

As an added bonus, you can visit American Airlines lounges for free during all these trips, and you can earn American Airlines Gold Status.

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 9.12.42 PM
American Airlines Lounge, Honolulu

Let’s look at the steps in turn.

1. Get the Citi Prestige® Card and Citi ThankYou® Premier Card eight days apart.

You can have both cards at once–I have them both right now–but you cannot be approved for two Citi cards on the same day.

Once you get the Citi Prestige® Card, wait 8+ days before applying for the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card.

2. Combine the two ThankYou accounts into one, and meet their minimum spending requirements.

Getting both cards will automatically open two separate ThankYou accounts. Points earned on the Prestige are more valuable for American Airlines flights than those earned on the Premier, so you’ll want to spend the five minutes to combine the two accounts into one account that has the redemption power of Prestige. Here’s how.

That way when you’ve spend $3,000 in the first three months after opening the account on each card, your 106,000+ points will be in one ThankYou account where they are worth 1.6 cents each toward American Airlines and US Airways flights.

3. Spend the 106,000+ points you have on about $1,700 in American Airlines flights.

To spend ThankYou Points, select Flights under Shop on thankyou.com.

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 1.11.09 PM

ThankYou Points are worth the same 1.6 cents toward any American Airlines flight with no blackouts, so learning how to find cheap flights is an essential skill in order to stretch your points.

I searched for roundtrips to Los Angeles and San Francisco from New York on ITA Matrix and found them for just under $400 for much of the year.

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 1.24.05 PM

I could recreate the same price on thankyou.com’s search easily.
Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 1.14.42 PM The 106,000 points are worth $1,696 in free American Airlines flights. When you no longer have enough points for a free redemption, you can do partial points + cash redemptions with any amount of points and still get the full 1.6 cents of value per point.Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 1.16.47 PM

American Airlines will see tickets purchased with ThankYou Points as cash tickets and award you miles and status based on the distance flown.

4. Use the Citi Prestige® Card‘s $250 Air Travel Credit in 2015 and in 2016 for $500 in American Airlines flights.

The Citi Prestige® Card offers an unrivaled $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year. The credit will offset the first $250 you spend on airfare, airline fees, award taxes, and pretty much anything else that codes as a purchase from an airline each calendar year.

In 2015, use the $250 as the cash part of a cash + points redemption of ThankYou Points (pictured above) for American Airlines flights. In 2016, do the same. That’s another $500 worth of American Airlines flights.

American Airlines will see tickets purchased with the Air Travel Credit as cash tickets and award you miles and status based on the distance flown.

In the last two steps, with almost $2,200 worth of American Airlines tickets purchased, you will likely earn 25,000+ redeemable miles.

For instance, $2,200 is easily enough for five roundtrips between New York and California, which are about 5,000 miles each.

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 1.26.36 PM
source: gcmap.com

5. Use the 25,000+ American Airlines miles you’ve earned from flying $2,200 in paid flights for an award ticket worth $600.

The final step is to redeem those 25,000+ American Airlines miles for more free flights. You have enough for one domestic roundtrip or one way in Business Class (or two-cabin First Class) within the continental United States. Or you have enough for one way to Europe, Southern South America, Japan, or Korea at off peak prices.

Of those options, I think the most fun redemption would be using the 25,000 miles for one flat bed Business Class flight between New York and Los Angeles or San Francisco.

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 2.22.23 PM

These seats for about $600 with advance purchase, which is frankly cheaper than I was expecting.

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 1.27.27 PM

Or you can book them for 25,000 American Airlines miles + $5.60.

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 1.30.01 PM

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 1.30.09 PM

Total

  • ~$1,700 from the 106,000 ThankYou Points from meeting the two card’s minimum spending requirements
  • $500 from the Prestige’s $250 Air Travel Credit times two calendar years before the next annual fee
  • ~$600 from the 25,000 American Airlines miles you’d earn from flying the other $2,200 worth of American Airlines flights

That’s ~$2,800 in American Airlines flights from opening two credit cards and using them well.

Bonus #1: American Airlines Status

If you fly the approximately $2,200 in free flights that American Airlines sees as paid flights in the same calendar year, you may fly 25,000+ miles, which would earn you American Airlines Gold Status.

You’d get benefits like upgrades, better seats, priority boarding, and a higher mileage earning rate on future American Airlines flights.

Bonus #2: American Airlines Lounge Access

The Citi Prestige® Card offers American Airlines lounge access every time you fly American Airlines or US Airways, which would mean that every flight in this article would come with American Airlines lounge access.

The comfortable place to relax, free drinks, free snacks, and free wifi will make the trips much less stressful.

Bottom Line

My review of the Citi Prestige Card which explains its many benefits like $250 in airfare or airline fee credits per calendar year, access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and a $450 annual fee.

My review of the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening and 3x points on travel and gas.

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 7.36.03 PM

Get both cards and use them as outlined above for approximately $2,800 in free American Airlines flights. During the trips, enjoy American Airlines lounge access, and maybe even earn status with American Airlines.

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I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Yesterday I reported that some Delta domestic awards cost only 5,000 SkyMiles one way, a 60% discount on the prevailing 12,500 mile rate we expect from legacy carriers. Other routes cost 10,000 SkyMiles one way. From playing around on delta.com, I’ve discovered a few more things.

  • So far, there are no known 5k segments that can be combined onto one award, so we don’t know how that would price.
  • Combine a 5k segment and a 10k segment, and you get a 10k award.
  • Combine a 5k segment and 12.5k segment, and you get a 12.5k award.
  • Combine a 10k segment and 12.5k segment, and you get a 12.5k award.
  • City pairs do not have a price. Segments have a price. (Explained below.)
  • All 5k and 10k awards are only bookable for flights through December 31, 2015.

Segments Have a Price, Not City Pairs

  • A “city pair” is your departing and arrival city no matter how many stops you have in between.
  • A “segment” is one wheels up and wheels down of an airplane.

The 5k and 10k prices we’ve uncovered on delta.com are for segments, not for city pairs. How do I know? Portland/San Francisco as a city pair doesn’t have just one price. The direct flight costs 12,500 miles. The routing via Seattle costs 10,000 miles.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.50.21 PM

Why is that? Because Delta has clearly assigned prices to each segment.

  • The Portland-to-San-Francisco segment costs 12,500 SkyMiles as we can see above.
  • The Portland-to-Seattle segment costs 5,000 miles.
  • The Seattle-to-San-Francisco segment costs 10,000 miles.

Proof SEA-SFO segment is 10k:

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.51.31 PM

Proof SEA-PDX is 5k:Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.51.58 PM

When you fly a connecting domestic Delta award itinerary in which one segment prices at one price and the other at another, you just pay the higher segment price.

That’s why PDX-SFO is 12,500 miles and PDX-SEA-SFO is 10,000 miles.

You can see this rule over and over if you try to combine a 5k and 10k segment, a 5k and 12.5k segment, or a 10k and 12.5k segment.

For instance, San Diego to Sacramento prices at 10,000 miles via Los Angeles.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 4.23.46 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 4.23.52 PM

That’s because the San Diego-to-Los-Angeles segment costs 10,000 miles, the Los-Angeles-to-Sacramento segment costs 5,000 miles, and delta.com goes with the higher price on connecting itineraries.Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 4.24.52 PM

This logic implies that combining two 5k segments would cost just 5,000 total miles. Unfortunately we can’t test that because no two current 5k segments can be combined into a legal route.

I tried to combine the Sacramento-to-Los-Angeles and Los-Angeles-to-San-Jose 5k segments, but that’s not a legal routing, so I got this error.Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.47.10 PM

All the 5k and 10k segments disappear after December 31

When Delta first made some SkyMiles awards 10,000 miles in March, they put out a press release and said that the discount was for awards flown by December 31, 2015 only. That rule appears to still be in place for both the 5k and 10k awards.

San Diego to Los Angeles only offers 10k awards until December 31, and the best price after that is 12,500 miles.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.56.27 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.56.34 PM

Similarly, Seattle to Portland jumps to 12,500 miles from 5,000 miles after December 31.Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.55.26 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.55.33 PM

That’s everything my digging has uncovered:

  • So far, there are no known 5k segments that can be combined onto one award, so we don’t know how that would price.
  • Combine a 5k segment and a 10k segment, and you get a 10k award.
  • Combine a 5k segment and 12.5k segment, and you get a 12.5k award.
  • Combine a 10k segment and 12.5k segment, and you get a 12.5k award.
  • City pairs do not have a price. Segments have a price.
  • All 5k and 10k awards are only bookable for flights through December 31, 2015.

Do you have any questions? Have you uncovered anything else?

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

4

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

I’m on record saying that I don’t think the British Airways devaluation from last month is a big deal. Only Business and First Class awards went up in price, and the vast majority of good Avios redemptions are short, direct, economy awards.

Well there’s another good part of the “devaluation” that I haven’t covered yet: the introduction of cheaper off peak awards on British Airways and Iberia flights. Here’s the new award chart that shows off peak award prices next to peak award prices.

New Award Chart

Off peak awards are only possible on British Airways and Iberia flights. Other partner flights always price at peak level.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.49.32 PM

As a reminder, each British Airways flight on an award has its own price determined by three things: distance, cabin, and whether it is an off peak or peak date.

For distance, the zones are broken down like this:

  1. Up to 650 miles flown
  2. 651 to 1,151 miles flown
  3. 1,152 to 2,000 miles flown
  4. 2,001 to 3,000 miles flown
  5. 3,001 to 4,000 miles flown
  6. 4,001 to 5,500 miles flown
  7. 5,501 to 6,500 miles flown
  8. 6,501 to 7,000 miles flown
  9. 7,001+ miles flown

For a one segment award, read its price off the new award chart above. For an award of two or more segments, read the price of each segment off the above chart and add them up to get the whole award’s price.

What Dates Are Off Peak

British Airways promises that for British Airways flights: “Two thirds of the year is off-peak, including every Tuesday and Wednesday.” Here are the exact dates through April 2016.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.44.54 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.45.03 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.45.12 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.45.20 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.45.29 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.45.41 PM

You can find the most up-to-date off peak calendar for British Airways and the separate Iberia off peak calendar here.

Good Deals?

Longhaul

There definitely are some good deals at off peak prices, but not every off peak flight is a good deal.

Longhaul flights have the problem of huge fuel surcharges. For instance, a British Airways flight this summer from New York to London costs 50,000 Avios + $442 in Business Class. Over $400 of that is a fuel surcharge.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.03.41 PM

Considering this award cost only 40,000 Avios one way before the devaluation, and you can book transatlantic Business Class on United flights with various types of Star Alliance miles for 40,000 to 58,000 miles without fuel surcharges, I’d say this isn’t a very good deal.

Better off peak deals are offered on longhaul economy and Premium Economy flights. That same New York to London flight costs only 13,000 Avios + $257 on off peak dates even during the summer. Or you can use Cash & Avios options to pay only 4,550 Avios and $342.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.10.59 PM

British Airways’ Premium Economy, which reminds me of domestic First Class, from New York to London on off peak dates is 26,000 Avios + $257 or 10,400 Avios + $411.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.11.19 PM

The value of longhaul off peak awards is severely hampered by the devaluation of Business and First Class awards last month and by the huge fuel surcharges on longhaul British Airways flights. If you find a longhaul off peak award you love, share it in the comments.

Shorthaul

Shorthaul off peak awards are almost all going to be Reward Flight Saver awards too, offering a better deal on fuel surcharges. Reward Flight Saver flights are Zone 1-4 awards to or from London on British Airways. Instead of paying taxes and fuel surcharges, you pay one flat fee.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.54.42 PM

Notice the fee is cheaper in euros, so you may want to set your Executive Club address to one in continental Europe. I set mine to continental Europe during a recent sale of Avios that was cheapest is euros.

I found award space in economy and Business Class (intra-Europe this is just an economy seat with the seat next to you empty) from London to Istanbul on an off peak date this summer.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.51.37 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.52.29 PM

The Business Class redemption would cost 17,000 Avios + $34.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.52.08 PM

The economy redemption would cost 8,500 Avios + $24 or 3,400 Avios + $81.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.52.45 PM

I value Avios at 1.7 cents each, so spending 3,400 Avios + $81 is like expending $139 of value for me. That seems like a very good deal from London to Istanbul, which is an almost four hour international flight.

But a quick search shows a low cost carrier offering even cheaper flights near the date I found award space.Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.55.12 PMI think there is more potential for value on shorthaul Avios off peak awards because shorthaul awards are a better value with Avios normally, and Reward Flight Saver awards avoid big fuel surcharges. But the value of shorthaul off peak awards is muted, since so many low cost carriers fly from London to Europe so cheaply.

BA Availability Calendar

Normally searching award space on ba.com is very slow, but when searching for British Airways award space, as you will be doing when hunting for off peak awards, searching is much faster. Click the blue button on your results that says “View calendar of BA availability” instead of clicking day by day to search.

 

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.05.56 PM The calendar shows award space that you can cross-reference with the off peak calendars above.Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.06.06 PM

Iberia Off Peak

Iberia and British Airways are owned by the same company, and both use Avios as their rewards currency, so it makes sense that Iberia flights can also be booked off peak with British Airways Avios.

The off peak dates for Iberia flights are different. Not every Tuesday and Wednesday is off peak for instance. Selected Iberia off peak dates:

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.55.57 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.56.09 PM

Another difference with Iberia flights is that they do not qualify for the Reward Flight Saver reduction in fees.

I searched Paris to Madird to see how Iberia off peak flights price out.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.06.57 PM

Oddly, ba.com didn’t give the off peak discount at all even though the words “OFF-PEAK” appeared next to the space I selected. Economy was 7,500 Avios and Business 15,000 Avios instead of the off peak prices on British Airways’ chart: 6,500 and 12,750 Avios for a zone 2 redemption. (Another side note: ORY-MAD is 639 miles, so it should be zone 1. Maybe it prices as zone 2 because CDG-MAD is 660 miles, and the whole city is geographically located at CDG for the purposes of Avios zones. But that’s just a guess.)

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.56.29 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.56.54 PMCan you get Iberia flights to price at the correct off peak prices? Leave the date, route, and cabin in the comments.

Bottom Line

British Airways’ “devaluation” last month is mostly no big deal. The bad values–longhaul Business and First Class–got worse. The good values–short, direct, economy awards–were untouched.

Simultaneously British Airways introduced off peak awards for Iberia and British Airways flights that lower the cost of an award in each cabin to any destination for eight months out of the year and every single Tuesday and Wednesday. (That’s the off peak calendar for British Airways flights. The Iberia off peak calendar differs substantially.)

These off peak awards will offer some value in some cases though many off peak awards will still be a poor value because of a high Avios price or big fuel surcharges.

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

4

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Japan Airlines has released incredible First Class award space from the United States to Tokyo and beyond that you can book for only 62,500 American Airlines miles.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 5.29.36 AM

On the four routes on which Japan Airlines offers First Class to the United States, 1-4 First Class suites are available with miles on most flights for the next year.

  • How good is Japan Airlines First Class?
  • Where does Japan Airlines fly?
  • How many miles do you need and why is this such a good deal?
  • How can you search for and book the award space?
  • How can you get American Airlines miles?

How good is Japan Airlines First Class?

Japan Airlines First Class is a world class flat bed enclosed in a suite.

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I haven’t flown the product personally, but everything looks top notch and Asian airlines have the best service in my experience.

Where does Japan Airlines fly?

Japan Airlines flies its 777-300ER equipped with First Class between Tokyo and San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York.

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Source: gcmap.com

 

The San Francisco route flies to Tokyo-Haneda. The others fly to Tokyo-Narita.

From either airport, you can connect throughout Asia. If you don’t live at one of the North American gateways, you can connect from your home airport on American Airlines, US Airways, or Alaska Airlines flights to the Japan Airlines award space for zero extra miles.

How Many Miles Does the Award Cost?

American Airlines hasn’t devalued its award chart in years–I think a devaluation is coming at the end of this year–so its award chart is a lot better than Delta’s or United’s. American charges only:

  • 62,500 miles one way in First Class between the United States and Japan or Korea
  • 67,500 miles one way in First Class between the United States and the rest of East and Southeast Asia

You cannot book this award space as part of a single award to India. That violates American Airlines routing rules, so your trip would be two awards: United States to Japan and Japan to India.

How Can You Search and Book the Award Space?

Search on ba.com. For the moment–very likely to change very soon–there is excellent award space for the next 11 months on the Japan Airlines flights to and from the United States in First Class.

For instance, San Francisco to Tokyo-Haneda has 1 to 4 First Class seats every day from August 9 to 14.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 5.13.57 AM Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 5.14.04 AMLos Angeles to Tokyo-Narita has 1 to 3 First Class seats every day from September 8 to 13.

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Chicago to Tokyo-Narita has 1 or 3 First Class seats every day from October 4 to 10.

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New York to Tokyo-Narita has 2 to 4 First Class seats every day from February 28 to March 3, 2016.

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Note the date, cabin, and flight number of the award space you like. If necessary, pair it with American Airlines, US Airways, or Alaska Airlines award space you search on aa.com as part of a segment-by-segment searching strategy. Once you’ve found all your space, call American Airlines at 800-882-8880 to book the award by feeding the agent the date, cabin, and flight number of each flight. There is no longer a phone booking fee to book awards that cannot be booked at aa.com, so you’ll just pay the miles plus about $50 in taxes for a roundtrip to Japan.

Alternatively, instead of booking now, you can put the award space on hold for five days for free when you call American Airlines.

How Can You Get American Airlines Miles?

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 and a free checked bag on American Airlines flights. There is no annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Bottom Line

Book–or put on hold–Japan Airlines First Class award space to Asia today with your American Airlines miles. Japan Airlines First Class suites are world class, American Airlines’ chart to Asia is way underpriced, and 2-4 First Class award seats on most flights for the next year between the United States and Japan will not last.

Hat Tip One Mile at a Time

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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