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The best American Airlines Admirals Club that I’ve visited is at Honolulu International Airport. The lounge is also called the Sakura Lounge and serves Japan Airlines Business Class passengers and Air New Zealand Business Class passengers. Perhaps the extra money from hosting those passengers allows American Airlines to offer the expanded food options compared to most of its lounges.

Like all 50+ American Airlines Admirals Clubs, you can get access with:

  • Admirals Club annual membership, which is $500 for the first year for folks without American Airlines elite status
  • Admirals Club 30 day membership, which is $99
  • Admirals Club One-Day Pass, which is $50
  • The Citi AAdvantage Executive credit card, which comes with Admirals Club membership included with its $450 annual fee
  • The Citi Prestige® Card, which comes with free access for the cardholder plus two guests (or all children under 18 and a spouse) whenever you’re flying American Airlines or US Airways
  • Your transcontinental Business or First Class boarding pass when flying New York to California or Miami to Los Angeles
  • Your international Business or First Class boarding pass to Europe, Asia, Central and South America and Mexico City

I just got the Citi Prestige® Card, but last night I was flying Alaska Airlines out of Honolulu, so I had to access the Admirals Club with my AAdvantage Executive credit card. Holding the AAdvantage Executive card is like having Admirals Club membership, so I was able to bring my friend in as a free guest.

Alcohol

The Admirals Club in Honolulu offers Heineken, Budweiser, Miller Lite…

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 6.49.26 AM

… red and white wines…Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 6.49.33 AM

…and a variety of liquors.

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 9.12.30 PM

All alcohol is self-serve. There are a number of sodas and juices at the soda machine with which you can create your own cocktails.

Seating Areas

The seating in the club is in a bit of a U-shape. In the middle is a long row of tables with one chair on each side.
Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 9.12.37 PM

Along two walls are desks divided by partitions. I like to sit in these seats, especially during the day when they overlook the beautiful gardens below.Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 9.12.42 PM

In the food area are a few tables with four seats.Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 9.12.47 PM

Food

The food at the Honolulu Admirals Club is what sets it apart from other Admirals Clubs and domestic lounges generally. While most Admirals Clubs only have a few small snacks for free, my friend and I each ate a full meal before our flights.

Every time I’ve visited, two soups have been available. Last night they were minestrone and chicken noodle. In the past, I’ve seen potato chowder. I really like the minestrone and potato chowder, though I think the chicken noodle is just OK. (My friend really liked the chicken noodle.)
Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 9.12.55 PM

Because the lounge serves Japan Airlines passengers, there are instant noodles and hot water. Because the lounge is in Hawaii, there is spam musubi. My brother really liked the instant noodles. The spam musubi is, of course, gross unless you grew up in Hawaii.Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 9.13.03 PM

There are Famous Amos cookies and Chex Mix.Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 9.13.09 PM

There is a full display of vegetables, with ranch dressing available, and a fruit salad of pineapple, strawberry, grapes, and melons. The fruit sald was fresh and delicious. It was also presented better than this picture captures it.Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 9.13.16 PM

A sandwich tray with turkey, ham, and tuna also has rolls and dessert pastries. I loved the turkey sandwiches–I think I had about eight–and my friend said the tuna sandwiches hit the spot. These pastries, not sure what they were, were good, but not as good as the mini doughnuts with chocolate frosting that came out later in the night.
Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 9.13.22 PM

My friend and I had a few cups of soup, fruits and veggies, sandwiches, and dessert. He had a glass of wine to get sleepier for his redeye, while I hydrated with water and pineapple juice. It was his first lounge experience, and I’ve set unrealistic expectations for Admirals Clubs, which do not offer nearly this much food for free anywhere else that I know of. (Post your favorite Admirals Clubs in the comments.)

Internet

I had never had a problem with the lounge’s internet until last night. It cut out after downloading about one tenth of a show I wanted to watch on the plane, and I head someone else complain she couldn’t connect. This is a huge issue for a lounge, and one I trust will be corrected.

Bottom Line

My favorite Admirals Club is in Honolulu for its expanded food options and garden views. I don’t pay $50 a visit or $500 a year because lounge access is included with two of my credit cards.

The Citi Prestige® Card offers the primary cardholder access to the lounge when you fly American Airlines or US Airways. You can even bring in your spouse and your children under age 18 OR any two guests.

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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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What’s so special about Etihad’s route from Sydney to Abu Dhabi? It’s the longest route of the fanciest commercial cabin in the world, with the westbound flight clocking in at just under 15 hours.

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 8.57.49 PM

This suite with a couch/bed and seat costs only 60,000 American Airlines miles between Australia and the Middle East/India.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 12.27.11 PM

Plus the Etihad A380 has a shower for First Class passengers and onboard lounge/bar.

Pretty soon I’ll head to Europe for four months, and I would love to fly the Etihad A380 between London and Abu Dhabi while I’m there. (I ran down that award space in this post.)

The 60,000 mile price between the Middle East and Australia is just more than the sign up bonus on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®, which 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, so the award would only cost 54,000 miles net.

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

Or you can get both cards and get 106,000 American Airlines miles after meeting their spending requirements.

With my goal to fly the Etihad A380 in mind, I took a look at award space between Sydney and Abu Dhabi for the next 11 months, and here’s what I found.

Booking Etihad Awards with AA Miles

First read: How to Search Etihad Award Space

American Airlines doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on Etihad award flights. You just find the award space, call American Airlines at 800-882-8880 to book it, and pay the government taxes on the flights. (There is no longer a fee to book American Airlines awards that can’t be booked online, like Etihad flights, by phone.)

From Sydney to Abu Dhabi, you will pay 85 AUD ($65) plus the 60,000 American Airlines miles for a First Class award.

 

From Abu Dhabi to Sydney, you will pay 160 AED ($44) plus the 60,000 American Airlines miles for a First Class award.

Tips for Award Searches

Ignore the miles price listed on etihad.com. You will pay 60,000 American Airlines miles instead.

American Airlines only has access to award space in the “GuestSeat” column. You’ll notice this space prices out for about 120,000 Etihad miles. Knowing what Etihad charges is convenient because it allows you to scan the dates at the top of your award search to see which dates have GuestSeat award space. (Again, you won’t pay 120,000 miles, but knowing what Etihad charges makes award searching quicker.)

Award Space

Etihad has two daily flights in each direction between Sydney and Abu Dhabi. Right now neither is serviced by an A380. Starting June 1, one of the flights will be serviced by an A380.

Abu Dhabi to Sydney Award Space

The first day with award space from Abu Dhabi to Sydney at the moment is June 27.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 2.17.52 PM

Award space is infrequent for the first several months, but when there is space, there are occasionally two First Class award seats on the same plane like on July 6.Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 2.18.30 PM

By mid-September award space increases some like this week with award space on three days…Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 2.20.58 PM

…or these back-to-back days with award space in October…Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 2.22.19 PM

…or these five days in a row with award space in February.
Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 2.24.03 PM

But the bottom line on award space between Abu Dhabi and Sydney is that I see no grand pattern of availability, and it is never very good for very long. If you want to fly the Etihad A380 in First Class on its longest route, you need to find award space on the flight and build the rest of your trip around the award space. It’s not a route where you can find your hotels and activities first, and then just assume space will be easy to find.

Syndey to Abu Dhabi

Flying into the wind, the westbound is about an hour longer, and award space is MUCH better.

Here is a week in July with award space on five days in First Class from Sydney to Abu Dhabi.Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 2.25.47 PM

And in July, here’s a week with award space on six days.Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 2.26.09 PM

In August, there is a week during which award space is available on six days.Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 2.26.48 PMIn January 2016, there is a week with award space on five days.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 2.27.40 PM

Bottom Line

Starting June 1, one daily frequency of Etihad’s Abu Dhabi to Sydney service will feature an A380. If you want to fly the product for 60,000 miles one way (or 54,000 if you get the 10% rebate given to people with a Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®), book your award space on these flights now for travel through March 2016.

Award space is better on the longer flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi.

I’ll continue monitoring award space on this route in First Class to improve my understanding of the award space patterns on this route.

Further Reading

Application Links

 

 

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What’s so special about Etihad’s route from London to Abu Dhabi? It’s the cheapest way to get into the fanciest commercial cabin in the world.

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 1.13.46 AM
Source: gcmap.com

 

This suite with a couch/bed and seat costs only 40,000 American Airlines miles between Europe and the Middle East/India.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 12.27.11 PM

Plus the Etihad A380 has a shower for First Class passengers and onboard lounge/bar.

Pretty soon I’ll head to Europe for four months, and I would love to fly the Etihad A380 between London and Abu Dhabi while I’m there.

Its 40,000 mile price is less than the sign up bonus on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®, which 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, so the award would only cost 36,000 miles net.

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

Or you can get both cards and get 106,000 American Airlines miles after meeting their spending requirements.

With my goal to fly the Etihad A380 in mind, I took a look at award space between London and Abu Dhabi for the next 11 months, and here’s what I found.

Booking Etihad Awards with AA Miles

First read: How to Search Etihad Award Space

American Airlines doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on Etihad award flights. You just find the award space, call American Airlines at 800-882-8880 to book it, and pay the government taxes on the flights. (There is no longer a fee to book American Airlines awards that can’t be booked online, like Etihad flights, by phone.)

The United Kingdom has the world’s highest departure taxes, and the United Arab Emirates has very low departure taxes, so the direction you choose to fly matters a lot for price.

From London to Abu Dhabi, you will pay 185 GBP ($276) plus the 40,000 American Airlines miles for a First Class award.

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 12.34.20 AM

From Abu Dhabi to London, you will pay 80 AED ($22) plus the 40,000 American Airlines miles for a First Class award. That’s $254 less to fly westbound, which also happens to be a one hour longer flight, since it is into the wind.
Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 12.35.47 AM

Tips for Award Searches

Ignore the miles price listed on etihad.com. You will pay 40,000 American Airlines miles instead.

Ignore the cash component listed next to the mileage price. That includes a small fuel surcharge that you will not pay when booking an American Airlines award. You’ll pay the taxes listed above.

American Airlines only has access to award space in the “GuestSeat” column. You’ll notice this space prices out in the 54,000 to 55,000 Etihad miles range. That’s convenient to scan the dates at the top of your award search to see which dates have award space for that price. (Again, you won’t pay that price, but knowing it makes award searching quicker.)

Award Space

Etihad has three daily flights in each direction between London and Abu Dhabi. Right now only one of those is served by an A380. By June, two will be. By August, all three are on A380s on most days.

Right now there is occasional award space on the daily A380 frequency. The next date from London to Abu Dhabi with First Class space on the A380 is April 24.
Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 4.25.57 PM

Space is infrequent on the A380 frequency this Spring. The second date with space is May 12.
Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 4.28.46 PM

By late June, I see more award space on the A380 in First Class, probably due to the second daily A380 frequency.Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 4.32.15 PM

There are dates with two award seats on the same flight in Etihad A380 First Class, but that’s pretty rare in Spring and Summer 2015.Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 4.33.51 PM
In August, all three frequencies are served by A380s most–but not all–days. Award space becomes more common. August 18 has two A380 flights from London to Abu Dhabi, one with one First Class seat and one with two.Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 4.35.36 PM

By late September, award space drastically improves. October 1 has two flights with two award seats each in First Class. And as you can see, several days that week have award space in First Class on the Etihad A380.Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 4.39.03 PM

Check out this week in mid-November with six dates with award space in Etihad First Class, some days with multiple flights with award space and multiple seats on each flight.Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 4.41.24 PM

So far I’ve only shown London to Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi to London (below) shows similar patterns of award space inclduing the wide open availability in mid-November on tons of flights.Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 4.42.25 PM

Bottom Line

For the next few months, there is some award space in Etihad First Class on their A380 between London and Abu Dhabi. If you want to fly the product for 40,000 miles one way before August, make securing this flight your top priority, and build your trip around the award space.

In September, October, and November award space gets a lot better. In those months, you can integrate award space into a trip plan more easily.

Whether the change in award space has to do with the season, how far out you search, or the fact that more frequencies will be on the A380 by August is hard to say. I’ll continue monitoring award space on this route in First Class to have a better mental model of the cheapest way to fly the fanciest commercial airplane.

Further Reading

Application Links

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

I naturally categorize miles and points into two groups:

  1. Broadly useful
  2. Niche programs

The first type of miles are the miles you want to stockpile if you’re hoping to follow a simple mile-accumulation strategy to meet all your future travel goals. Ideally these miles benefit from cheap award charts across all classes of service and to all regions without incurring fuel surcharges on awards.

By contrast, niche programs have some great values on their award charts, but lots of flaws. Maybe the program collects fuel surcharges on most awards, or charges too much for redemptions in premium cabins, or simply doesn’t release much Saver award space on flights.

Niche programs can be ignored by those who merely dabble in miles collection, but serious miles collectors should know the strengths of and collect miles in niche programs too.

  • Which miles do I consider broadly useful?
  • Which programs do I consider niche programs?
  • What are the niche programs’ strengths?

Broadly Useful

None of these programs is perfect, but I consider all the following programs to be broadly useful programs in which a person could exclusively collect miles and still get a fair deal on the vast majority of potential redemptions:

  • American Airlines
  • United
  • Starwood Preferred Guest
  • Ultimate Rewards

American Airlines

American Airlines miles offer good value on most routes in all cabins. The oneworld alliance great members like Cathay Pacific, Qantas, and LAN, and American miles can be redeemed on 24 airlines.

There are some weaknesses with American Airlines miles:

  • American Airlines collects fuel surcharges on British Airways flights. British Airways award space is the most available award space to Europe and Africa. If you avoid booking British Airways flights with American Airlines miles, you are hamstrung to Africa especially.
  • I–and the experts–anticipate a devaluation announced in late 2015 for awards booked in early 2016 or later.
  • Awards to the Middle East and India are overpriced.

United

Even after 2014’s devaluation, I still think United miles are among the most broadly useful airline miles to stockpile for a few reasons:

  • Award space is good on United and partners.
  • United is a member of the Star Alliance, the largest alliance in the world, with good coverage of every continent.
  • United never imposes fuel surcharges on awards.
  • United’s economy awards are fairly priced.
  • United’s Business Class awards on its own planes are not outrageously priced.

Of course, the big problem is that partner First Class awards are basically out of reach. Who has 240,000 United miles for one roundtrip to Asia in First Class?

Still, I’ll almost always be happy when folks come to my Award Booking Service with a stash of United miles.

Ultimate Rewards

Since Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 instantly to United miles, Ultimate Rewards are at least as useful as United miles. With the added flexibility of transferring to niche programs like British Airways, Singapore, Virgin Atlantic, Southwest, and Korean plus hotel programs, Ultimate Rewards are the second most flexible currency overall.

Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints

The most flexible and broadly useful points are Starpoints, which transfer to American, Alaska, and 27 other airline programs mostly at favorable rates. Every day, 20,000 Starpoints transfers to 25,000 American Airlines or Alaska Airlines miles.

The big drawbacks with Starpoints:

  • Most transfers take days.
  • 2 Starpoints transfer to 1 United mile. Since United devalued, I’d love that transfer to get revalued to 1:1 like with American, Delta, Alaska, and dozens of other airlines.

Intermediate Usefulness

These three programs have bigger warts than the programs above, but are too broadly useful for me to call “niche” programs.

  • Delta
  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Express Membership Rewards
  • Citi ThankYou Points

Delta

Delta has some definite strengths:

  • There are good value awards and decent space to Australia (Virgin Australia), Africa (Air France), Europe (various partners), Asia (various partners), and South America (AeroMexico). Very few of these awards have fuel surcharges.
  • The often-times higher prices are offset by the ease with which you can earn Delta miles from Delta cards, Membership Rewards-earning cards, and Starpoints-earning cards.
  • Since January 1, 2015, Delta allows one way award redemptions for half the price of roundtrips.

But the weaknesses are far greater than with competing US-based airlines:

  • Delta doesn’t offer much Saver award space on domestic flights, making it hard to get to a gateway to connect to partner award space abroad. This is a huge drawback.
  • Delta collects fuel surcharges on a bunch of its partners.
  • Delta collects fuel surcharges on all awards originating in Europe. This essentially means that its miles can be used for one ways to Europe, but are a terrible value for one ways home.
  • Delta miles cannot be redeemed for three-cabin international First Class.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines has a hodge-podge of partners that fly all over the world.

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 2.54.32 AMAlaska has access to some of the world’s most coveted award space like Emirates First Class space with no fuel surcharges.

Some of the award charts are very cheap–there is a different one for each partner to each region–you can book one way awards for half the roundtrip price, and you can even get a stopover on one way awards.

The only thing that holds Alaska miles back from being more widely useful is that you cannot freely combine partners on Alaska awards. Each direction needs to be all one partner’s flights or all one partner’s flights plus Alaska flights. This rule hampers your options incredibly, especially if you don’t live in a city where Alaska flies!

Membership Rewards

Membership Rewards have a large number of partners, but none of them is in the most useful category above. All are 1:1 partners in case otherwise noted.

  • Delta Airlines
  • AeroMexico
  • Air Canada (Aeroplan)
  • Alitalia Airlines
  • All Nippon Airways (ANA)
  • British Airways Avios
  • Cathay Pacific
  • EL AL Israel Airlines 1,000 MR to 20 EL AL point
  • Air France & KLM Flying Blue
  • Emirates
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Iberia Plus Avios
  • JetBlue 250 MR to 200 TrueBlue Points
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin America 200 MR to 100 Elevate Points

Delta is in this intermediate category, and the rest of the programs are in the niche category below including Virgin Atlantic, Aeroplan, ANA, British Airways Avios,  Flying Blue (Air France), Hawaiian, and Singapore. The big problem is that all the global partners impose fuel surcharges on most of their awards.

You can creatively mostly avoid fuel surcharges, but you have to work hard enough that this program can’t be in the “Broadly Useful” category.

Citi ThankYou Points

ThankYou Points now transfer to 11 airlines at a 1:1 rate:

  • 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

I don’t know of a single high value use of the eight programs that are not in bold. But between Singapore KrisFlyer, Air France Flying Blue, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, and the ability to use ThankYou Points for 1.25 to 1.6 cents each toward any flight on any airline, this program belongs in the intermediate category.

Singapore miles allow fuel-surcharge-free awards on United flights often for fewer mile than United would charge for the same award including to Hawaii, Europe, South America, and within the continental US; they’re the only way to book Singapore Suites; and they have awesome stopover rules.

Flying Blue miles allow you to book some Delta flights for fewer miles than with Delta miles, and allow access to Promo Awards like 12,500 miles one way to Europe or Israel.

Virgin Atlantic miles aren’t just about 17,500 mile awards to London or 27,500 mile Premium Economy awards to London. They also allow 45,000 mile roundtrips to South America on Delta and a few other high value awards.

Citi partners with American Airlines. If Citi ever adds American Airlines as a 1:1 transfer partner, ThankYou Points will shoot to the most useful category.

Niche Usefulness

The absolute wrong conclusion to draw about the programs in this section is that they are not useful. Each program listed here–and many programs not listed here have some incredible, high-value awards. But most of their awards are a poor value.

You shouldn’t focus all your miles collecting in these programs, but you should know their strengths in case your travel goals overlap with their strengths, and you have transferable points. Here are some of my favorite niche programs and their strengths:

Of course, each of these programs has major flaws. Southwest points can’t be used for First Class, international travel beyond the Caribbean, or any partners. Any Avios awards with layovers get pricey very quickly. Almost all the international programs collect big fuel surcharges on most awards (but not on the awards mentioned above where there are no or small surcharges.)

Because of the weaknesses, I rarely collect miles in niche programs unless there’s an extremely attractive credit card sign up bonus, but I constantly consider the programs as transfer options for my Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards, ThankYou Points, and Starpoints to take advantage of their one or two sweetspots.

Action Item

If you’re currently collecting niche miles with your day-to-day credit card spending, put more of your spending on cards that earn more widely useful miles and points like the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express with 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $5k in the first six months, which earns the most versatile points of all.

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Your Take

Are any of the programs listed here mis-categorized for you? Is one of the niche programs perfect for all your awards? Does one of my “generally useful programs” never seem to offer you value? Am I letting United miles off too lightly for its big devaluation last year?

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Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 3.34.07 AM

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Here’s how to cancel an American Airlines award without paying the $150 fee to reinstate your miles and cancel the award.

  1. Be an Executive Platinum canceling an award booked with miles from your account. The reinstatement fee is waived for Executive Platinums.
  2. Hope for a schedule change greater than 60 minutes on one of your flights, and call to cancel for free because the new schedule doesn’t work for you.

To help #2 along, when you are one month from departure, if you haven’t gotten the magic 60 minute schedule change, call to change your award to a later date for free. Change the award to a date as far in the future as possible. You are only limited by the fact that the new travel date must be within one year of the award’s original ticketing date. Now you have more time for a schedule change.

My Experience

I booked two awesome one way trips as one American Airlines award.

  1. Bangkok to Doha to Luxor with the first segment in Business Class on the new Qatar A380. (anatomy of an award)
  2. Cairo to Abu Dhabi to Washington DC with the second segment in First Class on the new Etihad 787. (anatomy of an award)
Etihad First Suite on 787
Etihad First Suite on 787

 

Combined these cost only 120,000 American Airlines miles, and I was excited to fly in ridiculous luxury.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 5.09.15 PM
Bar on Qatar A380

 

Then I was invited to a wedding that made my trip impossible. Only a five minute change had been made to my itinerary since booking. (I did try to get a free cancellation for that change, but I had no luck.)

The flights were originally scheduled to begin April 30, 2015. Any changes made within 21 days of departure cost $75 to $150. But if you change an American Airlines award

  • more than 21 days before your original departure
  • your new flights are also 21+ days out
  • you don’t change the cabin
  • you don’t change the origin or departure
  • you don’t change the airlines
  • and you don’t change the award type (MileSAAver or AAnytime)

…your change is free.

My award had four flight segments, I searched for award space on those four segments as far in the future as possible. I started with my last segment and worked backwards. I found award space for all four segments in mid-February 2016 on the same routes in the same cabins of the same airlines. (Read the Anatomy of an Award posts linked above to see how I searched.) The only restriction on my new dates was that all flights have to be completed within one year of my original booking which was at the end of February 2015.

I called American Airlines and fed the agent my new flights by giving him the date, flight number, and cabin of each segment. He changed my itinerary for free and sent me a new confirmation email. Now I’ll wait.

If a schedule change is made, I’ll call to cancel for free. I’ll get my miles and taxes back. If no change is made, I’ll call in February 2016 and cancel. I’ll get my miles back but have to pay $150 minus what I already paid in taxes.

Right now I have plenty of American Airlines miles, but if I need these 120,000 desperately, I can always change my plan and cancel at any time for $150.

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This blog became famous because I was the first to articulate how to book free one ways on United and US Airways awards.

A free one way is a one way trip to or from your home airport that is tacked onto another award for no extra miles. Free one ways cut your flight bill in half for a second trip without adding to the price of the first trip!

American Airlines killed free one ways on its awards in April 2014 by nixing all free stopovers because free one ways always rely on a free stopover at your home airport. Delta killed its free one ways on January 1, 2015 with the elimination of free stopovers on its awards (though in return, we do now get to book one way Delta awards.)

What’s the current state of free one ways with major frequent flyer programs?

If you get confused during this post, please read my Introduction to Free One Ways.

Alaska Airlines

Free one ways are possible on one way Alaska Airlines awards. That means you can book two free one ways per roundtrip awards.

Alaska has an amazing group of partners:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • Horizon Air
  • AeroMexico
  • Air France
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways (fuel surcharges)
  • Delta
  • Emirates
  • Fiji
  • KLM
  • Korean
  • Qantas
  • Ravn Alaska (flights within Alaska)
  • PenAir (flights within Alaska)

Unfortunately you must book only one partner each one way award (you may add Alaska Airlines flights as well.) And unfortunately most Alaska Airlines awards need to either start or end in the United States.

Abide by those rules, though, and enjoy some amazing free one way opportunities.

For full details, see Free One Ways on Alaska Airlines Awards.

American Airlines

Free one ways are impossible on awards booked with American Airlines miles. Free one ways always rely on a free stopover at your home airport, and American has eliminated the chance to take any free stopovers on awards.

British Airways

Free one ways are impossible on awards booked with Avios. Every flight on an Avios award has a mileage cost (determined exclusively by its distance and the cabin you book.) If every flight has a cost, there’s no way to get one for free as a free one way.

Delta Airlines

Free one ways are impossible on Delta awards since stopovers were eliminated on January 1, 2015.

United Airlines

Free one ways are possible on both international United awards and awards between the mainland and Hawaii. Free one ways are not possible on awards wholly within the mainland United States and Canada.

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Roundtrip award from Los Angeles to Honolulu with a later free oneway to Newark

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You can either have a free one way BEFORE your main roundtrip award TO your home airport or AFTER your main roundtrip award FROM your home airport.

United’s routing rules are pretty lenient for free one ways. You can do some amazing backtracking. You can also do “cheap one ways” where you fly the extra leg to a distant land and pay far fewer miles than you “should.”

You will get a lot of errors trying to book free one ways on united.com because united.com’s multi-city search tool is broken. Don’t despair. Find all the space you need with one way searches, then call in to book.

For full details, see Master Thread: Free One Ways on United Awards.

While American, US Airways (by ending its mileage program), and Delta killed its free one ways recently, and free one ways have never been possible with Avios, free one ways are still possible on awards booked with United and Alaska miles.

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I got the Citi Prestige® Card this week. (Here’s why I got the Citi Prestige.) It makes two of the other cards I have less valuable.

  • The Citi ThankYou® Premier Card is flipping its category bonuses on April 19 to nearly mirror the category bonuses I’ll have with the Citi Prestige® Card. I only need one card that earns 3x on flights and hotels and 2x on travel and dining, and the Prestige is fine for that.
  • The Citi Executive AAdvantage card comes with Admirals Club membership. The Citi Prestige® Card comes with access to Admirals Club for me plus two guests (or a spouse and all kids) when flying American Airlines or US Airways and access to Priority Pass lounges worldwide. I only need one card for lounge access, and the Prestige is better.

For that reason, I decided to call Citi and ask about canceling my Citi ThankYou® Premier Card and Executive AAdvantage card to see what retention bonuses they’d offer.

Citi ThankYou Premier Retention Offer

I just called the number on the back of my ThankYou Premier and told the agent I wanted to cancel the card in order to be transferred to a retention specialist. He offered me:

  • A $125 statement credit if I spend $3,000 in the next three months.
  • A $125 statement credit and 1,000 bonus ThankYou Points if I spend $1,000 per month for the next three billing cycles.

If you’re only given one offer, ask if there are any others. Sometimes not all offers are given so easily, and offers vary by account.

I asked him to put the second offer on my account. I wasn’t planning to cancel this card, and this is a nice bonus that works perfectly for me. I am already in the middle of spending $3,000 by mid-May because the card has a split sign up bonus, and I am in the first three months of my second year of being a cardmember.

  • Earn up to 50,000 bonus ThankYou® Points. Bonus points are redeemable for up to $500 in gift cards, up to $625 for airfare or other great rewards
  • Earn 20,000 points after $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn an additional 30,000 points after another $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of your second year of being a cardmember

Citi AAdvantage Executive Offer

While still on the phone, I asked the agent about my Executive AAdvantage card. Again, after prodding, I got two offers:

  • 1,000 bonus American Airlines miles every billing cycle that I spend at least $1,000 for the next 16 billing cycles. That’s up to 16,000 bonus miles.
  • 2 Admirals passes every billing cycle that I spend at least $1,000 for the next 16 billing cycles. That’s up to 32 Admirals Club passes. I must have misunderstood this offer because I can’t believe 32 passes are being offered. I also don’t see much value since the card offers free entry into Admirals Clubs automatically.

I asked for the first offer to be applied to my account. That’s 2 miles per dollar on all purchases on the card as long as you spend just over $1,000 per month. I’m not sure I’ll use the card enough to earn the bonus, but in case, I don’t want to miss out.

In the end, I didn’t cancel either card. I will probably call back in June to cancel my AAdvantage Executive card before its $450 annual fee is due. After all, I have a Citi Prestige® Card, which offers me Admirals Club access.

Bottom Line

If you’re thinking of canceling a card, call in to see what offers you get to keep it, regardless of the issuer of the card. You don’t need to wait until an annual fee is due.

If you have the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card, you may get extra bonus miles and a statement credit while you’re unlocking the second part of the card’s sign up bonus like I was offered.

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American Airlines is running a sale on the purchase of their miles through April 30, 2015. You can buy up to 100,000 American Airlines miles during the sale and get up to 60,000 bonus miles.

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American Airlines miles cost 2.95 cents each plus a 7.5% excise tax, and every purchase has a $30 processing fee. The cheapest purchase on a per-mile basis is 160,000 miles (100,000 + 60,000 bonus) for $3,201.25 or 2.00 cents per mile.Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 6.47.20 PM

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Of course instead of paying 2 cents per mile for 160,000 miles, you can open two credit cards and meet their minimum spending requirements to rack up 106,000 mils.

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

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

Getting both cards to get the 106,000 miles is a no brainer because American Airlines miles are the most valuable in the world. But is buying miles through this promotion a good deal?

Math

The cheapest miles cost 2 cents each during this promotion, and that requires shelling out $3,200. I value American Airlines miles around 1.8 cents each, so there is no way I would buy these miles speculatively for 2 cents. The only way it could possibly make sense to buy miles at these prices is if you had an immediate high value use for them.

To figure out if you have a high value use, use this simple expression:

(A – B) / (C + D)

  • A: Value of the award. Important: this is the lesser of the cash price and your subjective value.
  • B: Taxes on the award
  • C: Miles used on the award
  • D: Miles you would earn if you purchased the award ticket with cash

This will spit out the dollar value you are getting for your miles. If that number is greater than 0.02, and you can book the dream award now, buy during this promotion. Otherwise, don’t buy.

Bottom Line

You can buy 160,000 American Airlines for $3,201 or 2.00 cents each. That’s way too high to buy speculatively. Hopefully cheaper sales come along.

The American Airlines miles sales are now processed by American Airlines itself, so you can get category bonuses on cards that bonus airline or travel purchases like my latest card, the Citi Prestige® Card which offers 3x on purchases from airlines, or you can use your Arrival Plus to get American Airlines miles for zero cash.

In the meantime, we can pick up 106,000 American Airlines and US Airways miles from the big bonuses on their credit cards.

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My US Airways miles have been transferred into my American Airlines account. This is a screenshot from my AAdvantage account.

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My American Airlines mile balance shows the correct total.

I also applied for a new US Airways card last week and was approved. After I make my first purchase, and the statement closes in about a month, I should earn 50,000 bonus miles. I assume they will be deposited directly into my American Airlines account.

Have your US Airways miles been transferred to your American Airlines account?

Get More 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.

The business version, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, also comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. This card comes with 2x miles on select business purchases and a 5% miles bonus on renewal. One person can have both cards.
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Update 3/24/15:

American Airlines has confirmed that the integration of AAdvantage and Dividend Miles will begin, though the process could take several days.

Tomorrow (3/25/15) is the last day you can book US Airways Dividend Miles awards.

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The reliable rumor is that American Airlines and US Airways plan to combine their mileage programs on March 28, which is this Saturday.

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Now the word is that the programs plan to combine March 28, though that could be backed up if there are problems with the combination.

Reliable Rumor?

The most recent word from the Traveling Better forum features input from JonNYC, a legendary source of inside info on American Airlines.

When he talks about what American Airlines is about to do or what its computers say a routing rule is, I believe him.

We can’t be 100% sure that we’re about to see an announcement that the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs will merge March 28, but I am going to make prudent preparations as if they will. Here’s what JonNYC says:

The date of “single frequent flier program” is…March 28.

Listed as a target date, so I’d imagine could change, but that’s the date being aimed for.

What You Need to Do

  1. Link your US Airways and American Airlines accounts, so that your US Airways miles are seamlessly transferred to AA miles when the programs combine.
  2. Burn US Airways miles for the awards on which its award chart is cheaper than AA’s.
  3. Get the US Airways card before it disappears to get its 50,000 mile bonus.

Hat Tip View from the Wing

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I just booked myself a trip to Cuba with miles. One direction I am flying on a single award from the United States to Cuba. On the return, I am flying two awards: Cuba to Colombia and Colombia to the United States.

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I used American Airlines, Asiana, and Lufthansa miles, all of which are easily available to Americans.

Can Americans Travel to Cuba?

Here is the State Department’s page on visiting Cuba.

I am going to travel to Cuba on a general license as a journalist. A “general license” means that I do not have to contact any government agency in advance to receive permission. Here are the 12 categories of general licenses:

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I’ll need a valid passport and a tourist card to enter Cuba. I can buy the latter for $20 in Panama before boarding my flight to Havana.

It is still technically illegal for Americans to travel to Cuba for the purpose of tourism. Figure out for yourself whether you can fit one of the 12 general licenses, so you can legally travel to Cuba.

Awards

In a previous post, I ruled out charter flights to Cuba because they’re impossible for folks traveling to Cuba on a general license, and I ruled out paid flights via third countries as very expensive. I was determined to book my trip to Cuba with miles.

But booking a trip to Cuba with miles is not 100% straightforward.

If you go to united.com and type Havana into the search box, you get no results. The US-based airlines are not going to let you use their miles to fly to Cuba for the time being, even if you just want to use the miles to fly from Panama to Cuba.

Any awards you book to Cuba will have to be with foreign miles. There are a lot of options:

  • Avianca LifeMiles, Singapore KrisFlyer miles, Asiana Club miles, Lufthansa Miles & More miles on Avianca or Copa to Cuba
  • Air France Flying Blue miles from Mexico City to Havana, flying AeroMexico

I looked into using Singapore, Asiana, Lufthansa, and Avianca miles. Here was my experience.

Searching for Award Space

I tried to use the miles of four Star Alliance carriers, all of which have equal access to Saver award space released by Avianca and Copa on their flights to Cuba. As I mentioned, not all award search engines will display award space to Cuba, but lifemiles.com will. Search for Star Alliance award space to Cuba on lifemiles.com.

There are several routes to Havana from the Americas on Star Alliance carriers: Copa, Avianca, Air Canada, and Air China.

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There are also routes to Cayo CocoCayo Largo del SurHolguínSanta Clara, and Varadero on Star Alliance carriers.

To search for any of these routes on lifemiles.com, click on Air Tickets under the Enjoy tab.

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You may need to log in to a LifeMiles account to search. Sign up for a free account here.

On the search screen, next to “Preferred carrier,” select the carrier that serves the route you’re searching. Not specifying an airline will cause the search engine to miss results.

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My Searches

I was interested in combining Cuba with Colombia. I need to start and end my trip in Washington DC. I searched:

  • Washington-Dulles <-> Havana on Copa
  • Havana <-> Bogota on Avianca
  • Bogota <-> Washington-Dulles on American and Avianca

I searched all three itineraries in both directions because I was willing to visit Bogota and Havana in either order. I let my search results dictate my order.

In the end, I found much better award space on my dates from Havana to Bogota than vice versa, which sealed my plan to fly USA to Cuba to Colombia to USA.

Spending an Afternoon in Panama City

Here are sample results for economy awards from Washington to Havana.Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 2.28.55 PM

All of the options go from Washington to Panama City to Havana on Copa with varying layovers in Panama City. I decided to choose a seven hour layover in Panama City. From a quick search, I learned that I can visit the Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal with a five hour layover. That sounds fascinating, and I plan to save money by hiring taxis instead of a tour company.

American Airlines Space to the United States

I was hoping to book Avianca’s direct flight from Bogota to Washington-Dulles for my return. There is award space on the flight in economy on many dates (yellow on the calendar below), but I couldn’t make it work for my trip.

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My back up plan was American Airlines miles with one stop in Miami. The benefit is that American Airlines charges only 15,000 miles one way between the United States and Northern South America for much of the year. United would have charged me 20,000 miles one way for the Avianca flight.

American Airlines award space is wide open between Bogota and Miami, and from there to anywhere else in the United States or Canada for the same 15,000 mile price.

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I noted the date, cabin, and flight number of the award space to Cuba on Copa, to Colombia on Avianca, and to the United States on American Airlines. Now it was time to book.

Booking the Award

I wanted to get all three of my awards or zero. The first step was to put the American Airlines award on a free five day hold while I investigated my booking options with Star Alliance miles for the Star Alliance flights.

Avianca LifeMiles

Selecting the Copa award flights from Washington-Dulles to Havana brings up a price of 17,500 Lifemiles + $31.85. Or you can toggle the “More money” button to book the award for 7,500 Lifemiles and $181.85.Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 2.29.42 PM

The problem is that I don’t have LifeMiles. Getting LifeMiles is a bit of a challenge. You basically need to buy them. They are often on sale for 1.65 cents each, though not currently. Once you have 7,500 LifeMiles, you can book the award for another $181.85.

I would consider buying the 7,500 miles when they are on sale for 1.65 cents each which happens every few months, but right now they cost 3.3 cents each.

The Havana to Bogota award was only 10,000 LifeMiles, but that was 10,000 more than I had.

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I went looking for other foreign Star Alliance options to book the flights.

Lufthansa Miles & More

Lufthansa is also a member of the Star Alliance, so it partners with Copa and Avianca. The Miles & More award chart shows a great price of 17,000 miles one way from the United States to Cuba or Colombia to Cuba.

I called the Miles & More call center for the United States and tried to book Washington to Havana. The agent said he could not book flights to Cuba.

Next I called the British service center at  +44 371 – 945 97 37 for 1 cent per minute via gmail. I fed the agent the Copa flights from Washington to Havana and she priced them at 17,000 Miles & More miles and 4.5 GBP ($7.) These were the same flights that the agent at the US call center couldn’t price.

She priced Bogota to Havana at 17,000 miles + $15.

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Fantastic! I had 18,000 Lufthansa miles, so I could book one of the awards with Lufthansa miles.

I continued my research.

Singapore KrisFlyer

The Singapore award chart shows a price of 17,500 miles from the United States to the Caribbean. Havana to Bogota would be 25,000 miles.

I called KrisFlyer and tried to price my Copa award. Three different agents priced it at 35,000 miles one way. For whatever reason, the computer wanted to collect Washington to Panama and Panama to Havana as two separate awards.

I didn’t bother to price Havana to Bogota because I knew it would be cheaper with Lufthansa miles, but I am confident it would have cost 25,000 Singapore miles.

Asiana Club

The Asiana chart shows Colombia to Cuba costing 17,500 miles and the United States to the Caribbean at 17,500 miles also.

I priced out Havana to Bogota at 17,500 miles + $15.

I didn’t bother to price out Washington to Havana because I had all the information I needed.

How I Booked

I had the perfect amount of Lufthansa and Asiana miles to book the two Star Alliance awards. If I hadn’t had those perfect amounts, I would have transferred Starpoints to Lufthansa miles. Starpoints transfer 1:1 to Singapore, Lufthansa, and Asiana miles. And every 20,000 points transferred earns a 5,000 mile bonus.

When the Asiana agent priced Havana to Bogota at 17,500 miles one way, I immediately booked. I got the following email a few minutes later with my confirmation number.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 3.02.29 AM Next I called Lufthansa back. Because of the time of day, I called the Australian Miles & More center at +61 1300 – 655 727 for 2 cents a minute through gmail. I booked Washington to Havana for 17,000 miles + $7. My confirmation came quickly via email.Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 3.02.42 AM

 

Last I signed into my American Airlines account and ticketed Bogota to Washington, which I had held earlier in the day. It cost 15,000 miles + $95 (though I’ll get about $35 back upon check in.)

Bottom Line

Lufthansa, Avianca, Singapore, and Asiana are all willing to ticket award tickets to Cuba, even if they begin in the United States. Copa has several destinations in America from which you can get to Cuba with only one connection in Panama. If you don’t live in one of those cities, you can connect on United and Copa flights to Panama and then to Havana on your Miles & More award.

Search for the award space on lifemiles.com and call the non-US call center of the airline whose miles you want to use. You can book a roundtrip for as little as 34,000 Lufthansa miles, which is 29,000 Starpoints.

To get Starpoints, open the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express with 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $5,000 in the first six months. Just meeting the minimum spending requirement gives you more than enough points for a roundtrip award to Cuba.

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American Airlines updated the look of its award charts today with no update to actual award prices. (Here are expert predictions for the timing and extent of the next award chart changes from American Airlines.)

I liked the old charts better, especially the partner one where all prices could be displayed in one small image.

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Now both the American Airlines chart and partner chart are spread across several pages. You need to select the region of departure first.

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Then the American Airlines chart has four columns for economy awards.

  1. Off peak if applicable
  2. MileSAAver (capacity controlled)
  3. AAnyime Level 1
  4. AAnytime Level 2

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The award chart for partners puts economy, Business, and First Class redemptions on one page because all partner awards price at the MileSAAver level.Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 7.05.36 PMThe only odd thing is that until today, the American Airlines chart had three levels of AAnytime awards. Now the chart only shows two levels with the most expensive economy award within the mainland United States costing 30,000 miles one way.

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The old chart showed a third AAnytime level of 50,000 miles one way. That price still exists for awards, even though it isn’t on the chart. For instance, here is an award from Syracuse to Indianapolis next week that costs 50,000 miles one way in economy.

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I’m sure this missing AAnytime Level 3 problem will be resolved soon. It’s a minor curiosity only because all of my award bookings are at the off peak and MileSAAver prices.

Getting the Miles

American Airlines miles are super easy to get.

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

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

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

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Fiji Airways is releasing great award space for two passengers in economy from Los Angeles to Nadi, Fiji that you can book with American Airlines miles.

Fiji Beach Resort and Spa Managed by Hilton
Fiji Beach Resort and Spa Managed by Hilton

 

While Fiji is a year-round tropical destination, its high (and dry) season is April to October with June to September being the peak of that season.

During high season, Fiji Airways is not releasing Business Class award space, but economy award space is plentiful in April, May, September, and October.

For more information on Fiji, the miles that can book Fiji Airways, and where to search and book the awards, check out my recent post: How to Book a Trip to Fiji with Miles. This post just updates the award space picture.

I searched for two passengers from Los Angeles to Fiji (NAN) in April through October on alaskaair.com. (Fiji Airways’ only other route to the United States is to Honolulu. For people who live outside Los Angeles, you can connect there on American Airlines flights for no extra American Airlines miles.)

Economy Award Space

Days that say 40k + $19 have economy award space for two passengers. Award space is wide open in economy for April and May through June 5.

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Then award space disappears for the rest of June, July, and August. It reappears September 1 and is plentiful until the end of October.Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 9.54.59 AM Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 9.55.09 AM

Business Class Award Space

The only Business Class award space for two passengers on Fiji Airways between April and October is May 6. Forget about Business Class space in high season.Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 9.53.43 AM

For more information on Fiji, the miles that can book Fiji Airways, and where to search and book the awards, check out my recent post: How to Book a Trip to Fiji with Miles.

Getting the Miles

You can book Fiji Airways award space that you find on alaskaair.com by calling American Airlines at 800-882-8880. American Airlines waives the phone booking fee, since you can’t book Fiji Airways space on aa.com. American charges:

  • 37,500 miles one way per person in economy
  • 62,500 miles in Business Class if you miraculously find space during high season or fly during low season

American Airlines miles are super easy to get.

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

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

We also know that The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will no longer be offered to new applicants as soon as the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs integrate in April 2015. That means that the chance to earn 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase on this card will disappear soon.

All US Airways miles not redeemed on the US Airways chart by the time of integration will become American Airlines miles. Getting all three cards now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines miles by April.

156,000 American Airlines miles are enough for two roundtrips to Fiji (150,000 miles) from the United States!
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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

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French Polynesia is an award I get asked to book frequently through my Award Booking Service, including awards to the main tourist islands of Tahiti, Bora Bora, and Mo’orea. Award space is excellent to French Polynesia with American Airlines miles year round.

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Here’s the thing: you can only book awards to Tahiti. To get anywhere else in French Polynesia, you need to book a paid flight (or redeem Arrival miles) to Mo’orea or Bora Bora.

American Airlines miles are the best way to get to Tahiti from the United States, flying on partner Air Tahiti Nui (which is separate from Air Tahiti.) American considers Tahiti to be a part of the South Pacific, so it charges:

  • 37,500 miles each way in economy
  • 62,500 miles each way in Business Class
  • there is no way to use American Airlines miles to fly Air Tahiti Nui First Class

Air Tahiti Nui Award Space

Air Tahiti Nui’s only flight to the United States is to Los Angeles. To book an American Airlines award from somewhere else to Tahiti, you will search from your home airport to Los Angeles on aa.com.

You can search for Air Tahiti Nui space for free by calling American at 800-882-8880, but I do my research before calling on Expert Flyer. See Free First Class Next Month: Using expertflyer.com.

The fare classes to check are I for Business and W for economy. If you check A, you can see First Class space. Unfortunately Air Tahiti Nui doesn’t release First Class space to AA, or AA blocks the space, so adding class A to the search is not necessary.

You can search Air Tahiti Nui award space up to 331 days in advance. Eleven months out, Air Tahiti Nui often releases 2 Business Class and 4 or 6 Economy Class seats, though that is not uniform on every flight. Here is the award space for 11 months from now from Los Angeles to Tahiti. Four of the six flights have 2 Business Class seats, and all the flights have 4+ economy seats.

Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 12.02.44 PM

The flights from Tahiti to Los Angeles show the same pattern.Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 12.03.02 PM

High Season

Unfortunately 11 months from now is the rainy season. The high (and dry season) in French Polynesia is April to October. Award space is much more widely available during these months of 2015 in economy. For instance, these flights from April 8 to 10 have 2-7 economy award seats per flight, but none in Business Class.Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 12.05.19 PM

The return also shows a lot of economy space, though it also shows 3 Business Class seats one day.
Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 12.05.31 PM

Getting the Miles

American Airlines miles are super easy to get.

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

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

We also know that The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will no longer be offered to new applicants as soon as the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs integrate in April 2015. That means that the chance to earn 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase on this card will disappear soon. All US Airways miles not redeemed on the US Airways chart by the time of integration will become American Airlines miles

Getting all three cards now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines miles by April. That’s enough for two roundtrips with American Airlines miles to Tahiti.

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

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

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Update at 5:55 PM ET: An email today from Dividend Miles says that Dividend Miles will be ended within 30 days:

In October, we announced we would combine our frequent flyer programs in the second quarter of this year. And now, we’re on track to bring the US Airways Dividend Miles® program into the AAdvantage® program within the next 30 days. We’ll be providing you with more information on timing in the next few weeks.

That means we’ll see US Airways combined with AA miles by April 12.

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Every month, the Dividend Miles program emails members their balances. I haven’t gotten mine for March, but apparently those who have received this message:

Your final US Airways Dividend Miles e-Statement

Next month, we’ll reach the next milestone on our path to integration by bringing Dividend Miles into the American Airlines AAdvantage® program. We’ll transfer your mileage balance and elite-qualifying activity into your new (or existing) AAdvantage account.

So the US Airways program will end in April. What day in April?

Well several commenters from yesterday’s post noted that their bonus for referring people to the 50,000 mile US Airways MasterCard ends April 17. That leads me to believe that the US Airways program will last until at least April 17.

But I suspect we’ll get an official end date for the US Airways program very, very soon. In the meantime:

  1. Link your US Airways and American Airlines accounts, so that your US Airways miles are seamlessly transferred to AA miles when the programs combine.
  2. Burn US Airways miles for the awards on which its award chart is cheaper than AA’s.

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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!

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

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

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