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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.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 1.59.25 AM

 

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.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 11.12.33 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 12.24.21 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 7.14.14 PM

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.

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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.

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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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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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Cathay Pacific frequently releases 5 Business Class and 2 First Class award seats on its flights between the United States and Hong Kong 11 months out. If you miss those, there are often 1-2 First Class and 8 Business Class seats on the day before departure.

You can book these fantastically luxurious products with American Airlines miles.

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Cathay Pacific First Class Throne

 

American charges:

  • 55,000 miles one way between the United States and Hong Kong, China, and SE Asia in Business Class
  • 67,500 miles one way between the United States and Hong Kong, China, and SE Asia in First Class

Delta and United charge more miles to book Business Class to Asia than American charges to book Cathay Pacific First Class.

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

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

Product

Cathay Pacific Business Class is a stunner with fully flat 6’10” beds.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 11.22.04 AM

Cathay Pacific First Class is an even wider and more spacious bed, mixed with very personalized service, and great food. Here’s my trip report of Cathay Pacific First Class.

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Cathay Pacific First Class Bed
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Cathay Pacific First Class Caviar

Award Space 11 Months Out

American Airlines allows bookings 331 days out. Right now that means through February 4, 2016 according to aa.com’s calendar.

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I searched Cathay Pacific’s American routes for award space on ba.com on February 4, 2016 to see what space is available 11 months out. Cathay Pacific space is available with Avios even further out than 331 days in advance, but almost all of that space is still available 11 months out. (For more information on searching ba.com and where to search all American Airlines partners for award space, see Redeem American Airlines Miles: Part 2 — Where to Search Award Space for All Partners.)

San Francisco

Wow! 5 Business Class seats on two different flights plus 2 First Class seats on one.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.48.14 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.58.27 AM

Los Angeles

Again wow! 5 Business Class seats on three flights and up to 2 First Class seats available.Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.48.14 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.58.59 AM

New York

I’m going to stop saying “Wow!” because it seems like releasing 5 Business Class seats is Cathay Pacific’s pattern right now. New York doesn’t have 2 First Class seats open on any single flight on February 4, but it does on other nearby dates.Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.48.14 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.59.30 AM

Chicago

5 Business and 2 First Class seats.Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.48.14 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 11.00.16 AM

Boston

Note the different headings for the cabins–Boston and Newark do not have First Class cabins. Boston has 2 Business Class seats available on February 3. (This is a 4x weekly flight that doesn’t operated on February 4, 2016.)

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 11.38.00 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 11.02.36 AM

Newark

Newark scoffs at Boston’s 2 Business Class seats. It offers 5 like most of the Cathay Pacific American routes.Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 11.38.00 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 11.03.38 AM

Bottom Line

Eleven months out is the best time to book Cathay Pacific award space between the United States and Asia. Many flights have 5 Business Class seats that you can book for 55,000 American Airlines miles each. Many flights have 1 or 2 First Class seats you can book for 67,500 American Airlines miles each.

Award Space Today and Tomorrow

If you miss booking space 11 months out, there is still space 6 months out, 3 months out, etc, but it isn’t as plentiful. The second best time to book award space with American Airlines miles is within 48 hours of departure. I took a look at award space today and tomorrow in both directions on Cathay Pacific’s four American routes with First Class.

New York

Not a ton of space from JFK to Hong Kong today, but there is one First Class flight tonight.

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The flights from Hong Kong to JFK have a ton more space with up to 8 Business Class seats available to American Airlines miles on a single flight.Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.48.14 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.48.31 AM

Chicago

No Business or First Class seats today, but 5 Business Class seats tomorrow.Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.48.14 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.49.51 AM

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From Hong Kong to Chicago, there are 8 Business Class seats today and tomorrow and a First Class seat today.Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.48.14 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.50.27 AM

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Los Angeles

From Los Angeles, there are two flights today with 2 First Class seats each! Business Class space is sparser, though one flight today has 3 seats.Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.48.14 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.52.44 AM

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From Hong Kong to Los Angeles, there are several flights today and tomorrow with 2+ Business Class seats and 1-2 First Class seats.Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.48.14 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.53.17 AM

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San Francisco

San Francisco has the worst space today and tomorrow, with no Business or First Class space on any flight to Hong Kong.Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.48.14 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.54.46 AM

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There is 1 First Class seat tomorrow from Hong Kong to San Francisco.Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.48.14 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.55.37 AM

Bottom Line

Space is better 11 months out, but space can be very good within 48 hours with many flights having 2-8 Business Class seats and 1-2 First Class seats available to American Airlines miles.

What You Need to Know

  • Cathay Pacific Business and First Class are two of the most luxurious ways to get to Asia
  • Using American Airlines miles to book Cathay Pacific premium cabins is cheaper than using Delta or United miles to get to Asia in Business Class
  • Cathay Pacific Business and First Class is widely available 11 months out. Think 5 Business Class seats and 1-2 First Class seats on most flights.
  • Cathay Pacific Business and First Class is widely available–but less available–within 48 hours of departure. Think 1-8 Business Class seats and 1-2 First Class seats on some flights.

Key Links

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Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

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On many routes, Etihad releases tons of Business and First Class award space within one week of departure. You can book this ultra-luxury award space without fuel surcharges with American Airlines miles.

Twitter follower Patrick found four Etihad First Class award seats this week on a flight from Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi and asked whether that was normal.

The answer is that it depends on the route. Let’s take a look at three routes in Business and First Class to find the pattern:

  • London <-> Abu Dhabi (A380)
  • Washington-Dulles <-> Abu Dhabi (787 starting 3/15/15)
  • New York-JFK <-> Abu Dhabi (A380 starting 12/1/15)

The Product

Etihad First Class on its newest A380 has a couch that seats several people and a separate bed and costs only 40,000 American Airlines miles between London and Abu Dhabi. (When it starts flying New York to Abu Dhabi in December, it will cost 90,000 miles each way.)

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 12.27.11 PM

Etihad’s fully enclosed suites are the most spacious in the sky. Etihad First Class also features an onboard shower and lounge.

Getting the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®, which comes with 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months, give you enough miles to fly Etihad First Class. The card even gives you an automatic 10% rebate on all America Airlines awards (up to 100,000 AA miles redeemed per year), so the final cost is 36,000 miles.

Etihad Business Class is a fully flat bed that costs 30,000 American Airlines miles between Europe and the Middle East/Indian Subcontinent or 67,500 miles between the United States and the Middle East/Indian Subcontinent.

Award Space in the Last Three Weeks

I looked at award space over the next three weeks in Business and First Class on etihad.com. Here’s how to search for award space on etihad.com. For the purposes of this post, just remember that American Airlines can only book award space in the GuestSeat column on etihad.com.

Abu Dhabi <-> London

Abu Dhabi to London didn’t show much First Class award space over the next three weeks. There’s only one day with space, it only has one seat, and it isn’t even on the A380 flight.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 12.18.30 AM

In Business Class, Abu Dhabi to London also only had one day with award space in the next three weeks.Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 12.19.47 AM

But this was not the pattern for all the routes. For instance, London to Abu Dhabi shows fantastic award space in Business and First Class in the next few weeks.

Six out of the next seven days–all the days that say “Miles 43857″ on the calendar–have Business Class space between London and Abu Dhabi. (Remember that American will only charge 30,000 miles for this space not 43,857 miles.) Many of the dates, like March 12 below, have award space in Business Class on both daily flights including the A380 service.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 12.20.56 AM

When there are six or fewer seats available for awards, that fact is noted in the search results, and yet that fact is not noted in the screenshot above meaning there are 7+ award seats in Business Class on each flight that you can book with American Airlines miles.

The award space in Business Class from London to Abu Dhabi appears to open up one week before departure because none is available after March 16. (On this route in Business, Saver award space is denoted by “Miles 43857.”)Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 12.21.29 AM

In First Class, the award space from London to Abu Dhabi is also wide open for the next week with award space every day, denoted by “Miles 54949.”Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 12.22.12 AM

Many days have 1-2 seats on the A380 service.

This space also appears to open up one week before departure because between one and three weeks out, there is only one more day with First Class award space, March 18.Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 12.22.26 AM

Washington-Dulles to Abu Dhabi

Etihad puts its new 787-9 Dreamliner on the Dulles route Sunday. First Class award space–denoted by “Miles 114444″ on the calendars below–is excellent on the route within one week of departure with up to four First Class seats being released.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 12.23.31 AM

Beyond this week, there are three other days in the next three weeks with First Class award space between Washington and Abu Dhabi, March 27-29.
Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 12.23.45 AM Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 12.23.56 AM

Right now these days just have one seat on the Dreamliner, though more space is likely to open within one week of departure.Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 12.24.08 AM From Abu Dhabi to Washington, we see the same pattern, excellent First Class award space–denoted by dates that say “Miles 114640″ below–within one week of departure.Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 12.24.41 AM

Two and three weeks out, there is no award space.Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 12.24.59 AM

New York <-> Abu Dhabi

There are two daily flights between New York and Abu Dhabi. On December 1, 2015, the A380 will begin to fly one of those frequencies. As of March 8, there was no award space on the A380 in First Class for any date it is scheduled to fly. (Some briefly opened and was either booked or taken back.) Will last minute award space open?

From New York to Abu Dhabi, there is award space in First Class for the next week, denoted by “Miles 111000.” Many days have four First Class award seats.
Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 12.25.39 AM

This space is widely available for all of the next three weeks.Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 12.25.54 AM Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 12.26.04 AM

From Abu Dhabi to New York, the pattern is different. The award space is wide open this week (“Miles 111010″), but not for the two weeks after that.
Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 12.26.37 AM Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 12.26.51 AM Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 12.27.02 AM

Bottom Line

On some routes, Etihad releases tons of First and Business Class award space as departure approaches. Let me summarize for the routes and cabins I searched:

  • London to Abu Dhabi in First Class: opens up one week before departure
  • London to Abu Dhabi in Business Class: opens up one week before departure
  • Abu Dhabi to London in First Class: does not open up at last minute
  • Abu Dhabi to London in Business Class: does not open up at last minute
  • Washington to Abu Dhabi in First Class: opens up one week before departure
  • Abu Dhabi to Washington in First Class: opens up one week before departure
  • New York to Abu Dhabi in First Class: widely available the three weeks before departure
  • Abu Dhabi to New York in First Class: opens up one week before departure

The most common pattern was widely available award space in the last week before departure. This may not be the pattern for your preferred route and cabin, but you can easily discover your pattern by searching etihad.com.

All the award space in this post can be booked by calling American Airlines at 800-882-8880. Since the space cannot be booked online, American Airlines will not impose a phone booking fee.

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.

Getting both cards now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 106,000 American Airlines miles soon.

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For the past few years, I’ve noticed that American Airlines basically blacks out award space for several weeks from mid-December to mid-January on all or most of its routes.

What I Mean by Blackout

This isn’t a hard blackout during which you can’t use miles at all. It’s a MileSAAver blackout. No MileSAAver award space will appear on a route for about a month, so you need to spend 2-4x the MileSAAver price if you want to book an AAnytime award.

For a quick refresher, MileSAAver is American’s cheapest level of award space and its most heavily capacity controlled. There are several levels of AAnytime award space, which provides last seat availability for a lot more miles. For instance, the MileSAAver price for a one way economy award within the United States is 12,500 miles. The highest AAnytime price is 50,000 miles–four times higher.

This Year’s Blackout?

I wanted to take a look at this year’s Christmas season to see if American’s MileSAAver blackout continues. (You can now book American Airlines awards through early February 2016.)

The good news is that while some routes have something like a blackout in economy over Christmas, premium cabin award space is less affected by the holiday season.

All searches are for one passenger on the selected routes, since I was testing whether American was withholding all of its award space at certain times.

Miami to Buenos Aires

Miami to Buenos Aires in economy shows good award space that totally stops on December 9.

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 10.39.44 AM

Ah-ha! This is what I was expecting!

Except that it’s not how the blackouts worked in years past. The blackout is broken with award space twice in the week between Christmas and New Year.Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 10.40.12 AM

Award space doesn’t really become regular in 2016, but this still isn’t like blackouts I’ve seen in the past when there’s award space every day until some point in December and then it picks up again with award space every day after some date in January.

Dallas to Santiago

Dallas to Santiago shows more of the classic American Airlines Christmas blackout in economy. There is award space until December 15.Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 10.41.05 AM

Then nothing until January 18 when it picks up regularly again.

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 10.42.04 AM

A similar pattern appears in Business and First Class. There is no Business Class space between December 9 and January 19.

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 10.41.19 AM

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 11.39.08 AM

There is only one day with First Class space between December 11 and January 20.
Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 10.41.24 AM Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 10.42.11 AM

New York to London

These calendars show only American Airlines, not British Airways space

On New York to London, the blackouts really fall apart. Economy’s near blackout from December 15 to January 6 is broken by four days with award space.Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 10.43.03 AM

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 10.43.35 AM

Business and First Class show no semblance of a blackout. Here is First Class award space in December and January.

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 10.43.14 AM Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 10.43.41 AM

Dallas to Hong Kong

There’s an economy blackout between December 2 and January 15 with no Business or First Class award space to speak of on the route.Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 10.44.20 AM Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 10.44.31 AMNew York to Los Angeles

Just like New York to London, there is an economy blackout, but not one in premium cabins. The economy blackout is between December 13 and January 7.

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 11.05.32 AM

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 11.05.58 AM

But Business and First Class space on the premium planes with flat beds in both cabins runs right through December and January without stopping.Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 11.05.39 AM

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 11.05.43 AM

Bottom Line

There is no systemwide blackout of MileSAAver award space on American Airlines flights from mid-December to mid-January this year.

Many routes do feature something like a blackout from some date in early-ish December to some date in mid-January at least in one cabin. But that “blackout” is often punctuated by award space on one or more days in the middle. And the blackout is often “ignored” in Business and First Classes, which tend to have better award space over Christmas.

Christmas and New Year’s are still the toughest time to travel with miles pretty much no matter where you want to go (other than Australia and New Zealand), but I’m relatively heartened by how much award space I found on American Airlines routes over the peak period.

One final word on space on American Airlines over this period: if you see a blackout on the route you want, it is unlikely to improve. While many airlines, including occasionally American, release last second award space, I never see American do that around Christmas on routes that have had Christmas blacked out all year.

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.

Getting both cards now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 106,000 American Airlines miles.
————————————————————————————————————
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Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

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American Airlines, United, and Delta fly flat beds on their daily flights between New York-JFK and San Francisco and Los Angeles. Delta also flies its flat beds between New York-JFK and Seattle.

All three airlines compete in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Only Delta flies between Seattle and JFK with flat beds.
All three airlines compete in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Only Delta flies between Seattle and JFK with flat beds.
  • Which has the best flat bed award space on the routes?
  • What are the prices? 
  • What are the products?

The Products & Prices

Delta

Delta throws 757s and 767s configured with flat bed seats at its transcontinental routes. Like all Delta planes, there are only two cabins–in this case sold as economy and BusinessElite. The 767s (on the right) are more comfortable in Business because their 1-2-1 layout gives full aisle access to every seat. The 757’s (on the left) 2-2 layout means climbing over your neighbor.

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 1.10.49 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 1.11.07 PM

For Business Elite at the Saver level, Delta charges 32,500 miles one way. Here’s Delta’s page on what to expect on its transcontinental service.

United

United has a dedicated fleet of 757-200s for all of its transcontinental service that it sells as p.s. Premium Service. The fleet has two cabins, and Business Class is laid out 2-2 as on Delta’s 757s, meaning no direct aisle access from every seat.

United charges 25,000 miles each way in Business Class at the Saver level.

American

American’s transcontinental fleet is the newest and best. Its A321s have five rows of 1-1 First Class and five rows of 2-2 Business Class. All 30 seats convert to flat beds.

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 1.20.50 PM
AA Transcon First Class

American charges 25,000 miles one way in Business Class and 32,500 in First Class. Here’s AA’s page on what to expect from the service.

Award Space

All of that, especially the Saver award prices, is just theoretical if the airlines don’t consistently release award space on their flights at the Saver level.

From my searches, I found that Delta doesn’t release much–if any–Business Class award space on its transcontinental flat beds. Between Seattle and New York, the space is mainly 45,000 mile Level 2 space. Between California to New York, it is 67,500 mile Level 4 space. United releases some award space in Business Class at the last minute but has none released over the summer. American releases little Business Class space, but a lot more First Class space.

American Airlines

For one passenger, there is award space in Business Class from New York to Los Angeles three times next week. That’s it for the next month.
Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.42.20 PM

But in First Class, there is space six days in the next week and 13 days in the next month.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.42.24 PM

This pattern repeats. In June and July, there is only one day with Business Class space from San Francisco to New York.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.43.22 PM

The same time period has 17 days with First Class award space.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.43.26 PM

From Los Angeles to New York, I searched for two passengers. There’s one day in the Fall with award space in Business Class.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.43.59 PMBy contrast, First Class space for two is available most Saturdays.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.44.03 PM

The bottom line on American Airline space: way more First Class than Business Class award space, way more award space for 1 passenger than for 2, and award space is released at the last minute.

Delta

Here’s the next month from Los Angeles to New York. No award space even close to the Saver price of 32,500 miles one way. The best I find is Level 4 space for more than double that price.
Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.46.00 PM

Here’s the month after that. Still none.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.46.27 PM

In fact, I didn’t find 32,500 mile space between California and New York in either direction.

Nor did I find any between New York and Seattle, though it is widely available for the Level 2 price of 45,000 miles one way. Here’s a calendar of July dates. Every single day has 2+ award seats on multiple flights from Seattle to JFK for 45,000 miles per person.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.48.29 PM

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.48.34 PM

We get the same view from New York to Seattle in the Fall.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.49.14 PM

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.49.19 PM

The bottom line on Delta Saver space on transcontinental flights is that there basically is none.

United

United is coasting on its reputation from a few years ago of having the best award space. Right now its space on its transcontinental service is bad.

There is some space for one person from Los Angeles to New York in the next two weeks–six out of 14 days.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.51.10 PM

New York to Los Angeles shows a similar pattern for one person: 12 days in the next month with space.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.51.31 PM

But other than the next month, there is basically no space. New York to Los Angeles in June and July has zero Business Class award space.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.52.38 PM

Los Angeles to New York in the Fall has one day with award space in Business Class: Thanksgiving day.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.52.54 PM

San Francisco to New York has one day too: the day after Thanksgiving.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.53.50 PM

For two people, award space is even worse. One day in the next month from San Francisco to New York.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.55.39 PM

Three days between New York and San Francisco.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.55.55 PMThe bottom line on United transcontinental Business Class award space: almost all of it is in the next month on flights with only one award seat.

Bottom Line

United, Delta, and American put fully flat beds on 5-6 hour flights because there is a demand for such premium products that rich people are willing to pay. Either because most of the flat beds are being sold or because the airlines just want to protect the products, award space on these routes is very hard to find.

The best space is for one person within a month of departure in United Business Class and American Airlines First Class.

Getting the Miles

Singapore miles are a partner of every transferable points program. Cards I like that earns points that transfer:

Getting the Miles

American Airlines miles are super easy to get.

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

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

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

All US Airways miles not redeemed on the US Airways chart by the time of integration will become American Airlines miles, and American Airlines has committed to not devaluing its award chart at the time of combination. The two types of miles are roughly equal in value. Getting all three cards now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines miles by June.
————————————————————————————————————
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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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I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Yesterday I wrote about a discovery that shocked me: American Airlines is releasing consistent MileSAAver award space on its flagship and newest plane–the 777-300ER–in Business Class and First Class between Los Angeles and London. Today I’ll take a look at the award space on the other routes that American flies with the 777-300ER.

Check out yesterday’s post for a description and images of the fully flat beds, all with direct aisle access, in both cabins.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 6.00.57 PM
First Class on the AA 777-300ER

The other routes being served by the plane:

  • New York to London
  • New York to Sao Paulo
  • Miami to Sao Paulo
  • Miami to London
  • Dallas to Sao Paulo
  • Dallas to Hong Kong

Award space is best on the New York to London route. I found First Class and Business Class space on the 777-300ER between New York and London in both directions all summer long. I found award space on several of the other routes also, but nothing approached the New York to London space, which even exceeded the award space available between Los Angeles and London.

Right now, earning American Airlines miles is super easy.

Getting both would be enough miles for a roundtrip in Business Class to Europe and South America and almost enough for SE Asia (110k.)

New York to London

Here’s the money shot. London to New York has award space four days a week in First Class for most of the year–including the middle of summer.

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 2.33.13 PM

 

Many days have award space on more than one flight. (Remember from yesterday that 77W is AA’s code for the 777-300ER.)
Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 2.30.12 PM

Business Class award space also exists in both directions for much of the year. Unfortunately from London to New York, there is usually only one Business Class seat available on flights with availability.
Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 2.32.11 PM From New York to London, there is often availability for two people in Business Class.Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 2.34.10 PM Seriously, I’m pretty amazed that American Airlines is making its best First and Business Class widely available for summer trips to London for 100,000 (Business) to 125,000 (First) miles roundtrip plus taxes.Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 2.35.13 PM

Of course, the taxes are quite high, but you can lower them by returning from anywhere else in Europe via London instead of beginning the return in London.Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 2.35.23 PM

New York, Miami, and Dallas to Sao Paulo

All of American Airlines’ daily flights to Sao Paulo-Guarulhos (GRU) from Miami, Dallas, and New York are operated by the 777-300ER. Beware though. If you search Miami or New York to Sao Paulo–even if you search to GRU–your results might return American’s flights from those airports to Viracopos (VCP). If you think that GRU is annoyingly far from the city center, VCP is a 70 mile drive away from the city center.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 11.24.41 AM

Those Viracopos flights complicate showing the calendars of Business Class award space because most (all?) of the Business Class space shown on the calendars is to Viracopos on an inferior 767. The 767 doesn’t have First Class, so all the First Class space is on the 777-300ER to GRU.

Here’s the First Class space:

  • Every day this week from Sao Paulo to Miami. This continues the trend we often see of the flights to the United States having better award space than flights from the United States. This also fits with American’s pattern of releasing unsold First and Business Class seats at the last minute.Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 2.24.57 PM
  • Today from Sao Paulo to New York
  • Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 11.22.14 AMThree days this week from Sao Paulo to Dallas
    Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 11.33.31 AM

The only Dallas flight is on a 777-300ER, so its Business Class award calendar is reliable. It has Business Class space today from Sao Paulo to Dallas.

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 11.28.37 AM

The Sao Paulo flights show award space in Business and First Class only in the last week before departure, and only on the flights to the United States. It’s better than nothing, but it would be nice to be able to lock the space in further in advance.

Dallas to Hong Kong

Nada. Zilch. Squat in Business and First Class in both directions. The good news is that you don’t want to use American Airlines miles to fly American Airlines to Hong Kong. For the same number of miles, you can fly Cathay Pacific Business and First Class, which are even better. Cathay Pacific has great Business and First Class award space.

You Don’t Live in Dallas, Miami, or New York or Don’t Want to Visit London, Sao Paulo, or Hong Kong

It is zero extra miles to add domestic First Class on American, Alaska, or US Airways flights to these segments to connect them to your home airport. It is zero extra miles to add Business Class on British Airways, TAM, or Cathay Pacific to these segments to connect them to your dream destination.

Search for the space on aa.com and ba.com as necessary and book on aa.com or by calling American Airlines at 800-882-8880 as necessary.

Getting the Miles

American Airlines miles are super easy to get.

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

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

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.

US Airways

Free one ways are possible only on international US Airways awards.

US Airways only allows one stopover OR one open jaw on awards, and you ordinarily need both on a free oneway. Because of this limitation, free one ways are only possible on US Airways awards:

  • before your main roundtrip award
  • to your home airport
  • with a corresponding dummy leg(s) to where the free oneway began
  • after the main award
  • within 24 hours of landing at your home airport

That might sound a little more complicated than it is. Check out Master Thread: Free Oneways on US Airways Awards for an easy explanation.

While American 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, Alaska, and US Airways miles.

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American Airlines has released a ton of Business and First Class award space on its 777-300ER from Los Angeles to London this summer, fall, and winter.

This is fantastic and surprising news because American Airlines 777-300ER has world-class Business and First Class flat beds, American hadn’t been releasing any space at all on its flagship plane, and American Airlines offers the cheapest Business and First Class awards to Europe.

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Business Class Bed

Maybe with the 787 being loaded onto American Airlines’ schedule, American Airlines feels less need to protect the 777-300ER’s premium cabins. Whatever the reason for the award space appearing suddenly, I love the fact that there are some days with five Business Class seats from the West Coast to Europe for 50,000 miles each.

Right now, earning American Airlines miles is super easy.

Getting both would be enough miles for a roundtrip in Business Class to Europe.

  • How nice are the premium cabins on the American Airlines 777-300ER?
  • What is the award space picture from Los Angeles to London and London to Los Angeles?
  • How can you get the miles?

The Product

Take the virtual tour of the AA 777-300ER.

American’s 777-300ER has eight First Class beds laid out in two rows of 1-2-1.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 6.00.39 PM

The bed’s are 6’6″ long and look to be very comfortable.Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 6.00.57 PM

Business Class 52 fully flat beds also in a 1-2-1 configuration. That means all the 6’3″ Business Class beds have direct aisle access, which is a nice plus in Business Class.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 6.09.08 PM

How to Search for the 777-300ER Award Space

Go to the American Airlines award search page. Search for a direct flight on a route served by the 777-300ER. Here’s a map of all such routes put up a few days ago with commentary from Great Circle Mapper.

When performing the search, if the destination is London, make sure to also choose “American Airlines and American Eagle” at the bottom before searching. That will exclude British Airways flights from the results.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 5.43.11 PM

Now on the first search calendar, one the left side, select “Non-stop only” from the dropdown menu next to “Number of Stops.” Congrats, you’ve isolated American Airlines 777-300ER award space!

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 5.02.41 PM

Award Space Picture

Both First Class and Business Class award space are available from Los Angeles to London and vice versa. I only saw one First Class MileSAAver award seat per flight, but there were up to five Business Class seats at the MileSAAver level. Remember the MileSAAver award prices that American Airlines charges:

  • 50,000 miles one way in Business Class between North America and Europe
  • 62,500 miles one way in First Class between North America and Europe

The first First Class award space I see is June 7 from Los Angeles to London.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 5.06.06 PM

This space is on the earlier departure. Note that the 777-300ER’s code is 77W.
Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 5.06.37 PM

In mid-August, First Class award space starts to pick up to two days a week, and stays like this through September.Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 5.07.27 PM

In late October, First Class award space is predictably available every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. This pattern continues through the end of the schedule (mid-January) including around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 5.08.57 PM

Business Class award space from Los Angeles to London doesn’t appear until late September.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 5.08.02 PM

It quickly picks up and is widely available on Mondays, Tuesday, and Wendesdays also from late October on.Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 5.09.33 PM

So far all the calendars have been for one passenger in each cabin. There is only one First Class seat available on these days, but on most days with Business Class award space, there are 2+ seats available. Here is a calendar for five Business Class award seats.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 5.18.06 PM

There is a lot of overlap on days with Business Class and First Class seats. Why not treat your honey and put her in First Class while you slum it in Business Class?
Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 5.11.08 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 5.11.13 PMFrom London to Los Angeles, the award space pattern is highly similar except that there is even more award space.

The First Class award space from London to Los Angeles begins May 19. There is some award space in May, June, July, and August.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 5.44.55 PM

By mid-October, the First Class award space begins to pick up to nearly every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday through the end of the schedule.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 5.46.37 PM

Business Class award space begins August 26.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 5.46.03 PM

Business Class award space in widely available Monday through Friday in the fall and winter.Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 5.47.02 PM

You Don’t Live in LA or Want to Visit London

It is zero extra miles to add domestic First Class on American, Alaska, or US Airways flights to Los Angeles to the beginning and end of this award. It is zero extra miles to add Business Class on British Airways or any other oneworld partner from London to somewhere else in Europe.

Connecting on a oneworld partner–including British Airways–will actually make the award cheaper because you’ll avoid the approximately $300 in tax on a premium cabin award that originates in the UK and flies to the US.

Getting the Miles

American Airlines miles are super easy to get.

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

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

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

All US Airways miles not redeemed on the US Airways chart by the time of integration will become American Airlines miles, and American Airlines has committed to not devaluing its award chart at the time of combination. The two types of miles are roughly equal in value. Getting all three cards now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines miles by June.
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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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Let’s talk about how to use American Airlines miles for awards to Central and South America. American Airlines flies more routes from the United States to Central and South America than any other carrier–by far!

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Me in Rio de Janeiro during the last World Cup, Christ the Redeemer in the background

What You’re Reading

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

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

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

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

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

“Redeeming American Airlines Miles” Series Index

Central and South America

Central and South America (excluding Mexico) is divided into two regions.

Central America / South America Zone 1 is:

  • Belize
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • Peru
  • Venezuela

South America Zone 2 is the rest of the continent:

  • Argentina
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Chile (excluding Easter Island)
  • Paraguay
  • Uruguay

As I noted in the post on American Airlines award routing rules, awards to South America Zone 2 must fly directly from North America to the South America Zone 2 region. They cannot transit Central America or South America Zone 1. That would break the trip into two awards and increase the miles price.

The Partners for Central and South America Awards

American Airlines partners with direct flights from North America to Central America and South America:

  • American
  • US Airways
  • LAN (and its affiliates)
  • TAM

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

Award space on LAN and TAM is searchable on ba.com. Here’s how to search ba.com.

Pricing

From North America to Central America / South America Zone 1, American Airlines charges:

These are the same prices as United and Delta charge to Central America (except for American’s awesome off peak awards, which no one matches.)

These prices are steals to Northern South America. Delta wants 22,500 miles year round to Peru. American wants 1/3 less for more than half the year.

From North America to South America Zone 2, American Airlines charges:

  • 20,000 miles one way in economy from March 1 – May 31 and August 16 – November 30 on any of its partners
  • 30,000 miles one way for economy awards the rest of the year
  • 50,000 miles one way in Business Class
  • 62,500 miles one way in First Class

The off peak awards to Southern South America that you can fly on any American Airlines partner including LAN and TAM are a steal at 20,000 miles one way, 1/3 less than United and Delta charge year round. The Business and First Class prices are cheaper than United and Delta charge also. For instance, Delta charges 62,500 miles one way in Business Class.

Routes & Award Space

American Airlines has a massive, massive route network to the region from Miami.

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 1.04.46 PM
image from gcmap.com

 

American also has a smaller network from Dallas in addition to the LAN and TAM flights to South America from around the country and US Airways’ Central American flights from Charlotte.

While American flies to nearly every major city in the region, it doesn’t hit all the tourist destinations like Patagonia, Galapagos, and Machu Picchu. But even here American Airlines miles shine. TAM and LAN Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Argentina have massive route networks that get you wherever you need to go in South America for no extra miles.

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 1.07.07 PM
LAN Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru flights

Award Space on AA Flights

Award space varies by destination and season, but the general pattern on American Airlines flights is excellent economy award space and poor Business and First Class award space that doesn’t appear until the last few weeks before departure. I also notice that there is often better premium cabin award space from South America to the United States than from the United States to South America.

For instance, here is Buenos Aires to Miami. There are six days in the next two weeks with two First Class seats on the same flight.

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 5.26.19 PM

Here is Miami to Santiago. There are three days this week with two Business Class seats.Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 5.27.09 PM

But from Santiago to Miami, there is much more Business Class award space–eight days out of the next two weeks.Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 5.27.21 PM

But as I said, economy award space is often wide open. Here is award space for two from Miami to Bogota.Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 5.31.10 PM

Here is economy award space for two from Dallas to Buenos Aires this summer (Argentina winter.)Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 5.32.06 PM

 

TAM and LAN Award Space

LAN’s award space from the United States to South America (Peru, Colombia, Argentina, Ecuador) is pretty bad. TAM’s award space to Brazil isn’t nearly as bad.

Here is a day in May with seven Business Class award seats from Miami to Sao Paulo on TAM. (The same day has three American Airlines flights with economy award space, but no Business Class space.)

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 5.19.05 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 5.19.17 PM

However intra-South America, TAM and LAN both have pretty good award space. It’s a common sight to see several daily Lima to Cuzco flights with LAN award space.

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 5.19.53 PM

I couldn’t find LAN Argentina award space from Ushuaia or Calafate to Buenos Aires this January–the peak of high season in Patagonia, but much of the year, there is such award space from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires.

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 5.21.53 PM

LAN Ecuador has decent economy award space to the Galapagos Islands from Quito and Guayaquil if you are flexible, like this day with seven award seats from Quito.

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TAM has great award space within Brazil. Here is award space from Sao Paulo to Manaus. There must be 8+ seats, since there isn’t a warning that there are “Only X reward seat(s) left.”

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 5.22.37 PM

Booking the Award

If the backbone of your award is American Airlines flights to Central and South America, begin your search on aa.com. If you need to add, LAN or TAM flights, search for those next or simultaneously on ba.com.

If your award is only American Airlines flights, book online. If it includes LAN or TAM flights, you need to book by calling American Airlines at 800-882-8880. The good news is that you will pay zero phone booking fee, since that fee was waived when an award can’t be booked online.

If you want to fly a premium cabin, you can book economy now and if space opens up closer to departure, you can change the award for no change fee to a higher cabin.

If you want to take a grand tour of South America, consider hopping around with:

Bottom Line

American Airlines are fantastic to get to pretty much every town and city in Central and South America in economy. There is some premium cabin award space, mostly right before departure with more on the flights to the United States than from the United States.

Awards to Central and South America are cheap, especially if you use plentiful off peak economy awards.

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

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Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

 

 

 

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American Airlines is the king of off peak awards. It offers economy off peak awards to most regions of the world. To some regions, you can get the off peak price by flying any of American Airlines’ partners. To other regions, until now, you have needed to fly American Airlines metal to get the discount. Now to those regions where you had needed to fly American Airlines to get the off peak price, you can also fly US Airways and get the off peak price.

Below is a chart that shows the one way off peak price for an economy award in thousands of American Airlines miles. Pay attention to the last column, “Own Metal?”. “Y” means you have to fly American Airlines–and now US Airways–planes to get the discount. “N” means you can fly any partner.

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 9.21.03 PM

Plus if you have the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®, which comes with 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months, you always get a 10% rebate on American Airlines awards on the first 100,000 miles you redeem each year.

With that rebate, the effective price of a trip to Europe in early May is 18,000 miles one way. American’s off peak dates are often extremely generous, encompassing more than half the year and many prime dates to some locations.

The Change

As the chart above notes, to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador, you needed to fly American Airlines planes to get the off peak price:

  • 12,500 miles one way to Mexico and the Caribbean
  • 15,000 miles one way to Central America and Northern South America

That’s not the case anymore. Now you can fly American Airlines or US Airways planes during the off peak dates and get those prices. This isn’t a huge change because American Airlines has a far better route network to these places than US Airways, but it is welcome.

This is the award calendar from Charlotte to Nassau, Bahaams in October and November for the direct flight. There are a few days at the off peak price of 12,500 miles one way.

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 2.19.10 PM

Clicking on a date, you see that the US Airways flight is pricing at the off peak price. US Airways flights to the Caribbean did not used to price at the off peak price.Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 2.19.44 PM

The Non-Change

The other regions have always allowed flying on American Airlines or any of its partners to get the discount:

  • Europe and Southern South America for 20,000 miles each way
  • Japan, Korea, and Mongolia for 25,000 miles each way
  • Hawaii for 17,500 miles each way

Here’s the award calendar for Charlotte to London in October. As you can see, on October 15, the price drops from 30,000 to 20,000 miles.

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 1.43.14 PM

As you can see from selecting October 15, this price applies to direct US Airways flights, American Airlines flights, and combinations of these airlines with other partners.

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 1.43.38 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 1.43.59 PM

Bottom Line

American Airlines has the best off peak award chart in the world, and it just got slightly better. The few regions that required you to fly American Airlines to get the discount now allow flying US Airways flights also.

Right now the personal and business American Airlines cards are each offering 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The personal card also offers a 10% rebate on all American Airlines awards up to 100,000 miles redeemed per calendar year. That rebate applies to off peak awards as well, so the Caribbean is 11,250 miles one way and Europe is 18,000 miles one way!

Hat Tip View from the Wing

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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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