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American Airlines will start flying its 787-8 Dreamliners with economy and Business Class seating from Los Angeles to Shanghai on October 5, 2015 and Sao Paulo on November 5, 2015.

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Award space is dismal in Business Class on both routings, which is a bummer since the product and Saver mileage price are fantastic. Unfortunately this is a pattern for American Airlines, which has been very stingy on its first three Dreamliner routes also.

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The Product

American’s Dreamliner product has four seats across, all with aisle access.

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Rows alternate between forward and backward facing.Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 3.36.07 PM

Seats turn into fully flat 6’5″ beds.Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 3.36.17 PM

The Award Prices

American Airlines has the cheapest award chart right now (until its probable devaluation in a few months.) You can book awards up to 11 months in advance to lock in the following Saver award prices from North America:

  • to Sao Paulo and Southern South America: 30k/50k each way in economy/Business
  • to Shanghai and Southeast Asia: 35k/55k each way in economy/Business

The Award Space

The problem is that those prices are for Saver award space, which is almost non-existent on the Dreamliner. In fact, I see zero Business Class MileSAAver award seats between Los Angeles and Sao Paulo in either direction from November 5 until the end of the schedule.

Between Los Angeles and Shanghai, space is a little better. Heading to Asia, there is Saver award space for one person on certain Monday flights.

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In the Spring, Business Class award space is available every Monday from Los Angeles to Shanghai on the American Airlines Dreamliner.Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 4.50.05 AM

But from Shanghai to Los Angeles, I see award space only on May 26, 2016.

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 4.44.38 AMThe theoretical price for a roundtrip in Business Class is 110,000 American Airlines miles + $38 in taxes. (Note that neither route is showing the 787 yet on aa.com, but that will undoubtedly be updated soon.)
Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 4.51.43 AM Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 4.51.49 AM

Sao Paulo has $60 in taxes roundtrip.Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 4.56.28 AM Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 4.56.36 AM

Getting American Airlines Miles

Right now the Citi Executive American Airlines card is offering 75,000 bonus miles after spending $7,500 in the first three months.

You can also buy AA miles for 2.01 cents each.

Bottom Line

American’s Dreamliner is fantastic, and I’m excited they are adding it to more routes, including two this Fall from Los Angeles. But award space on the plane in Business Class, the highest cabin is dismal. Hopefully this improves going forward.

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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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American Airlines is running a sale on the purchase of their miles through Monday July 13, 2015. You can buy up to 100,000 American Airlines miles during the sale and get up to 27,500 bonus miles plus 15% off the normal price.

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The discount is fixed, but the bonus miles are tiered, based on how many miles you purchase.

Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 7.36.20 PM

American Airlines miles cost 2.95 cents each plus a 7.5% excise tax, and every purchase has a $30 processing fee. The cheapest per-mile price comes from purchasing 76,000 American Airlines miles + 27,500 bonus miles for $2,078.63.

That works out to getting 103,500 miles for 2.01 cents each.

A recent sale offered miles for 2.00 cents each, so this isn’t the best sale of the year, but it’s only 0.5% worse.

With many of American’s sales, you need to buy the maximum number of miles to get a decent price near 2 cents per mile. With this sale, the lower denominations are much cheaper than normal.

  • 21,000 miles (16k + 5k bonus) are only 2.20 cents each
  • 41,000 miles (31k + 10k bonus) are only 2.11 cents each

This sale offers a much better chance than usual to make a small top up of your account for an award you have wanted to book.

Math

The cheapest miles cost 2.01 cents each during this promotion, and that requires shelling out $2,100. I value American Airlines miles around 1.8 cents each, so there is no way I would buy these miles speculatively for 2.01 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 0.0201, and you can book the dream award now, buy during this promotion. Otherwise, don’t buy.

Buy AAdvantage Miles with These Credit Cards

AAdvantage miles purchases are processed directly by American Airlines. That’s great news!

It means you can buy them with your Citi Prestige® Card, and its $250 Air Travel Credit will refund you the first $250 of the purchase price of the miles (plus you’ll earn 4x ThankYou Points on the first $250 of the miles purchase.)

It means that the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card offers 3x ThankYou Points on the purchase of American Airlines miles.

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 7.36.03 PM

It means you can purchase American Airlines miles, then use your Arrival miles for an offsetting statement credit.

Bottom Line

You can buy 103,500 American Airlines for $2,079 or 2.01 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.

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Earn up to 20 free hotel nights after meeting spending $2,500 in the first 90 days on the Club Carlson Visa.

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Yesterday I reviewed the improved offer on the Citi Executive AAdvantage World MasterCard, which now offers 75,000 bonus American Airlines after spending $7,500 in the first three months.

The Citi Executive AAdvantage World MasterCard offers American Airlines lounge access, but comes with a $450 fee. In these two features, it is reminiscent of the Citi Prestige® Card.

The Citi Prestige® Card comes with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open, $250 in airfare or airline fee credits per calendar year, access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, the fourth night free on paid hotel stays, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and a $450 annual fee. See my review.

So which is better?

This comparison will be useful for anyone considering getting a premium credit card–one of those cards with an eye-watering annual fee and huge benefits. I’ll break down the comparison by:

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

Value of Points

The Executive AAdvantage card earns American Airlines miles, which I value at 1.8 cents each. The Citi Prestige® Card earns ThankYou Points, which I value at 1.8 cents each. But the two currencies are very different.

American Airlines miles can be used for American Airlines and oneworld flights according to the American Airlines award chart. Award space is not available on all flights, so miles are not great for people without flexibility. Business and First Class awards often cost less than double an economy award, so miles are fantastic for people who want to fly premium cabins. Check out this series on redeeming American Airlines miles.

Citi ThankYou Points can be used like cash toward any flight OR can be transferred to 11 types of airline miles and one hotel point:

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

My two ThankYou Points favorite transfer partners are Singapore Airlines and Air France Flying Blue. (Click links to see why.)

This flexibility to book awards on any alliance exceeds the number of flights you can book with American Airlines miles, but overall those 11 partners probably just equal American’s program, which is better than any of the 11.

For even more flexibility, though, ThankYou Points earned on the Prestige offer you 1.33 cents toward any flight or 1.6 cents toward any American Airline or US Airways flight.

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

If you want to use the points for paid tickets, ThankYou Points are better. If you are only interested in flights to South America, Europe, and Hawaii, ThankYou Points are better. If you want to go to Asia, American Airlines miles are better.

Sign Up Bonus

  • Executive American Airlines: 75,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $7,500 in the first three months
  • Citi Prestige® Card50,000 ThankYou Points after spending $3,000 in the first three months

Multiply the points by your value of the points to figure out how much more valuable the sign up bonus on the Executive card is. The bonus on that card is worth $1,350 after spending $7,500 to me. The sign up bonus on the Citi Prestige® Card is worth $900 after spending $3,000 to me.

The Executive card offers a higher absolute value sign up bonus, but the Prestige offers a higher rebate percentage on the minimum spending requirement. Big spenders should care more about absolute value. Small spenders should care more about rebate percentage.

Category Bonuses

  • Executive American Airlines: 2 AA miles per dollar on AA purchases
  • Citi Prestige® Card
    • Earn 3x points on Air Travel and Hotels
    • Earn 2x points on Dining at Restaurants and Entertainment
    • 1 ThankYou® Point per $1 spent on other purchases

After hitting the minimum spending requirement on the Executive card, it doesn’t offer an attractive proposition to continue spending on the card. Even its 2x category bonus on American Airlines purchases isn’t as good as putting the same purchase on a Prestige for 3x.

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

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

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

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

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

That’s $234 of extra value per year from having the Citi Prestige® Card‘s category bonuses versus the Executive card. I imagine many people spend quite a bit more than me in those categories. For them, the Citi Prestige® Card would be even more valuable.

Lounge Access

  • Executive American Airlines: American Airlines Admirals Clubs access no matter what airline you’re flying that day
  • Citi Prestige® Card: Priority Pass Select + American Airlines Admirals Clubs when flying American
  • Both cards offer free guest access on each visit when you are eligible to enter: either your spouse and all children under 18 or any two guests

With the Executive card, you have Admirals Club membership, which means you can access an Admirals Club even if you’re flying United that day.

With the Prestige, you have Admirals Club access when flying American Airlines or US Airways. But the Prestige also offers Priority Pass Select membership, which gets me into an airport lounge at nearly every airport I use worldwide.

I give the edge on lounge access to the Citi Prestige® Card.

Statement Credits

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

The Citi Prestige® Card is the clear winner in the statement credit game. The Citi Prestige® Card allows you to get statement credits to offset flights, fees, and award taxes, basically any charge from any airline, so everyone should easily max out $250 per year. This is a calendar year benefit, so you get $500 worth of Air Travel Credits in the first year of cardmembership.

Other Benefits

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

The Executive card earns 10,000 American Airlines status miles if you spend $40,000 in a calendar year.

Annual Fee

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

Both cards are clearly worth paying the annual fee in year 1 because of their sign up bonuses, lounge access, and statement credits. The Citi Prestige® Card is worth holding indefinitely if you get any value out of the lounge access, free hotel nights, or free rounds of golf since the $250 Air Travel Credit offsets more than half its annual fee. The Executive card is only worth holding if you really love that American Airlines lounge membership.

Which Card is Better?

With the Prestige vs. American Express Platinum, it really depended on your personal preferences like which lounges you use and where you like to travel. But Prestige vs. Executive is no contest.

The Executive’s sign up bonus is better if you can handle its minimum spending requirement of $7,500 in the first three months. The Prestige is better in all other categories.

For folks who want more lounge access, big category bonuses on spending, statement credits, free hotel nights, free golf, and great rates on using points to pay for airline tickets (especially on American/US Airways), the Citi Prestige® Card is better.

For folks who want American Airlines lounge access even when they aren’t flying American Airlines and want American Airlines miles, the Executive card is better.

Citi Prestige® Card with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months, lounge access, $250 per calendar year in airline fee credits, and more

  • $250 Air Travel Credit each year
  • Complimentary 4th Night for any hotel stay
  • Earn 50,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.
  • Points are redeemable for an $800 flight on American Airlines or US Airways®, a $665 flight on any other airline or $500 in gift cards.
  • Transfer points to a variety of travel loyalty programs from airlines to hotels.
  • Earn 3x points on Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 2x points on Dining at Restaurants and Entertainment
  • 1 ThankYou® Point per $1 spent on other purchases

Application Link: Citi Prestige® Card

The Citi Executive AAdvantage World MasterCard comes with 75,000 American Airlines miles after spending $7,500 in the first three months

  • Earn 75,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after you make $7,500 in purchases within 3 months of account opening.
  • $450 Annual Fee
  • Admirals Club Membership (free entry for you + family or you + 2 guests no matter what airline you’re flying)
  • Earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles per calendar year after spending $40k
  • No Foreign Purchase Fees
  • Enhanced Airport Experience with dedicated check-in and priority screening and boarding
  • First Checked Bag Free
  • $100 statement credit for Global Entry application every five years

Application Link: Citi Executive AAdvantage World MasterCard

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The Citi Executive AAdvantage World MasterCard now offers 75,000 bonus American Airlines after spending $7,500 in the first three months. That’s off its peak offer of 100,000 miles that was available for much of 2014, but better than its recent 50,000 mile offer.

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 3.20.44 PM

The Citi Executive AAdvantage World MasterCard is a great card for many people, but there are major drawbacks to the Citi Executive AAdvantage World MasterCard that you should consider before getting the card.

  • What is the full offer on the Citi Executive AAdvantage World MasterCard?
  • Can you get the card if you’ve had other Citi American Airlines cards?
  • What are the drawbacks?
  • What are the best uses of American Airlines miles?

The Offer

  • Earn 75,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after you make $7,500 in purchases within 3 months of account opening.
  • $450 Annual Fee
  • Admirals Club Membership (free entry for you + family or you + 2 guests no matter what airline you’re flying)
  • Earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles per calendar year after spending $40k
  • No Foreign Purchase Fees
  • Enhanced Airport Experience with dedicated check-in and priority screening and boarding
  • First Checked Bag Free
  • $100 statement credit for Global Entry application every five years

I value American Airlines miles at 1.8 cents each, so I value the 75,000 miles at $1,350. Subtract the $450 annual fee and add the value of Admirals Club Membership to figure out the value of the sign up bonus.

Who Can Get the Card?

This card is the Executive Card. It is different than the Platinum and Gold versions of American Airlines credit cards, which many more people have. If you only have those cards, you can get this card and its bonus as a new customer.

Last year many people got several Executive Cards. They are not eligible for this offer, which includes the fine print: “bonus miles are not available if you have had a Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World EliteTM Card opened or closed in the past 18 months.”

This card is issued by Citi. Citi has a general rule that you can only be approved for one card in a one week period and two cards in a two month period. So if you have gotten other Citi cards recently like the Prestige or Premier, space out your applications, so they are on day 1, day 9, and day 66.

The Drawbacks

The two things that will hold people back from getting this card are the minimum spending requirement and annual fee.

The minimum spending requirement is a huge $7,500 in three months. There are many great ways to meet minimum spending requirements, but make sure you only get this card if you can meet the minimum spending requirement without spending more than you ordinarily would and if meeting the minimum spending requirement will not cause you to go into debt. Also consider whether you want to get this one card or two or three cards instead that have the same total spending requirement with higher total bonuses.

The annual fee is $450 per year. The first year you get a $100 statement credit that you can use for your own Global Entry application or someone else’s.

For that price, you get Admirals Club membership. If you normally pay for Admirals Club access, this perk has real value. If you normally fly international business class awards–which come with lounge access–this perk has zero value. If you have the Citi Prestige® Card, this benefit may have some value.

  • The Citi Prestige® Card offers American Airlines lounge access for you plus two guests or you plus your spouse and kids whenever you fly American Airlines or US Airways.
  • The Citi Executive AAdvantage World MasterCard offers American Airlines lounge access for you plus two guests or you plus your spouse and kids no matter what airline you’re flying.

Figure out how much value lounge access has to you and mentally deduct that value from the annual fee.

Uses of American Airlines Miles

Currently American Airlines miles are the single most valuable mileage currency. Here is a series that explains everything about redeeming American Airlines miles including guides based on where exactly you want to go.

The reason American Airlines miles are the most valuable is that Delta and United devalued their award charts in 2014. American was too busy with its merger to follow suit, but I and experts predict that American Airlines will devalue its chart late this year. That means you shouldn’t value these American Airlines miles so highly if you don’t plan to burn them in 2015 for travel to be completed by 2016.

Bottom Line

My take on this card is that for some people it will be one of the best offers of the year. For other folks, this will be an offer they should skip in favor of cards with spending requirements and annual fees that more closely align with their comfort levels.

Will you apply for the card?

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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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Until August 7, 2015, you can transfer 20,000 SPG Starpoints to 30,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles. This is a repeat of an awesome promo we saw last July.

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 6.25.37 PM

 

It’s July 1st, and I think we can probably declare this the best miles deal July will see!

  • How many Starpoints can you transfer?
  • Do Starpoints transfer instantly to American Airlines miles?
  • In what increment must you transfer Starpoints to maximize this deal?
  • How many Starpoints should you transfer speculatively?

Here’s what American Airlines says:

From July 1 through August 7, 2015, convert your Starpoints® to AAdvantage miles and earn a 20% bonus on the amount of AAdvantage miles you receive from the conversion.

As always, for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred within the same transaction, SPG® will automatically add another 5,000 Starpoints.

With the additional 20% mileage bonus offered by the AAdvantage program, you’ll receive 30,000 miles from the transaction.

The bottom line is 20,000 SPG Starpoints = 30,000 American Airlines miles until August 7.

  • 20,000 Starpoints = 20,000 AAdvantage miles (1:1 transfer partner)
  •  Standard SPG bonus = 5,000 AAdvantage miles per 20,000 Starpoints transferred
  • AAdvantage 20% mileage bonus = 5,000 AAdvantage miles
  • Total: 20,000 Starpoints = 30,000 AAdvantage miles

How Many Starpoints Can You Transfer?

You can transfer up to 79,999 Starpoints per 24 hours to an airline. Since you need to send Starpoints in exact 20k point increments to maximize transfer bonuses, the effective limit is 60,000 Starpoints per day to 90,000 American Airlines miles.

Starpoints do not transfer instantly to American Airlines miles. The transfer usually take 2-4 days in my experience.

Other than the daily limit, there is no limit to the number of Starpoints you can transfer to American Airlines miles during this promotion.

Speculative Transfers

I value Starpoints at 2.5 cents each and AAdvantage miles at 1.8 cents each, so I’d rather have 30,000 American Airlines miles than 20,000 Starpoints. However, I am not going to rush off and convert all my Starpoints to American Airlines miles for two reasons:

  1. Transferring kills the option value of holding transferable points. What if for my next award Asiana or Singapore or British Airways or Delta miles are better than American Airlines miles? I’d rue my transfer.
  2. I expect an American Airlines award chart devaluation announcement in the next few months that kicks in around the beginning of 2016. Here’s a post where I asked several miles experts to predict the next American Airlines devlauation’s size and timing.

For that reason, I’ll only transfer Starpoints to American Airlines miles that I reasonably expect to burn by the end of 2015 for travel through late 2016.

Getting Starpoints

You can’t get Starpoints by August 7 by opening a new credit card, but this promotion highlights one of the many reasons you’d want to get a new Starwood Preferred Guest personal or business card.

Both cards offer 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $3,000 in the first three months.

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

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

Japan Airlines First Class space is widely available for 1-3 people per flight between Tokyo and Sydney between October 2015 and March 2016. That’s the heart of the Australian Summer, and Japan Airlines First Class is one of the nicest products in the world.

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You can very cheaply book Japan Airlines First Class with American Airlines miles as part of a larger trip that includes both Asia and Australia.

  • How good is Japan Airlines First Class?
  • Where does Japan Airlines fly?
  • How many miles do you need between Tokyo and Sydney? How many miles from the United States to Sydney?
  • How can you search for and book the award space?
  • How can you get American Airlines miles?

How good is Japan Airlines First Class?

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 5.29.48 AM

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

Here’s a tour of the plane.

Where does Japan Airlines fly?

The only Japan Airlines plane with First Class is the 777-300ER. Seasonally, Japan Airlines adds its 777-300ER to its Tokyo-Narita to Sydney route.

Source: gcmap.com
Source: gcmap.com

This year, the 777-300ER and its First Class will operate from Tokyo to Sydney from October 25, 2015 to March 26, 2016.

Japan Airlines also flies its 777-300ER to America, specifically between Tokyo and San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 5.02.39 AM
Source: gcmap.com

The San Francisco route flies to Tokyo-Haneda, so it doesn’t connect to the flight to Sydney. The others fly to Tokyo-Narita. From either airport, you can connect throughout Asia. If you don’t live at one of the North American gateways, you can connect from your home airport on American Airlines, US Airways, or Alaska Airlines flights to the Japan Airlines award space for zero extra miles.

How Many Miles Does the Award Cost?

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

  • 60,000 miles one way in First Class between the Japan (Asia 1) and Australia (South Pacific)

You cannot route from the United States to Australia via Japan on a single American Airlines award. You’d have to pay for one award from the United States to Japan and a second award to Australia. American charges:

  • 62,500 miles one way in First Class between the United States and Japan

I realize almost no one reading this blog lives in Australia or Japan, but I still think highlighting these foreign deals is important because, hey, why not dream big and book a round-the-world trip as a series of one way awards?

How Can You Search and Book the Award Space?

Search on ba.com. For the moment–very likely to change very soon–there is excellent award space from October to March on the Japan Airlines flights between Sydney and Tokyo in First Class.

Most days have 1-3 seats in First Class in both directions. The Tokyo to Sydney flight is a redeye.Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 4.11.49 PM

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Sydney to Tokyo is a day time flight. Both flights are just under 10 hours.Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 4.11.49 PM

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

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

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

How Can You Get American Airlines Miles?

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings and a free checked bag on American Airlines flights. There is no annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Bottom Line

Book–or put on hold–Japan Airlines First Class award space between Japan and Australia today with your American Airlines miles. Japan Airlines First Class suites are world class, American Airlines’ award chart is way underpriced, and 1-3 First Class award seats on most flights between October and March between Australia and Japan will not last.

Hat Tip One Mile at a Time

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

 

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

There’s an idea that you have to book your award tickets exactly 11 months in advance or there will be no award space. Having booked tons of awards for myself and clients of the MileValue Award Booking Service at all times from 11 months to 11 hours in advance, I can tell you that that idea is a myth.

While it is an advantage to know where you want to go 11 months out and start looking, the award space on your route might open up at any time before departure as airlines adjust their award space based on how many seats they’re selling.

Case in point: there’s tons of award space to Europe for this Summer right now.

You want to use United miles because United and its partners have the most award space. As a refresher, between the United States and Europe, United charges:

  • 30,000 miles each way in economy
  • 57,500 miles each in United Business
  • 70,000 miles each way in partner Business
  • 80,000 miles each way in United First
  • 110,000 miles each way in partner First Class

Here are some selected routes with fantastic award space for two people in July and August 2015. There’s nothing special about them; they’re literally the first three I searched. Remember that yellow dates have economy award space, blue dates have Business or First (but overwhelmingly Business) Class award space, and green dates have both economy and premium cabin award space.

Houston to Munich

Business Class award space is available for many early week departures. Economy award space is available nearly every day.

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Some dates have space on the direct United flight.Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 4.15.55 PM

Some have a connection. Don’t be afraid of a London connection. It only adds $38 to the award price.Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 4.16.06 PM

Los Angeles to Paris

West Coast to Europe is a lot harder than East Coast to Europe, but there is still plenty of economy award space, and premium award space sneaks in at about 21 days before departure if seats are unsold.Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 4.16.41 PM

From the West Coast, you have a higher chance of a “Mixed Cabin” award that could mean hours in economy even when paying the Buiness Class price.Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 4.17.10 PM

New York to Split, Croatia

Even awards to Eastern Europe into smaller airports have award space on plenty of dates.
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Connection times are often less convenient to smaller cities because there are fewer flights per day, but you will get to hang out in the Austrian Airlines lounge for the five hours of this layover.

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Awards may have two stops, but you’ll arrive rested from flying Business Class.Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 4.18.48 PM

Other Airlines

United miles are far and away the best to Europe. Collect them for your trip there next summer, since you have time. See my Blueprint for a Free European Summer Vacation for the simple steps.

But that doesn’t do you much good for Summer 2015. If all you have are Delta or American Airlines miles, your options are much more limited, but there are possibilities.

For instance, American has great award space New York to Paris for two people in economy in July and August.

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 4.26.24 PM

There’s good space from Boston to Paris.Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 4.27.06 PM

Bottom Line

You don’t always need to book 11 months in advance to use your miles.

There is great award space from the United States to Europe for this summer, especially with United miles. The space gets even better, especially in First Class, in the last week or two before departure.

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

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

Starting September 1, 2015, you can no longer use your American Airlines miles to book Hawaiian Airlines flights between the mainland United States and Hawaii.

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You will still be able to use American Airlines miles to fly inter-island flights on Hawaiian and to fly to Hawaiian’s destinations in Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.

You will still be able to use American Airlines miles to fly to Hawaii on American Airlines, US Airways, and Alaska Airlines flights.

How Big of a Loss for AAdvantage Miles is Losing Hawaiian Flights to Hawaii?

I’d categorize this as a minor loss. Hawaiian has a nice route network to the west coast, but so do Alaska, American, and US Airways. All this cities will still have direct flights to Honolulu that you can book with American Airlines miles after September 1. (Of course, if you only want the direct flight, book it with Avios not American Airlines miles to save 5k to 10k miles each way.)

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The big losses are Hawaiian’s flights from Las Vegas and New York-JFK to Honolulu. If you live in Las Vegas, substitute with cheap cash fares on Allegiant and consider upgrading to its First-Class-sized Giant Seat. If you live in New York, you can fly United’s direct flight from Newark to Honolulu, which features a flat bed in First Class (trip report), and costs only 30,000 Singapore miles one way.

It’s not like Hawaiian offers great award space from New York to Honolulu any way. There’s a smattering of days with economy award space for two on the route, but no days with First Class award space.

Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 11.34.17 PM Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 11.44.45 PMHawaiian First Class is a little bit nicer than American, US Airways, or Alaska First Class on their mainland routes (Trip Report: Hawaiian Airlines First Class from Honolulu to Las Vegas), but losing the ability to book it on mainland flights isn’t huge.

If you want to book Hawaiian Airlines award space between the mainland and Hawaii with your American Airlines miles, you can do that through August 31, 2015 at which point flights will be bookable through July 2016. American charges:

  • 17.5k miles each way in economy during off peak dates
  • 22.5k miles each way in economy during peak dates
  • 37.5k miles each way in First Class

Even after September 1, American miles will remain a valuable currency to Hawaii for the award space on American, Alaska, and US Airways flights.

Flights You Can Still Book with American Airlines Miles After September 1

Interisland

Hawaiian Airlines and subsidiary Ohana have an extensive intra-Hawaii route network that you can book for 5,000 miles one way.

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Generally I pay for interisland flights with cash as they’re often about $80, which I think is a better deal than 5,000 American Airlines miles + $5.60, but if flights are expensive when you want to travel, this can be a good deal.

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 3.11.45 AM

Hawaii to Asia, Australia, and New Zealand

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 3.10.18 AM

Hawaiian flies from Honolulu to:

  • Japan: Tokyo-Haneda, Osaka-Kansai, Sapporo, Sendai (ends 9/30)
  • China: Beijing
  • Australia: Sydney, Brisbane
  • New Zealand: Auckland
  • South Korea: Seoul
  • Tahiti: Papeete
  • American Samoa: Pago Pago

Australia and New Zealand could be useful destinations with American Airlines miles. Sometimes the only premium cabin awards to Australia and New Zealand are bookable in Hawaiian First Class for 62,500 miles one way because Qantas releases very little space on its American flights in Business and First Class.

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 3.14.50 AM Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 3.14.57 AM

Bottom Line

If you want to book Hawaiian Airlines flights to Hawaii with American Airlines miles, do it now.

  • Starting September 1, 2015, you can no longer use your American Airlines miles to book Hawaiian Airlines flights between the mainland United States and Hawaii.
  • You will still be able to use American Airlines miles to fly inter-island flights on Hawaiian and to fly to Hawaiian’s destinations in Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.
  • You will still be able to use American Airlines miles to fly to Hawaii on American Airlines, US Airways, and Alaska Airlines flights.
  • You can also book Hawaiian Airlines flights with Hawaiian miles, a transfer partner of Membership Rewards and Starpoints

Hat Tip The Forward Cabin

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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.

7

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Qatar Airways plans to fly its A350 between Philadelphia and Doha starting on January 1, 2016.

Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 10.54.47 PM

The A350 is the world’s newest passenger jet, newer than both the 787 Dreamliner and A380. This will be the plane’s first route to the United States.

Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 10.33.18 PMAward space is wide open in Business Class on Qatar’s A350 from the United States to the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent and bookable with American Airlines miles.

  • What is the Qatar Business Class product?
  • What is the award price with American Airlines miles?
  • What is the award space on Qatar’s routes?
  • What connections are possible in Philadelphia and in Doha?
  • How do you book these awards?
  • How do you get American Airlines miles?

Qatar Business Class

Qatar Business Class has won the SkyTrax Passenger Choice Award for Best Business Class two years running.

Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 10.33.09 PM

On the A350, Qatar has put in nine rows of 1-2-1 reverse herringbone seats, meaning that everyone gets a fully flat bed with direct aisle access.

There are two mini-cabins, the front with six rows and the back with three. I’d try for Row 7-9 to be in the smaller cabin. The two cabins are separated by a refreshment area with drinks and snacks.

Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 10.33.28 PMThe A350 features the benefits touted by the newest generation of aircraft: less fuel usage, quieter flight, cleaner air, and lower pressure to make you arrive feeling better.

Award Price

Qatar is a member of oneworld. The best miles to use to book the Qatar A350 are American Airlines miles because American doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on Qatar award flights.

Between the United States and Middle East/Subcontinent, American Airlines charges:

  • 45,000 miles each way in economy
  • 67,500 miles each way in Business Class
  • 90,000 miles each way in First Class, though the Qatar A350 doesn’t have First Class

Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 10.46.07 PMTaxes on a roundtrip award should be about $80. There should be no award fees if booked more than 21 days before departure.

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

Award Space on Qatar A350

Search for award space on ba.com. (Here’s how.) All the Qatar award space you find there, American Airlines miles can book.

Award space is excellent in both directions between Philadelphia and Doha in economy and Business Class from mid-January through mid-May, 2016, which is as far in advance as you can book at the moment.

Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 10.48.39 PM

The A350 flights from Philadelphia begin January, but award space doesn’t appear until January 11., when there are 9+ economy award seats (we know that by the lack of a number displayed under the word “Available”) and 4 Business Class seats available.

Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 10.26.09 PMScreen Shot 2015-06-14 at 10.26.16 PM

From that day through the end of the schedule, I found award space in economy and Business Class every day I searched, which was about two dozen days.

There were always either 2 or 4 Business Class seats available and 9+ economy seats.

Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 10.26.09 PMScreen Shot 2015-06-14 at 10.30.33 PM

Between Doha and Philadelphia, the pattern is only slightly different. There is actually 1 Business Class award seat on the inaugural A350 flight to Philadelphia.

Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 10.26.09 PM Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 10.35.23 PM

Then the next day with award space is January 11 with 3 Business Class and zero economy award seats between Doha and Philadelphia.Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 10.26.09 PM Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 10.36.43 PMFinally, starting January 22, we begin to see the pattern we saw the other direction. For the rest of the calendar, we see 9+ economy award seats and 2 or 4 Business Class seats.Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 10.26.09 PM Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 10.37.10 PMScreen Shot 2015-06-14 at 10.26.09 PM Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 10.37.29 PM

Connection in Philly and Doha

American charges the same number of miles no matter where your award starts in the United States. Philadelphia was a US Airways hub that American Airlines is maintaining, so you can fly there directly from most of the country.

Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 10.49.06 PM

You can only connect the Qatar space to MileSAAver award space on aa.com, not AAnytime award space. MileSAAver award space should be pretty good domestically on American Airlines and US Airways award flights. You can fly economy or First Class domestically on international Business Class awards, so make sure to search for space in both cabins.

In Doha, you can connect to much of the world.
Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 10.39.05 PM

If you stay in the Middle East/Indian Subcontinent region, you will not pay extra miles. Qatar award space should be excellent within the region.

Booking the Award

Find Qatar award space on ba.com, and find American Airlines or US Airways award space on aa.com if necessary. Call American Airlines at 800-882-8880 to book the award, giving the agent the date, flight number, and cabin of each flight you found with award space on ba.com and aa.com.

If you’d like, put the award space on a free five-day hold before booking.

You will not be charged a phone booking fee, since Qatar space cannot be booked on aa.com.

Getting the Miles

The personal and business American Airlines cards from Citi offer 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. You can get both cards at least eight days apart.

Bottom Line

Qatar Airways’ flight from Philadelphia (with connections elsewhere in the United States) to Doha (with connections elsewhere in the Middle East) will be served by an A350 starting January 1, 2016.

Business Class will be top of the line and cost only 67,500 American Airlines miles each way.

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

Get the American Airlines miles by opening a Citi AA card.

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

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

6

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

Last month I flew from Bogota, Colombia to Washington, DC in economy with a layover in Miami. I was able to get free lounge access in Bogota and Miami from my Citi Prestige® Card.

The Citi Prestige® Card offers free Priority Pass Select lounge membership, which gives free access to over 700 lounges worldwide. Download the Priority Pass app to your phone or search for lounges here. Normally Priority Pass access costs $399 per year. It also  offers American Airlines lounge access on any day you are flying American Airlines or US Airways flights.

I wrote up all the details of the Citi Prestige® Card‘s lounge access in Complete Guide to Citi Prestige Lounge Access, including the fact that you can bring in free guests to Priority Pass and American Airlines lounges. In this post, I won’t rehash all the rules, I’ll just show what lounge access I got on a single trip to take the lounge access from the abstract to the concrete.

Bogota

This was my third time flying out of Bogota’s airport in six months, so I already knew that Priority Pass has two partner lounges in the airport: Salon VIP LAN and Avianca Sala VIP. I reviewed both thoroughly in Best Lounge at Bogota El Dorado Airport, Colombia. The takeaway is that LAN’s lounge, while smaller, has much better offerings.

I went to the LAN lounge after clearing security and presented my Priority Pass Select card.

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 2.02.16 AM

Remember I was flying American Airlines and not LAN, but the airline you’re flying NEVER matters when you use Priority Pass lounge access.

I was given entry and a free wifi code. I picked a couch as my seat and hit the buffet.

IMG_1549

There are no outlets in the main dining area, but it would be a comfortable place to enjoy some food while chatting, away from the quieter lounge area.

IMG_1548

The buffet area was beautiful with a wine-and-wine-glass theme.

IMG_1547

The buffet itself is modest, but there is enough food for a meal. There were delicious sandwiches–I loved the chicken and sundried tomato on a bagel–cheeses, fruit, and sushi.

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There were self-serve liquors, wines, and several varieties of Bogota Beer Company craft beer.

IMG_1541IMG_1543

IMG_1539

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To top it all off, there was a nice ice cream selection.

IMG_1551

I had a breakfast of fruits and sandwiches before my 7 AM take off for Miami.

The LAN lounge in Bogota also has showers and nice private bathroom stalls.

Miami

When I arrived in Miami and cleared immigration and security with Global Entry (don’t forget the $100 credit for a Global Entry application is another benefit of the Citi Prestige® Card,) I headed straight for the nearest American Airlines Admirals Club.

To get into the Admirals Club, I had to show my Citi Prestige® Card and my American Airlines boarding pass.

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 6.30.43 PM

I found a seat in a quiet area and set my bags down to tour the lounge. American Airlines has one section of the lounge with paid premium foods and drinks.

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 1.20.24 PM

Here was the menu.

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 1.20.16 PM

I skipped this area because I prefer free food and drinks. The free food included fruits…

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 1.20.08 PM

…cookies…

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 1.19.48 PM

…cheese, crackers, and veggies…Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 1.19.43 PM

…and two types of soup–a creamy tomato soup and a veggie soup.

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 1.20.30 PM

I loved both soups and had several bowls of each. I preferred the food options in Bogota, but I had a filling meal in Miami also, completely for free!

There was also a free bar with beer, wine, and liquor.

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 1.19.58 PM

The American Airlines lounge even has free showers, just ask the lounge attendant for the key.

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 5.40.01 PM

Bottom Line

You can read about the lounge access offered by the Citi Prestige® Card, but what does it look like in practice on a real trip?

I used the Priority Pass access in Bogota to get into the LAN lounge. I got a very comfortable couch, delicious fruit and sandwiches, and free wifi. I turned down free booze, including local craft brews, sushi, and a shower.

I used the American Airlines Admirals Club access in Miami. I got a quiet place to work, delicious fruit and soup, and free wifi. I turned down free booze, paid food options, and a shower.

If I hadn’t had lounge access, I would have bought food at both airports for around $20 total; had to work at gates with less comfortable seating, more noise, and fewer power outlets; and had to purchase wifi. The lounge access offered by the Citi Prestige® Card was huge for me on my trip from Colombia to the United States. It should be useful for you on most trips too.

The Citi Prestige® Card comes with 50,000 bonus ThankYou points after spending $3,000 in the first three months. ThankYou Points can be used like cash to purchase any American Airlines flight at a rate of 1.6 cents per point, or you can transfer them to 11 airline miles including Singapore, Virgin Atlantic, and Air France. The card also offers $500 in airfare or award tax reimbursement in the first 12 months, a $100 reimbursement for a Global Entry application, and three free rounds of golf per calendar year. Why I got the card.

  • $250 Air Travel Credit each year
  • Complimentary 4th Night for any hotel stay
  • Earn 50,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.
  • Points are redeemable for an $800 flight on American Airlines or US Airways®, a $665 flight on any other airline or $500 in gift cards.
  • Transfer points to a variety of travel loyalty programs from airlines to hotels.
  • Earn 3x points on Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 2x points on Dining at Restaurants and Entertainment
  • 1 ThankYou® Point per $1 spent on other purchases

Application Link: Citi Prestige® Card

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

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

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

Ireland’s government announced its approval for IAG–the parent company of British Airways, Iberia, and Vueling–to purchase Aer Lingus, the flag carrier of Ireland. The Irish government owns a 25% stake in Aer Lingus.

Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 4.49.15 AM

Other shareholders, including Ryanair which owns a 30% stake in Aer Lingus, have not weighed in, but if the deal goes through it will have a big effect on your miles.

Right now Aer Lingus is not a member of any airline alliance. It does, however, have one-off partnerships with United and British Airways, so you can redeem United miles and Avios for Aer Lingus flights.

If IAG buys Aer Lingus, it would join oneworld, and you would be able to redeem American Airlines, British Airways, and any other oneworld miles for Aer Lingus flights. You would, however, almost certainly lose the ability to redeem United miles on Aer Lingus.

Current Redemption Options

British Airways Avios awards use a distance-based formula. Flights from Boston to Ireland are 12,500 Avios one way in economy. Flights from New York, Chicago, and Washington to Ireland are 20,000 Avios one way. San Francisco to Ireland is 25,000 Avios one way.

Unfortunately, since Avios devalued last month, Business Class awards are now triple the economy price on those routes. This is especially unfortunate because Aer Lingus now has flat beds on some of its American routes.

Avios redemptions on Aer Lingus have very small fuel surcharges, in the tens of dollars.

Connections beyond Ireland add to the price of an Avios award, since all flights add to the price of Avios awards.

You cannot book Aer Lingus awards on ba.com. Search Expert Flyer for award space and call British Airways at 800-AIRWAYS to book.

Alternatively, you can use United miles to redeem Aer Lingus flights. United charges 30,000 miles one way in economy to Europe and 70,000 miles in Business Class. You can search and book on united.com.

Future Redemption Options

If Aer Lingus is bought by IAG and joins oneworld, the United option would probably be discontinued. The British Airways option would remain since British Airways is a member of oneworld.

We would also gain the ability to redeem American Airlines miles for Aer Lingus flights. That would be great since American Airlines charges only 50,000 miles one way in Business Class to Europe and 20,000 in economy for the majority of the year. Unfortunately I do expect these prices to go up, possibly before you’d have the chance to redeem American Airlines miles for Aer Lingus flights.

We’d also gain the ability to redeem every other type of oneworld miles for Aer Lingus flights, but most of those programs are terrible.

I’d consider this mainly a wash–losing United redemptions and gaining American redemptions. I’d call it a slight win though because United has a ton of great partner options to Europe, and American has fewer.

Bottom Line

Aer Lingus to IAG and oneworld is not a done deal, but the second biggest shareholder approves. If it happens, redemption options to Ireland and Europe will change, and probably get slightly better.

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

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

Possibilities with Qantas flight. Source: gcmap.com

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.15.46 PM
South African flies to Perth, Qantas flies to Sydney. Source: gcmap.com

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

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

What is the Business Class Product

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

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

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

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

How to Search Award Space

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

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

Award Space Picture

South African Flight

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

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

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

Qantas Flight

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.27.05 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Connections

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

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

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

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

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

How to Book

Depends on which miles you want to use.

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

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

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

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

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

Avianca LifeMiles (book online) charges the same.

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 10.00.35 PM

There are no cheap deals with other Star Alliance carriers:

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

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

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

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

Getting the Miles

The Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard offers 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings. There is no annual fee the first year, then $95.

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

CKANbanner_300x250_v6b

Bottom Line

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Value of Points

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

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

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

Citi ThankYou Points transfer to 11 airlines and one hotel:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sign Up Bonus

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

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

Category Bonuses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lounge Access

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Statement Credits

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

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

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

Other Benefits

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

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

Which benefits you more depends on your travel style.

Annual Fee

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

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

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

Which Card is Better?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the Business Class Product on These Routes?

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.37.36 PM

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

How to Search Award Space

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

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

What Is the Award Space Picture?

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.32.03 PM

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.32.28 PM

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.31.35 PM

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.29.13 PM

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 4.14.31 PM

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

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

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

Connections

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.33.40 PM

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

How to Book

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

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

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

Getting the Miles

The Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard offers 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings. There is no annual fee the first year, then $95.

Bottom Line

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

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

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

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

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

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

The path is easy:

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

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

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

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

Let’s look at the steps in turn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 1.11.09 PM

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 1.24.05 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 2.22.23 PM

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 1.27.27 PM

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 1.30.01 PM

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 1.30.09 PM

Total

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

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

Bonus #1: American Airlines Status

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

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

Bonus #2: American Airlines Lounge Access

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

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

Bottom Line

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 7.36.03 PM

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

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