I just booked myself an award from Los Angeles to Santiago, Chile in Business Class for 35,000 Asiana miles + $24. United would have charged 55,000 miles for the same flights!

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Why Asiana Miles

Asiana has really cheap awards to Europe and South America and really expensive awards elsewhere. Asiana does collect fuel surcharges on awards when similar cash tickets have them, which is why Asiana awards to South America are so awesome: none of Asiana’s partners to South America have fuel surcharges on their flights within the Americas.

I already had exactly 35,000 Asiana miles in my account from previous Starpoint transfers. Starpoints transfer 1:1 to Asiana miles with the standard 5,000 bonus miles from transferring 20,000 Starpoints. That means 35,000 Asiana miles equals 30,000 Starpoints.

Searching

I plan to spend February through May in South America, mostly in Buenos Aires, but I can only spend 90 days there on a single visit, so I was looking to fill a few weeks with other stops first. I considered grand adventures in Guatemala, Colombia, and Brazil, but eventually settled on a first trip to Santiago, Chile.

I decided to book a two week trip there, though I may leave the capital for a few days or a week in the middle.

I have very little flexibility for the Los Angeles to Santiago trip; I need to leave on one of two days. I searched on united.com for award space between Los Angeles and Santiago because any Copa, Avianca, or TACA space on united.com and any United Saver space on united.com can be booked with Asiana miles. I found pretty good space.

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On the search results, I clicked the Business Saver award column, so itineraries with Business Class award space would show up at the top.

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On the days I need to travel, the only Business Class award space is on one stop itineraries on Copa through Santiago. (Humorously, the itineraries don’t have Saver economy space, so a Business Class award is cheaper than an economy award with United miles.)

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 12.11.42 AMThe flight times and route are great, but Copa Business Class stinks. It is just a regular recline seat like you’d find in domestic First Class.

Booking and Seat Selection

Still I decided to book the Copa space since I don’t have date flexibility.

Booking the award is straightforward though not as streamlined as it should be. Always call the airline whose miles you’re using, so I called Asiana at 800-227-4262.

Here’s where it gets weird:

  1. First you need to reserve the ticket with reservations.
  2. Then you need to pay for the ticket with Asiana Club.

I followed automated prompts to reservations. I gave the agent the date, cabin, and flight number of each segment that I had found on united.com.

The agent put the award together and gave me a confirmation number, which was the last eight digits of my phone number, then transferred me to Asiana Club. I gave them the confirmation number and my credit card. They ticketed the award for 35,000 Asiana miles + $24 in taxes. (There is no phone fee, there are no fuel surcharges, and there is no charge for booking at the last minute.) I got an email receipt a few hours later.

To confirm that everything ticketed correctly, I tried to select seats from Copa. I didn’t have the Copa confirmation number to select seats on copaair.com, so I called Copa and read the ticket number from my Asiana receipt to get my Copa reservation number. Then I went back to copaair.com and could pull up my reservation.

Screen Shot 2016-01-16 at 6.43.30 PM Oddly, the flights are listed as “Economy Class (I)” even though I is the booking code for Business Class award space. I was able to select Seat 1A on each flight, further easing my worries that Copa will put me in economy.

I am not going to investigate “Economy Class” farther. I expect I will be flying Business Class, and if not, I will probably get a nice refund from Asiana.

Future Changes

As mentioned, Copa Business Class stinks. I would much rather fly from Los Angeles to Houston to Santiago with the last leg in United flat bed Business Class on the 787-9 Dreamliner.
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United is very stingy with this award space but opens some in the last few weeks before departure. As of yesterday, there was award space on the flight on January 18, 19, 22, 26, 27, and 28. That makes me hopeful that the days I want to fly will soon have flat bed Business Class award space. If that happens, I expect to be able to change the award for free based on my previous experience changing an Asiana award.

Bottom Line

I paid 35,000 Asiana miles for Business Class award space to Chile. To put in context how cheap that is, let me compare it to United’s award prices to Chile, which I consider eminently reasonable:

  • 30,000 United miles each way in economy
  • 55,000 United miles each way in Business Class

I will spend two awesome weeks in Chile and then fly my British Airways Avios award to Buenos Aires.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

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 a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

I have a big Asia trip coming up in January. I’m going to go from Hawaii to Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, and India before returning to Los Angeles.

I need to get from Japan to Thailand to meet a friend there, but I wanted to beat her to Bangkok by as little as possible, so I didn’t have a lot of date flexibility.

Since I am flying into Tokyo, I wanted to fly out of a different Japanese city, preferably one near Kyoto since that is where I want to spend several days.

The closest international airports to Kyoto are Osaka-Kansai (KIX) and Nagoya (NGO), which are both about two hours away by train. Both have direct flights to Bangkok on Thai Airways, which I discovered on Wikipedia.

Searching on United.com

I searched for award space on united.com because united.com displays Thai award space, and any space I find there I should be able to book equally with all partners.

Award space was good on the Osaka-Bangkok route in First Class on a Thai 747. I’ve flown that cabin before for one hour from Phuket to Bangkok, and it was very nice.

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I couldn’t find economy or Business Class space on the Osaka flight on the day I needed to fly.

On the Nagoya route, I found Business Class award space on the two daily Dreamliner flights. I have never flown Thai Business Class or the Thai Dreamliner.

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Deciding Which Miles to Use

Thai Airways award space can be booked with any Star Alliance miles. I compared the award charts with United miles, Avianca LifeMiles, Lufthansa miles, Singapore miles, Asiana miles, Copa miles, and Aeroplan miles, all of the big eight Star Alliance miles except ANA since ANA requires a roundtrip award.

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The best award option was to pay 36,000 LifeMiles and no fuel surcharges to fly Thai Business Class. Thai First Class was only 50,000 miles, but I have flown it on the 747 and A380, so I wanted to try out Business Class on the Dreamliner instead.

I went to lifemiles.com to make the booking. I searched for the award space I had already found on united.com and brought it up easily.

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The award costs 36,000 LifeMiles + $47, $22 in taxes and a $25 award booking fee.

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I had the option to pay fewer miles by paying more cash at a rate of $15 per 1,000 miles or 1.5 cents each.

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That’s a bad option because you can currently buy LifeMiles for 1.32 cents each. If you bought 36,000 miles for 1.32 cents each, the award would cost $522.31 all in after taxes and fees. That’s well below the retail price for nearly seven hours in a flat bed on a Dreamliner.

I paid the award taxes and fees with my Citi Prestige® Card to earn 3x points on the airfare purchase. If I hadn’t already used up my $250 Air Travel Credit in 2015, the $47 would have even been refunded to me. No worries, that credit resets for me in January. 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

I booked the award and got an email confirmation. I went to thaiairways.com to confirm that they saw the booking and to select a seat. It is always smart to contact the operating carrier after making an award booking to make sure they see the booking on their end. I was able to input the Avianca Reservation Code on thaiairways.com. Putting in the booking carrier’s code does not always work, and when it doesn’t you may need to call the booking carrier to get the operating carrier’s code.

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 12.44.56 PMSince thaiairways.com recongnized my reservation code, I was able to select a seat. Because its Dreamliner is 2-2-2 in Business Class, I went for a middle seat, so I had aisle access and no one would have to climb over me in flight.
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Bottom Line

I will be flying Business Class on a Thai Dreamliner from Nagoya to Bangkok. I hope to sleep most of the flight and to show up relatively refreshed to meet my friend in Bangkok.

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 1.26.22 PM

The award cost 36,000 LifeMiles + $47. I searched on united.com and booked with LifeMiles because they offered the best deal among Star Alliance carriers on Business Class from Northern to Southern Asia.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

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 a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

9

In October, I booked what might have been my favorite award ever: a Three One Way award that would allow me to see Pohnpei, Palau, and the Philippines while flying the Island Hopper. Read about it here.

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Alas, something came up, so I can’t fly it. I decided to just fly directly to Japan instead, but that still left the thorny issue of how to turn my old award into an award to Japan.

United charges $200 to cancel an award and re-credit the miles. (You do get the taxes back, so you end up paying less than $200 at the time of cancellation.)

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But there’s two ways to save big on that fee.

  1. If there is a schedule change, you can call up and tell the agent the new flight schedule doesn’t work for you. They will cancel and fully refund the ticket. How big of a schedule change? I don’t know United’s rule. American Airlines requires a 60+ minute change.
  2. Instead of canceling, you can change your award and pay the much lower change fee.

Unfortunately there had been no schedule change since I booked my ticket, so I went with the second plan.

You can make any change to the ticket and pay the lower $75 fee ($50 in practice).

To change an award, sign in to your United account, click “My trips,” and click “Change flight.”

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Check all segments of the award, and then continue.
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As I mentioned, I just wanted to book a simple one way award from Honolulu to Tokyo to see Japan for the first time and start a month in Asia.Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 9.14.32 PM There was economy award space on the day I want to fly, which costs 25,000 United miles + $5.60. My old award cost 47,500 miles + $18.20. I get refunded the difference but have to pay a $50 change fee. (Why that is not a $75 change fee as United’s website says it should be is beyond me but for at least 2.5 years, United has been under-collecting this fee online.)Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 9.17.19 PM

I made the change, paying with my Citi ThankYou® Premier Card to earn 3x points, and got instant confirmation that I am booked on my new flight. I signed out of my United account and back in and saw that my 22,500 mile refund had already posted.

Bottom Line

I’m missing Pohnpei and Palau for now. I hope to see them later in 2016 or in the more distant future.

You should never pay a $200 cancellation fee on a United award. Hope for a schedule change for a free cancellation. Failing that, just change the award for a $50 fee.

The new award does NOT need to have anything in common with the old one. I could have changed the award to any award flight. As far as I know, the cheapest United award is 6,000 miles for a one way award within Hawaii. In a pinch, it is better to pay a $50 change fee and eat 6,000 miles by changing to an intra-Hawaii flight that you never plan to fly than to pay $200 to cancel an award and get all your miles back.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

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 a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

In January, I’ll be in the United States, and I’ll need to get back down to Southern South America. It would be fun to break the trip up with a few stops because there is a lot to discover in the Americas.

If I book a United Three One Way Award (read this if you don’t know what that is) I can stop two places along the way for as long as I’d like in addition to my final destination.

Some places on the top of my list right now are Guatemala to see parts of the country I missed my first time, especially Semuc Champey; northern Colombia to see Cartagena, Parque Tayrona, and hike to the Ciudad Perdida; and Santiago, Chile because it is one of the few South American capitals I haven’t seen. Santiago could also be a jumping off point to Easter Island, which I would like to see one day.

I played around on united.com and came up with two possible itineraries for myself. Both start in Los Angeles where my award that flies an Etihad A380 in First Class ends. Both awards end in Buenos Aires. I plan to spend a few months early in 2016 in Buenos Aires or Rio de Janeiro.

Option 1: Stop in Guatemala City and Santiago

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Award space is very good on the LACSA (part of Avianca/TACA) direct flight from Los Angeles to Guatemala City in economy and Business Class.

Award space is very good from Guatemala to Santiago (and really throughout the Americas) on Copa flights connecting in Panama City.

Award space is spotty, but available on some days, on the Air Canada tag flight from Santiago to Buenos Aires. If booked in Business Class, you get a flat bed for the approximately 90 minutes you are in the air.

Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 3.16.52 PM

With just the last leg in flat bed Business Class, the award is 50,000 United miles.
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With the whole thing in economy, the award is 42,500 miles.
Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 3.21.33 PM

This means that United considers Santiago to be the destination of the award. Los Angeles to Santiago is 30,000 miles in economy and Santiago to Buenos Aires is another 12,500.

Option 2: Stop in Colombia and Santiago

Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 4.34.42 PMI would actually want to stop in Baranquilla or Cartagena and not Bogota, but I was getting errors trying to book that online. I believe they would be bookable by phone, but I still haven’t tried.

United’s computer thinks the destination here is Bogota, so the award is 40,000 miles total in economy, 20,000 from Los Angeles to Bogota and 20,000 more from Bogota to Buenos Aires.

Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 4.07.24 PM

Interestingly, the award has two connections in Panama City without issue.
Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 4.07.18 PM

Option 3: Stops in Guatemala and Colombia, making Santiago the destination

I could even make all three stops. In this scenario, my destination would be Guatemala. The stopover would be in Colombia and the destination of the “return” would be Santiago, so the award would cost 37,500 United miles. There’s a similar award here.

Then I could book Santiago to Buenos Aires on LAN with Avios for 7,500 Avios + $30 or 2,500 Avios + $83. I’d choose the 2,500 Avios option.

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Bottom Line

Why go from Point A directly to Point B when miles excel at offering bigger trips?

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

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 a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

18

I booked myself an award from Honolulu to Manila with eight take offs and landings and multi-day stops on Pohnpei and Palau for 47,500 United miles by taking advantage of the free stopover on roundtrip United awards and how lenient the definition of “roundtrip” is.

A few weeks ago I shared how you can book United’s amazing Island Hopper route with miles and stopover at one of the otherwise-nearly-impossible-to-reach islands along the way.

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The Island Hopper. Source: gcmap.com

United operates the Island Hopper from Honolulu to Guam with five stops twice per week on Mondays and Fridays. On Wednesday, it flies the same route but skips Kosrae. This is an inefficient way to get to Guam, but it’s certainly a cool one with amazing take offs and landings on remote islands. Here are a few trip reports that got me excited to book the Island Hopper one day:

The Island Hopper is an ideal use of miles because ordinarily this flight is ridiculously expensive with cash, since it is a route on which United has a monopoly and has high operating costs.

Trip Planning

I need to get from Hawaii to Southeast Asia around New Year. The Island Hopper heads in that general direction, and United has daily flights from Guam to Asia, so I started looking seriously at how to make everything work.

I want to stop at one of the islands along the route of the Island Hopper. First, because I’d like to split up the 14.5 hour trip, and second because when else would I have a chance to spend a few days in Chuuk or Kosrae or Pohnpei?

United doesn’t allow a stopover on one way awards, but it does allow one on roundtrips, and as I’ll show, the definition of “roundtrip” is very loose. It basically means any two one way awards joined together.

I also want to go to Palau. Snorkeling with the jellyfish looks so fun.

Then after Palau I want to go to Asia for my planned Southeast Asia trip in January.

Choosing the Stopover

There are five stops between Honolulu and Guam. Kwajalein Island is not a possible stopover because it is a military base.

Of the other four options, Chuuk and Pohnpei got the most love in FlyerTalk threads (1, 2, 3) asking for the ideal stopover point.

I picked Pohnpei for my stopover.

Choosing the Asian Destination

I want to start my Southeast Asia trip in Bangkok, but the flights are a real hassle from Palau to Bangkok. There are daily flights from Palau to Guam at 1:45 AM that sync pretty well with flights to Fukuoka and Sendai, Japan, so I read up on each. I was thinking about a Fukuoka-Hiroshoma-Tokyo blitz of Japan and then flying to Bangkok, but decided it would take too much time and that Japan is “on the way” on plenty of other trips, so I’ll see it soon enough.

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I decided the best option out of Palau is to fly directly to Manila, Philippines on a day when that flight operates. I’ve never been to the Philippines either, and it’s a direct flight that’s headed the right direction towards Bangkok.

Flying to Japan, though much farther, would be much cheaper as United’s award chart prices Oceania (Palau) to Japan at 12,500 miles one way. Oceania to Southeast Asia (Philippines) is 22,500 miles ones way.

Searching

I searched everything as a one way trip first. I noted dates when award space was available, and then looked for a set of dates that would give me 2-3 days in each place. Right now there is award space for two passengers in economy every day the Island Hopper operates from December 28 to January 8 and the days I checked in March. I haven’t found any Business Class award space.

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Click “Details” and you’ll see the short stops on each far-flung island.

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Turning that Award Space into a Trip

United one way awards allow zero stopovers of longer than 24 hours. United roundtrip awards allow one stopover plus your destination plus up to two open jaws. I decided to book a roundtrip award with a stopover and an open jaw.

  • Honolulu to Pohnpei (stopover)
  • Pohnpei to Palau (destination)
  • Palau to Manila (there is an open jaw between Honolulu–the origin–and Manila–the destination)
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Color coded by day of travel

You may notice that the open jaw–the distance between Honolulu and Manila–is much longer than either the outbound–Honolulu to Palau–or the “return”–Palau to Manila. United’s computer doesn’t mind at all.

To book the award, I did a multi-city award search on united.com searching for the days I had found award space. I didn’t get any errors on my multi-city award search, though that frequently happens on united.com. If you get an error, just call in to book.

On the multi-city search page, you break the trip into three parts, so that each place you plan to spend more than 24 hours is listed. (Yes, this is the old united.com. It’s better, and it still exists if you use this trick to access it.)

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 2.42.41 AM

On the search results, the mileage price and taxes are not shown, but keep picking from the Saver award column and you’ll be fine.

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In the end, I booked an award that gives me three days in Pohnpei and three days in Palau.Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 4.48.09 PM

The total price is a puny 47,500 United miles and $18. The miles price is because United charges 25,000 miles from Hawaii to Oceania (Palau) and 22,500 miles from Oceania to Southeast Asia.Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 4.50.13 PM Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 4.50.20 PM

The equivalent cash ticket was over $2,000. I would never pay $2,000 of course, which means that without miles I would never be able to take this trip.

I paid the award taxes with my Citi Prestige® Card to earn 3x points on the airfare purchase. If I hadn’t already used up my $250 Air Travel Credit in 2015, the $18 would have even been refunded to me. No worries, that credit resets for me in January. 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

The Rest of the Plan

Tentatively I’m thinking about going to these places in this order though lines don’t necessarily represent flights. I fly back from Chennai to the United States in late January on an Etihad A380 in First Class.
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Plan B?

For whatever reason, United basically never releases Business Class award space on its flights through Oceania.

The Business Class product is what you would find in Domestic First Class, just a wider recliner with more leg room, but it would probably be worth booking if Saver space were available because the price premium is small.

  • Hawaii to Oceania in economy: 25,000 United miles
  • Hawaii to Oceania in Business: 40,000 United miles
  • Oceania to Southeast Asia in economy: 22,500 United miles
  • Oceania to Southeast Asia in Business: 35,000 United miles

I wouldn’t pay 12,500 extra miles for Business Class from Palau to Manila because it is only 2:45, but I would pay 15,000 extra miles for Business Class from Hawaii all the way to Palau because that is about 13 hours in the air.

United offers Plan B awards where you pay the premium cabin price, get top waitlist priority as if you are a displaced premium cabin passenger, and get the miles refunded if your upgrade doesn’t clear. I am going to call and try to have 15,000 miles taken out of my account now as part of a Plan B award booking. If I don’t get upgraded to Business Class, I’ll get those miles back. If I do, it’s well worth the price.

You Don’t Live in Hawaii

You don’t need to live in Hawaii to make any of this work. You can either book from your home airport to Oceania via the Island Hopper on a single award or fly one award to Hawaii and then book an award like the one in this post.

To get home from Manila or Japan after flying there to end your “roundtrip,” you can book a one way award with almost every type of miles.

Don’t put this post in the category of “cool but useless because I don’t live in Hawaii or have the flexibility to end in Asia.” Use this post as a guide to book what you can given where you live and how much time you have available.

Bottom Line

To get a stopover at a hard-to-reach island on the United Island Hopper in addition to your destination, book a “roundtrip” United award. It can be a real roundtrip or an open jaw roundtrip that ends in Asia.

I booked myself Hawaii to Pohnpei to Palau to Manila for 47,500 United miles + $18.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

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 a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

In May, I booked myself an award in an Etihad A380 First Class Apartment for January 2016. I am looking forward to flying the spacious suite with a couch/bed and separate seat from Abu Dhabi to New York. This post explains how I booked that award.

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Etihad is a partner of American Airlines, and you can book First Class between the Middle East/Indian Subcontinent and North America for 90,000 American Airlines miles one way.

Get both the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, which are each offering 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.

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Get both cards and meet the $6,000 total spending requirement in the next three months to have over 106,000 American Airlines miles.

Since American Airlines counts all of the Middle East, Egypt, Maldives, and Indian Subcontinent as one region, I decided to start the award in Chennai, India. I’ve never been to India, and Chennai is conveniently close to Sri Lanka, which is in American’s Southeast Asia region (Asia 2). I was planning to use that fact to fly cheaply to Sri Lanka on an American Airlines award, hang out there for a few days, then book a cheap cash or Avios flight from Sri Lanka to Chennai. Now I think I’ll just fly a low cost carrier from wherever I am in Southeast Asia to Chennai a few days before the flight.

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Since American charges the same number of miles no matter where I end in North America, I added New York to Los Angeles for zero extra miles. It will give me a chance to fly American’s three cabin First Class on the route.

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Award Searching

This award is centered on flying Etihad’s A380 in First Class to luxuriate in the onboard suite and to take a shower seven miles above land. For that reason, and because I always suggest starting your award search with the longest segment, I first searched for Etihad A380 First Class award space.

As I explained in Where to Search All 24 American Airlines’ Partners’ Award Space, you search Etihad award space on etihad.com. You need to find award space in the GuestSeat column to be able to book the flight with American Airlines miles. Right now I don’t see any First Class award space on the Etihad A380 between New York and Abu Dhabi in either direction that is bookable with American Airlines miles. (I do see plenty of space on the 777 that operates on the route.)

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We have seen award space in First Class on the route come and go quickly and dramatically a few times. I booked in May when award space was wide open, even though it had been non-existent the week before. You can be sure I’ll cover when award space opens back up between JFK and Abu Dhabi in First Class on the Etihad A380.

Once I had my First Class space, I worked backward to get the space from Chennai to Abu Dhabi. This is classic segment-by-segment searching. On shorter regional routes, the top cabin is Business Class, so that’s what I searched.

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Award space is fantastic in Business Class on Etihad regional flights. I selected the 10 PM departure, which gives me a two hour layover in Abu Dhabi. I noted the date, cabin, and flight number. I ignored the price listed on etihad.com because I was using American Airlines miles, which means paying the American Airlines price.

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Last I searched for award space from New York to Los Angeles in First Class. Award space is often wide open in First Class from New York to Los Angeles or San Francisco.

Remember that you need to find MileSAAver (not AAnytime) award space on American Airlines flights to hook them onto partner flights, and still pay the lowest mileage price.Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 2.18.34 PM

I picked an 11 AM departure to give me another two-hour layover.
Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 2.19.01 PM

You can confirm that every New York to Los Angeles flight has American’s newest First Class product by clicking “View Seats” and seeing this 1-1 configuration.Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 2.19.25 PM

Award Booking

Next I called American Airlines at 800-882-8880 to book. I fed the agent the date, cabin, and flight number of the three flights I wanted to book.

She pieced it together easily and quoted me a price of 90,000 American Airlines miles and $79.

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 5.22.36 PM

That sounded pretty good, but I asked her if she had waived the $40 phone fee, since I couldn’t book the award online. That’s American’s new policy.

She hadn’t. Once she removed the phone fee, I paid only $38.55 in taxes plus 90,000 miles for a trip that will fly from Chennai to Los Angeles in two super fancy First Classes, and a solid Business Class.Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 5.22.44 PM

Getting the Miles

Get both the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, which are each offering 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 6.44.51 PMScreen Shot 2015-11-09 at 3.59.13 PM

Get both cards and meet the $6,000 total spending requirement in the next three months to have over 106,000 American Airlines miles.

Bottom Line

I booked myself an incredible award from India to Los Angeles that will let me finally see the world’s second most populous country and finally fly the second commercial First Class with an onboard shower. It is a perfect mix of destination and aspirational products, and it cost me 90,000 American Airlines miles + $39.

You can get both the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, which are each offering 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 6.44.51 PMScreen Shot 2015-11-09 at 3.59.13 PM

Get both cards and meet the $6,000 total spending requirement in the next three months to have over 106,000 American Airlines miles.

Unfortunately award space in Etihad First Class on the A380 comes and goes, and right now there is none. But if history is a guide, that is likely to change soon, and I will cover when award space opens back up.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

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 a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

I’m going to spend most of the rest of the year in Buenos Aires, but I want to spend Christmas with my family in Hawaii. I recently put on hold an award that will allow me to do that. I am going to fly Business Class in a flat bed from Argentina back to Honolulu for 50,000 American Airlines miles and $87.

For a limited time, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® offers 75,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $7,500 in the first three months.

 

In the end, the award searching was very easy in this case, but I hope this Anatomy of an Award will illuminate:

  • how to book awards around the peak Christmas travel season
  • how far in advance you should start searching for awards
  • how American Airlines free holds work
  • how I choose between different Business and First Class products

The History

How far in advance should you search for award space?

It’s one of the most common questions I get. The answer: whenever you know your travel goal, start searching for award space. That way if there is space now, you can book it. If there isn’t, you can keep searching and hope space opens up. You can also estimate the chances that award space will open up by tracking it over time.

It has been my plan to go to Honolulu for Christmas for at least five months. Following my own advice, I’ve occasionally been searching for award space from Buenos Aires to Honolulu during mid- or late-December for the last five months. Finding award space right before Christmas is very difficult because airlines only release award seats when they expect to have unsold seats, and they don’t expect to have many unsold seats around Christmas.

So I have been realistic with my searches, mostly hoping to find award space some time between December 14 and 18 because that is the week before the last weekend before Christmas, when I imagine Christmas travel will really pick up.

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 2.43.07 AM

I had found the occasional award using Copa and United flights to get to Hawaii, but Copa Business Class is just a recliner seat, and that sounds terrible for such a long day of traveling. I could book that award space with 60,000 United miles.

I had also found awards to Los Angeles in AeroMexico Business Class with the longest flight on a flat bed, but I couldn’t find Delta award space from Los Angeles to Honolulu. I could have booked just to Los Angeles in AeroMexico Business Class for 62,500 Delta miles, but I kept searching.

I hadn’t found anything good on LAN or American Airlines that I could book with American Airlines miles, until Saturday.

The Search

On Saturday, I lucked out and found American Airlines award space. American Airlines has the cheapest awards between Southern South America and Hawaii:

  • 20,000 or 30,000 miles in economy one way depending on the time of year
  • 50,000 miles in Business Class one way
  • 62,500 miles in First Class one way

I always start with a simple search. Maybe I’ll get lucky and find award space immediately without having to search segment-by-segment. On Saturday, I went to aa.com and typed in my search:

Screen Shot 2015-09-26 at 6.42.22 PMEconomy space is rare in December, with only one day with Saver award space.

Screen Shot 2015-09-26 at 6.43.17 PM

Business Class award space also only had one day available, much closer to Christmas, in the December 14 to 18 window I was targeting.

First Class had the most award space with five days at the Saver level in December, with one in the week I was targeting.Screen Shot 2015-09-26 at 6.43.32 PM

I compared the Business Class and First Class awards that were closest to Christmas. The Business Class award costs 50,000 miles, features a travel time of 27.5 hours, and has two stops. One major drawback is that the 6.5 hour flight from Phoenix to Honolulu is in economy because First Class award space isn’t available on that flight. (You are entitled to fly First Class domestically on international Business Class awards. If that space doesn’t exist at the Saver level, you can book Saver economy space, but you don’t get a discount.)

Screen Shot 2015-09-26 at 6.43.53 PM

American Airlines Business Class used to be an angled-flat laughingstock. New planes and retrofits are slowly converting the fleet to fully flat. I clicked “View Available Seats” for the flight from Buenos Aires to New York to see whether the seats would be fully flat or angled.

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 2.18.55 AM

The seat map shows a plane that has been retrofitted with flat beds in Business Class. You can confirm that by comparing it to seat maps on Seat Guru until you find the one that matches and then reading Seat Guru’s description of Business Class on that plane. The triangles indicate seats that face backwards. Here is a trip report with photos of the Business Class cabin on this American Airlines 777. It looks very nice.

Next I looked at the First Class award. It is 12,500 miles more, 1.5 hours more travel time, and also features economy on the last segment.

Screen Shot 2015-09-26 at 6.44.00 PM

I flew this exact First Class product a in 2013 to Buenos Aires (trip report), and I can see why it is being phased out. It’s not up to First Class standards. It’s just a decent flat bed Business Class product in my opinion.

I figured that the Business Class itinerary is better because:

  1. I’ll save 12,500 miles.
  2. I’ll get 1.5 hours extra in a flat bed. I usually prefer longer flights to maximize sleep when I have a bed conducive to sleeping.
  3. I’ll take off from Buenos Aires 1.5 hours later, which is better for my sleep schedule.
  4. I’ll travel 1.5 hours less, which is good because even 27.5 hours is possibly my longest itinerary ever.
  5. I think the Business Class and First Class products on these two awards will be of very similar quality, and I haven’t flown the new Business Class, so novelty gives it the edge.

I selected the Business Class itinerary, and it priced out at 50,000 American Airlines miles + $87. That is all government taxes; American Airlines only collects fuel surcharges on British Airways and Iberia award flights.
Screen Shot 2015-09-26 at 6.44.23 PM I selected seats on each flight, input my personal information, and clicked through to the purchase screen.Screen Shot 2015-09-26 at 6.44.30 PM But I don’t currently have 50,000 miles in my American Airlines account, so I was only given the option to hold the award. (Why don’t I have 50k? I have 120,000 miles tied up in an award I want to cancel, but I am waiting for a schedule change to get the $150 cancellation fee waived, and I just booked a 90,000 mile award to fly Etihad First Class on its A380 from India to the United States.)Screen Shot 2015-09-26 at 6.47.17 PM If you do have enough miles in your account, you can still get a free award hold. You’ll see these options at the time of payment; select AAdvantage Hold.

Screen Shot 2015-09-26 at 6.53.12 PM

Award holds last five days and expire at midnight in the city of departure.

Screen Shot 2015-09-26 at 6.47.40 PM

If you do nothing, the hold cancels itself. If you want to book, you have to log back into your account and book.

I am only about 7,000 miles short of the 50,000 needed to ticket this award, so I transferred some SPG Starpoints to my American Airlines account. That process usually only takes a few days. If it doesn’t look like my transfer will post in time, then I will cancel that 120,000 mile award I mentioned above.

Loose End

I really would like to get that Phoenix to Honolulu leg into First Class, since it would be zero extra miles if Saver award space opens up.

I have a couple options. First, American Airlines has been known to open up award space if you call and ask on the pretense that you found an award that is almost perfect and is just missing the award space you want on one leg. When my American Airlines account has 50,000 miles in it, I will call and ask for an agent to open up First Class award space from Phoenix to Honolulu and then ticket the whole award.

If that doesn’t work, I have set an alert on the award space. If it opens up, I’ll change the award. This will be free until 21 days before departure and $75 within 21 days.

American Airlines sometimes opens up award space in the last month or week before departure. I notice this quite a bit on its Hawaii routes in particular. To estimate the chances that award space will open up in First Class on the Phoenix to Honolulu flight closer to departure, I searched award space for the next month:
Screen Shot 2015-09-26 at 6.50.20 PMThere is Saver award space on four days in the next week and a half. I’m guessing there’s about a 40% chance that the award space opens up for me.

If it does, I’ll know because I set a free alert with the Wandr Me tools. I also set an alert for JFK to Honolulu in case a different route to Hawaii opens up with award space in First Class on the same day, maybe via Los Angeles or Dallas.

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 8.48.37 PM

Bottom Line

Search early and often on every airline that can get you where you want to go. Compare your award options to determine the best value for you. In this case, I prefer a new Business Class product to an old First Class product.

Put your award on hold when possible to secure the award space while you get the necessary miles.

If the award isn’t perfect, like maybe it has one leg in economy, book anyway and set an alert in case better award space opens up.

If you don’t want to deal with your own award bookings, hire the MileValue Award Booking Service.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

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 a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

The idea of big trips fascinates me. True round-the-world (RTW) awards are basically dead, so the game now is to string together several cheap one way awards into a RTW trip. To help you out, I regularly update a page that strives to list all the cheap awards between all regions of the world.

Here’s how you could use that post to put together a RTW trip. I put this one together in under half an hour.

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 6.25.24 PM

The example RTW trip in this post starts and ends in Los Angeles (imagine your home airport instead), takes about a month, and has stops in all the places on the map above:

  • Fiji
  • Sydney
  • Kuala Lumpur
  • Delhi
  • London
  • Madrid

It flies a mix of economy, Business, and First Class flights. It has logical jumping off points if you want to really take your time in one region and see a lot of that area before continuing to the next region. Let’s walk through it:

Los Angeles to Fiji to Sydney for 40,000 Alaska miles + $142 (economy)

While most programs charge about 40,000 miles one way from the United States to Australia, Alaska lets you fly Fiji Airways and stop for as long as you’d like in Fiji. Search on alaskaair.com for a multi-city award.

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 5.42.19 PM

I’m imagining that this RTW trip starts January 31, 2016. The stop in Fiji is four days.

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 5.43.29 PM

Total cost is 40,000 Alaska miles + $142 of taxes and fees. Business Class would be only 55,000 miles if you could find award space, but Fiji Airways releases very little Business Class award space.Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 5.43.39 PM

Sydney to Kuala Lumpur for 40,000 United miles + $60 (Thai First Class)

United has way underpriced awards between Australia/New Zealand and Southeast Asia. Search for them right on united.com.

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 5.44.18 PM

After five days in Sydney, the trip picks back up.

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 5.46.11 PMThe United award flies from Sydney to Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur. The long segment is in Thai First Class on its 747, which means you will get First Class lounge access and a free hour-long massage in Bangkok. The short hop down to Kuala Lumpur is on a Thai Dreamliner in Business Class.
Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 5.45.26 PM

The total price is 40,000 United miles + $60.

Note that both Sydney and Southeast Asia are great spots to take a longer amount of time to explore the surrounding regions. Particularly in Southeast Asia, the low cost carrier flights are plentiful and cheap, so you can see a lot of places quickly and cheaply.

Kuala Lumpur to Delhi for $187 (economy)

After four days in Malaysia, the trip continues to India. You could fly this segment on Malaysia Airlines, booking the ticket with Avios, but the taxes and fuel surcharges are over $130, so you might as well just buy the ticket with cash on a low-cost carrier.
Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 5.47.33 PM Malindo Air prices the route at about $186 for most of February 2016.Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 5.47.47 PM

You can of course use the $250 Air Travel Credit on your Citi Prestige® Card, Arrival miles, or ThankYou Points to get the flight for free.

This brings up an important point for all awards including those that are part of a RTW trip. Consider cash tickets. Sometimes they are a better value than using miles.

Delhi, by the way, is a two hour train from Agra, site of the Taj Mahal.

Delhi to London for 40,000 American Airlines miles + $40 (Etihad First Class)

After six days in India, keep flying west. American greatly underprices premium cabin awards between the Middle East or Indian Subcontinent and Europe.

Search on etihad.com for award space.
Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 5.48.43 PMThe flights you want need to have space in the Guest Seat column in order to be bookable with American Airlines miles. Pay special attention to the aircraft. If you can snag Etihad First Class on the A380, you will get a huge sweet and a shower onboard.
Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 5.49.30 PM

Ignore the price listed on etihad.com. Etihad charges its members way more miles for the exact same flights. American Airlines only charges 40,000 miles in First Class from India to Europe. Ignore, also, the out-of-pocket price listed on etihad.com. It includes fuel surcharges that American Airlines doesn’t collect on Etihad flights. I called American to price out these flights, and the agent priced them at 40,000 miles + $39.55.

London to Madrid for $36 (economy)

You don’t want to return to the United States from London. Taxes for departing London are outrageous. After five days in London, head to Madrid.

Avios are decent intra-Europe because there are no fuel surcharges on such awards. I searched ba.com to see about award pricing between London and Madrid.
Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 5.50.27 PM

The award on off-peak dates is 6,500 Avios (7,500 on peak dates) + $24 or 2,150 Avios + $68.Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 5.52.23 PM

I checked cash fares, and Ryanair charges only $36. Iberia had some $40 fares. I didn’t check which is cheaper when you include baggage, which I would always do if I were actually booking this RTW trip.

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 5.52.13 PM

You can of course use the $250 Air Travel Credit on your Citi Prestige® Card, Arrival miles, or ThankYou Points to get the flight for free.

Madrid to Los Angeles for 20,000 American Airlines miles + $54 (economy)

Finally we have to come home after about a month away.

From October 15 to May 15 each year, American charges only 20,000 miles between the United States and Europe. Just make sure you avoid booking British Airways flights with your American Airlines miles to avoid huge fuel surcharges.

I searched on aa.com from Madrid to Los Angeles.
Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 5.53.21 PMA great itinerary on American Airlines flights popped up that costs only 20,000 American Airlines miles + $54.Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 5.53.48 PM Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 5.54.10 PM

Total Cost

  • 40,000 Alaska miles
  • 40,000 United miles
  • 60,000 American Airlines miles
  • $519

If the $519 sounds like a lot, you could instead use under 50,000 total Arrival miles to pay for the low-cost-carrier flights and award taxes to make the out-of-pocket cost $0.

How to Get the Miles

One person, opening only personal cards, could easily get all these miles. He could open the:

The cards are from five different banks, so you could even open them all on the same day. Combined they have minimum spending requirements of $13,000 over the first three months. If that’s more than you spend, either stagger your sign ups or manufacture spending.

The cards have combined annual fees the first year of $75 (on the Alaska card), and you could cancel all of them before the annual fees are due in 12 months.

Meeting all the minimum spending requirements, you’d have:

  • 25,000 Alaska miles
  • 49,000 Ultimate Rewards
  • 53,000 American Airlines miles
  • 28,000 Starpoints
  • 46,000 Arrival miles

Transfer 40,000 Ultimate Rewards to United miles, 15,000 Starpoints to Alaska miles, and 7,000 Starpoints to American Airlines miles. Then you’d have:

  • 40,000 Alaska miles
  • 40,000 United miles
  • 60,000 American Airlines miles
  • 6,000 leftover Starpoints (could be as many as three free hotel nights)
  • 46,000 Arrival miles

That’s enough to book all the awards and use the Arrival miles for $483 off of the original $519 out-of-pocket expenses.

If you’ve followed all the math, that means you pay $36 out of pocket for flights/taxes and a $75 annual fee on the Alaska Airlines card–or $111 total for a RTW trip with six stops.

How to Book the Awards

Everything in this post can be booked online on the site of the miles you’re using or the site of the low-cost carrier you’re flying except the Etihad flights you’re booking with American Airlines miles. That award needs to be booked by calling American Airlines at 800-882-8880.

The booking order matters a bit, since award space can change. I’d put the American Airlines awards on free five-day holds online or by phone, then book the United and Alaska awards, then book the low-cost carrier flights.

If for some reason, the low-cost carrier flights surge in price or the award space you want to book with United or Alaska miles isn’t there, you can let the American Airlines award holds lapse for free, cancel the United award for free within 24 hours of booking for free, and cancel the Alaska Airlines award for free if travel is more than 60 days away.

Choose Your Own Adventure

This was an arbitrary template for a RTW trip. Use the list of all cheap awards between all regions of the world and your own travel preferences and schedule to plan your own RTW trip. If you want to hire my award booking service, we offer large discounts off our normal $125 per person per award rate when booking RTW trips that consist of several awards. Fill out this form for your free, no obligation quote.

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

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 a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

I have a clear picture of where I’ll be until about April 2016. Last week, I booked a flurry of awards, mostly with obscure mileage programs to lock in my dates for 2015. Here’s what I’m planning, with links to already written Anatomy of an Award posts:

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 2.40.04 PM
Lines do not represent direct flights

The rest of 2015 will see me:

  • explore new cities like Athens, Zurich, and Dubai
  • return to favorites like Zagreb, Dubrovnik (cliff jumping!), Bogota, and Buenos Aires
  • change hemispheres as the seasons change because everyone should live in Summer all year round
  • visit friends and family
  • speak at the Chicago Seminars

I’ll fly in products ranging from economy to one of the world’s fanciest First Classes on the Emirates A380. A plurality of my time in the air will be in Business Class products that are good but not top of the line. Most of the awards heavily prioritized destination over the best products.

All of the awards were carefully thought out to maximize miles, so I am excited to explain why I’ve been using so many Asiana and Singapore miles, and why you might want to use them also.

Some of the awards even touch on interesting problems like how long a transfer takes, what to do when there is only space in your desired cabin on some legs, and choosing which miles to use.

I still need to book an award from Buenos Aires to Honolulu for before Christmas. The Asiana miles that I hope to use to book the award in Business Class (35,000 miles) just posted. I may also book a short weekend getaway from Buenos Aires in November, which I could book with cash or miles. Other than that, I’m already focused on 2016 bookings.

Hopefully the rest of your 2015 travel schedule excites you as much as mine excites me. Where are you headed?

I’ll crank out the rest of the Anatomy of an Award posts soon–where I break down how to search the award, how to book the award, what miles to use, and how to get those miles–and I’ll keep this post updated as I do.

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

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 a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

5

I just used 5,000 ThankYou Points to book a one way award flight from Belgrade to Bucharest.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 1.57.34 PM

I transferred my ThankYou Points to Etihad Guest Miles, which is the frequent flyer program for Air Serbia and several other airlines.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 5.17.14 AM

I have a ton of ThankYou Points because the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card and Citi Prestige® Card are each offering 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases on the cards in the first three months. (Compare the Premier to the Prestige.) You can get both for 100,000 bonus ThankYou Points.

Etihad Guest / Air Serbia Award Chart

Air Serbia is not a member of one of the three alliances, but is a member of the “kind of fourth alliance” of airlines in which Etihad has bought a stake. The only way to book Air Serbia flights with miles is with Etihad Guest miles. Here’s the award chart for Air Serbia flights using Etihad miles in its entirety:

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 6.33.59 PMScreen Shot 2015-06-07 at 6.34.13 PM

Belgrade to Bucharest is 4,550 miles one way in economy and 6,450 miles one way in Business Class. For a one hour flight, I didn’t even want to pay 1,900 miles extra for Business Class.

When I investigated Air Serbia awards two weeks ago, I learned that you do not pay fuel surcharges on the flights, only government taxes.

Getting Etihad Guest Miles

Etihad miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of ThankYou Points, and you must transfer in increments of 1,000.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 5.29.21 AM

I have tons of ThankYou Points because there are two awesome cards with huge sign up bonuses at the moment, and I have both:

To transfer ThankYou Points to Etihad Guest miles, you must open a free Etihad Guest account, and then complete the transfer on thankyou.com. First click “Points Transfer” under “Do more.”

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 4.56.16 AM

Select “TRANSFER NOW” next to Etihad Guest.

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 4.56.41 AM

Type in the number of miles you want to transfer. You need to transfer in increments of 1,000, so I had to transfer 5,000 points for my 4,550 mile award.

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 4.56.59 AM

Enter your Etihad Guest frequent flyer number, and you’re done.Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 4.57.06 AM Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 4.57.31 AMThe transfer is not instant. It took about one week for my Etihad miles to show up in my account. I initiated the transfer July 9 at 4 AM ET, and the miles were in my account when I checked July 16 at 9 PM ET. (I wasn’t checking constantly, so they could have arrived up to 24 hours sooner than I saw them.)

Interestingly, the transfer–my first account activity–triggered a 500 miles “Enrolment Bonus” that I didn’t expect. Perhaps your first transfer will also.

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 9.23.39 PM

Booking Etihad Guest / Air Serbia Award

To book an award, call 800-8-ETIHAD. I don’t know of any way to search award space beforehand, but all the short Air Serbia flights I’ve inquired about have had award space.

I had searched flight times and prices on kayak.com, and there was only one Air Serbia-operated flight on the day I wanted. Etihad Guest Miles CANNOT book Air Serbia-marketed flights operated by other carriers, like the 9:15 AM flight below operated by TAROM.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 1.54.25 PM

The agent said there was award space on the flight I wanted and that it cost 4,550 miles + 20.78 euros. I paid with Citi ThankYou® Premier Card, since it has no foreign transaction fees and earns 3x points per dollar on travel and gas purchases. The taxes were charged as $22.85 on my statement.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 1.04.33 AM

I received a confirmation email of my new ticket while I was still on the phone with the agent.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.08.04 PM

Why Not Just Use ThankYou Points to Purchase Flight Directly

ThankYou Points can book you onto many flights, including Air Serbia flights, two ways.

  1. The way described above: by transferring mile to one of ThankYou Points’ 11 partners and booking award space according to an award chart
  2. By using the points like cash toward any flight at a rate of 1.25 to 1.6 cents per point.

The flight I wanted was available on thankyou.com to be purchased with points like cash.

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 4.54.43 AM

I have the Citi Prestige® Card, so I can use my ThankYou Points to book American Airlines/US Airways flights at a rate of 1.6 cents per point or any other airline’s flights at a rate of 1.33 cents per point. The $115 flight is about 8,700 points at 1.33 cents per point.
Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 4.54.48 AM

I booked it for 4,000 points less (but $23 in taxes) by transferring ThankYou Points to miles before booking. Always consider both ways to book flights with ThankYou Points before choosing one option.

Bottom Line

In a few weeks, I am headed to Romania for the penultimate stage of my four months in Europe. (The last part is hopping around to four cities for a day each with this cool United award.) There are no good train or bus options from Belgrade to Bucharest, luckily there is a great option with ThankYou Points.

Transfer 5,000 ThankYou Points to Etihad miles and book an Air Serbia flight for 4,550 miles + $23.

This isn’t just useful if you want to go to/from Serbia. Etihad Guest Miles are also the miles of big airlines in Italy, Germany, and Austria.

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Getting ThankYou Points is easy:

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

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 a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

Update: LifeMiles are now on sale for as little as 1.4 cents each through September 30, 2015, which allows you to follow the steps in this post.

Last week I published How to Consistently Buy Business Class Tickets to Europe for about $1,000, which explained how to purchase Avianca miles and use them to book award tickets, so that the total cash outlay is far less than just purchasing a ticket.

Yesterday, I had the chance to book my friend into Lufthansa Business Class from Tallinn, Estonia to Chicago for $1,050 for a flight this weekend.

Booking one way flights at the last minute is usually extremely expensive. The cheapest one way in economy on the day he wanted to fly was over $700 and had two stops. The cheapest pleasant itinerary was over $1,100 in economy.

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For Business Class, you’d have to pay over $2,000 to get a one stop itinerary without an overnight stay somewhere.Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 2.37.38 PM

He’s paying less money than the cheapest one stop itinerary in economy for a Business Class itinerary with a fully flat bed.

Why LifeMiles?

LifeMiles is the frequent flyer program of Avianca, a Colombian airline that is a member of the Star Alliance. You can use Avianca miles to book awards on all Star Alliance members including United, Lufthansa, Austrian, Brussels, Singapore, TAP, Turkish, and other airlines with service to and within Europe.

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Of the many types of Star Alliance miles you can use for awards to Europe, LifeMiles stand out for how cheaply it sells miles, and the fact that it imposes no fuel surcharges on awards, allowing for ~$1,000 one way Business Class tickets to Europe.

Three Steps

  1. Sign up for an Avianca LifeMiles account and select a country of residence in Europe.
  2. Buy 26,400 LifeMiles during the next 120% bonus sale for $396.
  3. Book a Business Class trip to Europe, for 26,000 LifeMiles plus $587+.

The Steps Broken Down

1. Sign Up for a LifeMiles Account

My friend signed up for a free LifeMiles account here a few months ago because I told him that you need to have an account at the start of a LifeMiles sale to participate.

When signing up, he selected Estonia as his country of residence, which confers an advantage over selecting the United States. During the most recent sale (Step 2), accounts registered in North and Central America got a 100% bonus on miles purchased. Accounts from other countries got a 120% bonus.

2. Buy 26,000 LifeMiles during a LifeMiles Sale

You can always buy LifeMiles for 3.3 cents each. Every few months, LifeMiles offers a bonus on the purchase of miles of at least 100%. The most recent bonus was from May 5 through May 29 and was a 100% bonus for North and Central America and a 120% bonus for the rest of the world. That made the price 1.5 or 1.65 cents per mile total.

If the next sale is identical–I bet it will be–you can buy 12,000 miles with 14,400 bonus miles (26,400 total) for $396. Or if for some reason you’ve signed up with an American address, you can buy 13,000 miles with 13,000 bonus miles (26,000) for $429.

I will cover the next sale on MileValue, so check back daily or sign up to receive one free daily email with all of the day’s posts.

During the last sale, my friend bought 105,600 LifeMiles for $1,584. That was 48,000 miles purchased and 57,600 bonus miles.

Why 105,600 miles? Because a one way Business Class award costs 63,000 LifeMiles but LifeMiles allows awards to be booked with 40% of the necessary miles–26,000 in this case–by putting up cash to pay for your miles discount (Step 3).

He bought 26,000 miles for each one way Business Class ticket he thought he’d want to book in the next few months, and 105,600 miles was as close as he could get to 104,000 miles (four one-ways.)

There is a limit of 150,000 miles purchased per calendar year including bonus miles during sales, so you are limited to booking five Business Class one way tickets per account per calendar year. But you can always open multiple accounts, since LifeMiles accounts can always be used to book tickets in anyone’s name.

3. Book a Business Class trip to Europe, for 26,000 LifeMiles plus $587+

To book a LifeMiles ticket, sign into your account and click “Air Tickets” under “Enjoy.”

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Search for your cities, date, number of passengers, and cabin. If you’d like, you can select the carrier you want to fly or have the engine search all Star Alliance carriers. We selected Lufthansa because that’s the most convenient itinerary and best product from Estonia to Chicago.

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Ideally the search reveals award space on several options like his did.

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However, award space is far from guaranteed (as I’ll discuss below in the caveats section.) Not all flights have award space in all cabins.

Once you’ve decided on your flight, select it and at the bottom of the screen, toggle “More Money” to the maximum. This will change the price from 63,000 miles and $0 to 26,000 miles and $557.10.

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 7.41.54 PM

Clicking “Continue” takes you to the screen that shows the total price, which will include all applicable government taxes and a $25 booking fee. Estonia has low aviation taxes, so he’s dinged only $58 by the governments of Estonia, Germany, and the United States.

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 7.42.17 PM

He’s using one-fourth of the miles he bought for $1,584 in Step 2, which is $396 worth. The award costs those miles plus $640.36 for a total price of $1,036.36 for a one way Business Class flight from Europe to the United States. How else can you consistently get Business Class tickets to Europe for around $1,000?

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He’ll get to use a lounge in Tallinn, a Lufthansa lounge in Frankfurt, and fly the Lufthansa 747-8 for the longhaul flight from Frankfurt to Chicago in this seat/bed.

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Confirmation

The confirmation number that Avianca emails to you include a six digit alphanumeric record locator. You can use that record locator on this page to select options like your seats and meals and to check in on lufthansa.com.

Caveats

I hope you’re excited, but don’t rush off to copy my friend without reading these important caveats:

  1. These are the current prices from LifeMiles, but the only thing certain with miles is eventual devaluation. One day, LifeMiles will charge more than 63,000 miles one way in Business Class. When that happens, you don’t want to be stuck with a lot of miles in your account. That’s why you should go slowly and only buy enough miles to cover your very likely trips. Even then, you cannot completely eliminate devaluation risk.
  2. There is not award space on every flight in Business Class. You could buy the miles and then not be able to use them when you want to use them. However, I think this is only a minor concern because there is award space on most days from the United States to Europe with Avianca miles as long as you book within a few weeks of departure, which is when I assume most people who routinely book paid Business Class book their tickets. Here is award space from Chicago to Paris for the next two months. All green and blue days have Business Class award space for one passenger.
    Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 3.19.44 PM
    This is peak time and space is almost perfect. Space is bout the same to other cities in Europe because intra-Europe space is a gimme. Space is a bit worse to the west coast of the United States and much worse if you need to book more than two seats on the same flight.
  3. Every flight of a LifeMiles award must be in the same cabin. If you want Business Class across the Atlantic, you must also fly Business Class intra-Europe and United First Class (considered a business class) within the United States. This isn’t much of a problem intra-Europe, since almost all planes have Business Class, but there are many one-cabin planes in the United States operating to small airports. These cannot be booked with LifeMiles on a Business Class award. To see if your route is affected by this silly rule, go to united.com and search your award. Any award with a “Mixed Cabin” icon is off limits.

Bonus

Buy your LifeMiles in Step 2 and book your ticket in Step 3 with a Citi Prestige® Card for $250 off the first purchase and 3x points on all purchases. 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 LifeMiles miles purchases and award purchases.

The card also comes with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after spending $3,000 in the first three months, international lounge access, and a host of other features.

Bottom Line

For most people, the best way to get transatlantic Business Class is to open credit cards and use the sign up bonuses for the free flights.

For businessmen who fly the routes too often to get all free tickets and ordinarily pay $4,000 to $8,000 for a roundtrip in Business Class, there is a better plan. Buy LifeMiles and book Business Class awards for around $1,000 each way.

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

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 a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

I recently booked myself an award from Chicago to Buenos Aires in Business Class on a Dreamliner for 45,000 Alaska Airlines miles and $19 in taxes and fees.

AeroMexico releases a ton of award space from United States to Mexico City and from there to Buenos Aires (or elsewhere in Central and South America) in economy and Business Class.

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 5.04.46 PM
Fresno only has a direct flight to Guadalajara from where you can connect to Mexico City and beyond. Source: gcmap.com

AeroMexico is a member of SkyTeam, so you can book its award space with Delta SkyMiles and Air France Flying Blue. It is also a partner of Alaska Airlines, which is how I booked the award space. (Economy/Business one way prices to Argentina)

Just how good is AeroMexico award space?

AeroMexico Award Space

Below are some calendars from delta.com. You can also search on alaskaair.com or airfrance.us. Every day below that says “65,000” has award space for two people in Business Class from Mexico City to Buenos Aires. (Oddly Delta charges more from Mexico to Argentina than from the United States. If you start your Delta award in the United States, you pay just 62,500 miles.)

Other than some missing days around Christmas–and even then there’s space if you’re flexible–you can see there is award space for two people in Business Class from Mexico City to Buenos Aires almost every day.

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 9.19.37 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-11 at 9.20.28 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-11 at 9.22.01 PM

The pattern is the same from Buenos Aires back to Mexico City. What about getting between the United States and Mexico City?

Award Space Between the United States and Mexico

AeroMexico serves 14 American destinations.

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Fresno only has a direct flight to Guadalajara from where you can connect to Mexico City and beyond. Source: gcmap.com

If you live in any of the cities on the map, you can get to Buenos Aires on AeroMexico with only one connection in Mexico City.

I’ll be going from the Chicago Seminars to Buenos Aires to repeat my now annual tradition of spending the summer down there. Searching and booking my award with Alaska miles took about five minutes because award space is so plentiful.

I started my search from the main search box on alaskaair.com.

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On the results screen, I clicked “Calendar” under “View By.”

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That brings up a calendar like this:

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I had the calendar set to show the lowest price award available each day. It shows that economy award space from Chicago to Buenos Aires is not great in October, available just five days–the ones that say 25k + $19. But on every day of the month, Business Class space is available for 45k + $19.

That’s not that unusual. Business Class space is also widely available in December 2015 and March 2016.

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 4.49.40 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-26 at 4.51.29 PM

I picked the date I wanted and was given two options. The first has only one layover for six hours in Mexico City. That’s long enough to leave the airport, but it’s probably too early in the morning for anything to be open. The other option is two layovers, but 1.5 hours less of travel.
Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 4.47.17 PM

The longer one-stop itinerary looks better to me. I can nap or work more easily at Mexico City’s airport than in the air, and I have less chance of missing a connection.

I clicked on “1 stop” to get more flight details. As you can see, the long flight is on a 787 Dreamliner.
Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 4.47.25 PM

AeroMexico Dreamliner

Four days a week, AeroMexico flies its new 787 Dreamliner between Mexico City and Buenos Aires. The rest of the flights are operated by 767s. AeroMexico also flies its Dreamliner on some New York <-> Mexico City and Los Angeles <-> Mexico City flights.

The Dreamliner has fully flat beds in Business Class in a 2-2-2 configuration, so, as usual, pick a middle seat if you’re flying alone to avoid having to climb over or be climbed over by anyone else.

God Save the Points has a review of Business Class on the AeroMexico Dreamliner. The review is complimentary of the seat, bed, and entertainment though it refers to the crew as “ghosts, you know those things you can’t see, talk to or receive a drink from.” [Scott: hahaha, I believe it]

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 2.44.10 PM
AeroMexico Dreamliner in reclined, but not yet flat, position. Source: http://www.godsavethepoints.com/news/dreamlinerreview

Try your hardest to fly a day served by the 787, because the 767 doesn’t feature fully flat beds.

Other Latin American Destinations

AeroMexico has fantastic award space throughout the Americas, and it is cheap with Alaska miles as well as Delta and Air France miles.

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 2.44.01 PM
Alaska Airlines chart for AeroMexico Flights

Here are all the places that AeroMexico flies from Mexico City. There are great options in Mexico, Central America, and South America.

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 5.21.31 PM

Awards within Argentina

Argentina is much more than Buenos Aires.

Check out glaciar hiking at El Calafate; Patagonia in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego; the Lake District of Patagonia; the waterfalls of Iguazu; the wine in Mendoza; and much more.

To get around Argentina, use British Airways Avios to fly LAN or Delta SkyMiles to fly Aerolineas Argentinas.

Bottom Line

Buenos Aires is a very easy award ticket for 45,000 Alaska miles + $19 in Business Class. Pick your dates correctly to get the 787 Dreamliner from Mexico City to Buenos Aires.

Alaska also offers cheap awards on AeroMexico throughout the rest of Latin America.

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.

Further Reading

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

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 a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

This week I posted that it is cheaper to use Singapore Airlines miles to book United flights to Europe in economy than it is to book the same flights with United miles. Check out that full post.

Yesterday I booked myself an award from Washington DC to Madrid in May with Singapore miles on a United flight.

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Source: gcmap.com

Questions this article will answer:

  • Why did I use Singapore miles?
  • Which points transfer to Singapore miles and how long does the transfer take?
  • How did I search for award space?
  • How did I book award space?
  • How did I select seats?

Why Singapore Miles

As explained in “Using Singapore Miles to Europe in Economy is Better Than Using United Miles,” a United economy flight from the United States to Europe costs 30,000 United miles or 27,500 Singapore miles.

My most important priority was booking a direct flight, since they are so much more convenient than connecting itineraries. The only airline that flies from Washington DC to Madrid is United. I would have preferred to book this flight in Business Class on a flat bed, but Business Class award space is not available at the moment as a Saver award. It may open up in the future, but I just wanted to lock this award in, and I can handle seven-and-a-half hours in economy, especially since the flight takes off so early that I wouldn’t have slept any way.

I used Singapore miles to book the economy award because, first, I wanted to save 2,500 miles.

Second, I wanted to use Singapore miles instead of United miles because I have more “potential” Singapore miles (ie transferable points that transfer to Singapore miles) than potential United miles. I’ll discuss this point further in the section on transferring points to Singapore miles.

Searching for Award Space

I searched for award space on united.com before transferring points to Singapore because transfers are irreversible. The flight I wanted had Saver award space in economy. (Here’s how to search united.com.)

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 5.40.20 PM

Singapore Airlines only has access to the flights on united.com with a blue button in the Saver award column.

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Which Points Transfer to Singapore Miles?

All major transferable points transfer to Singapore miles including Citi ThankYou Points, Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and SPG Starpoints. It is all these partners that makes getting Singapore miles so easy, which allows things like: One Person Can Open Four Cards and Fly Six Roundtrips to Hawaii.

If you have all four types of transferable points, which should you transfer to ThankYou Points? The ones that you have the fewest other high value uses for.

For me, I’d transfer ThankYou Points, Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards, Starpoints in that order because that is my order from least valuable (1.8 cents each for ThankYou Points) to most valuable (2.5 cents each for Starpoints.)

I already had 12,500 Singapore miles in my account, so I needed to transfer 15,000 points. I transferred 4,000 ThankYou Points to draw down that account (temporarily until I get the 50,000 bonus points on my Citi Prestige.)

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 4.54.07 PM

Then I transferred 11,000 Ultimate Rewards.

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Both transfers are performed online inside your credit card account. Both transfers resulted in immediate confirmation emails, though it takes 24-48 hours for the Singapore miles to show up. In this case, I transferred on Thursday at 9:30 AM ET, and the points had arrived by Friday at 3:30 PM ET, or in 30 hours at most.

Re-Running the Search

Once my points posted, I re-ran my search, and my award space was still available.

There is a possibility that you transfer points to Singapore miles, and in the 24-48 hours that the transfer takes, the space disappears. In that case, you’re basically out of luck because transfers are irreversible.

I didn’t worry too much about that possibility because United award space tends to increase not decrease in the last month, and because if I were “stuck” with 27,500 Singapore miles, I’d find a quick use for them to Europe, Hawaii, or South America or booking Singapore Suites.

Booking Award Space

I called Singapore Airlines at 213-404-0301 to book the flight. To book all Singapore partners, you have to call Singapore, but luckily there is no phone fee.

I fed the agent my date, flight number, and cabin, and she quickly found and booked the award space for 27,500 Singapore miles + 31.60 SGD ($23.) The whole call took 13 minutes.
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I paid with my Citi Prestige® Card because it has a $250 airfare credit per calendar year that includes airfare, award taxes, bag fees, upgrades, and more. That means that the $23 will be credited back to my account. This benefit is per calendar year, so in the first 12 months of holding this card, I will get $500 worth of free flights and award taxes. This more than offsets the $450 annual fee, and makes the 50,000 point sign up bonus and free lounge access worldwide even more valuable. All this is Why I Got the Citi Prestige.

How Did I Select Seats?

The general rule is that you must select seats with the operating carrier, in this case United. It is usually important to ask at the time of booking for the confirmation number for each operating carrier, so that you can contact them and quickly select seats.

In this case, the Singapore agent proactively offered me the United confirmation number.

That’s actually not necessary in this case because typing in either the Singapore or United confirmation number on united.com where it says “Change or View Reservations” will allow for seat selection.

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I picked the window seat furthest to the front. I was offered the chance to buy an Economy Plus seat upgrade from $109. Anyone with a ticket, no matter how you got it, always has the chance to buy Economy Plus.Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 5.09.44 PM

Bottom Line

Singapore miles are cheaper than United miles for booking United economy awards to Europe. I used my Singapore miles to book myself a one way flight to Madrid next month to kick off four months in Europe. Transferring ThankYou Points and Ultimate Rewards to Singapore, searching for the space, and booking the award were all seamless.

Right now you can earn oodles of Singapore miles. Start with 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. The card also comes earns 3x points on airfare and hotels and has a host of benefits like lounge access and $250 in free airfare per year.

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

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 a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

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

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

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

Why Singapore Miles?

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

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

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

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

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

Transferring, Searching, Booking, Timing

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 12.31.29 PM

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

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

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

 

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 12.32.56 PM

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

2. Transferring the Points

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

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

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

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

 

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 12.36.01 PM

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

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

3. Hoping Space Stays

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

4. Booking the Ticket

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

I ticketed the award.
Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 12.37.40 PM

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

Getting Singapore Miles

Getting Singapore miles is extremely easy now.

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

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

My Review of the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 6.41.45 PM

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

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

Application Link: Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

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

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

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

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

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

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

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 a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

Etihad First Suite on 787

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

The Trip

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

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 10.24.04 AM

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

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 10.24.29 AM

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

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

Award Search

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 1.06.05 PM

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 1.08.17 PM

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

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

I noted the date, cabin, and flight number of the award space I found from Abu Dhabi to Washington DC and moved on to Cairo to Abu Dhabi in Business Class.
Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 1.09.50 PM
There is award space on this route basically every day. There is a flight that connects in Abu Dhabi with only a two hour layover. I noted its date, cabin, and flight number.Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 1.10.04 PM

If You Don’t Live in Washington DC

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

Award Booking

I called American Airlines at 800-882-8880.

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

She quickly put together my two flights.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 1.10.28 PM

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

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

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

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

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

Getting the Miles

American Airlines miles are super easy to get.

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

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

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

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

Bottom Line

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

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

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

Etihad First Suite on 787
Etihad First Suite on 787

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

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

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 a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

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