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

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.

————————————————————————————————————
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 75,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $7,500 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines Admirals Club membership for super-cheap economy awards and ultra-luxury First Class awards.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 2.52.22 PM

5

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

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.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 5.17.14 AM

Getting ThankYou Points is easy:

————————————————————————————————————
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 an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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

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.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 12.27.11 PM

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. 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. That means you’ll have 82,500 American Airlines miles after meeting the spending requirement, almost enough for the trip I booked.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 2.52.22 PM

Since American 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’ll 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.

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 5.27.43 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 4.39.10 PM

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.)

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 2.14.26 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 2.16.56 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 2.17.15 PM

Last I searched for award space from New York to Los Angeles in First Class. As I explained yesterday in my post about booking domestic awards with American Airlines miles, award space is 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

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. That means you’ll have 82,500 American Airlines miles after meeting the spending requirement, almost enough for the trip I booked.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 2.52.22 PM

The card comes with Admirals Club membership (free access for you plus two guests OR your spouse and all kids), a free checked bag on American Airlines/US Airways flights, and a $100 credit toward Global Entry. It has a $450 annual fee.

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 82,500 American Airlines miles by opening the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® and spending $7,500 in the first three months.

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.

————————————————————————————————————
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 an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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

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.

Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 2.37.07 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 9.14.50 PM

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.”

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 2.34.47 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 7.40.55 PM

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

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 2.40.42 PM

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?

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 7.46.57 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 4.03.53 PM

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.

————————————————————————————————————
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 an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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

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.

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

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.

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 4.46.44 PM

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 4.47.36 PM

That brings up a calendar like this:

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 4.48.44 PM

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

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

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

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

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.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 5.06.58 PM
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.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 5.40.27 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 4.53.36 PM

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.
Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 4.58.30 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 5.01.21 PM

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.

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

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

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

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.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 1.57.49 PM

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.

CKANbanner_300x250_v6b

Etihad First Suite on 787

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

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.

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

 

 

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

I’ve got 2.5 weeks between high school and law school reunions this spring. It looked like the perfect time to check out Egypt and Dubai for the first time and more of Thailand (only been to Phuket so far), while also flying some of the world’s nicest First and Business Class products.

I, like a lot of people, have a big American Airlines miles balance because of how easy they are to get at the moment with the personal and business cards each offering 50,000 bonus miles after $3,000 spending in the first three months. I thought I would use some American Airlines miles to fly some of its nicest partners for part of 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

Picking the Route

Now I needed to get from Bangkok to Egypt. From doing a bit of research, I knew that in Egypt I wanted to see sites around Luxor and Cairo.

To avoid backtracking, that means flying into one and out of the other.

I expected to fly to Egypt on Qatar Airways and back to the United States on Etihad Airways, so I went to Wikipedia to check whether they both served Luxor and Cairo. I really can’t oversell how valuable Wikipedia airport pages are for planning a trip.

It turns out both Etihad and Qatar fly to Cairo, but only Qatar flies to Luxor.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 4.48.47 PM
Luxor airlines and destinations from Wikipedia

That means I would fly from Bangkok to Luxor and fly back to the United States from Cairo. Great! The order didn’t matter to me. I just wanted to save the time and money of having to fly two intra-Egpyt flights, and with a few extra minutes of planning I did. Also see: the trick I used to save 47% on my flight from Luxor to Cairo.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 10.24.29 AM
The Plan

Picking the Airline to Fly

I already mentioned that I’d be flying Qatar from Bangkok to Egypt. Why?

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 5.08.12 PM

Qatar flies its brand new A380 between Doha and London and Doha and Bangkok. Even though Qatar hasn’t released First Class award space on the plane yet, Business Class looks spectacular.

Each fully flat bed has direct aisle access, laid out with only four seats per row for a very spacious seat.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 5.09.03 PM Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 5.08.48 PM

Just behind Business Class is The Lounge, which looks like a much snazzier version of the onboard bars a few other airlines feature.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 5.09.15 PM

Between Asia 2 (Thailand) and Indian Subcontinent / Middle East, American Airlines charges only 30,000 miles one way in Business Class and 40,000 miles in First Class, both of which are outrageously good deals!

In the off chance that Qatar opens up First Class award space in the next three months, I set free oneworld award space alerts with the Wandering Aramean’s search tools.

Searching Award Space

As I explained in Where to Search Award Space for All American Airlines Partners, Qatar award space is searchable on ba.com. Here’s how to search ba.com.

I was specifically looking for award space on flight QR833, the daily flight served by the A380.

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 9.38.35 PM

There is ample award space on the A380 in Business Class if you are flexible with your travel date, which I was. Unfortunately, the A380 flight is not the best timed flight with the once-daily flight to Luxor.

Qatar has a flight out of Bangkok that lines up perfectly with the Luxor flight…

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 9.37.45 PMScreen Shot 2015-01-18 at 9.37.36 PM

…but the A380 flight requires a 7:45 layover in Doha.Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 9.38.09 PM Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 9.38.01 PM

I’m choosing to look at that as a positive because Qatar’s Al Mourjan Business Class lounge in Doha is regarded as one of the nicest in the world and is open 24 hours.

After I’m done feasting in one or more of the dining areas that feature buffets and a la carte options, I can find the game room or “cocoon into one of the private work stations.” Surely I’ll take a nap too.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 5.33.23 PM Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 5.33.39 PM

Booking the Award Space

The only way to book award space on Qatar Airways with American Airlines miles is by calling American Airlines at 800-882-8880.

I fed the agent the date, flight number, and cabin of each segment. She pieced it together, and it cost 30,000 miles (as expected) and something very small in taxes.
Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 10.25.07 AM

I haven’t broken it down by trip, but these flights plus my return from Cairo to the United States only totaled $72 in taxes.

The reason I booked them together should be apparent to anyone who read the Complete Guide to Taxes, Fees, and Fuel Surcharges on American Airlines Awards. American Airlines charges a $35 phone fee to book awards, but usually just one per passenger per call. By combining two award bookings into one call and one record locator, I just paid the $35 once.

Trivia: I highlighted the 4 h 5 m flight time above from Doha to Luxor because it is wrong. In May, they will be in the same time zone, and the flight is 3 h 5 m. Apparently Egypt has daylight savings time for about two months, then goes back to standard time for Ramadan, then has two more months of daylight savings time.

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 Asia and the Middle East because American has several partners that fly the routes with excellent products and award space like Qatar Business Class on its A380.

Plus American Airlines charges the ultra-low price of only 30,000 miles one way in Business and 40,000 one way in First between the two regions. Check out five other under-priced awards on the American Airlines chart.

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

Planning on Wikipedia, searching on ba.com was easy, and booking by phone were all easy, and I saved myself $35 by booking this award at the same time as my Etihad First Class award back to the United States.

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

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

As you read this, I’m 35,000 feet up on my way to Medellin, Colombia.

I was in Tucson over the weekend for a tennis tournament, and I didn’t have any exit flight booked. I really wanted to return to Colombia because I had enjoyed Bogota so much and heard even better things about Medellin, but award space didn’t appear to be available for a Monday departure from Tucson to Medellin.

I used two tricks and a little bit of creativity to come up with a Saver award, save myself $75 in fees, and give myself a chance to hang out with a buddy I haven’t seen in a few years.

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 3.40.47 PM

  • What were my two tricks?
  • How did I save $75?

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

I asked longtime award booker and occasional blog contributor JB to write about a very interesting Delta award he just booked.

A lot of people think Delta miles are worthless, but there are no other miles that could book a single convenient award with long stops in Tahiti and Sydney plus an overnight in Auckland.

A client contacted the MileValue Award Booking Service requesting a slightly modified version a MileValue classic: Tahiti, New Zealand & Australia on One Trip Using Delta Skymiles.

delta award ATL-SYD map

She had tried another award booking service that failed to convince Delta to book the award. Despite this ominous sign, I took it on.

Her routing is all one award. It is properly viewed as a round trip to Sydney (SYD) with a stopover in Papeete (PPT). There is an overnight in Auckland (AKL), but the time between flights is less than 24 hours, and on an international award ticket, that is a “layover” not a “stopover.” That means we are following the rule that you get one stopover plus one destination on a Delta award.

I’m sure you educated readers already know that. But, guess who didn’t. That’s right… the Delta agent.

  • How did I search for award space?
  • How did I out-maneuver the agent to get the award ticketed?
  • What is the go-to lie Delta agents are telling to try to shut down your award and how you do you beat it?

26

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

Yesterday I wrote about the Four Easiest Places to Go with Miles.

Colombia was part of one of the regions that has plentiful award space, and it is on my radar at the moment as I book myself a two week trip there next month.

The problem is that award space is so good that I have way too many options. I haven’t been able to book the outbound yet because there are ways to book it for 15,000 to 17,500 miles one way with all three alliances. I can even throw in free one ways.

I’m suffering paralysis by analysis. Take a look at my options and thought process to improve your own award booking.

  • What is the award space to Colombia?
  • What miles can I use to book that space?
  • What are my free one way options?

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

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Anatomy of an Award posts highlight real awards I’ve booked to show you the techniques needed to book your dream trip.

I recently booked my brother a pair of awards that will allow us to visit Hong Kong, Beijing, and Seoul together. His awards cost about 100,000 airline miles and bank points and zero out of pocket.

from gcmap.com
from gcmap.com

The main award was a United award, but United awards only allow one stopover in addition to your destination, so I needed to add an extra Avios award for one segment between Hong Kong and Beijing.

We are not getting Chinese visas for Beijing, so I also had to time our flights to get us as close to 72 hours in the city as possible without exceeding the limit for visa-free transit.

Finally, he had enough miles for one way in business class and one way in economy.

These awards demonstrate the limits of United awards, how to see more cities than a United award will allow, and the problems with multi-city searches on united.com. They also showcase, the kind of award planning you can get from my Award Booking Service.

  • Why could I not book the entire trip as a single United award?
  • Why did I choose Avios for the second award, and how did I choose which flight to book with Avios?
  • How did I ensure I got as close to 72 hours in Beijing as possible?
  • How did I book one way in economy and one way in business class on his United award? How did I choose which direction for each class?

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

Last year I wrote “How to Book Multiple Awards from Different Accounts on the Same Flights.”

The idea is that you can never transfer miles from one airline to another, even if they are airline partners, but you can book two seats on the exact same flights with two different types of miles.

Last week I used 30,000 Singapore miles and 35,000 Lufthansa miles to book myself and a friend one way First Class flights on United from Honolulu to San Francisco.

United flies one flight a day from Honolulu to San Francisco on a 767-400ER with fully flat beds in First Class (in addition to the flights to Newark and Washington-Dulles which are always on 767-400ERs.)

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 3.02.03 AM
Sleeping in a flat bed on a previous United flight to Hawaii

Since my friend had never flown in First Class, since I really wanted to sleep the entire flight, and since Lufthansa and Singapore have reasonable miles prices for the flight, I decided to book us two First Class tickets.

I booked one ticket for 30,000 Singapore KrisFlyer miles + $5.68 and the other for 35,000 Lufthansa Miles & More miles + $5.60.

This guide will be useful whenever you want to book two or more seats on the same flight with two or more types of miles from airline partners. One common situation is to book the same oneworld flights with American Airlines, US Airways, and/or British Airways miles.

  • How did I search for the award space?
  • How did I book the awards?
  • What big risk did I take?
  • What other types of miles work together like this?

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

Update July 1, 2014:

The current offer on the Premier Miles & More® World MasterCard® is 20,000 miles after first purchase and payment of $79 annual fee.

  • Earn 20,000 award miles after your first purchase or balance transfer
  • Earn up to 15,000 award miles with balance transfers (1 mile per $1 transferred) within 30 days of account opening
  • Earn 2 award miles per $1 on ticket purchases directly from Miles & More integrated airline partners
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases
  • Annual Companion Ticket after first purchase
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases made outside the U.S.
  • Redeem miles for flight awards and upgrades on Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, SWISS, Star Alliance airlines and other partners
  • $79 Annual Fee, waived for SEN and HON Circle Members

———————————————————

Anatomy of an Award posts highlight real awards I’ve booked to show you the techniques needed to book your dream trip.

United has very good award space to all four major Hawaiian islands from the mainland, but I’ll never use United miles to fly between the mainland and Hawaii again.

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 1.25.01 AM

The problem is that United charges more miles for its own flights than its partners like Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa Airlines charge for the exact same United flights.

All of United’s partners have equal access to the Saver award space you see on united.com before signing in, but the prices differ:

  • United charges 22,500 miles each way in economy and 40,000 miles each way in First Class between the mainland and Hawaii
  • Singapore charges 17,500 miles each way in United economy and 30,000 miles each way in United First Class between the mainland and Hawaii
  • Lufthansa charges 20,000 miles each way in United economy and 35,000 miles each way in United First Class between the mainland and Hawaii

Recently I booked myself an award in United economy from Honolulu to Chicago to speak at the Chicago Seminars (only 43 tickets left) with Lufthansa miles to take advantage of its discount relative to United miles.

Currently the Premier Miles & More® World MasterCard® offers 50,000 bonus Lufthansa miles after spending $5,000 in the first 90 days. (This offer expires June 30, 2014.) I had gotten in on the same massive offer last year, and I had over 70,000 Lufthansa miles burning a hole in my account, waiting to be used.

  • How good is United award space to/from Hawaii?
  • Which miles should you use to book the space?

Follow Me