Possibilities with Qantas flight. Source: gcmap.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the Business Class Product

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

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

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

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

How to Search Award Space

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

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

Award Space Picture

South African Flight

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.17.24 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.19.17 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.19.45 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.20.07 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.20.31 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.21.05 PM

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

Qantas Flight

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.27.05 PM

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.27.35 PM

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.28.12 PM

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 6.36.49 PM

Connections

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

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

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

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

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

How to Book

Depends on which miles you want to use.

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

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

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

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

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

Avianca LifeMiles (book online) charges the same.

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 10.00.35 PM

There are no cheap deals with other Star Alliance carriers:

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

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

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

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

Getting the Miles

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

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

CKANbanner_300x250_v6b

Bottom Line

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the Business Class Product on These Routes?

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.37.36 PM

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

How to Search Award Space

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

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

What Is the Award Space Picture?

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.32.03 PM

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.32.28 PM

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.31.35 PM

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.29.13 PM

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 4.14.31 PM

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

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

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

Connections

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 3.33.40 PM

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

How to Book

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

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

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

Getting the Miles

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

Bottom Line

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

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

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

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

11

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

Until 2014, the best way to use miles to book a round-the-world (RTW) trip was to save a lot of one mileage currency and book a special RTW award with those miles. If you’ve saved up miles for years to book yourself such a once-in-a-lifetime trip, you’re probably dismayed that the best two RTW awards from American Airlines and Delta were eliminated in 2014.

You can still book RTW trips in 2015, but now the best way is as a series of one way awards across many different programs to take advantage of sweet spots on each airline’s award chart.

In this post, I’ll list some of the cheapest awards, or sweet spots, from each region. When planning your RTW trip in 2015 or beyond, refer to these lists to piece together your trip. For instance, if you know you want to visit South America, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Australia, look under each of those headings to find cheap awards to the next region.

But before getting to those lists, let’s consider other types of tickets that should be part of your RTW award.

Avios & Cash

All of the awards on the lists in the next section are from programs with region-based miles. These miles usually offer the best value for international awards.

But before using region-based miles consider using Avios or cash for appropriate flights on your RTW trip.

Cash

Use cash if the possible awards are not getting you a good return on your miles (1.2 to 1.8+ cents each, depending on the miles.) This will be very likely when a low cost carrier flies the route you want to fly, especially within Europe and Southeast Asia or to Iceland.

When cash flights are the best option, you don’t need to actually use cash to book them.

You can book them with points that can be used like cash toward any flight like ThankYou Points or Arrival miles, or you can use the $250 per year airfare statement credit on the Citi Prestige.

Avios

British Airways Avios are fantastic for short, direct, economy awards especially when you can fly a partner with no fuel surcharges. There are tons of times you would want to use Avios on your RTW trip. A partial list:

  • West coast of United States to Hawaii
  • Miami, Dallas, or New York to Latin America or Caribbean
  • Intra-Latin America international flights
  • Intra-Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay, Ecuador (including Galapagos), and Chile (including Easter Island)
  • Intra-South Africa
  • Intra-Australia
  • Intra-Europe, especially on airberlin or Niki for no fuel surcharges
  • Boston to Ireland on Aer Lingus
  • India to Sri Lanka to change zones on the American Airlines chart from India/Middle East to Asia 2
  • Europe to Israel

Region-to-Region Awards

For the longhaul awards, you’ll almost certainly get the best value by using airline miles that allow one way redemptions with the price based on a region-based award chart. A partial list of such airline miles:

  • American Airlines AAdvantage (transfer partner of SPG)
  • Delta SkyMiles (transfer partner of AMEX Membership Rewards and SPG)
  • United MileagePlus (transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards)
  • Alaska Mileage Plan (transfer partner of SPG)
  • Singapore KrisFlyer (transfer partner of AMEX, Chase, Citi ThankYou Points, and SPG)
  • Asiana Mileage Club (transfer partner of SPG)
  • Air Canada Aeroplan (transfer partner of AMEX and SPG)
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (transfer partner of AMEX, Chase, Citi, and SPG)
  • Air France Flying Blue (transfer partner of AMEX, Citi, and SPG)

Some of the awards below are listed because they cost very few miles. Some are listed because they present amazing value in a premium cabin. Links take you to longer articles on that award. Any prices listed are one way unless otherwise noted. If no cabin is listed, the award is in economy. If no fuel surcharges are mentioned, the award has none. Remember to check Avios redemptions and cash tickets before booking any awards on these lists.

From United States

To Europe

To Korea or Japan

To China or Southeast Asia

To Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, or Ecuador

  • with 15,000 American Airlines miles each year from January 16 – June 14 or September 7 – November 14 (these off peak awards must be flown on American Airlines metal)

To Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, or Uruguay

  • with 20,000 American Airlines miles each year from March 1 – May 31 or August 16 – November 30 (off peak awards)
  • with 45,000 Virgin Atlantic miles roundtrip on Delta flights
  • in Business Class with 35,000 Asiana miles on United flights
  • in Business Class with 45,000 Alaska miles on AeroMexico flights, try to fly the Dreamliner
  • in First Class with 45,000 Asiana miles on United flights

To Hawaii

To Fiji

To Australia/New Zealand

From Europe

When leaving Europe, don’t fly your longhaul flight out of London. You’ll pay $200 to $300 in taxes for starting a premium cabin itinerary in the United Kingdom. Hop a low cost carrier flight from London to somewhere on the continent and fly your longhaul award to the next region from there.

To United States

  • See From United States to Europe above

To Hong Kong

To Middle East/India/Maldives

To South America

To Australia

  • in Qantas First Class on the A380 with 80,000 American Airlines miles

To South Africa

  • in British Airways Business Class with 37,500 American Airlines miles plus about $550 in taxes and fuel surcharges
  • in British Airways First Class with 50,000 American Airlines miles plus about $550 in taxes and fuel surcharges
From the Middle East

To Europe

  • See From Europe to Middle East above

To Australia/New Zealand

  • in Qantas Business Class on the A380 with 45,000 American Airlines miles
  • in Qantas First Class on the A380 with 60,000 American Airlines miles

To East Asia

  • in Business Class with 30,000 American Airlines miles
  • in First Class with 45,000 American Airlines miles
From North Asia

To United States

  • See From United States to Korea or Japan and From United States to China or Southeast Asia

To Australia/New Zealand

  • in Business Class with 45,000 American Airlines miles
  • in Business Class with 45,000 United miles
  • in First Class with 50,000 United miles
  • in First Class with 60,000 American Airlines miles

To Oceania

  • with 15,000 United miles
  • in Business Class with 35,000 United miles
  • in First Class with 40,000 United miles
From Southeast Asia

To United States

  • See From United States to China or Southeast Asia

To Europe

  • See From Europe to Hong Kong

To Australia/New Zealand

  • with 17,500 United miles
  • in Business Class with 35,000 United miles
  • in First Class with 40,000 United miles, try for Thai First Class
From South America

Flights leaving Brazil cannot have fuel surcharges, so miles that otherwise collect fuel surcharges on most awards are especially well used from Brazil to Europe.

to United States

  • See From United States to Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, or Ecuador and From United States to Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, or Uruguay

to Europe

  • See From Europe to South America. Note that traveling South America to Europe is better than Europe to South America because flights leaving Brazil cannot have fuel surcharges.

Intra-South America

to Central America

  • (from Northern South America) with 10,000 United miles

to Africa

Please add your other favorite awards in the comments, and I may include them in this post. Bookmark this post for reference when you want to book a RTW trip.

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

Delta SkyMiles have access to the best award space to all of Argentina–not just Buenos Aires–year round in economy and Business Class.

The backbone of the award space is AeroMexico availability on its daily flights from Mexico City to Buenos Aires. This award space is available for 2+ people in economy and 2+ people in Business Class on the vast majority of flights for the next year. Four flights weekly on the route are even on AeroMexico’s newest plane, the 787 Dreamliner with flat bed seats.

Unlike the Dreamliner Business Class award space to Argentina on United, you don’t have to end your Delta award in Buenos Aires because Delta also partners with Aerolineas Argentinas, which you can fly to a eight other major destinations for zero extra miles on the same award.

  • What is the award space with Delta SkyMiles to Buenos Aires?
  • How is the AeroMexico Dreamliner?
  • Where else can you go in Argentina?

Delta has terrible award space on its own flights from Atlanta to Buenos Aires, but partner AeroMexico releases a ton of award space from the United States to Mexico City and from there to Buenos Aires in economy and Business Class. All Delta partner awards from the United States mainland to Argentina cost:

  • 30,000 SkyMiles one way in economy
  • 62,500 SkyMiles one way in Business Class

Just how good is AeroMexico award space?

AeroMexico Award Space

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. When we start our award in the United States, we’ll 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 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 9.20.28 PM Screen 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

Researching this article, I was very surprised how many AeroMexico flights there are between the United States and Mexico. Here’s a combined route map for Delta and AeroMexico flights between the United States and Mexico City.

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 6.21.09 PM
Source: gcmap.com

Notes: BOS-MEX begins June 1, 2015. Fresno only has a direct AeroMexico flight to Guadalajara where you can connect to Mexico City.

If you live in any of the cities on the map, you can get to Buenos Aires with only one connection in Mexico City. While the Delta flights (Atlanta, Detroit, Salt Lake City) don’t have very good award space to Mexico City, the AeroMexico flights have amazing award space for two people in either cabin.

For instance, here is the award space for two people this Argentine Spring–October and November are a fantastic time to visit–from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 1.50.16 PM

There is award space every day. All of it features an AeroMexico flight from Mexico City to Buenos Aires, though some of it features an Alaska Airlines flight to Mexico City.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 1.53.05 PM

Award space is similarly excellent from Argentina back to the United States. For instance, award space for two people in economy and Business Class from Buenos Aires to Washington DC also shows award space almost every day.

Again, the backbone of this space is AeroMexico availability via Mexico City, but there are also options that fly Aerolineas Argentinas via New York. (AR1300 below)

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 1.55.24 PM

Connections in Argentina

All of these awards land at Buenos Aires Ezeiza airport (EZE). Most domestic flights in Argentina leave Aeroparque (AEP), which is much closer to the city, but Aerolineas Argentinas does operate some flights from EZE to the rest of the country including great tourist spots like Iguazu, Mendoza, Bariloche, Calafate, and Ushuaia.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 2.05.20 PM
Source: gcmap.com

You can add Aerolineas award space to your award for zero extra miles, but you can’t do it online.

You can search the award space on delta.com, like this search from EZE to Ushuaia that shows plenty of Business Class award space.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 2.02.35 PM But when you try to add the intra-Argentina segment to an international award, you get an error like this despite there being legal award space. Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 2.03.17 PM

The solution? Call Delta 800-323-2323 if you want to book your Argentina award with intra-Argentina award space.

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.

Bottom Line

Argentina can be a tough award ticket. There’s almost no space on American Airlines flights to Argentina for most of the next year. United has amazing award space some days, but none for months at a time.

The solution is to use Delta miles on AeroMexico flights. Fly from over a dozen airports to Mexico City and connect to the AeroMexico Dreamliner to Buenos Aires. You’ll pay only 30,000 SkyMiles in economy or 62,500 SkyMiles in Business Class each way for a fully flat bed.

Your award doesn’t have to end in Buenos Aires. You can connect from there to eight cities in Argentina on Aerolineas Argentina for no extra miles, but you’ll have to call to book an award like that.

Further Reading

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

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

I just spent a completely legal week in Cuba, split between Havana and Viñales. An American in Cuba in 2015 is a six part series on the trip. This post will focus on how Americans can book flights to Cuba.

Other Posts

Coming soon posts on money, internet, nightlife, lodging, transportation, Havana, and Viñales.

Ways to Get to Cuba

This post will focus on those last two ways because those ways can use frequent flyer miles and are going to be more convenient for people who don’t live in Florida.

One Ticket to Cuba

Copa Airlines, based in Panama, will sell you a roundtrip ticket from the United States to Cuba, but it can cost over $800.

You can also book Copa Airlines award space from the United States to Havana, Cuba via Mexico with several types of miles including:

  • Lufthansa Miles & More
  • Singapore KrisFlyer miles
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • maybe other types of Star Alliance miles

You cannot book these awards with United miles because United is afraid, as an American company, to book you a flight to Cuba.

Copa flies to 10 American destination and adds New Orleans on June 24, 2015.

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 3.32.47 PM
Source: gcmap.com

If you don’t live in one of these cities, you can add United flights to one of these destinations or to Panama City for no extra charge to your Lufthansa, Singapore, or Avianca award.

You may also be able to fly via San Salvador, El Salvador on TACA/Avianca flights, but I haven’t found that award space.

Getting Lufthansa, Singapore, or Avianca miles

  • You need 35,000 miles roundtrip for a Lufthansa award from the United States to Cuba. You can get 50,000 bonus Lufthansa miles from the Miles & More credit card after spending $5,000 in the first three months and paying a $79 annual fee. Or you can transfer SPG points to Lufthansa miles.
  • You need 70,000 Singapore miles roundtrip from the United States to Cuba. Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, ThankYou Points, and SPG points all transfer to Singapore miles.
  • You need 35,000 Avianca miles roundtrip from the United States to Cuba. The only reasonable way to get them is to buy. You can buy them for less than 1.65 cents each until May 29. This means you could basically buy a roundtrip to Cuba for about $600 roundtrip including taxes by buying enough Avianca miles to book the award.

Searching and Booking the Awards

Searching for Award Space

To search for the Copa flights to Cuba on lifemiles.com, click on Air Tickets under the Enjoy tab.

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

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

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If You Live in One of the 11 Cities Served by Copa

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

All of the options go from Washington to Panama City to Havana on Copa with varying layovers in Panama City. If award space shows up on the days you search, note the dates, cabins, and flight numbers for the booking step below.

If You Don’t Live in One of the 11 Cities Served by Copa

You should search your home airport to Chicago (ORD), Los Angeles (LAX), and Washington (IAD) and then hook up that award space to award space from those cities to Cuba on Copa. This is just segment-by-segment searching.

Booking the Award Space

If you’re booking with Avianca LifeMiles an award you can book online, book it on lifemiles.com.

If you’re booking with Lufthansa, Singapore, or another type of miles, call a foreign call center of the airline whose miles you’re using. The American call centers won’t book trips to Cuba, so pick a foreign call center in an English speaking country that is open to help you. Consider England, Canada, and Australia.

Feed the agent the dates, flights numbers, and cabins of each flight that you found award space for on lifemiles.com. You can pay the taxes with any credit card, so I of course suggest the Citi Prestige® Card, since it has an annual $250 Air Travel Credit that can refund your award taxes, and you will earn 3x-4x on the taxes paid.

I used these methods to fly from Washington DC to Havana, Cuba with Lufthansa miles on Copa flights.

Two Tickets to Cuba

You can book two awards or cash tickets to get from the United States to Cuba. Since you can get to Cuba with one ticket, the only reasons you’d want to use two tickets are if you wanted to see another country on your way or you didn’t have any Star Alliance miles to fly those Copa award flights mentioned above.

I booked my return from Cuba on two tickets because I wanted to stop in Bogota on the way.

The two ticket options include flying cash tickets or awards from the Caribbean or Mexico to Havana. These flights tend to be expensive in miles and in cash. I paid 17,500 Asiana miles from Havana to Bogota, Colombia.

Flying Blue Awards

Air France’s loyalty program Flying Blue is the best way to book AeroMexico flights from Mexico City to Havana.

Flying Blue charges 15,000 miles one way in economy and 30,000 in Business Class.

Award space was far better in Business Class (29/35 days) than economy (3/35 days) this spring when I searched last month.

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Mexico City is quite out of the way from the East Coast, but pretty much on the way from the West Coast.

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Source: gcmap.com

If you search from the United States to Havana on flyingblue.com, you will get an error message, so these awards are only to get from Mexico to Havana as part of a two award solution.

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Flying Blue is a 1:1 transfer partner of Membership Rewards and ThankYou Points. ThankYou Points transfers take about 36 hours as long as you know how to correctly input your Flying Blue account number–it is not intuitive.

My favorite two cards to get ThankYou Points are the:

Cash Flights

Here are all the airlines and destinations that serve Havana. Here are the other airports in Cuba.

I searched on Kayak for many of the destinations and on Cubana’s and Aerogaviota’s sites for their fares. Flights to and from Cuba are shockingly expensive. For instance, I considered entering Cuba from Bogota to visit friends in Colombia first, and the 3.5 hour flight was around $500 one way. Even one hour hops in the Caribbean are almost always over $200.

Here are the cheapest fares I found to and from Cuba when I searched last month:

$158 from Havana to Nassau on April 25, 27, and 29

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$209 from Havana to Grand Cayman on April 26 and 30

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$214 from Havana to Mexico City on April 28

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If you find cheaper fares, put them in the comments. (Include airline, route, and date please.)

Bottom Line

Two ticket trips to Cuba is that it isn’t cheap in miles or cash. You are better off using just one roundtrip award, and I really recommend using 35,000 Lufthansa miles to fly Copa roundtrip, unless you want to stop in another country on the same trip.

US airlines won’t let you use their miles to Cuba or even search their sites for awards to Cuba, but foreign Star Alliance airlines will let you book Copa flights to Cuba by calling their non-US call centers.

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I just booked myself a five city, four country award for 15,000 United miles + $73. Let’s back up a little bit before I explain my current award.

My 2013 Euro Hopper

Two years ago, I flew a Seven City, Seven Flight, Six Country Award in Europe for 12,500 United miles plus taxes. I was able to get all that flying in because United allowed unlimited connections within Europe, so I added six between Zagreb and Munich.

Source: gcmap.com

The huge drawback on such awards is that a connection is a layover of less than 24 hours, so I had less than a day in each city. United doesn’t allow any stops greater than 24 hours on one way awards. I made clear in every post about that award that I knew it wasn’t for everyone because not everyone would enjoy such rapid travel.

But I had a blast.

  • It was my first trip to Dubrovnik, and I achieved a dream of cliff jumping into the Adriatic under the centuries old city walls. I have to go back.
  • It was my first trip to Rome, and I got to see the Colloseum and Forum, places I’d wanted to see since Latin I. I have to go back for longer.
  • I had never been to Brussels, Oslo, or Amsterdam, and while I enjoyed my time knocking off 2-3 of the top sites and activities in each, I learned that I don’t need to go back for longer trips any time soon.
  • Finally I got to Munich in time for Oktoberfest and my flight back to the United States.

As a break from my slow travel routine, I really enjoyed my week of breakneck speed. It was also a useful sorting mechanism. Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Rome, and Munich need extended visits. Brussels, Oslo, and Amsterdam don’t.

Two things have changed since that week in 2013.

  1. United now only allows four segments on a one way award.
  2. United has increased the price of an intra-Europe award to 15,000 miles one way.

My 2015 Euro Hopper

Fast forward to 2015. I’m about to spend four months in Europe that I have mentally divided into four parts, each of about one month.

  1. Madrid, Spain
  2. Helsinki to Tallinn to Riga to Vilnius (the Baltics)
  3. Belgrade, Serbia
  4. Bucharest and Romania

I plan to end the main trip in Bucharest, but my return flight to the United States is an award that flies two segments in Emirates A380 First Class and begins in Zurich.

How to get from Bucharest to Zurich?

Another Europe hopper with 23 hour layovers. This time four segments between five cities and four countries.

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Source: gcmap.com

I start in Bucharest and end in Zurich. My only hard requirement was to fly direct flights only because when you have less than 24 hours on the ground in each place, you don’t want a tough journey to get there.

Because of schedules and interest, my trip ends up being Bucharest to Athens to Dubrovnik to Zagreb to Zurich.

  • This will be my first time in Athens, and I am ecstatic to see the Acropolis.
  • This will be my second time in Dubrovnik. Last time I only had about three hours of sunlight for cliff jumping. This time I plan to jump and hang out on the rocks at least twice that long!
  • This will be my second time in Zagreb. It’s a great place to be on a Friday night.
  • Finally I get to Zurich on Saturday afternoon, my favorite time to arrive in a new city, a few days before my flights back to the United States.

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The entire award costs only 15,000 miles and $72.80 in taxes that I paid with my new Citi Prestige® Card. Its $250 annual airfare and airline fee credit will give me back the $72.80.

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Searching and Booking the Award

Searching the award took me about 20 minutes. It involved a lot of Wikipedia consultation, searching all the possible routes, and writing down the flight times to make sure the scheduled landing time of one flight is less than 24 hours before the scheduled departure time of the next.

Finding award space is the easy part. Intra-Europe award space is usually a gimme, available on almost every flight in economy.

I started at the beginning and checked out the Bucharest airport Wikipedia page to find the direct Star Alliance flight options. There are a lot: Athens, Vienna, Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich, Lisbon, Copenhagen, and Istanbul among them.

I immediately eliminated many of the cities because I’ve spent extended time there recently, they were too far away, or I didn’t have interest. My clear top choice was Athens. I was flexible about the date of arrival in Zurich at the end of my award, so I searched Bucharest to Athens on a few days and noted the flight times.

I searched united.com, here’s how, because all the relevant United partners in Eastern Europe are searchable on united.com. The only European partner not searchable on united.com is Brussels Airlines. Search it on aeroplan.com.

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From Athens, I had a ton of options since it is the hub of Star Alliance carrier Aegean. (To make things easier on yourself when constructing these awards, plan a hub at least every other city.)

I only wanted to go to Dubrovnik. Athens to Dubrovnik is served by both Aegean and Croatia Airlines, but even combined, is not served daily. There was only one day and flight that worked for me. I noted its time.

From Dubrovnik, I had to get to Zurich in two more segments, so I opened the Dubrovnik airport Wikipedia page and Zurich airport Wikipedia page to find cities in common. There are actually a ton of cities in common because Croatia Airlines flies many seasonal routes from Dubrovnik.

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I zeroed in on Zagreb and conveniently there are several daily Croatia-to-Zagreb and Zagreb-to-Zurich flights. I picked the ones that gave me closest to 24 hours, without going over, in each city.

Booking

I put the first segment on hold on united.com with the PayPal trick. Then I called United web support at 866-211-1861. I told the agent I just needed to add three segments to my itinerary and fed her the date, cabin, and flight number of the other segments. She never mentioned or charged a phone booking fee. That’s the advantage of starting the award with an online hold.

I paid with my Citi Prestige® Card to take advantage of its $250 airfare/fee credit. The whole call took about seven minutes. In less than thirty minutes I searched and booked the award.

In the end I get:

  • 22 hours in Athens
  • 20 hours in Dubrovnik
  • 19 hours in Zagreb
  • 3 days in Zurich (before my Emirates flight)
  • (2 days in Dubai as a free stopover on an Alaska Airlines award)
  • (arrive in Houston for a wedding)

It’s going to be a heck of a week!

Other Possible Itineraries

The Star Alliance dominates Europe. These are the European Star Alliance members and their hubs:

  • Adria Airways (Ljubljana, Slovenia)
  • Aegean Airlines (Athens, Greece)
  • Austrian Airlines (Vienna)
  • Brussels Airlines (Brussels, Belgium)
  • Croatia Airlines (Zagreb)
  • LOT Polish Airlines (Warsaw)
  • Lufthansa (Frankfurt, Munich, Dusseldorf, Berlin)
  • Scandinavian Airlines (Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm)
  • Swiss International Air Lines (Zurich)
  • TAP Portugal (Lisbon)
  • Turkish Airlines (Istanbul-Ataturk)

All these options make a four segment, five city itinerary very easy to create. Put the cities that you want to explore the most first and last because the three middle cities will only have 23 hours or less of exploration time. Also be sure to check the ease of getting from the airport to the city. Frankfurt is about a 15 minute train while Paris is about a one hour train. That matters a lot when you only have 23 hours.

Other Regions

This award may be possible in other regions, but Europe has some major advantages:

  1. No other region has close to the 11 European partners.
  2. No other region has cultures change over such short distances–short flights are nice when you only get 23 hours in a place.

Bottom Line

I’m taking the long way from Bucharest to Zurich, taking advantage of all four segments United gives you on a one way award with daylong stops in Athens, Dubrovnik, and Zagreb.

I searched on united.com with the help of Wikipedia. I put the first segment on hold and called in to book the award.

The award cost me 15,000 United miles and $73. I paid with my Citi Prestige® Card. Because of its $250 annual airfare/fee credit, I will have the $73 credited back to me. I’ve used up my free $250 for 2015 in the first month of having the card. I’ll get another free $250 for airfare and award taxes in January 2016, so I’ll get $500 in free money for the card’s first $450 annual fee. That’s in addition to the card’s 50,000 bonus points, 3x category bonuses, and free American Airlines and Priority Pass airport lounge access. Read my full review of the Citi Prestige.

There’s no excuse not to have 15,000 United miles. Right now the United card is offering 55,000 bonus miles.  You can get the United card and Citi Prestige on the same day.

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When United greatly devalued its award chart in February 2014, it started charging more to fly Business and First Class on its partners than on its own planes. For instance from the United States to Thailand costs:

  • 40,000 United miles one way in economy
  • 70,000 United miles one way in United Business Class
  • 80,000 United miles one way in Partner Business Class
  • 80,000 United miles one way in United First Class
  • 130,000 United miles one way in Partner First Class

If you fly all the flights on an award on United planes or all flights on partner planes, it’s obvious what price you have to pay, but the rules governing awards that feature United and partner planes are less intuitive. You can still pay the cheaper United prices if:

  1. Your United flight is in a higher cabin than your partner flights, or
  2. Your United and partner flights are in the same cabin, but your partner flights are intra-regional

United Flight in Higher Cabin Than Partner Flight

If you fly from Los Angeles to Tokyo in United First Class and then connect in Thai Business Class to Bangkok, you pay the United First Class price from the United States to Thailand because your United flight is in a higher cabin than your partner flight. (If your Thai flight were also in First Class, you’d pay the partner First Class price from the United States to Thailand.)

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Source: gcmap.com

 

Equal Cabin but Partner Flight is Intra-Regional

If you fly from Chicago to Frankfurt in United Business Class and Frankfurt to Paris in Lufthansa Business Class, you pay the United Business Class price from the United States to Europe because the partner Business Class is intra-regional. (By region, I mean the official regions on the United award chart.)

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 11.43.14 AM
Source: gcmap.com

 

These two rules lead to some funny pricing between a lot of regions in which the partner Business Class and United First Class prices are equivalent. One such award is Hawaii to Australia & New Zealand.

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United charges 60,000 miles one way for partner Business Class and the same price for United First Class. That means you get funny award search results like this:

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The Business Class column features United Business Class and Air New Zealand Business Class, both on region-connecting flights. That means you pay the partner Business Class price: 60,000 miles.

The First Class column features United First Class and Air New Zealand Business Class. Since the United flight is in a higher cabin, you pay the United First Class price: also 60,000 miles.

That means on this route, you pay the same amount whether you fly United First or United Business Class before the Air New Zealand Business Class. Easy choice!

The same thing would happen if you found similar award space between the mainland United States and Thailand. You’d pay 80,000 miles one way for United First or partner Business Class.Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 2.45.12 PM

That means you’ll see a lot of awards like this:

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 11.30.18 AM

In both itineraries, you pay the same 80,000 miles whether you pair United First Class or United Business Class with partner Business Class because of the rules given above. These don’t have an option to pay 130,000 miles for United First plus partner First because the partner flight is a two-cabin plane.

But what if you the partner flight is a three-cabin plane with award space in all three cabins? You see an award like this:Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 11.30.55 AM

San Francisco to Beijing on United has award space in all three cabins. The same can be said for Beijing to Bangkok on Thai. If I wanted to book this award, I’d do it by phone. Why?

I’d want to pair United First plus Thai Business for 80,000 miles. It’s not worth the extra 50,000 miles to me to fly Thai First for 5hr15min. Unfortunately the mixed-cabin award I’d want want isn’t online, so I’d just call 800-UNITED-1 to book it by specifying the date, cabin, and flight number of each flight I wanted.

Do you understand how awards with United and partner flights price? Have you seen awards where the First Class column and Business Class column show the same price like in this post?

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Right now 40k Starpoints plus taxes will get you a roundtrip economy class trip to Europe, 65k Starpoints will get you a roundtrip Business Class ticket, and 80k will get you a roundtrip First Class ticket.

Starpoints always transfer to dozens of airlines at a rate of 20k Starpoints to 25k miles. On top of that standard bonus, until April 27, 2015, Aeroplan is giving a bonus of up to 25k miles on transfers of hotel points to Aeroplan miles.

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These transfer bonuses combine to mean you can get up to 56% more Aeroplan miles than you had Starpoints, which you can redeem on a cheap award chart on Air Canada flights or any Star Alliance carrier.

If you redeem to Western Europe on Swiss and United flights, you’ll pay only 40k/65k/80k Starpoints in economy/business/first with no fuel surcharges.

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Luckily I have Starpoints from getting the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and business version a few years back.

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  • How can you take maximum advantage of this promotion?
  • How can you avoid the fuel surcharges?
  • Where do you search? How do you search?
  • Where do you book?
  • How good of a deal is 40k Starpoints to Europe or 80k Starpoints in First Class?

The Deal

Starpoints always transfer to dozens of airlines at a 1:1 rate. For every 20k transferred, you get 5k bonus miles. My favorite airlines transfer partners are American Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t consider Air Canada’s program, Aeroplan, because Aeroplan collects fuel surcharges on most partners, though not on United, Copa, Avianca, Swiss, and Turkish flight.

But Aeroplan is running a compelling promotion through April 27, 2015. Transfer hotel points and get bonus Aeroplan miles. All transfers from the listed partners will be summed to determine one’s bonus threshold.

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 12.03.19 PM

 

The relevant transfers for Western Europe awards with Aeroplan miles are:

  • 40k Starpoints transfer to 50k Aeroplan miles + 10k bonus Aeroplan miles for 60,000 total Aeroplan miles (50% bonus). This is enough miles for a roundtrip economy award to Western Europe* from the continental US, Alaska, and Canada.
  • 65k Starpoints transfer to 80k Aeroplan miles + 10k bonus Aeroplan miles for 90,000 total Aeroplan miles (38% bonus). This is enough miles for a roundtrip business class award to Western Europe* from the continental US, Alaska, and Canada.
  • 80k Starpoints transfer to 100k Aeroplan miles + 25k bonus miles for 125,000 total Aeroplan miles (56% bonus). This is enough miles for a roundtrip first class award to Western Europe* from the continental US, Alaska, and Canada.

*Western Europe includes the countries defined as Europe 1 on the chart, Europe 2 is more expensive.

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Similar deals are available to Southern South America. Check the award chart to see how many Aeroplan miles you need.

Maximizing Aeroplan Awards

Aeroplan awards allow for two stopovers in addition to your destination.

Aeroplan collects fuel surcharges on most partners. For instance, fuel surcharges of over $500 per person per roundtrip are instituted on Lufthansa economy awards. Two partners on which no fuel surcharges are collected are United and Swiss flights.

Searching for United and Swiss Space

We want to book our Aeroplan award with United and Swiss space to avoid fuel surcharges. The best place to search for space on United flights is united.com. On an advanced search, tick the box to search only United flights.

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Search results–and the search calendar–will only display United flights.

To search for only Swiss flights, find routes that Swiss flies and check Nonstop Flights Only on the united.com advanced search.

Once you’ve found your United or US Airways flights, head to aeroplan.com to book them. Aeroplan will have access to all Saver United space, and all Swiss space that shows up on united.com. You can mix-and-match Swiss and United flights and still have no fuel surcharges.

Booking on Aeroplan.com

Booking the award space on aeroplan.com is easy. Search the dates and cabins you found on united.com. I found award space from Newark to Brussels to Zurich to Newark on united.com.

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 12.24.00 PM

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 12.29.10 PM Then I searched for the space on aeroplan.com.Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 12.29.04 PM

Each flight I found was the top result for the day I searched. I pieced it together for 90,000 Aeroplan miles + $132. That would be only 65k Starpoints at current rates.Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 12.30.25 PM

Getting the Miles

The easiest way to get Starpoints is to get the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express with 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $5k in the first six months.

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Your Starpoints won’t arrive before this promotion ends, but we’ve seen similar promotions before, so you’ll have Starpoints in case this promotion returns.

Caveat

It can take up to two weeks for transfers from Starwood to Aeroplan to arrive. The exact award space you want may be gone by the time your Aeroplan miles are in your account.

Bottom Line

  1. Search for award space on united.com for Aeroplan partners on which Aeroplan doesn’t collect fuel surcharges.
  2. Open an Aeroplan account.
  3. Transfer the correct number of Starpoints to your Aeroplan account to book your dream award, taking into account the standard Starpoints to Aeroplan miles bonus (20k points = 25k miles) and the special limited time bonus being offered by Aeroplan until April 27.
  4. When the points arrive, redo your search on aeroplan.com and book.

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Virgin America no longer collects fuel surcharges on redemptions that fly Virgin Australia.

That means you can fly Virgin Australia’s flat bed Business Class from Los Angeles to Sydney or Brisbane for only 80,000 Virgin America points + $130 in taxes roundtrip. Delta charges 80,000 miles one way for the same flights!

Virgin Australia award space is widely available for up to 12 people on a single flight, including over peak times like Christmas and New Year’s.

But there are two catches:

  1. Virgin America points are expensive to acquire with cash or point transfers.
  2. This price is good from Los Angeles to Sydney or Brisbane, not from other American cities or to other Australian cities.

Getting Virgin America Points

There are Virgin America credit cards that earn one Virgin America Elevate Point per dollar, but the sign up bonus is only 10,000 to 15,000 points.

You can buy Virgin America points for 5.2 cents each normally. Until April 4, 2015, you can buy Virgin America points with an 80% bonus on points purchased. That brings the price of points to 2.9 cents each. You can only purchase 20,000 points per year–36,000 with the 80% bonus–for $1,040.

You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards at a rate of 2 Membership Rewards to 1 Virgin America point. There are occasional 30%, 35%, and 40% bonuses on the transfer rate. The most recent was a 35% transfer bonus that ended February 15, 2015. At that rate, you could have transferred 118,600 Membership Rewards to the 80,000 Virgin America points needed for a roundtrip Business Class flight to Australia.

Of the three methods, I think the best way to get Virgin America points is to wait for the Membership Rewards transfer bonuses.

The Award Price

Virgin America has different award charts for each partner. Here is the interactive chart for Virgin Australia flights booked with Virgin America points.

You select a departure and arrival city to get the prices. Los Angeles to Sydney is 40k/60k/80k Virgin America points roundtrip in economy/Premium Economy/Business Class.

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One way prices are slightly more than 50% of the points.Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 10.15.13 AM

You can also book domestic flights on Virgin Australia. Melbourne to Adelaide is 3,500 points one way.

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And flights to Virgin Australia’s destinations in the Pacific. Melbourne to Fiji is 25,000 points roundtrip.

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 10.53.52 AMBottom Line

Using Virgin America points to book Virgin Australia points just got several hundred dollars cheaper with the elimination of fuel surcharges. The price remains 80,000 points roundtrip in Business Class from Los Angeles to Sydney or Brisbane.

If you live in a different city in the United States, you’ll need to book your ticket to Los Angeles separately. If you want to go to a different city in Australia, that will also require a separate ticket.

Virgin America points are tough to rack up, since the Virgin America credit card sign up bonus is only 15,000 points, the points cost 5.2 cents each to buy, and 2 Membership Rewards transfer to 1 Virgin America point.

But if you wait for a 30-40% Membership Rewards transfer bonus, you’re looking at around 120,000 Membership Rewards and $130 in taxes for a roundtrip award to Australia on a flat bed.

Hat Tip The Points Guy

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

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

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

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

The Product

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

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

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

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

Award Space in the Last Three Weeks

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

Abu Dhabi <-> London

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

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 12.18.30 AM

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 12.20.56 AM

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

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

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

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

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

Washington-Dulles to Abu Dhabi

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

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 12.23.31 AM

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

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

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

New York <-> Abu Dhabi

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

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

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

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

Bottom Line

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

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

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

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

Getting the Miles

American Airlines miles are super easy to get.

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

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

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

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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

9

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All airlines release award space 11 months out.

I’m not sure where that idea came from. Many flights never have any award space released, and flights that do have award space released have the space released at all different times from 11 months (or 11.5 months depending on the airline) before the flight to 24 hours.

One airline that has a unique pattern of releasing its Business Class award space between North America and Europe is Austrian Airlines: on Austrian’s five routes, it never releases Business Class space until three months before departure.

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.38.49 PM
from gcmap.com; I like the German spelling of Vienna

 

The Product

I flew Austrian’s 767 in Business Class between Vienna and Chicago in 2013. Check out the full trip report.

Austrian flies 767s and 777s to North America. Both feature the staggered fully flat beds pictured in this video.

Your feet go under the divider between seats in the row in front of you. The 767 features four Business Class beds in all rows in a 1-2-1 configuration. The 777 alternates 1-2-1, 2-2-2. Obviously use Seat Guru to pick a row with the 1-2-1 configuration if you are traveling alone on an Austrian 777.

The bed is very comfortable like most Business Class beds. Austrian tries to differentiate itself with an onboard chef in full costume.

And its antipasti cart.

I thought the food was good, but the portions were too small–the only time I’ve thought that during a multi-course meal in a premium cabin.

Award Space

How can you get into this very good Business Class space? The easiest way is to pay 70,000 United miles one way in Business Class (on sale for 57,500 miles if you book by Saturday and travel in 2015.)

Award space in Business Class on Austrian’s routes follows a common pattern. Zero is available more than three months before departure. Within that three month window, some is available. (Economy space is available up to 11 months out. I see zero economy award space often in the summer months and great space for the fall and winter.)

Chicago

There are 14 days in the next three months with Business Class award space (blue and green days) from Chicago to Vienna, and no space beyond May 18.

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.16.49 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.17.05 PM

In September and October, there is economy space almost every day, but Business Class space won’t open up in these months until June and July.Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.18.09 PM

New York Area

From JFK and Newark–which I searched together with city code NYC–there is by far the most space. I count 38 days in the next three months with award space with the last day on May 23.Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.18.44 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.19.09 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.19.12 PM

Some days have award space on both flights, which are annoyingly scheduled at exactly the same time, so you can’t pick between different flight schedules.Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.20.32 PM

Washington DC

Washington-Dulles has terrible award space, with only five days with Business Class space in the next three months ending on May 17. Beyond that, there is no Business Class space.Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.23.49 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.26.38 PM

Toronto

Toronto has award space in Business Class on 15 days in the next three months, ending on May 20.Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.29.09 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.29.31 PM

Bottom Line

Not all airlines release award space 11 months out. Austrian releases economy space 11 months out, but only releases Business Class space between Europe and North America three months out if it releases the space at all on a given flight. I’ve noticed this pattern for at least a year.

The most plentiful award space by far is on Austrian’s JFK and Newark to Vienna flights.

This could be good news for people looking for Business Class awards to Europe this summer, but based on the dearth of economy award space to Europe on Austrian flights over the summer, I don’t think Austrian will release much summer award space. (I hope I’m wrong.)

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

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

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Delta got rid of its award chart two weeks ago. For awards starting and ending in the United States, I still know what Saver awards cost from memory and from these saved charts.

But now that Delta allows one way award bookings, I’d occasionally like to know the price of awards from Australia to Southeast Asia, Europe to Africa, or the Middle East to India. I don’t have those memorized, and I don’t have every set of Delta award charts for departures from every region saved anywhere. (Do you? Let me know in the comments.)

In fact, yesterday I was working on a booking for a client, and I wanted to know how many Delta miles a one way Business Class award from Beijing to Sydney would be. (By the way, the answer is apparently 65,000 miles based on the China Eastern award space online.)

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 12.46.26 PM

The Problem

When you want to know how many miles a trip costs, but there is no award chart and the partner that flies the route isn’t online, how do you find out the number of miles you need? I asked @DeltaAssist.

Delta’s Answer

I didn’t quite understand the response.

Maybe “CA” means that I can price the ticket by going through the initial steps of a purchase. Since the only way to purchase a China Southern award flight with Delta miles is to call Delta, I guess that’s what he’s suggesting.

I followed up to clarify, but I didn’t get a response.

If Delta Assist really is suggesting that you call Delta to figure out these award prices, that’s very strange. In every other context, airlines discourage you from calling them–going so far as to impose fees of up to $40 for calling instead of handling a task online. When you call Delta, that costs Delta money in staffing costs, so it’s a bit perplexing that Delta wants you to call and run up its costs. The only way that makes business sense is if removing the award chart from the internet is somehow more profitable than those phone staffing costs are costly.

Not Much of a Solution

I don’t care about Delta’s perspective as much as I care about ours. For us, it stinks to have to call Delta to get the price of these awards. I’ll have to find award space, wait on hold, deal with a (possibly) incompetent agent, and finally get the price of the award. Then I’ll have to hang up, compare that price to the price on the American and United award charts (and possibly many other airlines’ charts.) Then I’ll either have to decide to book the Delta award and call back or decide to book another airline’s award and go through that process.

The true solution of course is for Delta to put its award chart back online. That seems very unlikely, but I would have said it was impossible that an airline would pull its award chart off the internet in the first place, so stranger things have happened.

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Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

Fireworks in Sydney over NYE. Source:

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There are five Business Class saver award seats and seven economy saver award seats between Los Angeles and Sydney for much of late December.

The space is on the direct Virgin Australia flight and bookable with Delta miles on delta.com. Connecting from anywhere else in the United States and to anywhere else in Australia/New Zealand is possible for zero extra miles, award space permitting.

This is the ideal way to book what should be a very tough ticket: a trip to Australia over Christmas and New Year. This is your chance to see the Sydney fireworks in person.

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 11.56.26 AM
Source: http://www.sydneynewyearseve.com/fireworks/

Where does Virgin Australia fly?

Virgin Australia flies from Los Angeles to Brisbane and Sydney. Both cities are hubs for Virgin Australia, so you can connect from either throughout Australia and New Zealand. Here are the Virgin Australia flights from Sydney.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sydney_Airport
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sydney_Airport

Virgin Australia has excellent award space, so connecting in Australia/New Zealand should be easy and will add zero extra miles to the award.

Getting to Los Angeles is another matter. You can connect from your home airport to Los Angeles for zero extra miles if you find Level 1 award space on Delta. That’s not always very easy. To double your chances, remember that you can fly Level 1 economy space or First Class space to Los Angeles to connect to Virgin Australia Business Class.

Search segment-by-segment for the parts of the award, and if you can’t get delta.com to bring up your masterpiece, call Delta at 800-323-2323 to book the award.

Award Space

Delta charges 80,000 miles one way in Business Class between the United States and Australia, so every day that says 80,000 miles below has award space on Virgin Australia. (I can assure you that none of it is on Delta’s daily flight from Los Angeles to Sydney, which rarely has Level 1 space available.)

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 11.06.51 AM

Most days there is space nonstop between Los Angeles and Sydney and space with a stop in Brisbane. You can hover over a date, and if it says “NONSTOP,” you know the direct flight has space.

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 11.07.08 AM

Clicking on a date brings up your options. On December 29, the Delta flight only has Level 5 space available, and the Virgin Australia space is less than half its price.Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 11.07.29 AM

Note that all the flights are redeyes that land two days later because they cross the international date line. December 29 is the last day to depart to catch the fireworks.

Two years ago I departed December 31 from Los Angeles and landed January 2 in Sydney. I was nowhere for New Year’s Day.

The above calendar was for one passenger. I kept increasing the number of passengers, and the award space picture basically didn’t change. Here’s five passengers:
Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 11.10.27 AM

That’s astonishing! You can book five passengers on the same direct flight in flat bed Business Class to Australia in the peak of their summer and the peak of our holiday vacation at the saver level.

Unfortunately you can’t book six at the saver level:Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 11.11.11 AM

For economy awards, Delta charges 50,000 miles one way to Australia. I would much rather pay 30,000 miles more and get a bed, but for those short on miles, I searched economy award space. It is wide open for up to seven passengers:Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 11.11.40 AM

The return from Australia shows similar award space. Right now awards are only bookable through December 31, 2015. Every day you can book a day further into the future, so if you want to travel over Christmas and New Year, your return flight should be bookable very soon, and I expect excellent award space with Delta miles on Virgin Australia.

The Product

Virgin Australia Business Class is not the nicest in the world, but you’ll hardly be slumming it.

You get a fully flat bed that is 6’2″ long with a duvet and pillow. You’ll have a personal entertainment screen and access to an onboard bar.

Not all seats have direct aisle access, and reports of the food and service are less glowing than with Asian airlines, but this a solid Business Class product where you will be able to sleep and entertain yourself on the 14+ hour flights.

Getting the Miles

There are several co-branded Delta credit cards, plus Membership Rewards and Starpoints transfer to Delta miles.

None has a huge public bonus at the moment. The biggest bonus is 50,000 points on the Mercedes-Benz American Express Platinum Card that I wrote about in my Top Ten Credit Cards.

Keep an eye out for the occasional 50,000 mile offers on the Delta cards and occasional 50,000, 75,000, and 100,000 point bonuses on the Gold and Platinum cards from American Express.

CKANbanner_300x250_v6b

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Using miles to book trips instead of using cash has tons of advantages:

  • Easier access to First Class and flat beds: An international First Class ticket can cost $10k or the amount of miles you can get from opening a pair of credit cards.
  • Better open jaw and stopover rules: Few revenue tickets allow you to stopover without increasing in price. Many mileage awards allow free stopovers and open jaws for no extra miles.
  • Some mileage awards can be cancelled for free or close to it.

This last advantage–free or very cheap cancellations–is an oft-overlooked benefit of certain mileage programs.

I can afford this seat with miles, but not cash.
I can afford this seat with miles, but not cash.
  • Which program allows completely free cancellations?
  • Which programs allow cheap cancellations, as cheap as $2.50?

Southwest Rapid Rewards Awards

As commenter UAPhil has pointed out numerous times on this blog, Southwest Rapid Rewards are the gold-standard when it comes to cancellations. Here’s his take:

Rapid Rewards points bookings are fully refundable, with no cancellation fees or penalties, and no availability hassles. (Southwest revenue bookings have no change fees, but they are non-refundable with some fairly strict rules on when they must be re-used, so points are actually a more valuable currency than dollars for making Southwest bookings.)

It’s true that if you book a Southwest award for 10k points + $5.60, and you later cancel it, you will get your 10k points back and the $5.60 will even be returned to you as a credit toward a future booking. (I think I’ve even succeeded in having Southwest refund the $5.60 to my credit card, but I can’t find a record of it.)

Since Southwest awards are fully refundable, you can speculatively book with impunity.

British Airways Avios Awards

Last year I booked two friends tickets to visit me in Hawaii from Los Angeles. For each friend, I booked two awards:

  • Los Angeles to Oahu for 12,500 Avios + $2.50 per person. (Domestic airfare taxes have since increased to $5.60 one way.)
  • Maui to Los Angeles for 12,500 Avios + $2.50 per person.

One friend had to cancel.

I called British Airways to cancel his awards. I got back my 12,500 Avios on each award and lost my $2.50 on each award. That’s an effective cancellation fee of $2.50 on each award!

The fee is “supposed to be” $40.

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 1.12.51 AM

If your taxes and fees are greater than $40 and you cancel, British Airways will refund your Avios and taxes and fees less the $40 fee. But if your taxes and fees are less than $40, you just forfeit whatever your taxes and fees were and get your Avios back.

Since I pretty much exclusively use Avios for direct domestic flights with $5.60 in tax per segment, my Avios cancellation fee is routinely $5.60.

Lufthansa Miles & More Awards

Miles & More awards have a $60 cancellation fee. That’s $140 cheaper than the cancellation fee on a United award with the same flights.

And it’s certainly much better than trying to cancel a non-refundable cash ticket.

Singapore KrisFlyer Awards

Singapore Airlines awards have a $20 change or cancellation fee. My friend booked one of those super cheap awards between South America and the United States with Singapore miles, and when he decided to change the dates of his stopover in Cancun, he paid just $20 to do so.

Try doing that with a cash ticket!

Recap

The main reason I use miles is to enter into otherwise inaccessible First Class cabins and stretch my travel further. I also love the lax routing rules on many awards that have let me see seven cities on one trip (although that loophole has now been closed.)

Beyond those big things, though, don’t forget to take advantage of the free or cheap cancellations that some types of miles offer. Speculative bookings have a lot of value when your plans aren’t fixed and great award space (or a cheap fare in the case of Southwest awards) is available.

As cash tickets have ever worse change and cancellation rules, award tickets hold extra value for their lax rules on the matter.

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United is offering award sales, several of them unannounced, to destinations all over the world at the moment.

United’s unannounced sale on Business Class awards to Europe is ongoing And now, via Dan’s Deals, United is offering three more discounts:

  1. Business Class between the United States and Central Asia for 70,000 miles each way on partner airlines for awards flown by March 31, 2015. The normal price is 80,000 miles each way on partners.
  2. Business Class between Europe and the Middle East for 35,000 miles each way on partner airlines for awards flown by March 31, 2015. The normal price is 45,000 miles each way on partners.
  3. Roundtrip economy class on United flights between the United States and Japan for 56,000 miles. The award must be booked by January 11 and flown between January 13 and March 11, 2015. The normal price is 70,000 miles roundtrip.

United States to Central Asia

The sale between the continental United States, Alaska, and Canada and Central Asia is exactly like United’s unannounced sale on Business Class awards to Europe.

You can book now for travel through March 31 and get partner Business Class for the United Business Class price (70,000 miles each way) instead of the normal 80,000 miles each way price.

March 31 from JFK to Delhi, India: 70,000 United miles in Lufthansa Business Class

Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 11.53.06 PM

April 1 from Newark to Delhi, India: 80,000 United miles in Air India Business ClassScreen Shot 2015-01-04 at 11.53.53 PM

Central Asia includes Afghanistan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan.

Since this sale is completely unannounced by United, no one knows when it will end.

Europe to Middle

The sale between Europe and the Middle East follows the same rules.

You can book now for travel through March 31 and get partner Business Class for the United Business Class price (35,000 miles each way) instead of the normal 45,000 miles each way price. Oddly, of course, United doesn’t fly between Europe and the Middle East, so the “United price” on this route is imaginary.

March 31 from Frankfurt to Dubai: 35,000 United miles in Egyptair Business Class

Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 11.57.43 PM

April 1 from Frankfurt to Dubai: 45,000 United miles in Austrian Business ClassScreen Shot 2015-01-04 at 11.58.15 PM

The Middle East includes Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Yemen.

United States to Japan

The third sale between the United States and Japan is advertised, and follows the pattern of United economy award sales:

  • Must book a roundtrip award
  • Must fly United planes (not partners)
  • Book by January 11
  • Fly January 13 to March 11, 2015

Follow the sale rules for 20% off roundtrip awards.

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 12.07.21 AM

Japan’s aviation taxes are low, like ours, so a roundtrip prices out at 56,000 miles + $44.70.
Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 12.09.13 AM

Bottom Line

United is currently running unannounced sales to Central Asia, Europe, and the Middle East during which you can fly partner Business Class for the United Business Class price.

There is also a sale to Japan: 20% off economy roundtrips on United flights.

None of these four sales will make me take a trip I otherwise wouldn’t, but all of them are nice automatic savings if you were looking to go to one of these regions.

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