1 9

Right now, awards:

  • booked with United miles
  • between the United States and Europe
  • for flights in January, February, and March 2015
  • on partner airlines
  • cost only 57,500 miles each way in Business Class

That’s the same price that awards booked on United’s own flights cost, and 12,500 miles off the normal price for Business Class awards on United partners–70,000 miles each way.

I have been monitoring what I believe to be an un-announced sale (rather than a glitch) closely because I am looking to book myself an award in Business Class from the United States to Seville, Spain near the end of March.

An award leaving March 30 using Air Canada Business Class (flat bed!) to cross the ocean is 57,500 United miles, an un-announced discount.

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 2.21.18 PM

An award leaving in April using Lufthansa Business Class (angled lie flat) is 70,000 miles, the normal price.Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 2.21.46 PM

This sale appears to be only in January, February, and March. Flights leaving December 30 price partner Business Class at 70,000 miles one way.

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 2.23.07 PM

The same route in Air Canada Business Class on January 1, 2015 prices at the discounted 57,500 mile price.

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 2.23.39 PM

How Good Is This Sale?

This is a nice sale, but nothing to go nuts over for two reasons:

  1. It’s not that cheap. American Airlines charges 50,000 miles each way in Business Class to Europe on its own flights or partners. Delta will charge 62,500 miles each way in Business Class to Europe for awards booked on or after January 1, 2015.
  2. United Business Class is better than most of its partners to Europe. United BusinessFirst (as they confusingly call Business Class) features fully flat beds and is more widely available than many partners’ offerings. Lufthansa Business Class, the easiest award space to find to Europe with United miles mostly features angled lie flat beds. Generally to Europe, I’d use my United miles to fly United BusinessFirst any way, so this sale doesn’t change that.

Your Take

Will this sale cause you to take a trip you otherwise wouldn’t? Will you take advantage of the discount for a trip you were already planning?

————————————————————————————————————
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!

4 1197

American Airlines offers some of the most generous off peak awards in the world. Off peak awards are discounts (ranging from 20-30%) on economy awards with MileSAAver award space, the capacity-controlled space that we like to book.

To Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Central America, American Airlines charges just 15,000 miles one way seven months out of the year. Two roundtrips cost only 60,000 miles.

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 1.41.37 PM

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 1.41.49 PM
Two Roundtrips to Peru

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. Just meeting its minimum spending requirement puts you at 53,000 miles. A little more spending gets you to 60,000 miles and two roundtrips.

When are Off Peak Awards Available

Off peak awards are available to the Central America and northern South America for most of the year, including most of winter, spring, and fall.

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 12.43.39 PM

What Do They Cost

If you fly between January 16 and June 14 or September 7 and November 14, you can take advantage of a 20% discount on MileSAAver awards and pay only 15,000 miles one way or 30,000 miles roundtrip to Central America and Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela.

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 12.58.26 PM Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 12.58.46 PM

Where Does American Fly in the Region

American has the strongest route network to Central and South America. Here are the flights from Miami to cities in the off peak region.

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 12.52.25 PM

Here are the flights from Dallas. There are no destinations served from Dallas that are not served from Miami.
Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 12.52.46 PM

Unique to American Airlines, you can usually book off peak awards on either American flights or its partners flights. By contrast US Airways off peak awards require booking on US Airways flights only. See Master Thread: Off Peak Awards for more information.

One exception to American’s largesse is off peak awards to Central America, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Off peak awards to these countries must be booked on American Airlines flights.

That means that adding on a connecting segment on a partner will increase the price to the normal MileSAAver price of 17,500 miles one way. For instance, adding Lima to Cuzco in Peru onto an American Airlines award that would otherwise cost 15,000 miles makes it cost 17,500 miles. It still might be worth it to pay 2,500 miles to get the segment onto your award, but be aware of this rule.

You can connect from your home airport to Miami or Dallas to start the award for zero extra miles as long as the connecting flights have award space in MileSAAver economy and are operated by American Airlines. If they are operated by US Airways, the price jumps to 17,500 miles that direction.

How to Search for Award Space

Nothing fancy here. Search on aa.com for award space from your home airport to your destination. There shouldn’t even be a need for segment-by-segment searching because aa.com is pretty good at displaying even long layovers on awards like these if necessary. Here’s how to search aa.com.

Award space is generally excellent to these destinations during off peak dates. If it isn’t available on the dates you want, don’t despair, American Airlines open a lot of MileSAAver and off peak economy award space one month before departure.

Getting the Miles

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. It also comes with a ton of other benefits like free checked bags, priority boarding, a 10% rebate on awards, two lounge passes, and more. See my full review.

If you open the card and meet the minimum spending requirement, you’ll have 53,000 American Airlines miles. Spend $7,000 more on the card at your leisure, and you’ll have 60,000 American Airlines miles.

If you normally spend $2,500 per month on a card, getting to 60,000 miles will take only four months. If you spend only $1,000, this will take 10 months. No matter what, sometime in 2015, you should easily get to 60,000 miles.

With that 60,000 miles, you can book two roundtrip (or open jaw) tickets to Central America or northern South America during off peak dates.

You’ll even get a 6,000 mile rebate a few weeks after the booking from the 10% rebate that comes with the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®.

Take your friend on a dream trip. Open one card, collect 60,000 miles on it including the 50,000 mile sign up bonus. Then book you and a companion an award trip to Central or South America. Head to Ecuador to see the Galapagos, Peru to see Machu Picchu, Colombia to trek to the Ciudad Perdida, Guatemala to see Semuc Champey, or wherever your dream trip is.

Is there an easier way to get two tickets to an exotic destination? Share it in the comments.

————————————————————————————————————
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!



Powered By Credit Karma

1 754

Bri wrote in her Free Credit Card Consultation:

2 passengers, to Lima, Peru. Anytime in July 2015 (hopefully stay 2 weeks). I would love to fly business class but I would like to err on the side of opening just 1 card, if possible. My friend is willing to also open a card. I’m thinking American Airlines or the US Airways offer, since its 50,000 miles, but I don’t know if that’s the best use of miles to get to South America and if there’s notoriously low availabilities for South America during the summer

I was expecting to suggest the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® with 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months or the US Airways card with 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase also. After all, I had suggested the American Airlines card to everyone as the Way to Get to Machu Picchu with Miles.

 

But as is often the case, I ran a quick search to see what award space I could find. I ended up finding award space every day in July to Lima, but not with American Airlines miles.

United miles are the ticket for Bri. I replied:

There is award space every day for two passengers from IAD-LIM, usually with an option to connect in El Salvador, flying TACA/Avianca, or Panama City, flying Copa. It is easily searchable and bookable at united.com. Each way is 20k in economy and 35k in Business, so opening one card is enough for one way in each cabin.

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 4.26.29 AM

Most days have economy and business class award space available.

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 4.23.42 AM
Outbound award space, green means economy and business class space available for 2 passengers
Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 4.24.09 AM
Return award space, look at all that green

United isn’t releasing Saver space on itineraries via its daily flight from Houston. Instead, you fly on Copa and TACA/Avianca.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 2.48.57 AM

The return offers the same kind of itineraries.

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 4.24.35 AM

Suggested Card

The best card to get United miles is the United card. Right now the public offer is 30k miles after $1k spending in the first three months plus 5k miles for adding an authorized user.

If you log into your United account, you may get a 50k offer after spending $2k in three months instead plus the same 5k miles for adding an authorized user.

If you don’t get that offer, you can probably get matched to that offer by applying for the public offer, then writing Chase a Secure Message saying you saw the 50k offer (it has been at Houston Airport in the last month) and asking to be matched to it.

In all cases, the $95 annual fee is waived the first 12 months.

If you get the 50k offer, that should be 57,000 United miles after spending $2,000, which is enough for one way to Peru in economy and one way in business class.

CKANbanner_300x250_v6b

 

Bri and her friend can get to Lima next July for under $100 in taxes by opening one credit card each. It wasn’t the card she (or even I) expected to suggest. This is a cautionary tale to always start at the end and perform an award search before you apply for a credit card. Or just have me do it for you with a Free Credit Card Consultation.

————————————————————————————————————
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!

I think miles and points are one area where you don’t have to spend hours per day to get great results like flying some of the world’s nicest First Class products or taking your family of four on vacation for pennies on the dollar.

IMG_0052
Easy enough to get here

You could probably cut the amount of time you spend on this hobby to 20% of your current input and still get 80% of the results. (Not that you’d necessarily want to do all of that because this is fun!)

Here’s are four ways I’d shave off huge amounts of time, while still getting most of the results.

1 48

If you’ve somehow made it until two days before Thanksgiving without booking a flight and would like to book one, there is award space available.

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 1.31.49 PM
What? You were expecting a picture of the other turkey? (from Google Maps)

I did searches on transcontinental routes with two airlines and found good award space, even premium award space for travel over Thanksgiving weekend.

This is interesting whether you still need to book an award or plan to book holiday travel this year or in the future.

  • What award space pattern did I find?
  • What miles have no extra fee for booking right before departure?

11 39

The calendar is turning to Summer below the equator, and it’s not too late to book yourself an award to escape the cold in the United States.

Many airlines release unsold seats as Saver award space in the last weeks, days, or even hours before a flight. I searched for award space between Miami and several South American cities on American Airlines for the next few weeks to see what American’s pattern of last-second award space will be this South American Summer.

American Airlines miles have the best award space to South America on American Airlines and LAN Airlines flights. Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.

If you got the card today, and spent $3,000 on it in the first month, you’d have 53,000 American Airlines miles around the New Year. That’s more than enough for a roundtrip to Northern South America including Peru and just short of the 60,000 miles needed for a roundtrip to Southern South America.

  • What is the award space to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru and more for the next few weeks?
  • What is the award space in economy, business, and first class?
  • Where can you search and book this award space?

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?

2 32

An actual improvement to delta.com!

Previously, you could search award space one month at a time with a calendar on delta.com, but that calendar only took into account award space on Delta flights. Because much of the Saver award space available to people with Delta miles is available on partner airlines, that meant that in practice, you really had to search delta.com one day at a time to get the full picture. See “A Major Problem with Delta.com and the Only Solution.”

The nearly useless delta.com used to display

Now, multi-day award searches can display a grid of +/- 3 days, and do take into account partners. This is a big improvement in my mind. It will certainly save me a lot of time when I am booking awards for clients of my Award Booking Service.

  • How does the new delta.com search work?
  • What airlines are searchable on delta.com?
  • Why should you still call in to book most Delta awards?

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?

United miles are the best to Europe, though the routes with gold mine award space for Summer 2015 might surprise you. For Summer 2014, I wrote Route from the US to Europe via Canada for Better Award Space, and I decided to check back in on some of our old favorite routes to see if they were again gold mines for 2015.

The answer is a resounding yes. For next summer, there are a number of Air Canada routes with award space for two people every day, often with 2 award seats in economy and 2 in business.

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 12.08.58 AM

Routing through Canada is actually a shorter trip than connecting in the United States because the direct flights from most of the United States to Canada pass over Canada. According to the Great Circle Mapper, routing through Calgary only adds about 100 miles and Toronto about 300 miles over the direct Los Angeles to London flight.

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 10.25.35 AM

Air Canada award space is searchable and bookable on united.com with no fuel surcharges. It is easy to connect to the space form the United States on Air Canada or United flights. Air Canada Business Class varies slightly by aircraft, but always features a fully flat bed at least 6’3″ long and always features at least some rows where all seats have direct aisle access.

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 10.34.39 AM
Air Canada Business Class
  • Which routes from Canada to Europe have award space for two passengers every day this summer?
  • How many United miles are required to book from the United States to Europe in economy and Business Class?
  • How can you book these awards (with one trick to make things easier if necessary)?

11 62

Are you better off using Avios or American Airlines miles for a trip to South America?

I’m at the beginning of probably nine months of travel, with almost no flights booked and only the vaguest sense of where I’ll head and how I’ll get there. I’m having an absolute blast in Bogota, Colombia, so I think I want to go to Cali or Medellin, Colombia after a quick trip back to the United States.

I am looking at flying from Philadelphia to Colombia in about two weeks, and my most convenient options–one stop in Miami versus 2+ stops–are on oneworld flights. I can book those flights with American Airlines miles, British Airways Avios, or cash.

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 12.36.49 AM

Things are complicated further by close-in ticketing fees, Cash & Avios awards, my point valuations, and my mileage balances, so I thought what better way to tease out the best value than a little early-morning math!

Even if you never want to go to Colombia (big mistake!) or you mainly focus on miles other than American and British Airways, this post should illuminate how to decide which miles to use for a certain trip and whether to use miles at all or just to pay cash.

  • Which is the best value to Colombia: AA miles, BA miles, or cash?

Update: The deal died within an hour of this post. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook to avoid missing these time-sensitive deals.

American Airlines’ best Business and First Class is on its new 777-300ERs. Both cabins feature flat beds.

Business Class on 777-300ER

There is almost never award space on any of its routes.

American has added a second daily 777-300ER from Los Angeles to London to its schedule for next year.

The flight was loaded into the schedule today, and as often happens, there’s a bit of a glitch and many days next spring have 6 First Class award space.

  • How many miles does the award space cost?
  • What is the award space picture?
  • How can you book the award space?
  • How long will this last?
  • How can you get American Airlines miles?

3 64

Lufthansa First Class is one of the nicest ways to travel between the United States and Europe. Plus if you fly out of Frankfurt in Lufthansa First Class, you get to access the First Class Terminal, one of the nicest lounges in the world.

IMG_0596
Lufthansa First Class Terminal from Outside

The problem is that for a few years you have usually only been able to book Lufthansa First Class award space up to 15 days before departure with partner airline miles like United miles.

IMG_0603
Inside the Cigar Lounge of the FCT

This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule though. Lufthansa is phasing out First Class on its Denver to Frankfurt route in early April 2015. In anticipation of that move, it has released 2+ First Class award seats to partners on many of its flights between now and then in both directions.

IMG_0702
Lufthansa First Class Bed on the 747-8

Unfortunately since February 2014, United has charged a ridiculous 110,000 miles one way in Lufthansa First Class between the United States and Europe. Luckily some Lufthansa partners charge much more reasonable prices to book Lufthansa First Class.

  • Which First Class is on the Denver to Frankfurt route? (It’s awesome!)
  • What is the award space picture?
  • What if you don’t live in Denver or don’t want to visit Frankfurt?
  • Which miles book this space cheapest?

1 39

Update 11/17/14: To book a stopover on an international award, you need to call Delta because the functionality has been removed from the website. I speculate that starting 1/1/15, Delta awards will not allow stopovers.

One Mile at a Time reports that Delta has stealthily eliminated stopovers on awards.

That’s not quite correct, but something very fishy is going on. Here’s how I know it is not true.

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 11.04.43 AM

Above is a roundtrip award from Washington DC to Los Angeles. On the outbound, there is a one week stopover in Minneapolis. The award prices at 25,000 miles + $16.80, which is the same miles as it would cost without the stopover in Minneapolis–hence a free stopover. (This is $5.60 extra in taxes than if you didn’t stop in MSP.)

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 11.04.53 AM

But he does a larger point that many awards are not pricing with a free stopover when they should.

  • A look at the evidence
  • Delta’s explanation
  • What’s the deal?

I get a ton of requests at my Award Booking Service for people who want to fly from the United States to Australia or New Zealand over Christmas and New Year’s with their frequent flyer miles. Usually the request is to fly in Business or First Class.

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 2.46.29 AM

I want to dissuade you from this goal because it is one of the toughest awards to book.

Last month I wrote “The Easiest Places to Get with Miles.” Miles are awesome and can get you almost anywhere in the world cheaper and more luxuriously than most people realize. But some awards are easier to book than others. Focusing on easier awards, especially at first, can get you some award-ticket “wins” that will hook you and lead to more successful bookings in the future.

Trying to book two people from the United States to Australia in Business Class from December 21 to January 3 is very hard to turn into one of those wins. It will mainly lead to frustration.

  • What is the award space picture to Australia this holiday season with American, US Airways, United, and Delta miles?
  • What is the most likely strategy to find award space?
  • What other times of year does Australia have better award space?

Follow Me

Featured Posts