4

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

A few years ago, I created a manual for award booking. I thought the best way to organize it was to explain the key concepts of all awards in the beginning, and then explain each major program in detail afterwards. Here is the first section of the manual–nine key concepts of all award bookings. I’ve edited it slightly today to make sure it is up to date.

Are there any other key concepts you would add to a manual of award booking?

Key Concept 1: Each type of miles has its own rules. When booking an award, the operant rules are the rules of the airline whose miles you are using, not the airlines you are flying.

You always deal with the airline whose miles you’re using. You book with them. You follow their rules. You pay their fees.

The only two things you don’t do with the carrier whose miles you are using are pick seats and check in. You pick seats with each airline you are flying by calling the airlines you are flying. You check in with the first carrier you are flying each direction.

Question: You are booking an award with British Airways Avios that flies American Airlines flights. What airline’s award rules do you need to follow?

[If you answered British Airways, you’re right. If you answered American Airlines, reread the last few sentences.]

Key Concept 2: You can [almost] never transfer miles from one airline’s account to a partner airline’s account. That means if you have 30,000 British Airways Avios and 30,000 American Airlines miles, you cannot combine them even though British Airways and American Airlines are partners.

Key Concept 3: In most circumstances, you cannot combine miles from two people’s accounts in the same program in an efficient way.

For instance, you cannot combine your 30,000 American Airlines miles with your wife’s 30,000 American Airlines miles unless you pay 1.25 cent per mile–$375 in this case. That destroys almost all of the value the miles, so it is an awful choice.

Hawaiian Airlines (only if the recipient is a Hawaiian Airlines cardholder), Korean Air, and British Airways are key exceptions where you can combine miles freely between accounts.

Key Concept 4: But you can always use anyone’s miles to book an award for anyone else, and you can use miles from partner airlines to book seats on the same flights.

So in the 30k Avios and 30k AA example in Key Concept 2, you could book two people on the same Miami to Lima flight on LAN Airlines because LAN is a partner of both BA and AA, and you can use both Avios and AA miles to book on LAN.

Or in the 30k AA in your account and 30k in your wife’s example in Key Concept 3, you can book yourself a roundtrip economy ticket to Europe, booking the outbound from your account and the return from hers since

  • each direction costs 30k miles
  • you can book oneway awards on AA
  • and you can book an award for anyone with anyone else’s miles (Key Concept 4)

More info on Key Concepts 2-4: Two Foundational Questions in Miles Collecting

Key Concept 5: In general, if an airline releases Saver award space on a flight, it releases that space equally to all partners. We use this to our advantage by searching the easiest place to search for an airline’s award space no matter what miles we’ll use to book the space.

For instance, I’ll search award space Alaska Airlines flights on aa.com whether I plan to book the space with AA, BA, Alaska, or Delta miles because aa.com is the easiest place to search the space and all four of those partners have equal access to Alaska Airlines award space.

Key Concept 6: All flights must price at the Saver award level for an itinerary to price at that level.

Key Concept 7: Rules that are the same for nearly all miles:

  1. You can book up to 330 or more days out. This varies slightly by type of miles.
  2. There are generally three classes of service on international flights: economy, Business, First
  3. There are generally two classes of service on domestic flights: economy and First
  4. Domestic First is generally treated as Business Class. It is priced at the Business Class price and can be added to international Business Class awards without increasing the price of the award. This is true because, like Business Class, it is only better than one other cabin on the plane.
  5. Every airline has “low miles price” award seats–called Saver, Low, MileSAAver, Level 1, etc–and “high miles price” award seats—called Standard, Medium, High, AAnytime. The high price ones cost twice the miles generally. We only want low miles price seats. (more info: Do I have enough miles? A Beginners’ Guide to Navigating Award Charts)
  6. Partner award space always prices at the low miles price.
  7. American, United, Delta (kind of), Hawaiian, Frontier, Air France, Air Canada, Alaska, Singapore, Korean, and others have award charts. The cost of an award is determined by the region of the departure city and the region of the arrival city. (more info: Do I have enough miles? A Beginners’ Guide to Navigating Award Charts)
  8. British Airways, Iberia, LAN, Japan Airlines and others have a distance based chart. The distance of each segment (BA, Iberia, LAN) or the distance of the whole itinerary (Japan Airlines) as actually flown determines the award price.
  9. JetBlue, Virgin America, Southwest, and others have revenue-based miles. The price of an award depends on the price of the flight. There are no blackouts. For more info on all five types of miles, see: The Five Types of Frequent Flyer Miles
  10. You always have to pay government taxes on awards. Government taxes for flights departing the US are always $5.60 per direction. International flights incur much higher taxes, so $100 per ticket is common.
  11. There are certain fees that redeeming miles sometimes incurs including phone fees, change fees, cancellation fees, close in ticketing fees, and more. These vary by airline and can generally be found by googling “[airline-in-question] award fees”
  12. Using certain miles and flying certain partners incurs fuel surcharges. These can be hundreds of dollars per person per direction. Foreign programs generally add fuel surcharges to all awards and American programs add them to zero awards, though American Airlines and Delta do add fuel surcharges to some awards.
  13. Use these definitions for a stopover, and you will never be confused: On a domestic/Canada award: a layover is a stop of less than 4 hours. A stopover is a stop of more than 4 hours. On an international award: a layover is a stop of less than 24 hours. A stopover is a stop of more than 24 hours.
  14. Use this definition for an open jaw. An open jaw occurs when the origin of your outbound doesn’t match up with the destination of your return. An open jaw also occurs when the origin of your return doesn’t match up with the destination of your outbound. Holes in the middle of the outbound or return are not open jaws. They are holes. You can’t have holes. For more information: What is an Open Jaw? How Can My Award Have Two Open Jaws?

Key Concept 8: The major ways I will use to define each type of miles are:

  • Can you book a oneway trip for half the price of a roundtrip or does the airline charge the roundtrip price on all awards?
  • How many stopovers can you get on an award? Where can it be?
  • How many open jaws can you have?
  • What are the routing rules of an award. Possible routing rules include:
    • Maximum Permitted Mileage or some percentage of it. Maximum Permitted Mileage is a term of art. It is the maximum number of miles you can fly for a given origin/destination pair on a paid ticket. You can find it for a given airline and origin/destination pair at ExpertFlyer. More info: Using Expert Flyer
    • Maximum number of segments: An airline can limit the number of semgents you can fly on a single award. Think of a segment as a flight number because even if you land, if you continue on the same flight number, it is only one segment.
    • Limit the oceans you can cross or continents where you can land. An airline could prohibit routing through South America on an award between North America on Europe. An airline could say you can’t cross the Atlantic and Pacific on the same award.
  • Whether you will incur fuel surcharges redeeming the miles

Key Concept 9: Many awards allow the booking of free one ways. A free oneway is a separate one way trip added onto your main award for zero additional miles.

  • All free one ways rely on a stopover at your home airport to separate the main trip from the free one way.
  • All free one ways must be before the main award to your home airport or after the main award from your home airport.
  • Airlines don’t know what a free one way is, so your free one way will be treated as part of your main award and must be part of your outbound or return, with all that entails. Some things that might entail:
    • If your free one way is after your main award from your home airport, your return ends not at your home airport, but at the destination of your free oneway.
    • If your free one way is before your main award to your home airport, your outbound begins at the origin of the free one way. This means that if you miss this first leg, the whole award will be cancelled. (If you ever miss a segment, the rest of your ticket is cancelled.)
  • A free one way can be constructed whenever you are allowed a stopover at your home airport and an open jaw. The open jaw arises because there is now a mismatch between the start of one leg and end of the other since one of these will be your home airport, and the other will be the place visited in your free one way.

7

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

American Airlines is releasing a ton of First Class award space from Miami and Dallas to Madrid for May through July, 2016.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 2.13.49 PM

This award space is easy to connect to from anywhere in the United States, and you can get anywhere in Europe with an Iberia flight from Madrid. These connecting flights do not add to the First Class mileage price of 62,500 American Airlines miles each way. United and Delta both charge at least that much for a Business Class award.

Madrid gets scorching hot in the summer, so May and early June are an ideal time to visit. I stayed in Madrid from May 11 to June 10 this year, and I enjoyed the food scene, nightlife, bike share program, weak euro, and weather immensely.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 2.46.05 PM

For a limited time, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® offers 75,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $7,500 in the first three months. That means you’ll have 82,500 American Airlines miles after meeting the spending requirement. That’s enough miles for one way to Europe in First Class with enough left over (20,000) for a one way economy off peak award to Europe.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 2.52.22 PM

Product

Both the Miami and Dallas to Madrid flights fly older 777s that feature fully flat beds in First Class.

I reviewed this product on a 2013 flight to Buenos Aires. It is far from the newest product, and you don’t get much in the way of privacy or service, but the bed is plenty comfortable to sleep, and I actually really liked the food.

 

If you compare the product to Emirates First Class, you’ll be disappointed. If you compare it to economy, you’ll be ecstatic.

Award Space

Award space is really great from Miami to Madrid from May to July 2016. Right now you can book through July 22, 2016, and you can book one day later every day.

These calendars are only for one award seat.

Madrid to Miami: First Class Award Space 37/83 days

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 1.50.33 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-26 at 1.50.58 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-26 at 1.51.15 PM

Miami to Madrid: First Class Award Space 44/82 days

First Class space is even a bit better on the return. Unfortunately there is no First Class space returning on Sundays, but you could take a Friday-till-the-next-Monday trip to minimize vacation days needed.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 1.49.54 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-26 at 1.50.12 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-26 at 1.50.27 PM

Dallas to Madrid: First Class Award Space 21/83 days

Dallas definitely less space than Miami to Madrid, but it is still pretty good.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 1.52.40 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-26 at 1.52.54 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-26 at 1.53.10 PM

Madrid to Dallas: First Class Award Space 34/83 days

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 1.52.03 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-26 at 1.52.17 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-26 at 1.52.29 PM

Connections

If you don’t live in Miami or Dallas, you can still take advantage of this space. Those are two huge hubs for American Airlines with flights to most of the country. You can tack on Economy, Business, or First Class MileSAAver award space onto these international flights for zero extra miles.

If you don’t want to go to Madrid, or you want to fly an open jaw award, this space is still perfect. Iberia flies to dozens of European cities for Madrid.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 1.54.14 PM

You can search economy and Business Class Iberia award space at ba.com (here’s how), and tack it onto these awards for zero extra miles.

For instance, the Miami flight lands in Madrid at 9:15 AM. You can connect to this 11:15 AM Iberia flight to Paris if that’s where you want to go.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 2.01.21 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-26 at 2.04.21 PM

The Miami flight leaves Madrid at 11:15 AM. You can start your return in Sevilla for no extra miles on this 6:55 AM Iberia flight.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 2.01.21 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-26 at 2.01.27 PM

Booking the Award

If your award contains only partners that are searchable at aa.com, you can book right on aa.com.

If your award contains Iberia flights, you must call 800-882-8880 to book the award. The phone fee should be waived, since you couldn’t book online, and make sure that it is.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 1.59.02 PM

A roundtrip to Europe in First Class costs 125,000 American Airlines miles. A roundtrip to Madrid has $60 in taxes.
Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 1.59.10 PM

Pay the taxes with your Citi Prestige® Card.

The Citi Prestige® Card offers a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year that offsets your first $250 in spending on airlines with the card. Taxes on an award ticket definitely count.

The card also comes with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after spending $3,000 in the first three months, which can be transferred to 11 types of airline miles or used like cash toward the purchase of any ticket.

Getting the Miles

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

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 2.52.22 PM

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® also offers Admirals Club lounge membership, meaning you can access over 90 American Airlines Clubs in airports around the world whenever you’re flying–even if you’re not flying on American. Plus you can bring in any two guests for free OR your spouse and all children under 18 for free on each visit. This is why the card has a $450 annual fee; new membership in the Admirals Club usually costs $500.

Bottom Line

Book your early summer 2016 trip to Madrid or anywhere else in Europe with fantastic award space in American Airlines First Class.

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

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

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

I’m reprinting this post today because tomorrow (Saturday August 21, 2015) at 10:33 AM ET, I will be on the Rudy Maxa’s World radio show talking about segment-by-segment searching. You can listen live here.

This is a post about the main process I use every day to search for awards.

In an ideal world, you collect the right frequent flyer miles for the trip you want, go straight to the website of the airline whose miles you have, search for award space, and your dream trip pops up.

Airlines use frequent flyer miles to give away seats they don’t expect to sell otherwise, though, which means your ideal itinerary might not have award space if it’s at a popular time on a popular route. In fact, no itineraries with award space may show up on your search.

Just because nothing shows up on an airline search engine doesn’t mean no award itinerary is available.

When a simple search produces no result, you need to move on to segment-by-segment searching.

The idea is that just typing where you live and where you want to go into an airline’s award search engine may not reveal Saver award space even when there is a legal, possible award. Searching segment-by-segment–starting with the hardest segment–can yield itineraries that the search engine missed.

In this post I’ll give a step-by-step example of how I used segment-by-segment searching to find award space between San Francisco and London when united.com didn’t show any award space.

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 11.29.52 PM

  • What are the six simple steps to search segment-by-segment?
  • What popular non-travel website is your secret weapon in segment-by-segment searching?

The Six Steps to Segment-By-Segment Searching

There are six steps to an effective segment-by-segment search:

  1. Simple search
  2. Wikipedia
  3. Hardest segment search
  4. Home-to-gateway search
  5. Gateway-to-destination search
  6. Call in to book

Example: Find Saver economy award space from San Francisco to London, departing July 10, 2014 (this is an old example that I’m reprinting, no need to reinvent the wheel) with United miles for two passengers

1. Simple Search

There’s no need to start by searching segment-by segment. Maybe a simple home-to-destination search will bring up award space. I searched united.com for two passengers from San Francisco to London and found no Saver economy award space on July 10.

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 11.28.09 PM

2. Using Wikipedia

I use Wikipedia to research possible routings. In this case, I pulled up the London-Heathrow page and looked for Star Alliance flights between Heathrow and North America since United miles can book flights on all 27 Star Alliance airlines. Here are some flights to consider:

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 11.58.42 PM Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 11.58.56 PM

3. Search the Hardest Segment

Search for the hardest-to-find segment first. This is usually going to be the longhaul flight. In this case, I need to find transatlantic award space first and then award space to and from that flight later.

It turns out that both Vancouver and Calgary had award space almost every day this summer in economy for two passengers to London.

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 11.27.43 PM

The Calgary flight leaves at 6:30 PM. I need to note this to figure out what the best flight to get to Calgary from San Francisco is.

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 11.29.28 PM

4. Home-to-Gateway Search

In this case, the home-to-gateway search is very easy. The transatlantic flight left Calgary every day in July at 6:30 PM with award space, so I just needed to find a day with a flight from San Francisco to Calgary that lands before 6:30 PM and had economy award space. Here was the award calendar for direct flights from San Francisco to Calgary in July.

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 11.29.08 PM

There was economy award space on July 10 that landed in Calgary at 11:53 AM, six-and-a-half hours before the transatlantic flight.

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 11.28.57 PM That layover is not ideal, but if it is the only way to get from San Francisco to London for 30k United miles, it might be something to consider.

5. Gateway-to-Destination Search

In this case, this step is not necessary because we have already found award space all the way to London, our destination. But imagine if the destination were Split, Croatia instead.

In that case, we’d need to find economy award space from London to Split that lined up with our first two flights.

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 3.55.38 PM

6. Call the Airline to Book

The last step is to book the award by calling the airline whose miles you want to use, United in this example.

(In fact, I would first put the transatlantic segment on hold using this trick, and then call United at 800-UNITED-1 to add the San Francisco to Calgary flight, and ticket the award.)

Bottom Line

No matter where you’re going and what miles you’re using, the same segment-by-segment searching principles apply.

Practice and master this lesson, and you can be an expert award booker.

If you don’t want to mess with searching this way or can’t seem to find the award you want for your dream trip, you can hire my Award Booking Service to search and book awards with any airline program. We have the expertise to search all award partners, to minimize or eliminate fuel surcharges, and to maximize comfort.

Bonus

Here are two recent real award searches in which I used these principles.

  1. How I Booked My Friend an Award Home from Europe When There Was “No” Award Space
  2. Anatomy of an Award: Honolulu to Bogota in Business Class for 27,500 Asiana Miles. This one is interesting because I didn’t search segment-by-segment to find award space as much as I searched segment-by-segment to find award space on the exact routing I wanted.

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 2.52.22 PM

5

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

Update 8/19//15:

The glitch is fixed. One way search results now include partners as they should. Here’s a screen shot of Los Angeles to Sydney in February 2016 in Business Class. I can assure you that none of those days with 80,000 mile Saver seats are on Delta flights. 😉

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 2.19.08 PM

——————————–

Virgin Australia, KLM, Virgin Atlantic, and Air France flights are not displaying on delta.com on one way searches. You can search them as part of roundtrip awards. You can book them by calling Delta at 800-323-2323.

Let’s take a look at the problem with Virgin Australia award space. The other partner space is behaving similarly.

For a few years, Virgin Australia has offered more award space to Australia than any other airline. I’ve seen Virgin release as much as 12 award seats on a single Virgin Australia flight during the Christmas and New Year high season, and all that space was a rare good use of Delta SkyMiles. Delta charges:

  • 50,000 miles one way in economy from the United States to Australia/New Zealand
  • 80,000 miles one way in Business from the United States to Australia/New Zealand

Virgin Australia award space always prices at these “Saver” levels, and Delta doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on Virgin Australia flights.

Virgin Australia flies from Los Angeles to Brisbane and Sydney, and from those two cities it connects all over Australia and New Zealand. Connections to Los Angeles on Delta or Alaska flights and connections within Australia and New Zealand do not increase the miles price.

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 2.09.33 PM

Virgin Australia Business Class features a flat bed and is being updated by early 2016 to an even nicer product.

Award Booking Trouble

Run a search in March for Los Angeles to Sydney one way in Business Class, and you will only get options for 175,000 SkyMiles.

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 2.00.59 PM Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 2.01.06 PM

These are all the Delta flights. Virgin Australia flights don’t show up in the search results.Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 2.01.15 PM

If you do a roundtrip search though, Virgin Australia award space shows up and is bookable for 160,000 miles roundtrip.

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 2.21.13 PM

If you want to book a one way award, you can search roundtrip to find your award space and then call Delta at 800-323-2323 to book. I confirmed that the agent could see the Virgin Australia award space in Business Class from Los Angeles to Sydney on March 3rd for a one way booking.

Bottom Line

Virgin Australia, KLM, Virgin Atlantic, and Air France flights are not displaying on delta.com on one way searches. You can search them as part of roundtrip awards.

I am fairly confident this is a glitch and that one way award searches will show partner award space again soon. But with Delta you never know.

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

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

8

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

You can set an alert for almost any award space on Award Nexus, so that you will be the first to know if award space opens up. The catch is that setting the alert may cost you money.

  • Why set an alert?
  • What is Award Nexus?
  • What alerts can you set, and how much do they cost?

Award Alerts

Imagine you’ve searched for award space, and there is none on and in your ideal date/flight/cabin. You could give up or you could hope that space opens up.

If you choose to hope it opens up, you can search frequently, but that is a time waster, and you might forget to search some days. An award alert solves the problem by automating a daily search of the award space and emailing you if space opens up.

I recently set two award alerts.

  1. From Honolulu to Bogota, I paid for a premium cabin award and booked Business Class for the second segment, but the Honolulu to Los Angeles segment only had economy award space at the time of booking. I booked the economy space and set an award alert for First Class on the United flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles.
  2. From Bogota to Buenos Aires, I booked a connecting itinerary with a layover in Lima, but I would prefer to fly the direct Avianca flight, so I set an alert for it.

Unfortunately I set both alerts with the Wandr Me tools, and that Star Alliance alert tool is not functional anymore.

There is another way to set an alert, and one that can alert you to almost any award space.

Award Nexus

Award Nexus is a site that allows you to search the following award search engines from one page:

  • Aeroplan
  • United
  • ANA
  • British Airways
  • Qantas
  • Japan Airlines
  • Air France
  • Delta
  • Virgin Atlantic

Award Nexus is a business that makes money by charging you points for searches, and selling you those points. To figure out the number of points needed for a search, multiply:

  • the routes
    times
  • the search engines
    times
  • the cabins
    times
  • the number of days you are searching

The number of seats you are looking for does not affect the number of points needed for a search.

For instance, if you search Bogota to Buenos Aires on September 28 plus the next four days in Business or economy on the ANA search engine, that would cost 10 points.

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 2.18.58 PM

  • one route (searching the roundtrip would be two routes)
  • five days (September 28 – October 2)
  • two cabins
  • one search engine

An alert runs a search every day, so the number of points an alert will cost you is the number of points a search costs times the number of days the alert runs. If you ran the example search above for the next 48 days, that would cost 480 points. If you got alerted to space tomorrow, booked it, then cancelled the alert, that would only cost you 10 points.

How Much Do These Alerts Cost?

Award Nexus gives new users who have a MilePoint or FlyerTalk membership 200 free points if they sign up here. Then every 90 days, you can get 100 free points.

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 2.20.06 PM

However if you just get the free points and never buy points, you will not have the “premium account” necessary to set alerts. To get a premium account, you have to buy points.
Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 2.19.11 PM

  • 500 points cost $59, 11.8 cents per point
  • 2,000 points cost $129, 6.45 cents per point
  • 4,000 points cost $249, 6.225 cents per point

Setting an alert can get pretty expensive.

How to Set an Alert on Award Nexus

Once signed in, click Create Email Alert.

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 2.17.18 PM Select the time of day for the search. I don’t know what time of day more award space is usually released, so I just left it on “North America.”
Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 2.18.18 PM

Select when you want to be emailed. If you select option 2 or 3, you can determine what award space you want highlighted/emailed to you. The “Quick Select” box understands a lot of commands like airline, flight number, and whether you want a direct flight.

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 2.54.50 PM

So if I set up an alert for my Bogota to Buenos Aires flight, I’d select option 3, to only email me if my “Quick Select” criterion was met. Then I’d write “direct” in the “Quick Select” box. I’d only get an email if the direct Avianca flight showed up with award space.

Alerts You Can Set on Award Nexus

You can search for award space on any Star Alliance carrier (Aeroplan or ANA engine), any oneworld carrier (BA or Qantas engine), any SkyTeam carrier (Air France engine), Virgin Atlantic, Emirates (Qantas engine), or Alaska (Qantas engine.)

The Wandr Me oneworld alerts still work, so I would those for free there instead of on Award Nexus.

Multiple Search Engines?

I have talked to Peter, the founder of Award Nexus many times about optimal search practices. He suggests checking as many engines as possible because different engines may be programmed differently and find different award space.

In general, though, I would check as few search engine boxes as possible. Each search engine drives up the points needed for a search, and I don’t think the incremental value of adding more engines is that great. Certainly all the search engines listed in the last section should be 100% or nearly 100% accurate on direct flight searches, and searching award space on a specific flight is the best use of award alerts.

If you want something very complicated with many stops–and these are really poor candidates for award alerts–you may consider checking more search engine boxes. Just be prepared for the price to go way up.

My Experience

I mentioned above the two alerts I wanted to set.

One is now moot. I found Honolulu to Los Angeles First Class award space, so I have updated this award. I’ll write a post on that award change later..

The other alert would be from Bogota to Buenos Aires for a five day period in economy and Business Class. That’s a 10 point search. I’d need to run it for up to 48 days. That could be 480 points, which cost about $31. That feels steep. It’s probably worth it to set that alert instead of searching the route every few days, but I’m going to choose the latter because I’m just a cheapskate.

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

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

15

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

United.com has completed a site redesign. The new site is live now.

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 4.20.24 PM

The old site is still available, but will disappear in a few weeks.

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 4.20.12 PM

The new united.com is far worse than the old one for award searches. This will negatively affect me, my Award Booking Service, and you. Let’s bombard United with messages to bring back the old search functions before it kills the old site.

  • What are the negative changes? 
  • How can you let your displeasure be known, so United can reverse course?

Changes

The new united.com has a sleeker tiled look. If you sign in, all the information you might need is right on the home screen if different tiles. I like all that.

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 4.21.04 PM

What I don’t like are the changes to award searches. Here’s that tile, which is basically identical to how it is on the old site. (You can ignore the cabin dropdown when you tick “Search for award travel” because all cabins are returned regardless.)

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 4.22.40 PM

Negative Change #1: You can NOT get a nonstop calendar.

Notice that on the search box above I ticked “Nonstop.” On the old united.com that produces a calendar for two months that shows award space on nonstop flights on that route. Here’s Houston to Honolulu for September and October–lots of economy space on the direct flight, but almost no First Class space.

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 5.13.08 PM

But here’s the calendar on the new site.

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 4.23.00 PM

The calendar shows all flights, not just nonstop. To find out which days have First Class award space on the nonstop flight, I’d have to click all 61 dates individually. What an insane waste of time when United has the technology to show me all 61 dates’ space at a glance as evidenced by the old site’s calendars.

There are a lot of reasons to want to know the award space only on one direct segment, so this is a huge deal to me on my award searches and for my Award Booking Service searches. I used this functionality just last week on an award booking for myself.

There is no conceivable reason why United would want to make it harder to find direct award space, so this must just be an oversight. Our complaints–I’ll explain how to complain below–should have a good chance of getting United to fix this.

Negative Change #2: No Separate Columns for Economy Saver and Standard

This change affects me a lot less but is a lot more insidious.

Here’s how an individual itinerary looks on the old united.com; note the separate columns that clearly indicate whether you are getting Saver or Standard award space.

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 4.28.21 PM

Here are the new search results.

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 4.23.13 PM

Premium Cabins are broken down into Saver and Standard, but economy space just shows the lowest price without indicating whether it is Saver or Standard.

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 4.29.08 PMThis is not a big deal for me because I know whether a price is Saver or Standard. Worst case scenario, you can check the United award chart in a few clicks versus the 61 clicks I now need to check two months of award space on the direct flight on a route.

But this change seems a lot more intentional. Lately United has loved copying Delta with award chart devaluations and revenue-based mileage earning. Maybe United wants to copy Delta in the future by deleting its award charts, and answering the question of what an award should cost with “Whatever the search results say it costs.”

Remember that the Saver/Standard distinction matters not just for how many United miles the award costs, but also because partner miles only have access to Saver award space, which is now no longer marked in economy on the new united.com. I book a lot of United award space with Singapore, Asiana, and Lufthansa miles, so Saver award space matters a lot to me.

How to Complain

Do two things:

1. On both the old and new site, there is a button for Site Feedback. Here’s its placement on the new site.

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 4.30.25 PM

Click that and make a complaint about the award search calendars not displaying nonstop award space and the economy award price not being broken into Saver and Standard.

2. Retweet this tweet from Dan’s Deals.

Also if you’re on Twitter and Facebook, consider sending @united your personalized feedback.

Bottom Line

The new united.com will make award searching much more time consuming.

It has eliminated the ability to see nonstop award space for two months at a time on the route of your choice. My conspiracy theory mind sees no reason for this, so I have to assume it is a programming oversight that hopefully can be corrected.

It has eliminated the two columns for Saver and Standard economy award space, replacing them with “Lowest.” My conspiracy theory mind sees this as a baby step to following Delta into the darkness. Luckily they haven’t eliminated the Saver and Standard columns for premium cabins, so maybe I am misinterpreting.

Complain to United on its site and on Twitter to see if we can get the new site to be as good as the old site.

Hat Tip Dan’s Deals

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

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

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

United is offering tons of Business Class award space for the next 11 months on its flights to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Santiago, Chile.

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.39.01 AM

Both routes will soon be flown by United’s brand new 787-9 Dreamliners with flat beds in Business Class. You can book either route for as little as 35,000 miles one way.

United 787-9 Dreamliner

The United 787-9 Dreamliner has 48 beds in Business class in a 2-2-2 configuration. I would choose a middle seat, since both have direct aisle access. If you choose a seat on either side of the plane, you’ll either need to climb over your seatmate or be climbed over during the flight.

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 10.14.20 PM

Each seat converts to a fully flat bed with 6’6″ of sleeping space.

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 10.14.40 PM

Miles Price

Between the United States and Argentina, United charges 30,000 miles each way in economy and 55,000 miles in Business Class.

But you don’t have to book the United award space with United miles. You can book the space with miles from any Star Alliance partner. If you want to book with another partner, search united.com without signing in. Note the date, cabin, and flight number of any Star Alliance flights with a blue button in its Saver award space column; then call the airline whose miles you’re using to book the award.

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 12.13.14 AM

Here are the prices charged by some other Star Alliance partners (economy/Business one way) with their transfer partners in parentheses:

UR = Ultimate Rewards, MR = Membership Rewards, TY = ThankYou Points, SPG = Starpoints

  • Asiana (SPG) : 25k/35k
  • Air Canada Aeroplan (MR, SPG): 30k/47.5k
  • Singapore (UR, MR, TY, SPG): 30k/50k
  • Lufthansa Miles & More (SPG): 30k/52k
  • United (UR): 30k/55k
  • Avianca LifeMiles (none, must buy): 30k/60k

United flights to South America do not have fuel surcharges, so no matter what miles you use you’ll just pay taxes of $53 roundtrip to Chile and $60 roundtrip to Brazil.

Award Space Picture

All the calendars below are for direct flights to and from Houston for two people. It is zero extra miles to start your award anywhere else in the continental United States, Alaska, or Canada and connect to Houston as long as you find Saver award space on united.com for those connecting flights.

Yellow dates have Saver award space for two passengers in economy. Blue dates have Saver award space for two passengers in Business Class. Green dates have Saver award space for two passengers in both cabins.

Houston to Rio de Janeiro

The 787-9 Dreamliner starts flying on August 18, 2015.

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.19.28 AMBusiness Class award space is available over the whole schedule except Christmas, New Year, and Carnaval (February 5-9, 2016). Award space is particularly good in March and April , 2016.
Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.19.15 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.20.08 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.20.27 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.20.49 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.21.05 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.21.23 AM

Rio de Janeiro to Houston

The northbound flight is a slightly longer redeye.

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.28.10 AM

Return dates show similarly excellent award space in Business Class.
Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.27.47 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.28.19 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.28.32 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.28.46 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.29.00 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.29.13 AM

Houston to Santiago

The 787-9 Dreamliner takes over this route on January 5, 2016. Just like Rio de Janeiro, both directions are redeyes.

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.26.21 AM

Award space is fairly available in January, February, and March 2016, summer down there. April through June have plenty of economy award space.

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.26.09 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.26.32 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.26.45 AM

Return space is more widely available in Business Class.

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.31.39 AM

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.31.15 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.31.45 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.32.01 AM

More People

All the calendars above were for two people. I did one search for eight people from Houston to Rio in April and May 2016. Many of the dates have award space for eight people in flat beds!

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.33.45 AM

Other Houston Dreamliner Routes

United is also placing its 787-9 Dreamliner on several other routes from Houston over the coming year: Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Tokyo, and Buenos Aires. None have very good award space in Business Class with Buenos Aires space particularly abysmal.

Bottom Line

There is excellent award space for two people in economy and Business Class from Houston (or elsewhere in the United States) to Rio de Janeiro and Santiago. United puts its 787-9 Dreamliner on the Rio route in a few weeks and on the Santiago route in January.

Just because the space is on United planes doesn’t mean you should use United miles to book. You can use any Star Alliance miles.

  • Asiana charges only 35,000 miles one way in Business Class, compared to United’s 55,000 mile price. You can transfer SPG points to Asiana miles in about two weeks.
  • Promiscuous transfer partner Singapore Airlines, a transfer partner of Chase, AMEX, Citi, and SPG, offers the routes for 50,000 miles one way in Business Class.

The best cards to get Singapore miles?

The Citi ThankYou® Premier Card offers 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. The card also earns 3x points on travel and gas and 2x points on dining and entertainment. The Citi Prestige® Card also offers 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. The card also comes earns 3x points on airfare and hotels and has a host of benefits like lounge access and $250 in free airfare per year.

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

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

14

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

Here is just how easy and how essential it is to search for awards segment-by-segment.

My friend is visiting me in Belgrade, Serbia and wants to fly home to Los Angeles next week, so we were searching for an award for him with United miles, which are definitely the best miles between the United States and Europe.

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 5.46.40 PM

Unfortunately the only awards available are in Business Class, and he has more time than money or miles.Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 5.46.58 PM

I’d personally fly this award in flat bed Business Class for 57,500 United miles + $78. (I would get out of the $75 close in ticketing fee with this trick.)Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 5.47.14 PM

But he needed an economy award, so we moved onto segment-by-segment searching. The idea is that there are legal itineraries you can book that don’t show up with a simple search because they have too many segments or too long of layovers (often overnight) for the computer to catch.

You can literally search one segment at a time, starting with potential transatlantic route. I didn’t do that. I just searched from Belgrade to United’s hubs in the Eastern United States. I started with Newark.

I found an economy award to Newark, but the next Saver economy award space from Newark to Los Angeles was the next morning.Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 5.47.37 PM Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 5.48.00 PM Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 5.48.42 PM

Those four segments are a legal award that would cost 30,000 United miles plus taxes, but I wanted to see if we could get him a more convenient itinerary.

I searched Belgrade to Washington-Dulles. I found this itinerary…Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 5.49.22 PM

…and six hours later there is space from Dulles to Los Angeles.Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 5.49.56 PM

This isn’t the best itinerary ever, since there are two layovers of 10 total hours, but it is legal, it costs 30,000 United miles, and it avoids an overnight in transit. For my friend, it is a win!

Booking Segment-by-Segment Awards

To book segment-by-segment awards, note the date, cabin, and flight number of each segment. Call the airline whose miles you want to use, and feed the agent that information.

In this case, to save the $25 phone fee and $75 close in fee, we’ll do something a little different. We’ll book a random Belgrade to Los Angeles itinerary for far in the future. Something like this:

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 6.43.54 PM

Then we’ll immediately call in, and say “Hey I just booked an award an hour ago, and I want to change the date.”

Changes or cancellations are free within 24 hours.

Then we’ll read out the date, cabin, and flight number of the flights we want.  There is no phone fee with this method. Very probably the agent will forget to add the $75 close in fee.

Bottom Line

Just because your simple search shows no award space doesn’t mean there is no award space. Try segment-by-segment searching.

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

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

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

The Qantas San Francisco to Sydney flight that begins in mid-December is now searchable and bookable on aa.com. This is really bad news for Business Class award space.

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 2.15.14 PM

Last week I wrote that there was plenty of Business Class award space on the flight, searchable on Expert Flyer and bookable by calling American Airlines. The flight wasn’t yet searchable or bookable on aa.com.

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 2.15.48 PM

Now the flight is searchable and bookable on aa.com and award space is wide open in economy in both directions for at least six people per flight at a cost of 37,500 American Airlines miles each way. Award space in Business Class for even one person per flight is rare, though there is some, especially from Sydney to San Francisco.

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 1.24.22 PM

Product

I flew Qantas Business Class on its A380 two years ago from Melbourne to Los Angeles. I understand that the 747 has the same seat/bed as the A380.

If you check out my review, you’ll see that I was not blown away by the product. My top two complaints are the 2-2-2 layout meaning that if you have a window you have to climb over your seatmate, and the fact that the bed is not totally parallel to the floor.


In bed mode

I think I would have slept fine on a westbound flight that takes off at 10 PM, but the schedule from Australia to the United States (on all airlines) are terrible for sleep, so I had trouble.

While I’d slightly prefer United Business Class and greatly prefer Qantas First Class, premium awards between the United States and Australia are hard to come by.

Award Space

San Francisco to Sydney

Award space is not available for the first month of the flight, encompassing Christmas and New Year.

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 1.26.07 PM

Then award space quickly becomes available almost every day in economy.

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 1.26.15 PM

Through the end of the schedule (late June 2016), award space is available nearly every Sunday through Friday in economy.

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 1.24.40 PM

Almost all the flights with economy award space have space for 6+ passengers in economy.

Business Class space is far rarer. From San Francisco to Sydney, I only see two days with award space in Business Class, each for only one passenger.Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 1.24.45 PM Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 1.26.46 PM

Sydney to San Francisco

Sydney to San Francisco has the same award space patterns, but more dates with Business Class award space.

Economy has no award space until January 10, 2016, then picks up to six-day-a-week award space quickly.

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 1.33.29 PM Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 1.33.45 PM

There are a handful of days in May and June with one Business Class award seat.Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 1.35.11 PM Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 1.35.26 PM

Award Cost

Between the United States and Australia one way, American Airlines charges:

  • 37,500 miles in economy
  • 62,500 miles in Business Class
  • 72,500 miles in First Class (not available on this route)

This is ridiculously cheap. United and Delta charge 40,000 and 50,000 miles one way in economy and 70,000 and 80,000 miles one way in Business Class.

There are no fuel surcharges on American Airlines flights flying Qantas, so you just pay taxes of $108 for a roundtrip.

I priced out an award with one way in economy and one way in Business Class. It cost 100,000 American Airlines miles + $108.

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 1.54.31 PM Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 1.54.38 PM

Connections

You can connect to San Francisco on American Airlines, US Airways, or Alaska Airlines flights for zero extra miles. If you have a Business Class award, these connections can be in First Class.

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 1.34.49 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-16 at 1.34.39 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-16 at 1.34.29 PM

In Sydney, you can connect throughout Australia and New Zealand for zero extra miles.

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 1.36.44 PM

Getting American Airlines Miles

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® now offers 75,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $7,500 in the first three months. That’s the biggest bonus of any card right now.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 2.52.22 PM

Until August 7, 20,000 SPG Starpoints transfer to 30,000 American Airlines miles.

Bottom Line

Award space for Qantas’ new San Francisco to Sydney route is now online. Award space is great in economy, even for entire families. In Business Class, award space is rare.

The sign up bonus on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® is big enough for a roundtrip to Australia in economy.

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

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

8

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

Air Serbia award flights start at 4,550 Etihad Guest miles plus government taxes with no fuel surcharges. Etihad Guest miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 5.29.21 AM

Why Air Serbia?

I plan to spend a month or so in Belgrade, Serbia this summer, so I was looking at flight options for people to visit me or to get me from Serbia to Romania. Air Serbia serves a decent roster of European and Middle Eastern cities from its hub in Belgrade.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 5.19.08 AM

What is Etihad Guest?

Air Serbia is 49% owned by Etihad, and Air Serbia’s frequent flyer program is Etihad Guest, which is kind of a mini fourth alliance.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 5.17.14 AM

I’ve pretty much ignored the program until now because if you want to book Etihad flights, you get a better deal redeeming American Airlines miles than Etihad miles. (I had previously assumed you got a better deal on airberlin and Niki flights with Avios and Alitalia flights with Delta miles, but I will check those assumptions.)

Air Serbia Award Chart

However, there is no way to book Air Serbia flights other than with Etihad Guest miles, so I took a look at the Air Serbia award chart. Here it is, in its entirety:

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

The award chart is distance-based and doesn’t worry about round numbers with prices like 4,606 miles and 9,773 miles one way.

Business class is a modest premium over economy, about 50% more.

Most intra-European Business Class on airlines like Lufthansa or British Airways features the exact same seats as economy (same width and leg room) but the middle seat in each group of three seats is blocked out. If that’s how Air Serbia Business Class is, I wouldn’t bother paying even a 50% premium even though it comes with food, an iPad on flights over three hours, and lounge access. Air Serbia’s pictures online, though, show a 2-2 configuration like you’d find in domestic First Class in the United States, presumably with similar leg room.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 5.44.57 AM

Unfortunately I can’t find exact dimensions of Air Serbia’s Business Class seats online.

How to Book, Taxes & Fees

Unfortunately you cannot search or book Air Serbia award space online. You need to call 888-8-ETIHAD at least 14 days prior to travel to book your award. Air Serbia’s website says award bookings do not include “YQ tax” AKA fuel surcharges.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 5.48.52 AM

I tested out one flight to see what taxes and fees were included on an award booking.

I picked this one way flight from Belgrade to Skopje, Macedonia because I’ve always had a fascination with Macedonia.

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 6.31.35 PM

The flight only costs $110.14.

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 6.33.15 PM

Of that, almost half, or $47.71, is made up of taxes and fuel surcharges.

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 6.33.23 PM

Specifically, the taxes listed as Serbia LG, Serbia RF, and Serbia RS are $23.17.
Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 6.33.42 PM

When I priced out that flight as an award ticket, the Etihad Guest phone agent quoted me a price of 4,550 miles + 20.78 euros.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 5.53.14 AM

That’s pretty close to $23.17. That tells me that booking Air Serbia awards with Etihad guest miles does NOT incur the YQ fuel surcharge or any phone fee, just the miles listed plus government taxes, which you can estimate very closely on ITA Matrix.

There were two flights from Belgrade to Skopje on the day I had the agent search. There was award space in economy on both flights. I don’t want to draw any conclusions from such a small sample, but I anticipate that award space is widely available on nearly every Air Serbia flight in economy and Business Class based on the fact that intra-European award space is a gimme on most airlines.

Is This a Good Redemption?

You save $87.10 by using 5,000 ThankYou Points (because you have to transfer in 1,000 point increments.) That’s getting 1.74 cents of value per point, which I think is pretty good. At that value, the sign up bonus on either the Citi Prestige or ThankYou Premier would be over $870.

Getting Etihad Guest Miles

Citi ThankYou Points and SPG points transfer to Etihad miles at a 1:1 rate. These are the best cards to earn Etihad Guest miles:

I transferred ThankYou Points to Etihad miles, and the miles took seven days to post in my Etihad Guest account. Combined with the 14 day advance booking requirement, make sure you plan ahead with your Air Serbia redemption.

Bottom Line

Etihad Guest miles are the only way to fly Air Serbia, which has a very cheap award chart for travel to and from Belgrade. Awards start at 4,550 Etihad Guest miles and Business Class is only about 50% more. Awards incur government taxes, but no fuel surcharges or phone booking fees.

You can get Etihad Guest miles by making a 1:1 transfer from Citi ThankYou Points or SPG points. Get the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card or Citi Prestige® Card, each with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points.

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

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

2

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

American Airlines award space was not displaying on ba.com for the last three weeks. Now American Airlines award space is back on ba.com. Here is a search result from a few minutes ago for Miami to Manaus, Brazil:

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 1.25.19 PM

The award prices out at 12,500 Avios + $6 or 4,000 Avios + $83. (Read more on Cash & Avios awards. Read why my British Airways account prices in euros and maybe yours should too.)Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 1.25.58 PM

The best use of Avios is short, direct, economy award flights without fuel surcharges, which includes every American Airlines and US Airways flight within the Americas. Last minute awards can be especially great redemptions. (Read the Basics of Avios.)

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 1.32.46 PM

These US Airways flights today from Charlotte to Tampa are 4,500 Avios + $6.

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 1.33.40 PM

If you bought with cash, you’d pay $443.

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 1.33.26 PM

What to Do When Award Space Isn’t Displaying Online

American Airlines space is back on ba.com, but what should you do next time any airline’s award space isn’t displaying online.

There are two possible reasons award space wouldn’t display online, and each reason has a different course of action.

1. The Space Doesn’t Exist

A lot of people complain to me that they can’t find LAN Airlines award space on ba.com, but I am aware of no glitch in displaying space. The problem is that LAN Airlines releases very little award space, and the people contacting me are searching routes and dates with no award space.

If there really is no space, there is no solution. You must move on to another trip idea or keep checking for award space and hope that some opens up later.

You can check whether space exists by checking other websites. For instance BA, Qantas, and AA all show some oneworld partners’ award space. Similarly United, LifeMiles, and ANA all show some Star Alliance partners’ award space. If the space is on one site at the Saver level, it should be available with other types of miles. If the space isn’t on any of the sites, the space doesn’t exist.

2. The Space Exists, and There is a Website Glitch

The problem for the last few weeks was that American Airlines award space existed, but it wasn’t on ba.com. We knew the space existed because it was available at the MileSAAver level on aa.com (and on qantas.com.)

When space exists but is not on a website, call the airline whose miles you want to redeem. Calls to British Airways in the last few weeks successfully ticketed American Airlines award seats.

When you have to call in because of a website glitch, always ask for the phone fee to be waived. In this case, phone fees were waived.

Bottom Line

American Airlines flights are again bookable on ba.com. Next time, there’s a glitch like this, if award space really exists, call the airlines whose miles you want to redeem and ask for the phone fee to be waived.

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 5.29.36 AM

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

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

How good is Japan Airlines First Class?

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 5.29.48 AM

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

Here’s a tour of the plane.

Where does Japan Airlines fly?

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

Source: gcmap.com
Source: gcmap.com

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

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

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

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

How Many Miles Does the Award Cost?

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

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

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

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

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

How Can You Search and Book the Award Space?

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 4.11.57 PM

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

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 4.13.21 PM

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

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

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

How Can You Get American Airlines Miles?

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

Bottom Line

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

Hat Tip One Mile at a Time

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Houston to Munich

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

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 4.15.27 PM

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

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

Los Angeles to Paris

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

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

New York to Split, Croatia

Even awards to Eastern Europe into smaller airports have award space on plenty of dates.
Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 4.17.59 PM

Connection times are often less convenient to smaller cities because there are fewer flights per day, but you will get to hang out in the Austrian Airlines lounge for the five hours of this layover.

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 4.19.02 PM

 

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

Other Airlines

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 4.26.24 PM

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

Bottom Line

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

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

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

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

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

Alitalia Business Class award space is wide open in Spring 2016 from New York and Boston to Rome for 62,500 Delta miles each way. Many days have three award seats in nearly flat beds. You can connect to New York on Delta flights for zero extra miles, award space permitting, and within Italy or Europe on Alitalia for zero extra miles.

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 2.13.11 PM

  • What is the Alitalia Business Class product?
  • What is the award price with Delta miles?
  • What is the award space on Alitalia’s routes?
  • What connections are possible?
  • How do you book these awards?
  • How do you get Delta miles?

Alitalia Business Class Product

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 2.13.19 PM

Alitalia’s Business Class features a staggered layout similar to Austrian Airways’, which I reviewed in Trip Report: Austrian Business Class from Vienna to Chicago. Your feet go under the arm rest of the person in front of you.

Image from Austrian Business Class to show the staggered seats. Your feet go under his arm rest.

Though widely marketed as fully flat, my eyes tell me that Alitalia seats are not fully parallel to the ground.

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 2.12.54 PM

You can still get a comfortable night sleep, but not quite as comfortable as you’d get from a fully-flat, parallel-to-the-ground bed.

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 2.12.41 PM

Award Price

Delta charges 62,500 miles each way to Europe in Business Class. Alitalia awards originating in the United States, including one ways and roundtrips to Europe, do not incur fuel surcharges.

Alitalia awards originating in Europe, like one way trips home, do incur fuel surcharges, so don’t book one ways from Rome to the United States with Delta miles.

The miles price is the same from anywhere in the continental United States or Canada to anywhere in Europe, so adding connecting Delta or Alitalia flights will not change the miles price.

Roundtrip taxes to Rome should be $60 according to my List of Award Taxes from Major Cities in Europe, So You Return from Low Tax Countries.

Award Space

Alitalia flies year round from Boston, New York, and Miami to Rome. It serves Los Angeles and Chicago in the Summer.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 5.55.25 PM
Credit: gcmap.com

Award space is wide open from New York to Rome from January to May, 2016 (the end of the current 11 month booking window) for up to three passengers. Award space is good in 2016 from Boston to Rome.

New York to Rome

The following calendars show award space from New York to Rome for three passengers in Business Class on nonstop flights. Days that say 62,500 miles have three Business Class award seats on at least one Alitalia flight that day.
Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 5.56.41 PMScreen Shot 2015-06-10 at 5.58.21 PM Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 5.58.07 PMScreen Shot 2015-06-10 at 5.57.51 PMThe calendars show that award space is wide open in 2016 from New York to Rome in Business Class on Alitalia flights.

Boston to Rome

Boston to Rome doesn’t have quite as much award space for two passengers, but there is still plenty of space in Spring 2016.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 5.59.41 PM Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 5.59.55 PM

Los Angeles to Rome

The other routes–from Miami, Chicago, and Los Angeles–don’t have nearly as much award space. But there is a smattering of dates this summer from Los Angeles to Rome in Business Class with space for two.
Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 6.01.50 PM

Connections

Don’t think of this as award space to Rome. Think of it as award space to Europe. Here are Alitalia’s flights from Rome.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 6.18.44 PM

Any connection within Europe in Business Class adds zero miles to the 62,500 miles price. That’s pretty much every city in Italy and every major city in Europe.

You can also connect to New York in Delta or Alaska First Class for zero extra miles. While Alitalia award space intra-Europe is widely available, Delta First Class space is much less available. That means this Alitalia award space is primarily valuable for those living in New York and Boston. But if you’re flexible enough, you can find availability in Delta First Class.

Booking the Awards

Alitalia awards are searchable and bookable on delta.com. I’d book right there unless you need to book a mixed cabin award or you are getting an error online, in which case I’d call Delta at 800-323-2323 to book. Unfortunately Delta will charge you a phone booking fee of $25 per ticket. There is no way to hold award space with Delta miles.

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

Getting the Miles

Right now Delta miles are easier than usual to get. Both the personal and business versions of the Delta Gold card are offering 50,000 bonus SkyMiles after spending $2,000 in the first three months. Their $95 annual fees are waived for the first year.

The Delta Platinum card offers 60,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQM (status miles) after spending $2,000 in the first three months. The $195 annual fee is not waived, but it is partially offset by a $100 credit if you make a Delta purchase in the first three months.

These deals end June 30.

CKANbanner_300x250_v6b

Bottom Line

Award space is excellent in 2016 in a very good Business Class product from New York and Boston to Rome and the rest of Italy and Europe. Alitalia Business Class costs 62,500 Delta miles each way plus roundtrip taxes of about $60.

Award space is open for up to three people per flight.

Connections are widely available in Rome, and to a lesser extent within the United States.

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

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.

According to Delta’s SkyMiles FAQs, mixed cabin awards are no longer allowed.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.34.54 PM

Mixed cabin awards used to be explicitly allowed (and indeed this FAQ at a slightly different URL has the old language.)

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.35.00 PM

If mixed cabin awards were totally banned, that would terrible news. I can see three possible maladies:

  1. Delta has “five” cabins: economy, Business, Business Elite, First, and One. Each plane has only two cabins but the front cabin is branded several ways. Not being able to mix First (domestic) and One (international business) onto one award would make international awards nearly impossible and would be a ridiculous policy. This is, emphatically, not what the new prohibition means.
  2. Folks who live in small cities, served by economy-only regional jets would not be able to fly economy to the big city and connect to Delta One (international business). This is also definitely not what the new prohibition means.
  3. If you can’t book a one way award to Europe in economy with the return in Business Class for 92,500 miles, then you’d have to book those two awards separately for 30k + 62.5k. Delta awards originating in Europe (your one way return) incur fuel surcharges, so this will cost you a few hundred bucks extra compared to being able to book as one award! (Plus if you need to cancel later, you pay two cancellation fees!) The new prohibition will cause this situation.

We know that–for all Delta’s confusing branding–there are really only two cabins: economy and business.

A Delta spokesman told View from the Wing: “From a shopping perspective First and Business (Delta One) are one and the same ‘premium cabin’.”

So don’t worry about connecting domestic First Class to international Business Class, that’s only one cabin according to Delta.

We know that one-cabin planes will not cause problems.

A Delta spokesman told Delta Points: “When only Main Cabin is available on a flight segment due to aircraft configuration, that does not break the fare.”

You can confirm this online right now. Here is an award from Philadelphia to Rome via New York-JFK. Philadelphia to New York is operated by a one cabin plane, so the Business Class price of 62,500 miles includes that segment in economy and the transatlantic segment in Alitalia Business Class.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.28.05 PM

You can see that by clicking “Multiple Cabins” above the miles price to get this pop up.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.28.12 PM

And you can confirm the Delta flight only has one cabin by looking at its seat map by clicking “View Seats” below the itinerary’s times.Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.28.33 PM

3. But you cannot book mixed cabin roundtrips online–one way in economy and one in Business.

This is a problem. Say you want to book New York to Rome with the outbound in economy and return in Business Class. You can’t do that online, only both ways in economy for 60,000 miles or both ways in Business for 125,000 miles.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.20.04 PM

You can book each direction as a one way award.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.23.15 PM

The problem is that the return is an award originating in Europe, meaning Delta slaps you with fuel surcharges.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.24.54 PM

While the Alitalia flight I showed above has fuel surcharges of only about $140 + taxes, many awards have fuel surcharges that are a lot higher. Delta from Paris to New York would cost over $340 one way between fuel surcharges and high taxes you can avoid if you read this.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.26.20 PM

At least for now, though, you can book a roundtrip award with one way in economy and one way in Business Class for the proper price by calling Delta at 800-323-2323. I just confirmed that by pricing New York to Rome with one direction in economy and one in Business at 92,500 miles. Who knows how long this loophole will last.

Bottom Line

Delta added scary sounding languages to its frequently asked questions, barring mixed-cabin awards.

Right now, you can still book mixed-cabin roundtrips by phone.

You will always be able to book mixed-cabin awards where one flight is in Business Class, and another flight is in economy on a one-cabin plane. You will always be able to fly all premium cabins no matter how Delta has branded them (eg mixing BusinessElite and One.)

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

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

Follow Me