39

Last updated February 10, 2016 to remove an Aeroplan award that went up in price in December 2015.

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

You can still book RTW trips in 2016, but now the best way is as a series of one way awards across many different programs to take advantage of sweet spots on each airline’s award chart.

In this post, I’ll list some of the cheapest awards, or sweet spots, from each region. When planning your RTW trip in 2016 or beyond, refer to these lists to piece together your trip. For instance, if you know you want to visit South America, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Australia, look under each of those headings to find cheap awards to the next region.

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

Avios & Cash

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

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

Cash

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

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

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

Avios

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

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

Region-to-Region Awards

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

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

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

From United States

To Europe

To Korea or Japan

To China or Southeast Asia

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

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

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

To Hawaii

To Fiji

To Australia/New Zealand

From Europe

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

Intra-Europe

To United States

  • See From United States to Europe above

To Hong Kong

To Middle East/India/Maldives

To South America

To Australia

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

To South Africa

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

Intra-Middle East

To Europe

  • See From Europe to Middle East above

To Australia/New Zealand

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

To East Asia

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

To United States

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

To Australia/New Zealand

To Oceania

To Southeast Asia

From Southeast Asia

Intra-China

Intra-Indonesia

To United States

  • See From United States to China or Southeast Asia

To Europe

  • See From Europe to Hong Kong

To Australia/New Zealand

To North Asia

From South America

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

to United States

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

to Europe

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

Intra-South America

to Central America

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

to Africa

to Australia/New Zealand

From Australia/New Zealand

Intra Australia/New Zealand

To Rest of Oceania

To North America

  • See From North America to Australia/New Zealand and From North America to Fiji above

To South America

  • See From South America to Australia/New Zealand above

To Africa

To Europe

  • See From Europe to Hong Kong

To Southeast Asia

  • See from Southeast Asia to Australia/New Zealand

To North Asia

  • See from North Asia to Australia/New Zealand

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

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

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

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

One of the main reasons why people who don’t know how miles work think that miles are a scam is because they searched award space in the wrong place! For instance, they wanted to use American Airlines miles and searched AA.com. While that sounds logical, that’s often the wrong place to search. BA.com is often the better place to search.

Knowing how to use BA.com is crucial for making award bookings with British Airways Avios and American Airlines AAdvantage miles. As I noted in Where to Search Award Space for All American Airlines Partners, there are many AA partners that are searchable on ba.com but not aa.com.

BA.com shows space on airberlin, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar, Royal Jordanian, S7, SriLankan, and TAM, which is all of Oneworld. Note that BA.com does not show its non-Oneworld partners like Aer Lingus and Alaska Airlines.

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 8.23.23 PM

How Do You Search BA.com for Award Availability?

First, you need to sign up for the British Airways Executive Club to be able search. The link is on the top right of ba.com.

ba.com

Next, you must log in.

After logging in, you will be taken to a page that displays your account information. Along the left side of the screen is a box with a drop down menu where you must select “Book with Avios.”

drop down british

Directly below this box is another box where you type in the details of your potential award trip. The Class dropdown doesn’t matter much because award space in three cabins is shown on the results screen. Segment-by-segment searching is often the best way to yield positive results.

Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 8.36.45 PM

If you’ve selected a route British Airways flies, a screen will pop up asking if you want a stopover. Always select “no.” Because of the way Avios awards price, there is never an advantage to booking a stopover.

no stopovers

Once you select “no” or if you’ve queried a route not served by British Airways, you’ll be brought directly to results.

british results

The results are displayed by airline. British Airways is at the top. Next are direct flights on any airlines. Finally, connecting itineraries are shown.

If your day comes back with no results, you can click on the nearby dates one at a time on the tab at the top of the results screen or move one week at a time.

week ba

To get more info on a flight, click the linked flight number, and a new window will open with pertinent info including the aircraft and flight duration.

ba pop up

To see the price of an award including taxes and fees, bubble in the class you want to fly in.

ba select

The price in Avios plus the cost of all taxes/fees/fuel surcharges will be displayed in red. Underneath will be a link to see more pricing options if you would like to pay fewer Avios in exchange for more cash.

pricing options

For more information and analysis on Cash & Avios options available on Avios award bookings, see Cash & Avios Analysis.

The old version of BA.com used to show you price breakdown of the dollar amount, but the updated site does not. You can put your desired award flight info into ITA Matrix for those details instead. Read this prior post to learn how to use ITA matrix to view and translate the price breakdown of a ticket.

If you want to book the award you found with Avios, enter your credit card info, and you are all set. If you want to book the itinerary with American Airlines miles, note the flight dates, numbers, cabins, and taxes. Call American Airlines at 800-882-8880 and feed the agents the flights you found.

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

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

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

0

I run the MileValue Award Booking Service. We use your miles and your goals to book your dream trip. How does it work? And how can you use an award booking service properly?

  1. Choose one award booking service when you know the who, where, and when
  2. Fill out the submission form thoroughly
  3. Be responsive to email
  4. Enjoy your trip
1. Choose one award booking service when you know the who, where, and when
2. Fill out the submission form thoroughly

There are several award booking services of varying quality. I recommend the MileValue Award Booking Service 😉 because we have been in business for four years, know the ins and outs of every program, are highly responsive and motivated, and we only get paid when we find your dream trip.

While we are happy to give advice about which Business or First Class cabin is the nicest, we don’t like to give destination advice because everyone’s travel tastes are different. Figure out where and when to go on your own. When you know that, fill out our new client form, found here.

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 7.13.32 AM

The most important question on the form is “What flexibility do you have with your cities, dates, and cabins?” Since award seats are not available on every flight, the more flexibility you have, the more likely we can book you something. I think some people are afraid to give flexibility because they want to make sure that their top choices are searched first. That’s why I added the next line: “We will start with your desired cities, dates, and cabins and only use your flexibility if necessary.”

It’s the absolute truth. Tell us in advance your perfect trip and any flexibility you have. We will start with perfection and work out from there through your flexibility.

There are two important caveats about filling in the form:

  1. Don’t fill in the form until 11 months before your desired trip. That’s as far out as most miles can book an award.
  2. Don’t contact more than one award booking service at the same time. It is unfair to make many people work when only will be paid. If some other booking service failed you, feel free to contact us, but we want to be the only ones working on the award at a given time.
3. Be responsive to email

After we get your submission, we follow up with an email to get on the same page with you. That emails sets conditions for a successful award search, so that we are all on the same page. We base the conditions on what you said when you submitted the form. Typical conditions might look like this, with my comments for this blog post in parentheses:

+ 2 passengers (we read this off the form)
+ business class for all legs over 3 hours (you said Business Class, and we write it like this because we don’t want a short hop on a one-cabin plane to derail the whole award)
+ St. Louis to Santiago, Chile roundtrip (we read this off the form)
+ Departing October 19 to 21 (October 20 preferred), returning October 31 or November 1 (see, we really do start with the date you indicated as the ideal–October 20–and work our from there)
+ Maximum of 2 layovers in each direction (we aren’t going to send you a six-stop award and call it a success)
+ Maximum layover of 4 hours (If it is an award to a major city with lots of frequencies, this is a common term. If you want to go to a secondary African city, maybe the maximum possible layover is higher.)
+ Government taxes only, no fuel surcharges (This term is almost always present. If you ask for something that absolutely always has fuel surcharges like Singapore Suites, we will let you know here.)
+ Saver award seats (This term is always present. You came to us to find Saver awards.)

Once we agree on the terms, payment is due when we find an award that meets the terms. We typically won’t collect payment until after the award is booked, but the payment is payable upon finding a bookable award that meets the terms.

The obvious takeaway is that you should not contact us unless you really want to book. If you just want to see what’s out there, but aren’t sure you want to book, we are not the right service.

Once the client agrees to the terms of the search, we search and present the client options that meet the terms until the client selects one that he likes. Since award space changes all the time, the faster you answer our emails the better.

Finally we place the award on hold (typically and ideally), describe step-by-step how to book the award, or book it for the client and have him reimburse us the taxes. If we put the award on hold, we provide the confirmation number and telephone number to call to book the award.

4. Enjoy your trip

You’ve redeemed for the highest value award possible to maximize your miles and minimize your out of pocket expenses like taxes and fuel surcharges. You’re probably flying Business Class in a flat bed to a place you’ve always wanted to go.

Relax and pat yourself on the back for contacting the MileValue Award Booking Service.

Bottom Line

When you want to book an award, and it is less than 11 months before your preferred dates, fill out the submission form to become a client of the MileValue Award Booking Service.

(I know a lot of people are just subscribed to email to receive posts and never visit the actual website. You too should click the link above and fill out the form on the site. Do not just reply to the email full of daily posts.)

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

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

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

3

Open jaw awards are valuable because they allow you to see two cities for the price of one. You can always book American Airlines awards to include one or even two open jaws, right on aa.com.

So, what is an open jaw anyway?

An open jaw happens when the origin of one direction of an award does not match up with the destination of the other. An open jaw can take three forms, the key being that it’s never a complete round trip:Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 1.06.35 PM

  • An open jaw can be a mismatch of the destination of the outbound and the origin of the return. You fly from Houston to Atlanta, then travel by car from Atlanta to Baltimore, and finally fly from Baltimore back home to Houston.
  • An open jaw can be a mismatch of the origin of the outbound and the destination of the return. You fly from Houston to Atlanta, and then fly from Atlanta to Baltimore before returning home to Houston via car.
  • There can be two open jaws; one at the destination and one at the return. You fly from Houston to Atlanta, drive from Atlanta to Baltimore, fly from Baltimore to New York, and finally drive home from New York back to Houston.

An open jaw is always at an endpoint and is NOT a hole in the middle of the trip. For instance, New York to London, then continuing Paris to Johannesburg. Then returning to New York is a hole, not an open jaw.

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 1.07.02 PM

For more read, What is an Open Jaw? How Can an Itinerary Have Two Open Jaws?

Step-by-step booking process

Booking an open jaw on aa.com is very easy. Here are the steps.

1. On the aa.com home page, click “Advanced search” underneath the normal search function.

1st step booking open jaw on aa

2. Choose the AAdvantage Award tab and multi-city bubble. Fill in your desired itinerary.

2nd step booking aa open jaw

3. Choose a date for your first leg with MileSAAver award availability in the cabin you want.

3rd step booking aa open jaw

4. Choose the date of your second leg. The legs do NOT have to be in the same cabin.

4th step booking aa open jaw

5. You will now be presented with multiple itineraries on each date. Choose the one that suits you best for the outbound.

5th step booking aa open jaw

6. Choose the time table for your second leg by clicking on the Flight 2 box on the left side of the screen.6th step booking aa open jaw

7. The final screen will show the total cost of your trip in miles as well as additional fees, taxes, or fuel surcharges. If you want to confirm the booking, sign into your AAdvantage account if you haven’t already and fill out the rest of the necessary personal details.

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 6.25.16 PM

Other Options for Booking an Open Jaw

American Airlines allows one way bookings for half the price of a roundtrip. When an airline allows that, you can always include one or two open jaws per roundtrip just by booking one way awards.

For instance, instead of booking Houston to Atlanta, Baltimore to Houston as one award as shown above, we could book each of those as a one way for the same total price.

What are the advantages of booking as a single open jaw award?

You will save a few minutes on award booking, and if you need to cancel or change the award, you will pay one cancellation/change fee instead of two.

What are the advantages of booking as two one way awards?

You can book one way when it has award space and the other way when it has award space, if both ways don’t have space at the same time.

United? Delta? Alaska? Etc?

United, Delta, Alaska, and most airlines allow one way bookings, meaning you can book an open jaw or double open jaw roundtrip as two one way awards. All three also allow open jaws to be booked as a single award online.

Bottom Line

You can easily book an open jaw on aa.com in seven steps. Consider one for your next trip to see two cities without backtracking for your return.

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard® are each offering 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. Don’t be thrown off by the word “Platinum.” Both cards have no annual fee the first 12 months, and then $95.

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

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

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

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

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

11

I was having lunch with my friend the other day, and we started talking about miles and points. She has some credit cards and has even made a few redemptions, but from the conversation it was clear that there was a lot about our world she didn’t know.

I gave her one homework assignment that I thought would greatly improve her grasp on miles. Maybe the headline is a little strong that completing it will make her an expert, but it will certainly grant her a lot of expertise and put her on a path to being an expert.

The assignment: book Cathay Pacific Business Class from Miami to Hong Kong with American Airlines miles.

Here are the things she will learn by doing this one simple exercise:

  1. Where to search Cathay Pacific and American Airlines award space
  2. How to search ba.com
  3. How to search aa.com
  4. How to book an AA award
  5. American Airlines award booking rules
  6. How to use Wikipedia
  7. How to lead a phone agent
  8. What rules are the same and different with different types of miles
  9. A lot more

Here are the steps she will need to follow, which will teach her all the preceding things.

  1. Figure out where Cathay Pacific flies in the United States by searching Wikipedia.
  2. Figure out how to get to those places from Miami, also on Wikipedia.
  3. Figure out where to search Cathay Pacific award space (and what space there that American Airlines miles can book.)
  4. Figure out where to search American Airlines award space and what cabins she can connect to Cathay Pacific Business Class.
  5. Figure out how to actually book or put on hold the space she has found.

To complete those steps, first she should probably read the Beginning of the Award Booking Manual I released.

  • From Concept 5, she’d learn that she can search Cathay Pacific award space anywhere that it is searchable, and American Airlines should have equal access to that space since generally airlines release their Saver award space equally to all partners.
  • From Concept 7-4, she’d learn that she can connect American Airlines domestic First Class to Cathay Pacific international Business Class for no extra miles.
  • From Concept 6, she’d learn that she must find Saver space on all legs.

Then she can check out my series on redeeming American Airlines miles. In part three, I list where to search award space on all American Airlines partners. She’d learn to search Cathay Pacific space on ba.com, and American Airlines space on aa.com. Here are tutorials on searching aa.com and ba.com.

She could learn which routes to search by reading up on how to use Wikipedia for award searches.

Then she’d actually do the award searching and booking.

I didn’t specify dates. Maybe that will make her search around and try to find the best availability patterns, a very useful thing to know when timing how far in advance to book. She might notice that Cathay Pacific Business Class award space in most available 10-11 months out…

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 12.04.35 PM Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 12.04.41 PMScreen Shot 2015-12-10 at 12.04.35 PM Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 12.05.47 PM

…and within a few days of departure.
Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 12.04.35 PMScreen Shot 2015-12-10 at 12.07.32 PM

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 12.04.35 PM

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 12.07.16 PM

She’d also pick up a few tricks for searching ba.com like always specify one passenger no matter how many are flying because it is the rare website that tells you how many award seats are available in each cabin if you just search for one person. (Note that when there is no number of seats listed, there are 8+ available seats in that cabin.)

On aa.com, she’d learn to specify “non-stop only” on her search results to narrow in on what she wants more quickly. And she could find results like this that line up with search results from ba.com.
Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 12.10.38 PM

American Airlines flight 1510 lands at 12:35 PM at JFK on October 13. That lines up perfectly with the 2:50 PM departure of Cathay Pacific 831. She has found an itinerary that matches her goal.

There may be even better itineraries that connect in Chicago, Los Angeles, Newark, Boston, or San Francisco. Hopefully she’d check all of those to get even more experience searching.

As a side note, if she had done what most beginners do, and gone straight to aa.com, a seemingly logical place to start with American Airlines miles, she would have “learned” there was no Business Class award space from Miami to Hong Kong on October 13. Doing it the right way detailed in this post, though, she found the space easily.

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 12.22.20 PM

Now on to booking it.

She will learn that if you can’t book an award online, you always call the airline whose miles you want to use. This award can’t be booked online with American Airlines miles because Cathay Pacific space isn’t on aa.com.

She would call American Airlines at 800-882-8880, and if she just asked the agent to find her space from Miami to Hong Kong, she’d probably learn that that is very slow and might not even work. The agent might not find what my friend found. She’d learn just to lead the call and tell the agent that she had found specific space that she wanted to book, and she would read the date, cabin, and flight number of the American Airlines and Cathay Pacific flights to the agent.

She’d learn that with American Airlines awards, you can book immediately or put them on a five day hold. She’d learn that the phone fee is waived for American Airlines awards that cannot be booked online.

Are these rules the same for every type of miles? Nope.

If she tried to book China Southern award space with Delta miles, she’d see what rules are basically the same for all awards, and what rules vary. And then she’d basically be an expert on miles and points with the caveat that there is always more to learn.

Bottom Line

The best way to learn about miles and points is through dummy bookings. Give yourself a goal booking, try to do it, and google MileValue posts when you get stuck. Try to do this with all types of miles until you have a good handle on each one.

Congrats! Now you are an expert on redeeming miles which automatically makes you an expert at deciding which miles to accrue.

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

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

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

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

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

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

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

Option 1: Stop in Guatemala City and Santiago

Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 4.34.26 PM

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 3.16.52 PM

With just the last leg in flat bed Business Class, the award is 50,000 United miles.
Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 3.16.58 PM

With the whole thing in economy, the award is 42,500 miles.
Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 3.21.33 PM

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

Option 2: Stop in Colombia and Santiago

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 4.07.24 PM

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 4.27.32 PM Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 4.27.35 PM

Bottom Line

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

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

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

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

1

There is fantastic flat bed Business Class award space for two people on Delta flights to Europe next summer for the Level 1 (on the former, now deleted chart) price of 62,500 SkyMiles each way. That’s a fantastic value with Delta miles, which are the least valuable major mile.

To search for direct award space on Delta flights next summer for two people, I performed searches that looked like this–notice that I ticked “Non Stop” and “Delta Only.”

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 6.22.46 PM

To Europe

New York to London: 32/35 days at Level 1 Price
Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 6.22.58 PM Atlanta to London: 27/35 days at Level 1 PriceScreen Shot 2015-11-04 at 6.23.21 PM

Detroit to London: 20/35 days at Level 1 Price
Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 6.23.36 PM

Detroit to Munich: 22/30 days at Level 1 Price (doesn’t operate on Saturday)
Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 6.24.25 PM

From Europe

There is great space at the Level 1 price leaving London, but the taxes of about $300 per person make that a bad deal for me. There is good space on other routes too. Ignore the taxes of 178 euros. I searched one way, and Delta adds fuel surcharges to awards originating in Europe (roundtrips and one ways). As part of a roundtrip or open jaw from the United States, there would be no fuel surcharges.

Rome to New York: 27/35 days at Level 1 Price
Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 6.25.03 PM

Other Routes, but Not All

There are other routes not mentioned in this post that have good award space. Find one that works for you. This isn’t, however, some general free-for-all on all Delta award space to Europe. Some routes have little-to-no award space to/from Europe in Business Class.

Amsterdam to Atlanta: 5/35 days at Level 1 Price
Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 6.29.13 PM

 

Connections

You can connect in Delta economy or Delta First Class to these flights for zero extra miles as long as you find Level 1 award space on the domestic flights (12,500 for economy and 25,000 for First). You can connect on Air France, KLM, or other European SkyTeam flights throughout Europe in economy of Business for zero extra miles also if you find Saver award space. Here’s how to search segment-by-segment.

 

Bottom Line

Delta miles are the least valuable because of a slightly expensive (secret) award chart and a general lack of availability. However, right now there is great availability in Business Class for two passengers to and from Europe. Jump on it because it probably won’t last.

Hat Tip View from the Wing

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

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

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

20

On roundtrip United awards, you get one free stopover in addition to your destination and up to two open jaws. I’ve given a few examples of how permissive United is in allowing us to combine these rules (1, 2, and 3).

I want to give a lot more examples and a clear structure of how and why to book what I’ll call “Three One Ways Awards.”

What are United Three One Ways Awards?

Imagine a roundtrip United award with a stopover.

  • New York to Frankfurt (stopover)
  • Frankfurt to Delhi (destination)
  • Delhi to New York

This is legal, and a little bit interesting. You get to see Europe for zero extra miles on your award to India. Now imagine that there is an open jaw between the origin (New York) and the final destination.

  • New York to Frankfurt
  • Frankfurt to Delhi
  • Delhi to Los Angeles

This is legal and a little more interesting, but you probably either live in New York or Los Angeles, so there’s little practical benefit.

Now imagine that you keep this structure of a stopover and an open jaw, but throw the idea of flying anything like a roundtrip out the window.

  • New York to Frankfurt
  • Frankfurt to Delhi
  • Delhi to Bangkok

Amazingly this too is legal. And it’s very interesting because it can be part of a New Yorker’s round-the-world or other very BIG trip. This map should make it clear why I call this a Three One Ways Award.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.48.49 AM

The trick is that we book it as a single United “roundtrip” award and not as three one ways. Why?

Well in this example, if you booked all three segments as one way awards, you would pay 90,000 United miles in economy:

  • New York to Frankfurt (30,000)
  • Frankfurt to Delhi (25,000)
  • Delhi to Bangkok (35,000)

If you book the one ways as a single “roundtrip,” you pay 77,500 United miles.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.48.42 AM

  • New York to Frankfurt to Delhi (42,500 with free stopover)
  • Delhi to Bangkok (35,000)

And we can find even bigger discounts and sweeter spots on the United chart.

How to Book a Three One Ways Award

You book Three One Ways Awards on united.com’s advanced search page by selecting “Yes” and “Multi-city” for the second and third questions.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 7.06.55 PM

You may want to select three suitable one ways by using the United award chart . A United Three One Ways Award will touch up to four regions on the chart. Of those four regions, you are specifically looking for three regions such that a one way between A and C is way cheaper than A to B plus B to C.

For instance:

  • A = Japan
  • B = Australia/New Zealand
  • C = Oceania

A to B is 22,500 miles. B to C is 22,500 miles. So A to B plus B to C is 45,000 miles. A to C is only 12,500 miles, so getting a free stopover in B as part of a Three One Ways Award would be a huge savings.

Unfortunately you don’t decide on a Three One Ways Award what is the destination and what is the stopover. I tried to book Seoul to Tokyo to Auckland to the Cook Islands to take advantage of the huge discount I just mentioned between Japan and Oceania.

If I could choose the stopover, I’d make it Auckland and have the destination be Tokyo. Then the award would be 27,500 miles (Seoul to Tokyo is 15,000 and Tokyo to Cook Islands is 12,500.)copy

 

Unfortunately United’s computer made Auckland the destination and Tokyo the stopover. That made the award 42,500 miles (Seoul to Auckland is 20,000 and Auckland to Cook Islands is 22,500.)

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 2.45.11 AM

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 8.06.28 PM

United open jaws can only be at the destination or origin, so I tried to force the destination to be in Japan by changing the award to:

  • Seoul to Fukuoka (open jaw in Japan to force it to be the destination)
  • Tokyo to Auckland
  • Auckland to Cook Islands

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 2.52.06 AM

Unfortunately I got an error online. I need to call in to attempt to book this award. When I call in, I’ll either be told the award is illegal or costs 27,500 miles I believe.
Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 8.07.23 PM

Weird Prices During Booking

The final miles price of the entire roundtrip award will always make sense as the sum of two one way awards, but while booking, some funny award prices will show up. Like this part of the award pricing at 21.3k miles or another time I saw awards listed for 0 miles.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.46.49 AM

Those are caused by United arbitrarily assigning a portion of a one way award price to the parts before and after the stopover. The above screenshot is taken from the New York to Frankfurt to Delhi to Bangkok example. The 21.3k miles represents 21,250 or half of the 42,500 mile price from the United States to India.

The Rest of Your Trip

Three One Way Awards should be part of a bigger, perhaps round-the-world, trip. You can fly the three one ways to your home airport, from your home airport, or somewhere in the middle.

These awards should be combined with other sweet spot awards that I’ve compiled in this post.

Examples

Los Angeles to Honolulu to Bangkok to Sydney

United’s computer sees this as Los Angeles to Bangkok (stopover in Honolulu) with a return of Bangkok to Sydney. It is 17,500 miles cheaper to book all of this as a roundtrip award in economy than as three separate awards.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.44.55 AM

Since the award breaks in Bangkok, that means you can take advantage of the way-too-cheap United awards from Southeast Asia to Australia (Thai First Class for 40,000 miles.)

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.43.49 AM

Economy for the first two thirds and First Class to Australia is 80,000 miles total.Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.44.21 AMNew York to Munich to Kigali to Sao Paulo

In economy, this would be 90,000 United miles as three one ways or 70,000 miles as a Three One Ways Award.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 10.44.20 AM

Because Africa to South America is such a steal in Business Class (45k miles one way), I decided to book that leg in Business Class.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 10.45.22 AM The first two thirds of the trip in economy and the last third in Business Class is just 85,000 United miles. Booking as one award saves 20,000 miles.Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 10.45.42 AM Houston to Panama City to Lima to Buenos Aires

Just booking Houston to Buenos Aires is 30,000 miles in economy. Booking each leg individually would be 47,500 miles. Book all this as a Three One Ways Award for 37,500 miles.

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 10.47.26 AM

United considers the destination on this award to be Panama City.Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 10.48.49 AM It’s a little more expensive if you get United to consider the destination to be Peru, which you can do by adding an open jaw there.Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 10.51.39 AM The price jumps to 40,000 miles if the destination is Cuzco.
Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 10.51.49 AM

 

Failed Online Attempts

Sometimes throwing an open jaw into the award in an attempt to pick the destination caused an error that looked like this.
Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 10.55.36 AM I failed to book Los Angeles to Guam, Tokyo to Auckland to Fiji online.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 10.55.56 AM
I also failed to book New York to Munich to Zurich, Brussels to Kigali online.

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 10.41.56 AM

I think these awards would be bookable by phone. More research is needed.

Bottom Line

You can use the free stopover on roundtrip United awards as intended for an en route stopover, to set up a free one way, or as part of a Three One Ways Award.

The Three One Ways Award is a useful way to string together three one ways onto a single award for massive miles savings.

Post some great Three One Way Award opportunities in the comments. Make sure to include:

  1. The cities involved
  2. How many miles total in the cabin you’d want to fly
  3. How many miles you’d save over booking three awards
  4. Whether your dummy booking on united.com was successful
  5. What united.com chose as the destination and the stopover
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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

1

United now shows its award routing rules online. (Dummy) book an award, and on the page where you review your complete award itinerary, click “View fare rules and restrictions.”

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.53.40 AM You will get a very long list of the award rules that pertain to your award ticket. Some are interesting like the blackout dates for Asiana flights to and from the United States…Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.54.10 AM

 

…or the list of co-terminal airports, such that you can fly into one and out of another without it counting as an open jaw.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.56.52 AM

Some are useful to have in writing like the fact that you get four transfers per direction of an award (ie five segments), since some agents try to tell you that you only get four segments per direction.

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.54.42 AMSome are nearly incomprehensible. I really don’t understand any of the “FLT APPLICATION” rule, which actually goes on for much longer than this excerpt.
Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.54.21 AM

Posting the rules doesn’t give us much new information because we have already pieced the rules together from booking many awards and seeing what was allowed and what wasn’t. But it’s a good development that I wish every airline would follow. All award rules should be easily accessible, so we can figure out how to get maximum value from our miles.

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

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

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

6

How many miles would it cost to book a United award in economy from Aruba to Panama City to Bogota to the Galapagos with stops for as long as you’d like in each place? Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 3.33.36 AM

 

There is a layover in Quito, but that doesn’t affect the price. For reference, this single award would look something like this:Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 3.33.46 AM

 

 

This award costs only 20,000 United miles. As you can see from United’s award chart, travel within the Caribbean, Central America, and Northern South America is only 10,000 miles each way in economy.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 1.00.22 AM Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 1.00.39 AM Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 1.00.52 AM

 

United allows one stopover per “roundtrip award.” United allows two open jaws per roundtrip award, and is very permissive about those open jaws. Combined, you can pretty much put together any three one way awards into a roundtrip award.

As seen above, I put three itineraries that would cost 10,000 United miles each, and they cost me 20,000 miles total. 1 + 1 + 1 = 3, but for United 10,000 + 10,000 + 10,000 can equal 20,000. I’ll have another post soon exploring some awards you can book to take advantage of United’s stopover and open jaw rules when you have no interest in a roundtrip award.

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

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

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 6.25.24 PM

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 5.42.19 PM

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

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 5.43.29 PM

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 5.44.18 PM

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

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

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

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

Kuala Lumpur to Delhi for $187 (economy)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

London to Madrid for $36 (economy)

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 5.52.13 PM

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

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

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

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

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

Total Cost

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

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

How to Get the Miles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Book the Awards

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

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

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

Choose Your Own Adventure

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

 

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

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

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

6

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.

 

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

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

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

7

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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

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

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

I’m 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.

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  • 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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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

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

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

5

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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

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

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

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