Trick

2 542

Through tomorrow (May 26, 2015), British Airways is offering a 40% bonus on the purchase of Avios. The biggest bonus ever offered on the purchase of Avios was 50% in February 2015, so this is a big bonus.

Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 2.19.15 PM

The maximum Avios you can purchase in a year is normally 35,000, but is being raised to 100,000 during this promotion. With a 40% bonus, that means you can add 140,000 Avios to your account. Americans are being offered those Avios for 1.98 cents each, but with one simple trick, you can drop the price to 1.44 cents per Avios!

The Trick

If you set your British Airways account address to a country that uses the euro, say France, you will be sold Avios in euros instead of dollars. The euro price for buying Avios is way cheaper!

The cost to purchase 140,000 Avios for people with an American address is $2,775 or 1.98 cents per Avios. The cost to purchase 140,000 Avios for people with a euro-area address is $2,016 (1,800 euros) or 1.44 cents each. You save more than 25% just for changing your address.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 4.56.45 PM

To change your address, click “Manage my account under Executive Club on any page.
Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 12.35.52 PM

Click “Update my personal information” on the left side of the screen.

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 12.36.16 PM

Give an address in a euro-using country.Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 12.38.40 PM

Hit Continue about three times. The first time I tried to make the change, I stopped a screen short. You’ll know if you have succeeded because when you go back to the Purchase Miles screen, you will be offered the Avios in euros.

If you buy fewer Avios, the price is a bit higher. For instance, buying 14,000 (10k + 4k bonus) Avios results in a price of 1.60 cents per Avios.

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 3.02.51 PM

If you purchase in euros, make sure you use a card that charges no foreign transaction fees like the Citi Prestige® Card. You should also probably pay with a MasterCard instead of a Visa (again like the Citi Prestige.)

Does Putting Your Account in France Mess Up Points Transfers?

After setting my account to France, I initiated a 1,000 Ultimate Rewards transfer to my British Airways account that was already stored on chase.com. The transfer went through instantly as usual, so changing your address doesn’t appear to mess this up.Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 12.46.45 PMScreen Shot 2015-02-24 at 12.46.53 PM

Eventually you can change your Avios account address back to your home address, but British Airways makes you wait six months between address changes. However I have had my address in France for over a year now, and I seem to be offered better deals for mileage sales and Cash & Avios awards, so I see no reason to change my address back to the United States.

Is This a Good Deal?

The best uses of Avios are short, direct, economy flights on partners without fuel surcharges.

At 1.44 cents per Avios, domestic (including Hawaii) one way awards that cost XXX Avios plus $5.60 in taxes one way would cost:

Those are pretty good deals. I’ve seen cheaper with cash on every route, and I’ve also seen a lot more expensive.

The bottom line with all miles sales is that they are a good deal if you have an immediate, high value use for the miles, and a poor deal otherwise.

Bottom Line

You have until tomorrow (May 26) to get a big bonus on purchasing Avios. Ignore the 1.98 cent price for Americans. Anyone with a euro-zone address on file with British Airways and a no-foreign-transaction-fee credit card can get the Avios for 1.44 cents each. The sales are consummated by points.com, so there is no bonus for an airline or travel purchase on your credit card.

The best deals with Avios are short, direct, economy flights on routes/airlines without fuel surcharges. That includes all domestic flights and all these flights.

------------------------------------------------------------

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.

57 12131

Update: I used this trick successfully. Here was my experience.

As I led a session at the Chicago Seminars this weekend on “Special Awards,” someone chimed in with an intriguing tip:

There is a simple method to avoid the $75 “close in ticketing fee” on United awards that is triggered when you try to book a ticket within 21 days of departure.

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 8.03.21 AM

I tested out the proposed method yesterday, and I have some input on how it works. (The trick does work!)

  • How can you save $75 per ticket on your next last minute United award?
  • What number do you need to call?

Facts

  • “Booking a MileagePlus award ticket through any channel, less than 21 days before departure” incurs a fee of $75 per ticket. This fee is reduced or waived depending on your status.
  • You can make free changes or cancellations of your United award within 24 hours of ticketing by phone or online. This is designed as a safety valve if you make a mistake in the initial ticketing, but you can use the free changes and cancellations however you’d like.

The Proposed Trick

If you want to book a United award within 21 days of departure, book the same flight for 1+ months in the future, then immediately call in to change it to within 21 days of departure. No close in ticketing fee will be charged.

My Test

I tested out the trick with a simple one way award from Kona to Honolulu on Hawaiian Airlines. The award normally costs 6,000 United miles + $5.60. Note that there is nothing special that made me choose this award except that it is the cheapest award on the United chart. If this test succeeds, all other awards should be the same.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 9.24.26 AM

Within 21 days of departure, this award costs 6,000 United miles + $80.60 because of the $75 close in ticketing fee.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 9.22.12 AM

I decided to book the ticket for March 31, 2015 for 6,000 miles + $5.60 and to try to change in to October 31, 2014 without paying the close in ticketing fee. I booked March 31 online in just a few seconds.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 9.26.32 AMScreen Shot 2014-10-20 at 9.28.27 AM

Then I called the number for United web support. They can make award changes, I rarely have to wait on hold, and the Houston-based agents are good. In this case, too good.

I told the agent I wanted to change an award and gave her the confirmation number. I gave her the flight information for the October 31 flight, and she quickly made the change. She told me that since I was changing to a flight within 21 days of departure, there would be a $75 close in ticketing fee! Failure!

I thanked her and told her I would prefer to just keep my original itinerary before disconnecting.

From my knowledge of changing United awards, I suspected that agents have to remember to collect this fee on changes. I suspected calling a less competent agent might get me around the fee.

I called United back at its general 800-UNITED-1 number. I asked the next agent to change me to the same October 31 flight.

First she said that there was no award space even though there is award space on over a dozen Kona-to-Honolulu flights on October 31. This was a great sign; she seemed incompetent! I asked her to look again since I could see the space online.

Eventually she found the space and made the change. She noted that I had booked my award within the last 24 hours, so changes were free. She never mentioned any additional $75 charge. Success!

Inside my United account, my ticket had been updated to the October 31 flight.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 10.52.29 PM

United agents won’t charge you an additional fee without getting your credit card info again or at least confirming which stored credit card you want to charge, but just to double check that no $75 charge had been snuck onto my credit card, I signed into my credit card account.

A pending charge for $5.60 in taxes on the award was present, but no $75 charge was present.

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 8.33.37 AM

Aftermath

I went into my online account and cancelled the award altogether to get my 6,000 United miles and $5.60 back. The $5.60 will post back to my credit card within a week or two. The miles re-posted to my account instantly.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 10.53.02 PM Bottom Line on the Trick

The trick to avoiding the $75 close in ticketing fee on United awards–booking farther out and changing it close in within 24 hours of booking–works. I wish I had gotten the name of the person who gave everyone the tip.

The trick works because phone agents have to remember to charge you the $75 close in ticketing fee, and only well trained agents will remember to do that. If your agent remembers, thank her for her time, and tell her you have decided not to make the change. I think very few agents at the 800-UNITED-1 number will remember to charge you the $75.

If you liked this post, you will also like:

------------------------------------------------------------

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 1012

You can only get the bonus on American Express credit and charge cards once per lifetime. If you haven’t kept detailed records of all your past American Express cards, how do you know whether you’ve gotten a card before, meaning you can NOT get its bonus now, or whether you haven’t had it before, meaning you CAN get the bonus?

This question has come from several readers recently since the SPG personal and business cards have their highest ever bonuses of 35,000 Starpoints.

Request a List from AMEX Chat

To get a list of previous American Express cards, sign into your American Express account and click Help.

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 1.24.04 PM

Then click Start Live Chat.Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 1.24.11 PM

Ask the rep for a list of all cards you have opened with American Express. She will start to list them one at a time.Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 1.40.39 PM

This seems to involve some skill beyond copying and pasting on her part as she missed one of my cards, but when I pointed it out, she found it.

Hat Tip Renes Points

------------------------------------------------------------

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.

7 622

Award space is wide open in Turkish Airlines Business Class between the United States and Europe for four people per flight over the heart of the Summer.

This is amazing news because normally award space over the summer is the toughest to find, finding four seats on the same flight in Business Class is almost unheard of, Turkish flies to more countries than any other airline, and you can book the space for as cheap as 40,000 miles one way with no fuel surcharges.

Turkish Routes

These are Turkish’s routes to the United States.

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 8.33.44 PMFrom Istanbul, there are great connections within Europe, to Africa, to the Middle East, and to the Indian Subcontinent.

Award Space

Unfortunately, United made united.com worse, so I can’t isolate the direct award space.

All these calendars show award space for four people. Green and blue days have four Business Class seats, not necessarily on the direct Turkish flight (but probably.)

Boston to Istanbul

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 5.34.26 PM Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 5.34.43 PMLos Angeles to IstanbulScreen Shot 2016-01-19 at 5.51.51 PM Istanbul to New YorkScreen Shot 2016-01-19 at 5.56.07 PM Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 5.56.11 PM

Check the route that most interests you for award space. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Product

Here is the “catch.” Turkish’s Business Class is 2-3-2 across each row. That’s a terrible configuration. You could get a middle seat in Business Class (although you almost certainly won’t if you select a seat soon after booking.) Seat Guru describes the seats as having 177 degrees of recline, which is basically flat.

Here is a recent video of Turkish Business Class.

Other than the seats, Turkish Business Class looks top notch, including having an onboard chef.

Searching, Connections, Booking

Search Turkish award space on united.com. Any Turkish award space you find there, you can book with any Star Alliance miles.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 9.14.50 PM

If you don’t live in a city served by Turkish, that’s no problem. You can hook up any United Saver award space in economy or first class to get to a Turkish gateway for no extra miles. If you want to connect to somewhere else in Europe or to Africa or Asia, you can definitely do that too, though other continents will cost extra miles.

Book online on the website of the airline whose miles you want to use, or if that’s not possible, by calling the airline whose miles you want to use. I’d recommend booking with:

Bottom Line

No excuses for not taking your whole family to Europe this summer in Turkish Business Class.

Hat Tip View from the Wing

------------------------------------------------------------

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.

4 1307

British Airways is happy to handle a number of transactions in dollars, pounds, or euros. Each transaction has a fixed price in each currency instead of a dynamic one that changes with exchange rates, so at the moment transactions in euros are way cheaper than transactions in dollars and pounds.

What currency you’re charged depends on what country you list as your residence, so I explained yesterday how to set your address to France to save about 25% on buying Avios.

The Free-quent Flyer (remember he did an awesome Manufactured Spending extra for my e-book) asked whether changing your address results in cheaper Cash & Avios awards on Twitter.

On almost all Avios awards you are given six payment choices that range from all of the Avios you are supposed to pay for the award down to about a third of the Avios. When you use fewer Avios, you have to pay more cash. Here is an example of the six price options for a one way award from New York to Berlin on airberlin:

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 11.35.36 AM

Free-quent Flyer was asking if the cash component was lower in euros than in dollars. I told him that it definitely was, but I didn’t have data.

He answered his own question, saying he would have saved $100 on a previous Cash & Avios award he booked if his account had been in euros instead of dollars.

So there is no reason not to put your British Airways account in euros right now; you’ll be able to buy miles cheaper and be given cheaper Cash & Avios options with no negative changes associated with switching. Here’s how to switch.

How cheap are the Cash & Avios options once you put your account in euros? Commenter Charles points us to a German-language post on the subject. It is a very good post, and Google Translate in Google Chrome translated it perfectly except for the charts, but you can pretty easily figure out that this chart is showing the price of “buying” Avios during a Cash & Avios award booking. It shows all nine Avios price bands (eg 4,500 Avios is band 1 and 12,500 Avios is band 4) and all six options for Cash & Avios awards at each price band.

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 11.19.08 AM
From http://meilenoptimieren.com/executive-club-tutorial-praemienflug-buchen-avios-and-money/

Note that the prices are in euro cents. Right now 0.82 euros = $0.89.

Do check out the whole German post; it is really good. And do set the address on your British Airways account to somewhere in the euro-area. This trick will help you use Avios much more efficiently. I love Avios for short, direct, economy flights. Read more about Avios and the best Avios uses here.

------------------------------------------------------------

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.

24 3219

Update 2/12/16: United brought back the nonstop calendar. The single column for Saver and Standard economy space remains.

I covered two months ago why the new united.com stinks for award searching. My biggest complaint is that even if you specify a “nonstop only” search, the search calendar does not show you nonstop only results.

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 12.55.12 PM

I used to be able to see space on a route for two months at a time on united.com, now I can see it one day a time. As a professional award booker, anything that makes searching slower is something I don’t like.

Luckily there is a way to get the old united.com and its better search results to load.

  1. Open up Private or Incognito Browsing
  2. Type ual.com into the URL box.

Here’s how to open Private or Incognito Browsing on Firefox, Chrome, and Safari.

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 12.53.05 PM Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 12.53.11 PM Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 12.54.09 PM

Then go to ual.com, and you’ll get the uglier but better old united.com.

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 12.55.33 PMPerform a search like San Francisco to Delhi nonstop, and you’ll get a calendar like this of nonstop availability. It’s a thing of beauty (the space and the fact that I can see two months at once)!
Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 12.54.43 PM

Type the same search into the new united.com, and you get this garbage calendar, which doesn’t answer your query about direct award space at all. Instead “[t]he calendar reflects all flight options” including connecting options that you specifically don’t want to see.Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 12.55.42 PM

------------------------------------------------------------

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 1549

Emirates offers First and Business Class passengers free chauffeur service to and from the airport. I took advantage with rides to Auckland’s airport and from Sydney’s airport in 2013.

Starting in January 2015, Emirates restricted chauffeur service to First and Business Class passengers whose tickets were issued by Emirates or Qantas.

The best way for travel hackers to book Emirates First and Business Class ticket is with Alaska Airlines miles, meaning Alaska issues the ticket. That means, by the rules, no chauffeur service. But One Mile at a Time reports a trick to get free chauffeur service in Dubai that works sometimes:

Upon landing in Dubai, follow signs for Emirates Chauffeur Drive Services and request a chauffeur there at the airport. Commenters reported some successes and some failures.

I decided to try it out when I landed in Dubai yesterday, having flown Emirates First Class from Zurich (trip report to follow.) After clearing customs, you see huge signs that point you to the right for a chauffeur or to the left to exit. I headed right and to the First Class desk inside the chauffeur area. I presented my ticket with a smile and said I’d like a ride to my hotel.

A minute later she was handing me a slip to hand to the driver for my free ride. Success!

It did seem to take her an extra thirty seconds to print my ticket because someone else showed up next to me after me and had his slip printed before mine. I speculate that maybe she had to override something on the computer on my behalf.

This trick will not work 100% of the time, and maybe Emirates will shut it down completely, but for now, there is a chance to get a free ride from the Dubai airport on an Alaska award ticket. I don’t know of a similar way to get a ride to the Dubai airport, nor do I know of a way to get rides to/from any other airport on an Alaska award ticket.

If you try this out, make sure you have a backup transportation plan. Share your results in the comments.

 

------------------------------------------------------------

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.

12 1274

I just flew an award that saw me fly four flights in four days between four countries. The award cost 15,000 United miles + $73.

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 11.44.03 AM

  • How much can you really do in 23 hours in a city?
  • How much time is eaten up traveling?
  • What are the costs of getting to and from the airport?
  • What happens with your bags?

United has a bit of a loophole that you can fly four segments within Europe for 15,000 miles if you are never on the ground for more than 23:59 between flights. In April, I booked myself this four-segment routing from Bucharest to Zurich, and I flew it this week.

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 2.54.22 PM

While I normally like to travel slowly–I had just spent three weeks in Bucharest and four in Belgrade–I also like to mix in this rapid travel from time to time. My theory is that I can do 1-3 awesome things in each place and gauge quickly and cheaply whether I’d like to come back for a longer future trip (Dubrovnik) or whether I’ve seen enough (Brussels.)

How Much Can You Really Do In 23 Hours?

Athens in 22:10

I had 22 hours in Athens. I arrived to my hostel just before 11 PM and went to the rooftop bar for a drink. The rooftop had an amazing view of the lit Acropolis, and I enjoyed meeting a few other solo travelers. The bartender sent me off in the direction of nightlife, but I got lost, and just enjoyed wandering around a bit. I got a good feeling for the atmosphere of Athens on a summer evening.

In the morning I set off on a 2.5 hour “free” (plus gratuity) walking tour of the variety that is now in pretty much every European city. It was an interesting overview of the historical sites, though we didn’t enter any. When the tour ended, I finally went into some sites: the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Acropolis Museum, the Acropolis (Parthenon), and the Ancient Agora.

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 2.49.32 PM

Then I had some awesome Indian takeaway for a very late lunch and headed to the airport.

I think Athens is a great place for a 23 hour layover. You can easily see many of the main historical sites, have some Greek food, and drink a little ouzo.

Dubrovnik in 20:05

I had 20 hours in Dubrovnik. I got to my hostel around 10 PM and headed into the Old Town, which is one of the most beautiful places on Earth for a stroll. Two years ago I had cliff jumped at sunset, so I wanted to cliff jump at sunrise. I went to the bar–I think it is just called Cold Drinks–that you have to pass through to get to the cliff jumping rocks. They said their gate wouldn’t open until 8 AM, so my sunrise cliff jump plans were shelved. I headed to bed and set my alarm for 10 AM.

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 3.09.54 PM

I jumped for three hours the next day, making friends with the other travelers and locals who were cycling through to test their nerve on the 6 to 14 meter cliffs.

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 2.49.11 PM

At around 1 PM, I went for lunch and then took a bus back to the airport.

Dubrovnik is perfect for me for a 23 hour layover. For others, it might not be as good of a fit, but you’ll definitely have enough time to wander the Old Town, walk its walls, take a Game of Thrones tour, have a night out, and maybe even cliff jump.

Zagreb in 19:05

I had 19 hours in Zagreb. I got to the hostel and showered for a Friday night out, which was my top priority. I met up with MileValue reader Max, and we spent the evening drinking pivo in front of a bar packed with locals overflowing onto the street in front.

It was a late night, and in the morning I headed straight back to the airport.

Zagreb is not really the best place for a 23 hour layover because there isn’t that one big thing you can check off in under a day like you could in, say, Paris or Amsterdam or Athens. But I enjoyed myself.

Travel Time and Cost

Including my Uber to the Bucharest airport, my flight to Athens, and the metro to my hostel in Athens, I was traveling for 4:50 on the first day. I paid $11 for the Uber and $16 for the roundtrip metro in Athens.

Including the metro to the airport, the flight to Dubrovnik, and a taxi to my hostel, I spent 4:15 minutes traveling the second day. I split a way-overpriced taxi to Dubrovnik–my share was $19–instead of using the $5 bus because it wasn’t leaving for another 40 minutes. I took the $5 bus back.

Including the bus to the airport, the flight to Zagreb, the bus to the city, and a 2 km walk to my hostel, I traveled 4:40 the third day. The bus in Zagreb is $4 each way.

Including the walk, bus to the airport, flight to Zurich, and train to my host’s house, I spent 4:15 traveling on the fourth day. The train was $7.

My travel time averaged about four and a half hours per day. My total airport transportation costs were $66 plus the $73 in taxes on my award.

What Happens with Your Bags?

I am traveling with one checked bag because I am carrying my tennis rackets around the world. I didn’t want to have to collect it and re-check it in every city because that would eat into my time. Luckily I didn’t have to.

At the Bucharest airport, I pro-actively asked the agent: “Can you check this bag all the way to Zurich?” She asked if I was sure I wanted it to go all the way there instead of getting it in Athens. I confirmed that I didn’t want to see the bag again until the end of the four flights, and I had packed in such a way that I didn’t need anything in the checked bag for the next few days.

She printed a baggage sticker with all four flights and affixed it to my bag.

She could only check me in for my first two segments (the ones within 24 hours), so I had to check in again in Dubrovnik to get boarding passes 3 and 4.

When I checked in in Dubrovnik, the agent asked where my checked bag was. I said that I hadn’t seen it since Bucharest and didn’t expect to see it until Zurich. She said it was not on the plane or in the system. She suggested I go to Lost Baggage. I said that I would deal with it in Zurich, since I didn’t consider it lost unless /until it failed to show up at the end of the trip.

In Zurich, the bag failed to show up, as I was anticipating based on my conversation in Dubrovnik. I went to the Swissport lost baggage center and filed a claim. They gave me a receipt for my claim, some forms to fill out if the bag were still lost in three days, and a free amenity kit.

A few hours later, I got a call that the bag was found, and it was delivered to me.

I recommend traveling without a checked bag on these itineraries. If you must have one, you can check it to the end or collect it at each stop. If you check it to the end, they may lose it, but you’ll probably get it eventually.

Bottom Line

I wouldn’t want to fly every day, but it’s fun for a few days. If you are planning a two week trip the Europe, why not spend five days in each of two cities and break that up with one of these four-segment awards? They are cheap, fun, and you can accomplish a lot in 23 hours minus travel time.

 

------------------------------------------------------------

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.

24 3631

United is putting a 787-9 Dreamliner on its all of its routes to Australia by March 26, 2016. United currently flies the 787-9 on its Los Angeles to Melbourne route and 777s on its San Francisco and Los Angeles to Sydney routes.

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 12.18.51 PM

There is great economy award space on the Sydney routes after the operating aircraft switches to a Dreamliner, but very little Business Class space. There is, however, a trick to increase your chances of getting Business Class award space on the Dreamliner to Australia.

United 787-9 Dreamliner

The United 787-9 Dreamliner has 48 beds in Business class in a 2-2-2 configuration. In 2-2-2 configurations, I always 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

New Routes

Los Angeles to Sydney switches to a Dreamliner on March 26, 2016.

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 11.50.33 PM

San Francisco to Sydney switches to a Dreamliner on March 25, 2016.

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 12.53.13 PM

Both flights are 15 hour redeyes. Both returns are 14 hour redeyes that take off around midday.

Award Space Picture

Los Angeles to Sydney

Award space is fantastic in economy, and five days in the Spring (their Winter) have Business Class award space.

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 11.49.49 PMScreen Shot 2015-09-01 at 11.50.04 PM

Sydney to Los Angeles

Award space is fantastic in economy and three days have Business Class award space.

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 11.53.17 PMScreen Shot 2015-09-01 at 11.53.31 PM

San Francisco to Sydney

Economy award space is slightly worse, and there is no Business Class award space.

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 11.54.54 PMScreen Shot 2015-09-01 at 11.55.11 PM

Sydney to San Francisco

Just like the San Fran to Sydney flight, very good economy award space, no Business Class space.

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 11.55.59 PMScreen Shot 2015-09-01 at 11.56.12 PM

Four People

All the above calendars were for one person. The award space hardly changes if you change the search to four people.

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 1.04.13 PM

How to Fly Business Class on the Dreamliner

So little Saver award space is released on the Dreamliner in Business Class that if you really want to fly it, I’d recommend using United Plan B.

The basics of Plan B are that:

  1. You book United-operated flights with United miles. In this case, you can book from your home airport to Australia in economy for 40,000 United miles one way or 80,000 United miles roundtrip. I repeat: Plan B only works when redeeming United miles for United-operated flights.
  2. You call United and ask to be waitlisted for a higher cabin on the flights you booked.
  3. The agent takes extra miles from your account as if you were confirmed in the higher cabin. In this case, that would be an extra 30,000 miles each way, since United Business Class to Australia is 70,000 miles.
  4. You are given top priority on the waitlist as if you were displaced Business Class passenger. That means you have higher priority than attempted upgraders.
  5. Since United rarely (ever?) sells all 48 beds on its Dreamliner to Australia, and you are at the top of the upgrade list, you are very likely to fly Business Class.
  6. If you don’t fly Business Class, you are refunded the extra miles (30,000 each way in this case) that you paid at the time of being waitlisted.

This is an ideal route for a Plan B award because economy award space is so wide open, the Business Class product is good quality and fairly priced, and the Business Class cabin is so large that an upgrade seems very likely.

Here are the first hand experiences of other people who have booked Plan B awards.

How to Get United Miles

The United personal, business, and Club cards plus the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus all earn United miles.

Bottom Line

United is moving its newest plane the 787-9 Dreamliner to all of its Australia routes by the end of winter. Economy award space is fantastic for 4+ people, but Business Class space is rarely available for even a single person.

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 1.21.16 PM

Use United Plan B awards to turn an economy award magically into a flat bed.

 

------------------------------------------------------------

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.

16 4298

Until a few weeks ago, you could change the payment currency on Airbnb to the host’s currency. That saved you Airbnb’s ridiculous 3% currency conversion fee. As long as you paid with a no-foreign-transaction-fee credit card, you got the conversion done for a 0% fee.

Since I’ve spent most of the year in Airbnb properties, that saves me a lot of money.

Then Airbnb took that option away. It looked like a pure cash grab, and certainly the Airbnb Twitter team had no explanation for why the option to pay in the host’s currency was taken away.

Luckily there is still a way to avoid the 3% junk fee that Twitter user @SterlingTravelr nails.

At the bottom of the Airbnb home page, change the currency to the currency of the host before searching.

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 10.40.08 PM

I changed the currency to Brazilian Real and did a search in Brazil. Search results were in Real. When I selected a property and went to the payment screen, I saw a price of 150 Real.

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 10.37.32 PM

The fine print clearly says that I’ll actually pay dollars, but no exchange commission is listed. And 150 Real equals $43, what I’ll be charged, so no 3% commission is being charged either.

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 10.42.18 PM

By contrast, if I reset the currency on the home page to dollars, the property is going for $48. (The “Coupon,” the low prices, and the fact that $43 and $48 are more than 3% apart are because I have earned some referral credits. If you sign up for Airbnb through my referral link, you’ll get $25 off your first stay, and I’ll get $25 off my next stay. Feel free to leave your referral link in the comments.)
Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 10.39.55 PMThe fine print clearly indicates a 3% conversion fee.

Bottom Line

On the home page, set the currency to your host’s currency. You will still pay in your local currency but avoid the conversion fee.

It’s weird that Airbnb tried to make this cash grab while leaving a backdoor open. This could be shut at any time.

In the meantime, here are Three Ways to Save on Airbnb that are very unlikely to end. Here’s How Airbnb Works.

————————————————————————————————————
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 and free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

------------------------------------------------------------

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 3534

United allows you to book trips to and from ZFV, Philadelphia’s 30th St. train station. Such fares include flights to or from Newark and trains from there to Philadelphia.

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 2.07.42 PM

Because in the short term an airline’s ticket prices have more to do with competition from other airlines than anything else, United often sells tickets to ZFV for cheaper than flights to Newark, even when the trip to ZFV is the same flights to Newark plus a train ride. This presents an intriguing hidden city ticketing option, doubly intriguing because you have to collect any checked bags in Newark.

Hidden city ticketing is the practice of booking a ticket with a connection and planning to fly only to the intermediate connection point. Hidden city ticketing can save you a lot of money when flights to your real destination are expensive, flights to your fake destination are cheaper, and you can book tickets to the fake destination with a connection at the real destination.

For example if you want to fly from Baltimore to Chicago and the fare is $200 one way, but you find Baltimore to Milwaukee with a connection in Chicago for $150 one way, you can buy Baltimore to Milwaukee and just leave the airport in Chicago $50 richer than you would have been if you had booked a ticket to Chicago.

Hidden city ticketing is not illegal, but airlines don’t like it. In the past, United sued a website that searched for hidden city tickets. (The case was thrown out on procedural grounds; I also think United would lose on the merits.) I’ll have more hidden city caveats as they apply to ZFV fares at the end of the post.

Cheap ZFV Fares

Philadelphia is an American Airlines/US Airways hub with a lot of direct flights on the airline. Most United itineraries to Philadelphia, by contrast, will have a layover at a United hub. People don’t like layovers, so United needs to price these connecting itineraries attractively to compete with American Airlines/US Airways direct flights.

Similarly, United has a fortress hub at Newark with direct flights from all over the country. If someone flies to Newark, they will want to fly United because of the much better schedule United has compared to other carriers at the airport. So United has some pricing power at the airport.

That’s why we often see that United charges more for a direct flight from somewhere to Newark than for that same flight plus a train ticket to Philadelphia.

Example: One Way from Las Vegas

This is a calendar of only United-marketed itineraries (I’ll explain how to get it below) from Las Vegas to Philadelphia’s train station in September. There are a lot of days including Fridays and Satrudays for $125.

Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 10.19.31 PM

Here is a $125 itinerary on a Friday that includes a direct United flight from Las Vegas to Newark and then a train to Philadelphia.Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 10.19.55 PM

Here is a calendar of flights from Las Vegas to Newark in September. The cheapest price is $167, and the cheapest Friday is $178.

Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 10.20.41 PM

And the cheapest flights are with a connection, which means an extra 2.5 hours of travel to Newark. The United direct flights are pricing at $222–$97 more than the price from Las Vegas to Philadelphia that included the same flight.Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 10.21.07 PM

Example: One Way from Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW)

This is a calendar of only United-marketed itineraries from DFW to Philadelphia’s train station in September. There are a lot of days including Fridays and Saturdays for $105.
Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 10.25.54 PM

These $105 itineraries are a direct DFW to Newark flight plus a train ride.Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 10.26.16 PM Now let’s search DFW to Newark on all airlines with no maximum number of layovers. The cheapest days are $147, and the cheapest Fridays are $158.

Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 10.26.46 PM

The cheapest nonstops are $185, a full $80 more than the fare to Philadelphia.Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 10.27.00 PM

How to Find These Fares

I started on the ITA Matrix. First I searched for United one way fares from different cities to ZFV. To make sure you only get United fares, include the advanced routing code UA+.

Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 10.20.15 PM

If you want your results to only include United direct flights to Newark plus the train ride, you should instead use the advanced routing code UA UA.Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 10.27.34 PM

You’ll get a calendar of results that include flights to Newark.

Now re-run the search and change the destination to Newark and remove the advanced routing codes. You’ll get a calendar of results from all airlines.

Compare the two calendars. If the United fares to Philadelphia are cheaper, you can book them on united.com or on whatever online travel agency you prefer.

Caveats & FAQ

A normal caveat with hidden city ticketing is that you cannot check a bag because it will fly to your final destination. With tickets to ZFV, though, you can check a bag. The bag will come out at baggage claim in Newark, and you are expected to pick it up there are carry it to the train. No one will (or can) force you to do that instead of just leaving.

Another normal caveat is that your plans could be ruined by inclement weather that causes a re-routing that eliminates the connection in your true destination. This is less of a worry with ZFV fares. To get to ZFV, you have to fly to Newark and take the train. If United tried to re-route me to Philadelphia’s airport via Chicago instead, I would insist on changing the itinerary back to plane to Newark plus train because ZFV and Philadelphia’s airport are in very different places.

You are violating United’s terms and conditions, and United could respond by not awarding miles for your trip or even canceling your MileagePlus account. I have never seen a single report of United doing this. Surely your odds of United noticing and punishing you increase if you book these tickets frequently.

What about skipping your train legs, what effect will that have on you and your ticket? There’s a 1,500+ post FlyerTalk thread on the subject, and this is the summary based on folks’ experience:

————————————————–

Skipping ZFV-EWR/EWR-ZFV Segment

The scenarios below are categorized as low-risk, medium-risk, or high-risk.

  • Low-risk scenarios are unlikely to result in cancelled segments; the risks here include UA coming after you if you do it frequently, and the possibility of being routed directly to PHL in IRROPS.
  • Medium-risk scenarios are those where some people have reported cancelled segments, particularly if there is enough lag time between the Amtrak segment and one or more of the United segments for the systems to sync up; sometimes you can get an agent to reinstate canceled segments/trip for no charge but seating assignment and upgrades will probably be lost.
  • High-risk scenarios are those where some segments are almost certain to be cancelled.

Here are the scenarios:

  • Booking One Way or Round Trip: ZFV-EWR-XXX, boarding ZFV-EWR downline (e.g. at TRE or MET) – No risk (subject to obtaining your train ticket–see below)
  • Booking One Way: ZFV-EWR-XXX, Skipping ZFV-EWR only – Medium-risk
  • Booking One Way: XXX-EWR-ZFV, Skipping EWR-ZFV only – Low-risk
  • Booking Round Trip: ZFV-EWR-XXX, Skipping ZFV-EWR only – High-risk
  • Booking Round Trip: XXX-EWR-ZFV, Skipping ZFV-EWR only – Medium-risk
  • Booking Round Trip: ZFV-EWR-XXX, Skipping EWR-ZFV only – Low-risk
  • Booking Round Trip: XXX-EWR-ZFV, Skipping EWR-ZFV only – High-risk
  • Booking Round Trip: ZFV-EWR-XXX -OR- XXX-EWR-ZFV, Skipping ZFV-EWR and EWR-ZFV – High-risk

—————————————-

 

So FlyerTalk is basically suggesting that you only skip the train if it is the very last segment on your ticket. The easiest way to do that is to book a one way TO Newark/Philadelphia.

There are reports of people booking ZFV to Newark to a destination, printing their real Amtrak ticket at a station, and then skipping the Amtrak segment and being allowed to fly out of Newark. But read the FlyerTalk thread in detail before trying that.

Bottom Line

If you want to fly to Newark, you can save serious money booking United fares to ZFV, a Philadelphia train station, and then skipping the train segment.

As with all hidden city ticketing, there is risk.

More hidden city ticketing articles, all of which are about award booking:

Hat Tip Dan’s Deals

------------------------------------------------------------

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.

4 1895

I booked a few awards to Thailand and Egypt in January. The awards would have allowed me to explore new areas and fly some of the world’s fanciest First and Business Class products. Here is how to book the awards I booked:

I should be in Egypt right now, but a wedding came up in Virginia that would have cut the trip too short, so I just wanted to cancel all these awards to get my miles back to head to Cuba and Colombia instead.

Canceling the Emirates flights was a breeze: until 60 days before departure, you can cancel or change Alaska Airlines awards for free. I called up to cancel a few months before the trip and got my miles and taxes back.

Canceling the Qatar and Etihad flights wouldn’t be so easy. American Airlines charges $150 to cancel an award. All the flights were on one American Airlines record locator, so I could pay the $150 once and get back all 120,000 miles and the taxes on the award, but I don’t want to pay $150 when I don’t have to.

The Trick to Avoiding Cancellation Fees

If you want to cancel any ticket–award or cash–for free and there is a major schedule change, you can get a free cancellation. What counts as major? Depends on the airline and the agent, but probably at least 60 minutes.

My American Airlines award had a five minute schedule change, and I tried to get a free cancellation because of the change by calling American Airlines at 800-882-8880, but the agent wouldn’t allow it.

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 1.06.13 PM

Increase Your Chances of a Schedule Change

What do you do when you don’t have a valid schedule change that offers a free cancellation? Push back your flights to give the airline more time to change the schedule.

American Airlines allows free changes of awards up to 21 days before departure as long as you don’t change cities, airlines, or cabins. All awards must be flown within one year of ticketing, so you can’t move your flights back indefinitely to wait for a schedule change, but you can move them back quite a bit.

I booked my ticket in January, but that March five-minute schedule change reissued the tickets on March 2, 2015. That means I can push my flights back until March 1, 2016.

These were the original flights.

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 1.05.47 PMI couldn’t change cabins, dates, or cities, so I started with the last flight from Abu Dhabi to Washington Dulles and found award space as close to March 1, 2016 as I could. Then I kept working backwards.

I found award space for all four flights in late February and called American Airlines to make the schedule change.

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 1.05.12 PMThe change was free, and now I have nine more months for Etihad or Qatar to make a schedule change. I’d say my chances are greater than 50% that this will eventually happen, and I can cancel for free to get my 120,000 miles and taxes back.

If it doesn’t happen, or I need my 120,000 miles before then, I’ll just call to cancel and pay the $150 fee.

I’d pay the $150 fee with my Citi Prestige® Card next year when my $250 airfare/airline fee credit resets. The $150 would then be credited back to me.

See Also

Bottom Line

Want to cancel for free? Wait for a schedule change.

If none comes, change your award to later dates for free to give yourself longer to get a schedule change.

If you have to pay the fee, pay with a card that offers an offsetting statement credit for airline fees like the Citi Prestige® Card.

 

------------------------------------------------------------

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.

15 3020

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

My 2013 Euro Hopper

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

Source: gcmap.com

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

But I had a blast.

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

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

Two things have changed since that week in 2013.

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

My 2015 Euro Hopper

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

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

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

How to get from Bucharest to Zurich?

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

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 11.44.03 AM
Source: gcmap.com

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 11.42.34 AM

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

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 11.47.54 AM

Searching and Booking the Award

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 12.40.01 PM

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 12.51.00 PM

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

Booking

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

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

In the end I get:

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

It’s going to be a heck of a week!

Other Possible Itineraries

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

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

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

Other Regions

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

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

Bottom Line

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

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

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

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

 

------------------------------------------------------------

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 6058

Here’s how to cancel an American Airlines award without paying the $150 fee to reinstate your miles and cancel the award.

  1. Be an Executive Platinum canceling an award booked with miles from your account. The reinstatement fee is waived for Executive Platinums.
  2. Hope for a schedule change greater than 60 minutes on one of your flights, and call to cancel for free because the new schedule doesn’t work for you.

To help #2 along, when you are one month from departure, if you haven’t gotten the magic 60 minute schedule change, call to change your award to a later date for free. Change the award to a date as far in the future as possible. You are only limited by the fact that the new travel date must be within one year of the award’s original ticketing date. Now you have more time for a schedule change.

My Experience

I booked two awesome one way trips as one American Airlines award.

  1. Bangkok to Doha to Luxor with the first segment in Business Class on the new Qatar A380. (anatomy of an award)
  2. Cairo to Abu Dhabi to Washington DC with the second segment in First Class on the new Etihad 787. (anatomy of an award)
Etihad First Suite on 787
Etihad First Suite on 787

 

Combined these cost only 120,000 American Airlines miles, and I was excited to fly in ridiculous luxury.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 5.09.15 PM
Bar on Qatar A380

 

Then I was invited to a wedding that made my trip impossible. Only a five minute change had been made to my itinerary since booking. (I did try to get a free cancellation for that change, but I had no luck.)

The flights were originally scheduled to begin April 30, 2015. Any changes made within 21 days of departure cost $75 to $150. But if you change an American Airlines award

  • more than 21 days before your original departure
  • your new flights are also 21+ days out
  • you don’t change the cabin
  • you don’t change the origin or departure
  • you don’t change the airlines
  • and you don’t change the award type (MileSAAver or AAnytime)

…your change is free.

My award had four flight segments, I searched for award space on those four segments as far in the future as possible. I started with my last segment and worked backwards. I found award space for all four segments in mid-February 2016 on the same routes in the same cabins of the same airlines. (Read the Anatomy of an Award posts linked above to see how I searched.) The only restriction on my new dates was that all flights have to be completed within one year of my original booking which was at the end of February 2015.

I called American Airlines and fed the agent my new flights by giving him the date, flight number, and cabin of each segment. He changed my itinerary for free and sent me a new confirmation email. Now I’ll wait.

If a schedule change is made, I’ll call to cancel for free. I’ll get my miles and taxes back. If no change is made, I’ll call in February 2016 and cancel. I’ll get my miles back but have to pay $150 minus what I already paid in taxes.

Right now I have plenty of American Airlines miles, but if I need these 120,000 desperately, I can always change my plan and cancel at any time for $150.

 

------------------------------------------------------------

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 2890

Wandering Aramean writes a Boarding Area blog and also has created a suite of tools that can be used for free by anyone. One I just saw (thanks Million Mile Secrets) is his Avios Map.

The Avios Map works like this:

  1. Type in any airport in the world.
  2. The map shows all the airports you can fly to directly for 4.5k, 7.5k, 10k, and 12.5k Avios in economy.

You can use the map to see where you can go from your home airport for what price. You can use the map to figure out when two awards will be cheaper than one (example below.) You can probably use the map for other creative uses I haven’t uncovered.

Before continuing, make sure you understand how British Airways Avios work. They are an essential currency for any American to understand.

How the Map Works

Along the top of the Avios Map, you type in the city or airport code and hit Go!

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 12.49.29 PM

If you choose an American Airlines hub like Dallas/Fort Worth, you get a crowded map like this:

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 12.49.45 PMThose icons are all the places you can go for 12,500 Avios or less one way.

  • Green is 4,500 Avios
  • Yellow is 7,500 Avios
  • Blue is 10,000 Avios
  • Red is 12,500 Avios

If you hold a cursor over any icon, you will see the airport name, city, code, and price.

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 12.50.19 PM

The DFW map is so crowded, the only useful information I’d pull from it are all my foreign options.

Here’s a less crowded map when I search Buenos Aires (AEP) on the Wandering Aramean Avios Map. This shows all your options to explore Argentina once you’re down there. You can use the Avios Map to search any airport in the world.
Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 12.49.04 PM

The map includes all Avios partners, even the ones not on ba.com like Aer Lingus and Alaska Airlines. (You call British Airways to book flights on these partners.) For instance, here is the map from Boston. You can see that Dublin and Shannon, Ireland are both just 12,500 Avios away. Plus there are some options to the Caribbean operated by US Airways.

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 12.50.40 PM

And here’s a map of all the 12,500 Avios flights to Maui, most of which are on Alaska Airlines.
Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 12.51.02 PM

When Two Awards Are Cheaper Than One

Avios is distance based, but many programs are region based. Sometimes you can use a region-based award plus a distance-based award for big savings over just a single region-based award. An easy example:

  • North America to Israel is 45,000 American Airlines miles in economy
  • North America to Europe is 20,000 or 30,000 American Airlines miles in economy depending on the season
  • Europe to Israel is as little as 10,000 Avios one way

You can save up to 15,000 miles by booking the United States to Europe and Europe to Israel as two separate awards (plus you can then stopover in Europe as long as you’d like.)

I have a full post about this example, and there are other examples you can surely come up with when a region-based award plus an Avios award would be cheaper than a single region-based award.

This tool helps you find and plan those examples.

For instance, here is the map from Tel Aviv. You can see the airports in Germany with direct flights on airberlin for 10,000 Avios, plus Madrid and London to Tel Aviv for 12,500 Avios.

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 1.01.25 PM

From this map, you’d know that an off peak American Airlines economy award to Europe for 20,000 miles plus any of these flights for 10,000 or 12,500 Avios would be cheaper than a 45,000 American Airlines miles award to Tel Aviv. Plus you could stop in a European city on the way to Israel for zero extra miles for as long as you want. By contrast, on a single American Airlines award, no connections longer than 24 hours are allowed.

Bottom Line

Check out Wandering Aramean’s super easy and awesome Avios Map. You’ll instantly visualize all the direct flights you can take with Avios that cost 12,500 Avios or fewer in economy. Plus you can use it to hack situations where two awards are cheaper than one.

 

------------------------------------------------------------

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.

Follow Me

Featured Posts