Award Booking

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.

*I said [almost] never because there is one exception. You can freely transfer Iberia Avios to British Airways Avios if both your Iberia and British Airways accounts are 90 days old.

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 almost* 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 British Airways and American Airlines, and you can use both Avios and American Airlines miles to book on LAN.

Or in the 30k American Airlines miles 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 American Airlines
  • 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

*Korean Air only allows you to book for yourself and your immediate family (with proof of relationship.)

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 for Alaska Airlines flights on aa.com whether I plan to book the space with American, British Airways, 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, 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 (British Airways, Iberia, LAN) or the distance of the whole itinerary (Japan Airlines) as actually flown determines the award price.
  9. JetBlue, Virgin America (redeemed on Virgin America flights), 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 adds them when redeeming miles on British Airways flights and Delta adds them on all awards that originate in Europe (as well as a number of other partners).
  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 one way is a separate one way trip added onto your main award for zero additional miles. Read here about the current state of free one ways.

  • 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.

Bottom Line

Understanding these key concepts will help you lay a foundation of knowledge that enables you to book high value awards around the globe.

But if you would still like some help, contact my Award Booking Service and we can do the leg work for you.

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

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

Delta will no longer charge a $25 per passenger fee to book tickets by phone. That’s excellent news since some Delta partners like Air Tahiti Nui can’t be booked on delta.com.

In February 2015, American Airlines eliminated phone ticketing fees for awards flying airlines that can’t be booked on aa.com.

United still has phone ticketing fees for awards–$25 per passenger. However, in my experience, this fee is usually waived if I put an award on hold online and then call in to ticket it with a story that I was getting an error online.

Hat Tip One Mile at a 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.

Turkish Business Class award space is widely available from this summer through the beginning of next year to Europe. You can book award space for up to eight people in Business Class on routes from America to Turkey and beyond with United miles, Asiana miles, Aeroplan miles, Lifemiles (of Avianca), and many other Star Alliance miles.

Where Turkish Flies

Turkish currently flies from eight American cities to Istanbul, and adds Atlanta to the list in about a month: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Miami, Washington D.C (Dulles), Boston and New York.

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 1.17.52 AM
Atlanta begins May 16, 2016

From Istanbul, you can connect to over 100 countries. Turkish Airlines has destinations in more countries than any other airline in the world.

The Product

Turkish’s long haul flights feature flat bed Business Class on a variety of planes that either have a 2-4-2 configuration or 2-2-2 configuration. The 2-4-2 configuration is not ideal since no seat has both aisle access and a guarantee that no one will climb over it during the flight. The 2-2-2 configuration is preferable as you can choose a seat in the middle aisle which would guarantee no one climbs over you. At the end of the day though, a fully flat bed and great catering should overcome the moderate inconvenience of the 2-4-2 configuration.

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 12.16.10 PM

Read this trip report of Turkish Business Class from Washington D.C. to Istanbul to get a more detailed perspective on Turkish Airlines’ product.

Award Space

Award space is excellent July through February from most Turkish gateways in the United States to Istanbul in Economy and Business Class for up to eight people.

Chicago to Istanbul: for 8 people

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 6.10.46 PM

For the return flight back to Chicago, about half the amount of days are available in Business Class.

Atlanta to Istanbul: for 8 people (route starts 5/16/16)

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 6.14.38 PM

Space in Business Class for the return back to Atlanta is just as widely available.

Houston to Istanbul: for 8 people

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 6.48.34 PM

Space in Business Class for the return back to Houston is just as widely available except in July and August.

Miami to Istanbul: 8 people

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 7.03.35 PM

For the return flight back to Miami, about half the amount of days are available in Business Class.

Boston to Istanbul: 8 people

boston to istanbul

For the return flight back to Boston, the same amount of space is available in Business Class with the exception of August and September.

New York to Istanbul: 8 people

nyc to istanbul

For the return flight back to New York, about half the amount of days are available in Business Class.

The exceptions I see are:

  • the Los Angeles and San Francisco to Istanbul routes are spotty with Business Class seats up until September, but from September through February availability is wide open for up to 8people; for the return flight back to Los Angeles there is plenty of space in Business for up to 8 people, and for the return flight back to San Francisco September through February has tons of Business Class seats
  • the Washington D.C. to Istanbul route has few Business Class seats available except in August, January and February for up to eight people; for the return back to Washington D.C. there is plenty of space in Business from September through February

Best Miles to Use

Any Turkish award space you see on united.com is equally bookable with any Star Alliance miles. Here are the cheapest Star Alliance miles to Europe:
Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 5.24.03 PM

Aeroplan (loyalty program of Air Canada) divides Europe into two regions– the cheaper region is for Western Europe and the more expensive is Eastern Europe, so travel to Turkey is 57,500 Aeroplan miles each way in Business Class. United and United Partner are separate categories because United charges more miles to fly premium cabins on partner redemptions.

Asiana, ANA, Lufthansa, and Singapore collect fuel surcharges on Turkish award flights. Aeroplan, United, Avianca, and Copa do not. I would use Asiana miles or Aeroplan to book an award on Turkish Airlines to Europe. A roundtrip Business award between the US and Istanbul costs 80,000 Asiana miles + $412.66 ($340 in fuel surcharges). The same award would cost 115,000 Aeroplan miles + about $77 (only taxes and fees, no fuel surcharges).

If you want to book the Turkish space to somewhere outside of Europe, check out this comparison of Star Alliance award charts to all regions of the world.

United, ANA, LifeMiles (Avianca), and Aeroplan display Turkish Airlines award space on their websites. If you want to book with another type of miles, search united.com and call the airline whose miles you want to use in order to book.

Example Award

In 2011, I flew from Los Angeles to Entebbe/Kampala, Uganda on Turkish, then returned from Nairobi to Los Angles with a stopover in Istanbul. This was a cash ticket in economy, and the flight from Los Angeles to Istanbul was the most painful of my life because I couldn’t fall asleep despite exhaustion.

You could book the same trip with miles in Business Class at the moment.

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 1.23.25 AM

It would cost 160,000 United miles + $79, or fewer miles with other types of miles.

How to Get the Miles

The Starwood Preferred Guest personal and business credit cards from American Express come with 25,000 bonus Starpoints for spending $3,000 and $5,000 respectively in the first three months of cardmembership. Starpoints transfer at a 1:1 ratio to Japan Airlines Mileage Bank.

Both Asiana and Aeroplan, my top two choices of miles to use to book Turkish Airlines, are 1:1 transfer partners of Starwood Preferred Guest.

Aeroplan is also 1:1 transfer partner of Membership Rewards, which you can earn from The Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz. It comes with 50,000 Membership Rewards after spending $3,000 in the first three months. Membership Rewards transfer to around 20 hotel and airline programs including Delta, Singapore, and British Airways.

The card has a $475 annual fee in the first year. But it comes with huge benefits like airline fee reimbursement, airport lounge access, and hotel status. Be aware that the “regular” Platinum card is worse than this offer because it has a smaller sign up bonus and only a $25 lower annual fee.

For more info on setting up and maximizing the benefits, see Get the Most Out of Your Platinum Card.

Landing Page: Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz

Bottom Line

Turkish Airlines award space is wide open from the United States to the rest of the world from July 2016 through the February of 2017. You can book it with any type of Star Alliance miles, but some of the best deals are with Asiana and Aeroplan to Europe.

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.

24

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

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.

13

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.

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

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 use united.com for most of my award searches when redeeming Star Alliance miles because it shows most Star Alliance partners’ award availability, but it does have some drawbacks. Namely, it doesn’t show all partners and it sometimes displays phantom award space–award space will show as available but in reality, it doesn’t exist.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 9.14.50 PM
Star Alliance Airlines Whose Award Space I Want to Search

The best way to confirm Star Alliance award space is using the All Nippon Airways (ANA) search tool. ANA’s tool is trickier to use, but it’s the most reliable. The website and search tool’s interface has undergone some changes since the last time I wrote about how to use the ANA search tool three years ago, so I’m rewriting that post today to clarify any doubts.

First of All, Great News!

ANA no longer restricts members from using it’s award search tool for a lack of miles in their account. Anyone can search Star Alliance availability as long as you are signed up as a member of the ANA Mileage Club— no more annoying work arounds necessary!

Using the ANA Award Search Tool: Step-by-Step Guide

1. If you haven’t already, sign up for a ANA Mileage Club account here. Though this page looks like a credit card application (no annual fee!) simply click “Apply Here” at the bottom of the screen.

ANA mileage club sign up2. After filling in your pertinent information, you will be assigned a Mileage Club frequent flyer number and a password. Once you are signed up and logged in, you can access the award search tool directly from the ANA home page, just click Award Booking in the bottom right corner of the regular flight reservation box.

ANA homepage, award booking box

3. You will then be taken to the ANA Award search tool, where you can start searching for your desired Star Alliance award. Check the bubble next to “Compare seat availability +/- 3 days.”

ana search tool

4. Checking the bubble next to Compare seat availability +/- 3 days will show you a week’s worth of availability.

LAX to Tokyo ANA

5. Occasionally a search will turn up this ugly error message, but it only means the specific day and class you searched for doesn’t have a seat available. Click Confirm and the rest of the week’s availability will display.

Mia to Bue error, confirm anyways ANA

6. Choose your dates for both legs.

LAX to tokyo, day specific selection

7. And then select your preferred flight schedule for both legs.

If you don’t have the sufficient mileage in your Mileage Club account, a box will pop up like this:

lack of mileage ANA

8. Just click Confirm and it will allow you too see all the details anyways.

Displayed will be the summarized flight itinerary, the price of the award in miles as well as taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges….

ANA itinerary, payment breakdown

…and the award type descriptions, with convenient links to the corresponding award chart/rules. The baggage limitations are also displayed. (This is only important if you are redeeming ANA miles.)

award type bagge ANA

A Common Glitch

I received this pop-up multiple times while choosing the flight itineraries for my preferred days of travel:

wonky error ANA

It seems like you can ignore the error message if the previous screen said there were flights available on the day you’ve selected.

LAX to Tokyo ANA

Try to select the date again, and you may see the space and no error message.

In my experience, even if you keep getting the error message, there is award space on the flight. (You can check this by calling United and asking the agent if the flight has award space. I did that for the example of a Business Class seat from Los Angeles to Tokyo above, and there was indeed award space available.)

Can I Plug in my City Pairs and Expect ANA to Come up With Good Itineraries?

No. ANA’s search tool has improved somewhat over the years, but searching Kansas City <-> Mumbai likely won’t yield anything usable. You should search segment-by-segment (like Newark to Mumbai on Air India and Kansas City to Newark on United.)

How do I search multiple segments?

There’s no short cut to this with ANA’s search tool unfortunately. You’ll need to search every segment separately.

This seems tedious. Any shortcuts?

Searching United.com is faster but can sometimes display false positives and negatives as previously detailed in my post about phantom award space. United’s site is a great place to get routing ideas while confirming them using ANA’s tool.

Do ANA miles have any value?

This is outside the main scope of this post, which is how to SEARCH ON ANA.COM to USE ANY STAR ALLIANCE MILES.

But yes, since you ask, ANA miles have plenty of value.

Though ANA assesses fuel surcharges on all Star Alliance partner flights except United, their chart has some great sweet spots that allow for low mileage redemptions. Check out how ANA’s chart compares to other types of Star Alliance miles here: Comprehensive Spread Sheets of Eight Star Alliance Award Charts.

Bottom Line

ANA’s search tool is the final word on Star Alliance availability. If united.com displays the space but you don’t see it on ANA’s site, the award isn’t bookable.

The only requirements to use ANA’s search tool are a Mileage Club membership and a little bit of patience to do the segment-by-segment searching. Once you find award space on ana.com, you can book it with the Star Alliance miles that offer the cheapest award price to where you’re going. Find that out 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.

2

United is releasing an unusual amount of award space to Europe for Summer 2016. A lot of flights have 9+ award seats in Business Class on the same flight. Book now before it disappears!

United award space can be searched on united.com, and the Saver award space can be booked with any Star Alliance miles. A check on Comprehensive Spread Sheet of 8 Star Alliance Award Charts: Cheapest Awards to Europe shows that the best options are:

  • 40,000 Asiana miles each way
  • 88,000 ANA miles roundtrip
  • 45,000 Aeroplan miles one way to Western Europe, 52,500 to Eastern
  • 57,500 United miles one way
  • 63,000 LifeMiles one way

None of those programs collect fuel surcharges on United flights to Hawaii.

Asiana, ANA, and Aeroplan miles are SPG transfer partner. ANA and Aeroplan are also AMEX Membership Rewards partners. United is an Ultimate Rewards transfer partner. LifeMiles can be purchased for 1.32 cents each.

Award Space

The unbelievable award space is out of Washington and Chicago.

Unfortunately there is no free way to get a calendar that shows direct award space on the United flights, since United made the calendars on united.com less useful with the recent site redesign. These calendars show all Star Alliance options for one person instead. But they should give some idea of what is available, so you can go search united.com yourself. Green days have Business Class award space.

Washington-Dulles to Rome

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 9.05.19 PM

Signing in and clicking on a date let me see the breakdown of all fare classes available on the daily United flight. This flight has “I9″, which means there are at least nine Saver award seats in Business Class that anyone can book with United or other Star Alliance miles.
Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 9.07.58 PM

Washington-Dulles to Paris
Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 9.09.20 PM
Washington-Dulles to Brussels
Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 9.13.48 PM
Chicago to Munich
Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 9.15.15 PM
Chicago to Rome
Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 9.16.44 PM

Connections

This space is useful even if you live in, say, Little Rock, Arkansas and want to go to, say, Amsterdam.

You can connect in United domestic First Class or United economy to these award flights for zero extra miles if you find Saver award space. You can often connect in Europe for zero extra miles, though flying another carrier will open you up to fuel surcharges if using Asiana, Aeroplan, or ANA miles.

Here is how to search and book an award like that using Segment-by-Segment searching.

Booking the Award

Search on united.com for Saver award space, and book on the website of the miles you are using or by calling the airline whose miles you are using.

You can book United award space on united.com, lifemiles.com, or aeroplan.com. The other miles mentioned would require a call to those airlines.

Bottom Line

United.com has award space for as many nine passengers on many flights to Europe this Summer in Business Class. Award space like this doesn’t last, so book it with your favorite Star Alliance miles now.

Hat Tip Mile Cards

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

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.

Some credit card offers in this post have expired, but they might come back. If they do they will appear –> Click here for the top current credit card sign up bonuses.

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.

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

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?

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

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

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

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.

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

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.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 2.13.49 PM

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 2.46.05 PM

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

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 2.52.22 PM

Product

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

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

 

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

Award Space

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

These calendars are only for one award seat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connections

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 1.54.14 PM

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

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

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

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

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

Booking the Award

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 1.59.02 PM

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

Pay the taxes with your Citi Prestige® Card.

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

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

Getting the Miles

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

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 2.52.22 PM

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

Bottom Line

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

 

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

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

——————————–

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 2.09.33 PM

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

Award Booking Trouble

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 2.21.13 PM

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

Bottom Line

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

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

 

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

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.

19

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 4.20.24 PM

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

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 4.20.12 PM

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

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

Changes

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

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 4.21.04 PM

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

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 4.22.40 PM

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 5.13.08 PM

But here’s the calendar on the new site.

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 4.23.00 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 4.28.21 PM

Here are the new search results.

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 4.23.13 PM

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

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

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

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

How to Complain

Do two things:

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

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 4.30.25 PM

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

2. Retweet this tweet from Dan’s Deals.

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

Bottom Line

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

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

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

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

Hat Tip Dan’s Deals

 

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

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.

14

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 5.46.40 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Booking Segment-by-Segment Awards

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 6.43.54 PM

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

Changes or cancellations are free within 24 hours.

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

Bottom Line

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

 

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

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