20k Miles to All of Europe All Summer

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Update 5/26/14: This deal is dead since American Airlines eliminated free stopovers.

Or: Save 10k Miles by Adding a Free Oneway

Summer airfare to Europe often tops $1,000 in economy class roundtrip. But you can get to Europe this summer for only 20k miles.

All the legacy carriers–American, Delta, United, US Airways–charge 60k miles roundtrip to Europe in economy class. That’s where the European award similarities end.

American and United let you go oneway for 30k miles. Delta and US require you to pay 60k whether you go oneway or roundtrip.

American lets you fly from October 15 – May 15 every year for 20k miles each way during the off peak season. US lets you fly for six weeks in the winter for 35k roundtrip or 60k roundtrip in business class. United even ran an off peak promo this winter, allowing 48k roundtrip awards. See my Off Peak to Europe Round Up for full details on each airline’s off peak deal.

Off peak awards are great because they represent a way to stretch your miles for even more trips. The problem is that peak time is peak time for a reason. The summer in Europe is the best weather, and the easiest time for most families to go on vacation. Luckily, there is a way to fly to anywhere in Europe from anywhere in the continental US, Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Bermuda, and the Bahamas for 20k miles all summer long! And you’ll get a free oneway to boot!

This trick relies on three things:

  • American Airlines off peak awards
  • Free Oneways on American Airlines Awards
  • How American Airlines determines the date of a trip

American Airlines Off Peak Awards

American Airlines off peak awards are incredible. There are no restrictions except the dates. You can fly any normal routing with any combination of partners and pay 20k miles oneway to Europe. From its chart:

With each way economy price in red to the top left

Being able to use partners, especially to Europe, is incredible because American’s partner airberlin has unparalleled economy class award space on all its routes all year round.

This is for the non-stop airberlin flight from New York (JFK) to Berlin (TXL) during June and July–ultra-peak season. There is space 24 of 29 days.

24/29 days with space. You have your pick of the litter.

Free Oneways on American Airlines Awards

I recently put everything there is to know about free oneways on American Airlines awards into Master Thread: Free Oneways on American Airlines Awards.

For the purposes of this post, I’ll just say that you can get a free oneway from anywhere in the continental US, Hawaii, Alaska, Canada, the Caribbean, Bermuda, and the Bahamas to your home airport before an international award.

There are some requirements–see the Master Thread–like MPM, the overwater-carrier-must-publish-a-fare rule, and the fact that your home airport must be the departure city for your international flight.

How American Airlines Determines the Date of Your Trip

American Airlines assigns one date to your trip–the date of your first leg.

Example 1: You fly Honolulu to JFK on January 17. You continue JFK to Berlin on June 10. AA considers the date of the entire trip January 17 and charges 20k miles because January 17 is off peak.

Example 2: You fly Miami to Chicago on June 1. You continue Chicago to London on October 25. AA considers the date of the entire trip June 1 and charges 30k miles because June 1 is peak time.

What it means

This means that no matter when you want to fly to Europe, you can fly for 20k miles. If the Europe leg falls between May 16 and October 14, the normal peak dates, just be sure to precede it with a domestic leg that falls between October 15 and May 15 to save 10k miles and get a free oneway.

Unfortunately, there is no way to game the return like this since AA fixes a trip’s date by the date of the first leg and the return’s first leg will be the Europe leg.

But 20k to Europe oneway is unbeatable, especially when you are getting a free oneway.

This also means that adding a free oneway before a trip to Europe might not be free at all if your free oneway is during the summer. Consider the MIA-ORD//ORD-LHR trip above. Chicago to London was off peak, so it should have cost 20k miles. Miami to Chicago was the first leg and during the summer, though, so it made the award the award 30k, meaning that it cost 10k miles.

Example Booking

Imagine you live in Miami and you want to go to the French Open final in 2013. (I highly recommend going to the French Open.) To get to Paris the second weekend in June, you would normally pay 30k AAdvantage miles.

But if you can just add a prior oneway trip to Miami during the off peak dates (October 15 to May 15), you can save yourself 10k miles and get a free oneway. Maybe you are going to the DC Frequent Traveler University from April 26 – 28.

(For a fuller description of how to book, see How to Book Free Stopover Online: American Airlines)

On the AAdvantage award search screen, search DC to Miami on April 28 and Miami to Paris in early June. I specified Dulles airport (IAD), but it still brought up National (DCA) search results. I used city code PAR instead of airport codes CDG or ORY for Paris.

On the search result screen, select your oneway to Miami and your oneway to Paris. To Paris, you should definitely avoid British Airways awards since they have surcharges in the hundreds of dollars. Airberlin or American awards have no surcharges.

As you can see, this award prices out to 20k miles and minimal taxes–an incredible deal for half a trip to DC and oneway to Europe during the peak summer travel season.

Recap

You can fly to Europe all year round for 20k miles if you live at a North American International Gateway City (complete list) and you add a free oneway beforehand that takes off between October 15 and May 15. This works because American determines the date of your trip by the date of the first segment.

Not only does the free oneway drop the price 10k miles, but it gives you half of a free trip to anywhere in the US, Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean.

Who will save 10k miles on your next European trip?

Bonus

This trick also works for other regions for AA off peak awards. Look for that post tomorrow.

Double Bonus

I discovered this quirk while researching the answer to a reader question. Researching that answer also gave me some other good ideas about free oneways that you should be on the lookout for in the coming days.

Triple Bonus

The “free oneways” in this post are really negative-price oneways since their presence makes the award 10k miles cheaper.

Two other examples of this phenomenon?

Adding a free oneway to/from the Caribbean onto a roundtrip economy United award to Europe drops the price 2,500 miles to 57,500.

Adding dummy legs to a four continent US Airways award allows it to price at 100k miles instead of 200k-300k. (I’m not sure how it would price without the dummy legs.)

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77 COMMENTS

  1. Very misleading headline. It should read that on a summer travel to Europe you can save 10K miles and it will cost you 50K instead of 60K.

  2. This is a glitch in how the website prices the award, rather than AA policy. It’s a *long-standing* glitch.

    But don’t expect to be able to call AA and have them change the dates on your award, if they notice the pricing error or reprice then you will have to pay the incremental miles (ie you will lose out on the off peak pricing).

    • I don’t think it’s a glitch. I’ve experimented with phone pricing and found the same results, and I don’t think they can reprice awards. I think that violates DOT regulations.

      • They can if you change it… which was I think Gary’s point. If you change dates, they are basically issuing you a new ticket–especially if you change airlines or airports. “Fare difference.”

  3. Any ideas why this doesn’t work in reverse? We live in Germany and I can’t seem to get AA to price MUC-TXL (off peak, stop), TXL-ORD (peak) as 20k. Wouldn’t TXL be the international Gateway city in that example? Or does that gateway city have to be in North America?

    • The gateway has to be North American. Stopovers aren’t allowed outside the US on American Airlines awards.

  4. Thanks for the post. All the routes I have been looking at to Europe go through London so the fees are very high. Is there a way to check online to re-route for example if I am looking to go to Dublin or Amsterdam?

    • Some date changes–moving the free oneway–to peak time will result in a price change. Others won’t. Thanks for the comment; it motivated me to call in and test a few things–the results of which will be posted at 2:05 AM ET.

  5. Is there a trick to getting the $5 in fees for the itinerary. I chose the Air Berlin leg, but i see $160-200 in fees. Thanks!

    • No, for airberlin, you’ll just get charged government taxes. $5 is because segments that take off from the US only charge $2.5 tax per leg capped at $10 total per itinerary. The returns from Europe have high taxes.
      What routing are you looking at?

    • Exactly AA doesn’t have business class off peak. But use this to go in economy and return in business on AA or another airline for nice savings.

  6. Is there any way you can figure out how to make this work from PDX (without a positioning flight to a gateway city?)

      • @laura, never mind–I was thinking about it wrong. Unfortunately, PDX is only a gateway to Europe on a single KLM route, AFAIK. And this trick doesn’t work with that alliance.

    • No, that’s not possible. But I’ll give the best thing you can do as a full post in the next few days.

  7. You have blown my mind yet again!!!

    You are the best blogger by far when it comes to using miles. (FrequentMiler is best regarding earning miles.)

    Thanks!!!

  8. Just a small complaint: This is true for NA gateway cities OTHER THAN HNL. Unfortunately no non-stops exist between Hawaii and Europe and you can’t fly to Europe via Asia (for 20k).

    I do love this feature though. It can also be one more good reason to book AA awards as one-ways rather than RT.

  9. If you can get a free one way on a one way award can you get 2 free one ways on a round trip award (by booking 2 one way awards at half price of round trip)

    • Yes, you can get two free oneways on roundtrips. I’ve booked that for a number of clients, and I showed a few example on my LAX FTU presentation. I think I mentioned that in the Master Thread on AA awards. If not, that was an oversight.

  10. Thank you for the tip! good to know at least it saves 10K miles and also doesn’t limit us to the winter europe travel anymore! 🙂

  11. good post.

    I suggest putting the Recap section at the beginning (maybe call it Executive Summary if you put it there). That makes it easier for everybody to determine quickly whether this is a post relevant to their interests.

    • But I want to balance that with trying to get everyone to read more posts because I think a what I write is valuable, and I don’t want people to stop reading too early. I’ll take PRECAP into consideration.

      • understood, but I think many like me stop reading a long post if we don’t think it’s relevant to us. there have been a few posts where I’ve skimmed quickly because it didn’t seem to have new info but then caught something in the text that made realize the significance of the post, and so I went back and re read from the beginning. if I didnt happen to catch that text, I would’ve skipped to the next post.

        in the end, people are going to adapt anyway and skip to the end first to read the precap. it’s just up to you whether or not you want to make it easier for your readers.

  12. Fantastic post! I loved your presentation at FTU last week, and this one is equally mind-blowing. It makes me want to cry when I think of all the standard 25k domestic awards I’ve used up until now. Thanks!

    • I don’t know exactly what you mean. You have to add a free oneway in the off peak part of the year for this strategy to work, and you have to fly that free oneway.

  13. this is brilliant, really I ve never seen any of the blogs come up with this. Is there anything similar to this on United Asia route. I m planning to go in mid June next year, which is the starting of high season. thanks if you can help

  14. awesome job! so if you have iad-mia in January and mia-txl in June, can you change the dates of itinerary to TXL once travel has commenced? I suspect this won’t work with US Airways, but with AA?

  15. This info came at a perfect time for me. I’m getting married in January and we are going to the Florida Keys for our honeymoon. Last week I paid for a flight to FLL with the plan to drive down the Keys and fly home out of EYW on an AA flight booked with miles. Our preferred destination for our honeymoon was Italy, but it just didn’t work for us in January. Using the tip provided in this article, I was able to book MIA to JFK in January and JFK to MXP in July for fewer miles than I was planning to use to go EYW to NYC! Thank you so much!

  16. Our airport isRDU (Raleigh Durham International) will this trick work for us? Also do you have to fly that free 1 way route you added? If you do not fly that route before your actual europe trip(potentially weeks or months later) how will that work?

  17. […] How to fly to Europe (economy class, one-way) for 20K AA AAdvantage miles any time of year via MileValue. Another great post from MileValue on how to structure an award travel booking on AA.com to score the lower off-peak award rate for travel to Europe during any time of year (like peak season). It’s working a glitch in the system (and you may risk a reprice if you call with any itinerary changes), but it is a way to save 10,000 miles. This trick is only good for economy class as off peak award pricing is only applicable for economy class. […]

  18. This is an amazing find!

    —-> To extend further upon your work I tried this trick using other regions on AA’s award chart utilizing the “off-peak” dates and found that it also works for destinations in Northern South America, Southern South America, Japan, and Korea. <—-

  19. Hi,
    I have never booked award flights before so my apologies if I am skipping any obvious details.
    I have 2 upcoming trips
    2/18 – ABQ to SEA
    6/20 – SEA to LHR

    Based on my understanding of your blog post, this looks like perfect setup for 20k AA miles trip to London. This is exciting.

    I keyed in above dates and cities in
    • AAdvantage award tab
    • multi-city search
    • AA + AAdvantage participating airlines

    It opens up the calendar screen for respective months for both the trips to show the lowest available award miles. For the domestic leg all the days have dashes and for the international leg all the days are greyed out. That means I am not able to find any award flights for this search.

    When I searched award flights for domestic leg only, it says there are no award flights available. Is that reason why it shows No Award flights for international leg too?

    When I searched award flights for international leg only, it shows only the British Airways itineraries. This might be because BA is the only partner AA airline for international trip from Seattle, as your gateway cities page has suggested too. That incurs around $300 charges.

    So, how do I get around these limitations to make the above trips possible in 20k AA miles total? I can use another travel option for domestic leg, but I would at least like to do the international leg using 20k miles and as minimum extra charges as possible.

    Is there a way I can email you?

    Thank you for your help

  20. This is a good strategy which I used last year. There is one problem so – if after taking the first fight you can not take the second one for some reasons, you will loose all your miles and there is no insurance that covers lost miles.

  21. hey mile value i was wondering if you do this kind of service for a fee? I have a trip planned from JFK to PVR and i have 110k miles and my wife has 60k miles how can i get this to work my dates to go are July 1st to July 12.

  22. What a great website ! Thank you for sharing your splendid ideas with us ! I would like to know if by canceling this “fake” first leg of the trip and paying $75 cancellation fee I still can keep the second one that I actually want to take intact ?
    Can I do any stopover overseas when departuring from Boston to Europe or stoping over in Europe on my way back to Boston ?
    Can I do any free stopover outside of USA flying to any continent ? Thank you for your time.

  23. I’m new to this, but want to schedule a trip to Hawaii early next year (timing is flexible)? How do I best implement your guidance to get the best deal?

  24. Using your examples, if I want to go to Europe on June 1 and save 10,000 AA miles, I could fly to EWR on May 1, sleep in the airport for a month and then fly on June 1 for 20,000 AA miles. My question is why would anyone want to do this?

  25. I would really appreciate if someone can help me with this question:

    I’m trying to book NYC-GRU with a free stopover in MIA.

    AA’s website is pricing it as a free stopover HOWEVER, since the NYC-MIA portion is for Jan 23, a date which falls into the “peak dates” category, AA is pricing the whole trip as peak, hence charging me 30K miles instead of 20K off peak which would be charged for just the MIA-GRU on Mar 17.

    This is what I was thinking of: Would I be able to book the NYC-MIA for sometime in March for a total of 20K and then change the date of that flight back to the desired Jan 23 date without getting charged the additional 10K miles?

    Or maybe you have some other advice for me here?

    Thank you in advance!

  26. For some reason when inserting the dates on AA.com now, HNL-EWR then JFK-TXL in off-peak it comes up to 37.5, which is 17.5 for Hawaii-US and US-EU. Is the deal OVER? That would be SO BAD! Correct me PLEASE if I’m doing something wrong, because I sure want to have a HA trip ;-(

  27. Could anyone confirm if this is still live or if it’s been killed and the deal is over? I can’t get the same results, since AA prices 2 segments from mileavue’s example above as 2 separate trips. 17.5 + 20 HNL-EWR stopover JFK-TXL
    Thanks

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