This is the sixth part of a multi-post Anatomy of an Award series about American Airlines Explorer Awards, which are ideal for around-the-world trips, trips with multiple destinations, and other “trick” itineraries. The first five parts dealt with a round-the-world example. To understand Explorer Awards, see The Rules.
American Airlines Explorer Awards aren’t just ideal for round-the-world trips. They are also the ideal vehicle to take a trip to one region with many stops.
Normally you cannot take any stopovers outside North America on American Airlines awards unless you know some tricks. But on Explorer Awards you get 16 segments and you can stop after each one if you’d like.
That means if you want to stop in several cities in Australia and New Zealand, you want to use an Explorer Award. If you you want to see five cities in Asia, use an Explorer Award. If you’re dreaming of a South American adventure traversing the continent from north to south, use an Explorer Award. If you plan to backpack through Europe–but not by train–use an Explorer Award.
Imagine you live in Los Angeles and want to visit Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Phuket, and Kuala Lumpur.
Doing this entire trip in business class would cost 200k miles per person using American Airlines miles and booking each leg as a “normal” award. But we can do a lot better by booking this as one Explorer Award.
Booking this award as one Explorer Award would cost only 130,000 miles since the business class award chart for Explorer Awards is almost uniformly awesome.
The great thing about using an Explorer Award to East Asia is that there are several oneworld partners there, so you can visit a number of countries with direct flights. That’s important not only for comfort, but because you need to fly two oneworld airlines besides American on all Explorer Awards.
For the same reason, it’s also very easy to plan Explorer Awards to Europe where you can fly British Airways, airberlin, Finnair, Iberia, and Royal Jordanian.
These eight cities in Europe and the Middle East can be reached with 19,993 miles of flying.
That means you can take this trip for only 130,000 American Airlines miles in business class, which is an absolutely incredible value.
The limitation of this many-stops-in-one-area idea is the fact that you have to fly two partners other than American Airlines on an Explorer Award.
Imagine you live in Los Angeles and want to visit Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne, and Sydney, Australia plus Queenstown, New Zealand.
Doing this entire trip in business class would cost 195k miles per person using American Airlines miles and booking each leg as a “normal” award. (US to Australia 62.5k each way; the intra-Antipodes routes are 17.5k each.)
And you can’t book this as an Explorer Award because every flight would be operated by Qantas, thus failing the two-partner test.
That’s a shame because if you could book this as an Explorer Award, it would only cost 150,000 miles.
What’s the remedy? Either stop in Asia one direction, thus bringing in an Asian partner, or add another oneway trip somewhere.
Changing the first leg from Los Angeles-to-Brisbane to Los Angeles-to-Hong-Kong-to-Brisbane on Cathay Pacific would add the second partner and make the award valid.
Or you can try to add a oneway trip from Los Angeles to somewhere else after the Australia trip. The problem here is that you can’t take a stopover in your origin city on an Explorer Award. So you’d need to do something a little tricky like take the stopover in San Diego.
Example: Onto the Australia/New Zealand award above, you can add a leg to San Diego, a stopover, then a continuation from San Diego to Los Angeles to Lima. You would have to fly the San Diego legs and get to and from San Diego airport, but you’d have a great value award.
You’ll have a similar problem on Explorer Awards that only fly in South America. For the moment, the only South American oneworld partner is LAN, so you’d only have one non-American Airlines partner.
You can solve the problem by adding flights to another region to get another partner involved.
Explorer Awards aren’t just for round-the-world trips. Trips with many stops in one region are great candidates for Explorer Awards. This is more true in areas like Europe and East Asia with many oneworld partners and less true in South American and Oceania, which each only have one partner.