Anatomy of an Award: Summer Trip to Paris & Free Oneway Home for Thanksgiving

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My absolute favorite awards are the ones I’ve booked for family and friends. Helping them fly for (nearly) free is a great pleasure that can’t be replicated. Recently, my sister came to me asking for advice on the cheapest ways to fly from Boston to Paris this summer. She has zero miles and a tight budget. Staring at $1,500+ flights on Kayak.com, the trip wasn’t looking promising.

Main Award

Boston to Paris roundtrip with a later free oneway from Boston to Atlanta

Luckily, with the help of my AAdvantage miles, I was able to find her nonstop flights from Boston to Paris during the peak of summer travel. In addition, I helped her add a free oneway home for Thanksgiving, saving her additional money and hassle.

How did I find the award space? Was the free oneway easy to add to the itinerary? What’s the method to booking two seemingly tough awards on the same itinerary? Is there a secret way to save 10k miles on this trip?

I knew that American operated a nonstop flight between Boston and Paris, so AA.com was the first place I searched. Luckily it would be just my sister traveling (in coach), and she had a fairly flexible schedule. My initial query yielded promising results–economy space nearly every day in July!

BOS-CDG AA Calendar

However, some of this availability was a “false positive” because it was British Airways award space.  American imposes hefty fuel surcharges on British Airways-operated flights. My sister would not be keen on shelling out $700+ for a coach award ticket!

BA YQ

What the British Airways Award Space Costs

To avoid British Airways flights, I used the trick to Search for Nonstop Award Space on AA.com and narrowed down the calendar to display dates with seats on the Boston to Paris nonstop. There were plenty of workable dates.

Nonstop

The way back was much trickier, but I did manage to snag an award seat on her preferred nonstop flight back to Boston.

I placed the main award on hold (Boston-Paris-Boston) and called my sister to explain her free oneway options. American generously allows five day courtesy holds, which was hopefully enough time for her to understand American’s routing rules. ;)

What did she end up selecting?

She has flexibility with her work, so she will be going home the weekend before Thanksgiving.  I gave her a ton of options, but she elected for a one-stop itinerary on US Airways connecting in Philadelphia. It made the most sense for her schedule.

BOS-ATL

What was her final itinerary?

  • Boston -> Paris [American economy]
  • Paris -> Boston [American economy]

///Stopover in Boston for 3.5 months///

  • Boston -> Philadelphia -> Atlanta [US Airways economy] FREE ONEWAY

For visual learners, the itinerary is below with the free oneway highlighted in purple. Taxes and fees were minimal, approximately $95 out of pocket for the entire trip.

Whole Itinerary

Are there ways to make this award even less expensive?

Yes! Scott wrote up an excellent post, 20k AA miles to Europe All Summer Long with a Free Oneway. If my sister had been able to tack on a free oneway before the main trip during the off peak window, she could have saved 10k more miles. Unfortunately she doesn’t have any time off to travel before May 15.

The trick relies on American’s Off-Peak Awards, which offer 20k flights to Europe from October 15-May 15 each year. Luckily, American’s calendar only considers your initial departure when calculating award prices.

If you add a free oneway during the off-peak window to your trip to Europe, the entire one way itinerary will price at 20k miles! The below is an example of what I could have booked my sister . She would fly from L.A. to Boston for free, have a stopover for nearly two months, and then start her trip to Europe.

LAX-BOS-CDG 20K

But remember, on all itineraries, if you miss a flight, the rest is cancelled! So we couldn’t add a free oneway that she couldn’t physically fly.

Any other ways to make this award cost less miles?

The main roundtrip from Boston to Paris is bookable with British Airways Avios. Booking the same itinerary on BA.com would only be 40,000 Avios (20k each way). Unfortunately, British Airways imposes fuel surcharges on American flights to Europe. The exact same roundtrip itinerary on American would cost a whopping $500+ in taxes and fuel surcharges. Again, that’s not in my sister’s budget!

AA Outbound

For a complete breakdown of which carriers British Airways adds fuel surcharges to, check out Scott’s comprehensive post here.

What was the cents per mile she received on this award?

Though it would have been uncomfortable, she had to be in Paris around the dates she provided me. The nonstop flights she needed were $1,500 roundtrip. The flight home to Atlanta was a helpful bonus. Similar one ways were going for $150 on Kayak.

Though the award cost 60k AAdvantage miles, she also forewent accruing miles by flying on an award ticket. The roundtrip distance between Boston and Paris is 6,897 miles. She would have also received 946 miles for the Boston -> Philadelphia -> Atlanta oneway.

100 * ($1,500 + $150 – $95) / (60,000 + 6,897 + 946) = 2.29 cents per mile of value on the award

The MileValue Leaderboard lists the value of AAdvantage miles at 1.77 cents each, so I consider this redemption a solid value.

Recap

I booked a simple AA roundtrip award from Boston to Paris for my sister and helped her tack a free oneway home for Thanksgiving. This is a relatively easy award to construct — I don’t think most readers would need to use our excellent Award Booking Service to put it together.

However, I wanted to illustrate a practical example of a free oneway and show that the award best enjoyed is one by a close family member. She saved cash that can be put towards the trip and doesn’t have to fret as much about her flights home for the holidays. That’s a winning itinerary in my book!

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16 Responses to Anatomy of an Award: Summer Trip to Paris & Free Oneway Home for Thanksgiving

  1. I have been trying to find flights to many of the major cities in Europe that USAirways previously flew, departing from Charlotte or Philadelphia, and I only get BA options with fuel charges. Where in Europe can you fly from United States NOT on BA? How do you search this?

    • Scott Grimmer

      To remove BA options, you can either select AA only option on the advanced search screen or uncheck British Airways on the results screen.

  2. Also, I am not seeing the “Number of Stops Preference” to use the information to search from your . . . How to Search for Nonstop Award Space on AA.com!

  3. BFD, if there are no nonstop options, I don’t think you will see that dropdown on the side. I don’t always see it when searching on AA.com.

  4. Will there be any USAirways flights nonstop to Europe from Phil or Clt as before? I of course want to avoid fuel charges and don’t understand where these flights are. I can go into a lot of major cities as paris, Barcelona, Lisbon, Frankfurt, rome, etc. I will search if I know they are still flying non BA planes from these cities. Thanks

  5. You left out the most important detail: what was the actual booking you did to get her from CDG to BOS with the later free one-way? I’m guessing it was CDG to ATL and then you picked out the proper dates/connecting cities to get what you wanted. It would be more helpful to us noobs if you spelled it out a little clearer; a screen-shot or two would help immensely to understand this interesting and creative booking method. Thanks!

  6. Thank you for this great information. I agree with Geoff. You keep showing us the screenshots for choosing the award space. Once I get to this point it’s easy. It would be much more helpful to show us screenshots of how you do the initial flight requests. I assume you’re using the Multi-City tab. Please consider giving us the initial setup screen shots. Thanks!

  7. Another idea would be to book a 25k roundtrip coach ticket on Aer Lingus BOS-DUB and then pay for a cheap DUB-CDG roundtrip with cash.

  8. Wait so did you give her your AAdvantage miles points? In the beginning you stated she had zero points and a tight budget.

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