Last month I wrote about using American Airlines’ distance-based Explorer Award chart to save miles and add stopovers traveling to Europe. Check out Get a Roundtrip Business Class Award to Europe with Three Stopovers for 90k American Airlines Miles before proceeding. This post compares that Explorer Award option with a “regular” award option.
On a roundtrip from New York to Eastern Europe, I was able to add three stopovers and save 10k AAdvantage miles (90k vs. 100k) on the cost of a roundtrip business award.
I didn’t go through with this award because it might not best use of miles. I could book a better award instead which opens up the potential for three vacations on one award. It’s slightly more expensive but adds tremendous value!
What’s better than a 90k Explorer Award to Europe? How did you maximize your AAdvantage miles? Does the new award include great free oneways?
This review is a continuation of my huge US Airways redemption that I wrote about back in this post. I reviewed Swiss Business Class: Boston to Zurich already.
I was very excited to try out my first A380 and sample Thai’s First Class offering, especially after hearing about Tahsir’s great experience on the shorter Bangkok-Hong Kong route.
How was the service? What made the experience so great? How was the seat and bedding? Did the food measure up to other premium cabin standards? What do you need to know if you fly Thai First Class?
The American Airlines Explorer Award is an incredible use of miles. An Explorer Award is a distance-based award that allows multiple stopovers, so it’s a versatile award perfect for globetrotters on round-the-world itineraries or cramming many trips onto one award at a steep discount.
I want to illustrate how a relatively simple award routing to Europe can also be a great use of an Explorer Award by saving miles and adding free stopovers that wouldn’t be permitted under normal circumstances.
I’m planning a trip to Sofia, Bulgaria this summer and uncovered a great value. My business class award to Eastern Europe would only cost 90k American miles + government taxes and include two stopovers. A traditional “saver” business class American award is 100k miles per person and does not permit an international stopover. So I am saving 10k miles and stopping in two extra cities by using an Explorer Award.
I am writing an Anatomy of an Award on this particular booking to illustrate:
- The cost/benefit analysis of an Explorer Award vs. a standard award–even when you have no interest in going around the world
- Trouble shooting the rules of the Explorer Award
- Searching for oneworld award space on AA.com and BA.com
How do you construct this trip? How can you use the Explorer Award chart to your advantage? Is this really a good use of AA miles?
A few weeks ago I flew Boston to Zurich in Swiss business class. It was my first flight on a whirlwind trip to Asia. I documented the trip’s booking in this post.
I was excited to try out Swiss’ business class product for the first time. Swiss isn’t the most generous in releasing award space, so the scarcity increased my expectations.
How was the service? Does the seat recline to a fully flat position? Did the food measure up to other premium cabin standards? What do you need to know if you fly Swiss Business Class?
Our Award Booking Service has been rocking and rolling lately. Busy frequent flyers love the personal attention we give each itinerary, as well as our expert knowledge of award programs.
The MileValue crew has a battle-tested recipe for award booking success. By following a few easy tips, doing your homework, and being flexible, you too can be an expert award booker–and get yourself your dream trip.
Emirates First Class Suite
What are MileValue’s eight tried-and-true tips? How can you book an award like the pros do?
While booking a family of four to Australia through our popular Award Booking Service, I ran into a vexing problem with Star Alliance award space.
On a certain Air Canada route, Air Canada’s own Aeroplan members had access to more award seats than its Star Alliance partners. That’s not a surprising practice on the surface. Air New Zealand never releases transpacific space to Star Alliance partners. Swiss Airlines restricts first class cabin redemptions to its own members.
The anomaly here is that United also has access to Air Canada premium cabin award space that other Star Alliance partners don’t.
What is the route? How did I discover this? What does this discovery mean for award bookers?
By using the principles of free oneways and an incredible sweet spot on the US Airways award chart, you can save up to 70,000 miles on your next US Airways award booking to Asia.
- I’m flying Turkish Airlines Business Class on My Next US Airways Award
US Airways charges ordinarily charges 120k miles roundtrip in business class to India or Thailand and 160k in first. We can cut that to 90k miles roundtrip in business class to South or Southeast Asia and 120k miles in first!
What is this awesome sweet spot on the US Airways chart? How do we take advantage of it? Can I really save up to 70,000 Dividend Miles per person by taking advantage?
Update: Link to Etihad Press Release about Route
According to USA Today and Will Horton of Centre for Aviation, Etihad Airways will begin service to Los Angeles from its hub in Abu Dhabi beginning on June 1, 2014. This is fantastic news for those with AAdvantage balances, especially those on the West Coast!
From Etihad’s own website. Etihad’s Diamond First Class is a fully enclosed suite.
The introduction of Etihad’s long nonstop from Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi will be a great jumping off point to the Middle East for West Coast flyers. It strengthens the value of an AAdvantage mile and helps avoid (or at least mitigate) some of American’s more annoying award routing rules!
How do I book an Etihad award with AAdvantage miles? What is the award space picture? What kinds of taxes and fees can be expected on an Etihad award? Why is this so great for West Coast flyers? What destinations does this open up?
Qatar Airways awards are now searchable and bookable at ba.com and bookable by calling American Airlines. This is huge news because Qatar has an excellent route network from the US to the Middle East, Indian Subcontinent, and Maldives.
As announced on the oneworld site, Qatar Airways will join the oneworld alliance on October 30th. This is great news for those with large American Airlines AAdvantage or British Airways Avios balances. Doha-based Qatar Airways has a robust Middle Eastern route network and opens up connections to many places with presently poor oneworld coverage.
Qatar Route Map of Middle East, Indian Subcontinent, and East Africa
The best news of all is that Qatar award space is now bookable using the British Airways search tool. For more information on searching the British Airways website, make sure to check out Scott’s post Free First Class Next Month: Searching BA.com to Find oneworld Award Availability.
How can you search for Qatar award space? How can you book it with your American Airlines miles? How many miles do you need? What regions will Qatar help you reach?
American Airlines’ website is a great place to search for oneworld award space, especially on oneworld partners such as airberlin, Qantas, and Finnair. American’s site is also useful for searching award space on non-oneworld partners like Hawaiian and Alaska. Scott wrote up a good introductory post on AA.com earlier this month.
This brief post will show you a quick tip on how to search for nonstop award segments on AA.com.
How do you manipulate aa.com to show only non-stop results? When would you want to do this?
If you have a stash of Star Alliance frequent flyer miles, United.com is a great place to start planning your award trip, but it’s far from perfect.
I’ve detailed in the past how United’s site will display “phantom” availability. Award space displays as bookable, but when you attempt to reserve the space online you will receive an error message. Then if you try to call in to book the trip–whether with United or another Star Alliance partner’s miles to book the trip (e.g. US Airways Dividend Miles)–phone agents wouldn’t be able to see the space, which is immensely frustrating.
Phantom availability appears to be a waning problem for United’s site. I no longer see four business class seats on the EgyptAir nonstop flight from New York-JFK to Cairo that simply aren’t there. I no longer see Lufthansa First Class award space that in reality is a mirage. Plus United.com has recently added partner award space such as Taipei-based EVA Airways. Functionality has improved!
However, there is a quirk that award bookers need to be aware of. United.com does not display Brussels Airlines award space.
Why is this a big problem if you want to use your United, US Airways, or other Star Alliance miles to Europe or Africa? How do you solve the problem?
At our Award Booking Service, clients most often ask us to construct specific itineraries with their miles. Maybe they want to go to both France and Italy for their honeymoon and have United miles. We take it from there. Sometimes, however, we receive requests that are more like pleas:
“I have 250,000 Delta Skymiles, how can I put them to any use??”
I’ve often argued that Skymiles are strategically useful. If you aim to travel to specific locations that Delta’s partners service, you stand a much better chance of securing award seats.
Delta partner China Southern is one of a handful of SkyTeam members that I advocate redeeming an award. They have an excellent route network from their hub in Guangzhou. China Southern flies a daily nonstop from Los Angeles to Ghuagzhou on the Airbus A380 featuring fully flat bed business seats.
In the past, I routinely saw up to nine business and economy class award seats on this Los Angeles -> Guangzhou flight. Unfortunately, that kind of amazing availability was too good to last. There are now fewer business seats released, but certainly better space than Delta releases on its own flights!
How can you snag one of these now-rarer seats? Why do you want one?
According to this thread on FlyerTalk, British Airways has made some enhancements to their Avios booking functionality on BA.com. I normally cringe when I hear the word “enhancement” associated with a frequent flyer program, but this is actually good news!
Back in December I wrote up British Airways improving their online award search functionality. Once a frustrating experience with multiple unnecessary clicks, BA.com could now display oneworld partner availability immediately and allow you to hop around to different dates on the calendar. That may seem like a laughably obvious tweak, but it was a time saver, especially when helping clients at our Award Booking Service.
What are the newest improvements? How does one search ba.com now?
The balance in my US Airways account was practically blinking like a giant Las Vegas neon sign.
As luck would have it, 120,000 miles is the exact amount needed for a roundtrip first class award to North Asia. United charges 140,000 miles for the same award. American charges between 125,000-135,000 miles, depending on which countries you visit.
From a cost standpoint, booking this award with Dividend Miles would be a relative bargain. From a routing standpoint, the award would be an absolute steal.
How did I squeeze nine segments and some world-class First Class flights onto one 120k mile award (while simultaneously crossing two more expensive regions)?
Note: This post may have a shorter shelf life due to the impending US Airways merger.
Our Award Booking Service receives numerous requests from clients trying to maximize the value of their miles. These savvy travelers want to fly in the best premium cabins and take advantage of any and all liberal routing rules available.
Luckily, many of our clients have large Dividend Miles balances. Dividend Miles are tops on the Mile Value Leaderboard for a few reasons including: other than being limited to one stopover or one open jaw on a roundtrip itinerary, there are nearly limitless ways to squeeze extra value out of an award itinerary.
Because US Airways manually prices each award, you can get away with quite a bit. For instance, you can connect in Europe en route to Asia or even visit four (!) continents on one roundtrip award. Simply put, they don’t have a computer program in place to say “no.”
There is a downside to this policy, however. An agent might reject your itinerary and cite a seemingly official US Airways routing rule.
I can assure you that most of these “rules” are made up by the agent. Sometimes if an award looks complicated to an agent, they will create a rule of out thin air to make you and your complicated itinerary go away.
What are some commonly quoted US Airways award rules you can bend? How do you do that?