Category Archives: AAdvantage

American Airlines Still Allows Stopovers on Awards

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My sister asked me a few weeks ago: “Didn’t you say there are no stopovers allowed on American Airlines awards?”

“Yes,” I replied. “In April, American removed the ability to add a free stopover to awards under all circumstances. It was a super bummer because I used to use the free stopovers for free one ways.”

“I just got a free stopover on my American Airlines award.”

She gave me her American Airlines number and password, so I was able to go into her account and check everything out.

She did indeed add a 2+ day stopover in Los Angeles on an award between Hawaii and the continental United States.

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  • How did she get this stopover?
  • Is it repeatable?

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The Cheapest Awards within One Region

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If you THINK BIG, and take an amazing multi-destination trip, you’ll need to book several tickets to hop between destinations.

In the United States, Europe, and Southeast Asia, flights are fairly cheap because of the many competing airlines, including low cost carriers. In other regions, like Africa and South America, short flights can be exorbitantly expensive as a lack of competition drives up prices.

When ticket prices are expensive, that’s the time to use miles. I’ve already laid out the cheapest intra-region bargain awards with American Airlines and United miles. There are also some excellent deals within a single region on the American Airlines, United, Singapore Airlines, and US Airways award charts.

Hop Around My Favorite Continent for 12,500 of Which Miles? (from google.com)

Hop Around My Favorite Continent for 12,500 of Which Miles? (from google.com)

The key to finding great miles uses within a single region is finding award charts with big regions.

For instance, Singapore Airlines categorizes all of South America as one region and charges only 12,500 miles each way in economy within the region. One route I’m looking at for a big trip in December is from Medellin, Colombia to Buenos Aires, Argentina. The ticket would cost $755 or 12,500 Singapore miles + $75. That’s over 5 cents of value per mile on an economy ticket!

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With the demise of American Airlines Explorer Awards, big trips will require many awards. Choosing the right miles for each of the small awards will really add up, so make sure you know the top intra-region awards.

  • What are the top intra-region awards with American Airlines, United, Singapore Airlines, and US Airways miles?
  • What about British Airways Avios?

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Award Space Home from the Great Wall

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I had a blast spending 70 hours in Beijing with my brother this week using the 72-Hour Visa-Free Transit rule.

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on a section of the “wild” Great Wall near Jiankou

The rule requires you to enter China from one country and leave China to a third country within 72 hours among other requirements.

Since the time you can spend in Beijing under the rule is so limited, I would not fly directly from the United States to China, starting the clock when you’ll be severely jet lagged. We started our Asian trip in Hong Kong and got over jet lag there, so when we flew to Beijing (same time zone), we could hit the ground running.

Since starting in Beijing is not recommended, I looked at award space next May for awards returning from Beijing to the United States. Why May? The temperature was perfect for us in September, and May has similar weather. (September 2015 will be bookable next month.)

There are a number of direct flights from Beijing to the United States and Canada on Air China, United, Air Canada, and American Airlines that I’ll look at in this post. I’ll ignore the Delta flights because they can’t be booked one way until January 2015.

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  • How is award space for two people from Beijing to the United States in May 2015?
  • What miles can you use to book the flights?

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American Airlines Best Business and First Class on New Route

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American Airlines’ best Business and First Class are both found on the 777-300ER, its newest international plane.

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The 777-300ER features fully flat beds in Business Class and First Class, plus a walk up bar on board for the folks up front. So far the plane is flying 1-2 frequencies a day on some of American Airlines’ routes to London and Sao Paulo.

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The plane will also fly Miami to Sao Paulo from November 6 to December 1 of this year.

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American Airlines and US Airways’ award charts are the cheapest around at the moment, so it’s a great deal to get a new and world-class product like American Airlines has put on its 777-300ERs for 50k miles each way in Business Class to Europe or Brazil or 62,500 miles in First Class.

  • How is award space in Business Class and First Class from Miami to Sao Paulo while the 777-300ER takes over one frequency?
  • How is award space in Business Class and First Class on the other 777-300ER routes?

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The Coolest Thing You Can Do with 60k Miles

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Last week I urged people to be realistic with their miles and listed The Easiest Places to Get with Miles. Today I’m telling you to dream big and to look to do things with miles that you couldn’t easily or cheaply do without miles.

For instance, for 60,000 miles, you can book yourself a “triangle trip” that lets you practice your Spanish in Chile and Spain. The trip would let you see the wildlife of Patagonia and the nightlife of Barcelona.

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How many thousands of dollars would a similar trip cost? Could you even have dared to dream about such a routing before you knew the power of your miles?

The routing I’ll talk about relies on three discounted awards, and award space is plentiful on all routes. Best of all, you can live anywhere in the continental United States to take advantage, and you can customize the destinations to your taste.

  • What three discounted awards combine to form the legs of this triangle trip?
  • What 60,000 miles do you need? How can you get them?

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US Airways, American Airlines, and British Airways Not Sharing All Award Availability

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US Airways, American Airlines, and British Airways are all members of the oneworld alliance who should be equally sharing award space on their own flights with their partners.

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For the first time, I’ve found a case where US Airways “Low” (their name for “Saver”) price award space is not bookable with American Airlines or British Airways miles.

Either the US Airways space is phantom, or it isn’t being shared with American Airlines and British Airways, which would be a huge problem because American Airlines and British Airways awards are often cheaper than US Airways awards.

Refresher on Partners Sharing Space

As a refresher, airlines usually share all their capacity-controlled Saver award space–whatever that’s called like “MileSAAver” or “Low”–equally with their own members and their partners. There are a few exceptions, but US Airways economy Low space has never been an exception, so I would expect US Airways miles, American Airlines miles, and British Airways Avios to be able to book it equally.

Airlines never share their less capacity controlled seats with partners–award space with names like Medium, High, AAnytime, and Standard.

That means that any Low award space at usairways.com, any MileSAAver award space at aa.com, and any British Airways award space at ba.com should be available equally to all three types of miles. (British Airways doesn’t have tiers of seat availability.)

Why This Matters

US Airways flies from Sarasota, FL to Charlotte, NC, which is a distance of 547 miles.

  • US Airways would charge 25,000 miles and $36 for the one way flight at the Low level.
  • American would charge 12,500 miles and $6.
  • British Airways would charge 4,500 Avios and $6.

I’d much rather book the flight with Avios than with US Airways miles. Or if I needed the segment as part of an international award to Asia, I’d want to book it with American Airlines miles.

If US Airways isn’t sharing the space, that makes American Airlines and British Airways miles less valuable.

  • On what routes is US Airways space not bookable with AA and BA miles?
  • What is the root cause of the problem? Glitch or purposeful blocking?

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American Airlines: Give Us Back Our Free Stopover

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To Suzanne Rubin, head of American Airlines AAdvantage,

In April 2014, American Airlines eliminated the possibility of stopovers on award tickets with no notice.

Previously, one stopover was allowed on one way awards–two on roundtrip awards–at the North American International Gateway City.

That rule gave folks who lived where there were no international flights on American Airlines partners the chance to enjoy their awards more with stopovers in major international cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Honolulu. And it allowed people who lived in this long list of cities with international flights on American Airlines partners to enjoy two free one ways per roundtrip international award.

A free one way from Honolulu to Los Angeles plus a flight to London five months later for 20,000 total miles

I think that was the problem. American Airlines didn’t like that a small fraction of the awards its members were booking including extra segments on American Airlines flights. That’s the only reason I can think of that would make you eliminate stopovers on American Airlines awards.

  • Why do I think American Airlines eliminated free stopovers to curb free one ways?
  • How do I suggest American Airlines reinstate free stopovers in a way that benefits us while still prohibiting free one ways?

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Excellent Finnair Business Class Space to Europe in 2015

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Finnair is offering excellent Business Class award space in a state-of-the-art bed next year from New York and Miami to Helsinki and beyond in Europe.

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Since Finnair is a member of the oneworld alliance, you can book the business class award space for 50,000 American Airlines miles each way or 100,000 US Airways miles each way.

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Finnair space is searchable on aa.com.

  • What is the Finnair Business class product?
  • What is the award space picture for Spring and Summer 2015?
  • How can you book awards with Finnair flights?
  • How can you get the miles to book Finnair flights?

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There Is No Transitive Property of Miles

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Let me clear up one of the most common types of questions I get from beginners.

There is no transitive property of miles.

Just because Airline A partners with Airline B and Airline B partners with Airline C does NOT mean Airlines A and C are partners.

Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 11.51.54 AMFor instance, in yesterday’s post Fully Flat Business Class to Europe for 25,000 Miles, I wrote:

I searched award space on Aer Lingus’ routes from Chicago, Boston, and New York to Dublin for one passenger next April through July.

I searched on united.com. Any space seen here is bookable with United or British Airways miles.

Often when I write such things I’ll get a comment or an email like, “I have American Airlines miles, which is a partner of British Airways. Can I use those miles to book Aer Lingus flights as a British Airways award?”

  • Well, can you?
  • What about using a partner’s more favorable fuel surcharge rules?
  • Can you use American Airlines and US Airways miles to book all the partners of either airline?

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Free First Class 2014: American Airlines AAdvantage Basics

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This is the thirteenth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

I’ve covered how to earn miles and the redemption options for miles. Now I want to give the basics on several major airline programs where you can quickly collect miles for amazing trips. I’ll start with the American Airlines AAdvantage program.

Why Collect American Airlines Miles?

American Airlines miles are the best miles for ultra-luxury redemptions like Cathay Pacific First Class, Etihad First Class, or Qantas First Class.

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Cathay Pacific First Class booked with American Airlines miles

American Airlines has very cheap off peak awards. If you are willing to go to Europe in the fall, winter, or spring in economy, you can pay only 20,000 miles each way. There are also great off peak economy awards to Japan, Korea, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.

American Airlines (and US Airways, which have merged legally but will maintain separate loyalty programs and award charts until early 2015,) has not devalued its award charts for years. United and Delta greatly increased the miles price of premium cabin awards in 2014, but at least for bookings through late 2015, you can lock in American Airlines’ very low prices for business and first class awards, compared to its American competitors.

  • What airlines can you fly with American Airlines miles?
  • What are the routing rules for American Airlines awards (stopovers, open jaws, free one ways)?
  • What are the special features of the AAdvantage program (off peak awards)?
  • How can you book an American Airlines award?

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Gold Mine First Class Award Space from United States to Asia

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There is excellent award space in Japan Airlines First Class between San Francisco and Tokyo for most of the next 11 months. This is space you can cheaply book with American Airlines or US Airways miles, and you can use the space wherever you live in the United States to access anywhere in Asia.

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Starting December 1, 2014, Japan Airlines (JAL) is changing the aircraft on its San Francisco to Tokyo-Haneda route to a 777-300ER, which features a fully flat Business Class bed and eight enclosed suites in First Class.

Award space is wide open on the route in First Class, with many days from December 1, 2014 through late June 2015 showing two available award seats in First Class.

  • What is the award space picture?
  • What are the connection options in San Francisco and at Haneda?
  • How many miles will awards cost with US Airways, American Airlines, and British Airways miles?
  • How does the JAL Suite look?

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You Can Still Get 110,000 American Airlines Miles from a Single Sign Up Bonus

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Update 7/15/14: The link to the 100k application is dead again.

The strange saga of the Citi Executive AAdvantage World MasterCard with 100,000 bonus American Airlines miles keeps getting stranger. The good news is that the offer, after disappearing for three days, is back. You can still get 110,000 American Airlines miles from a single credit card sign up. That’s enough miles to fly anywhere in the world roundtrip on American Airlines partners.

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The saga:

  • January 2014: The Citi Executive AAdvantage World MasterCard’s sign up bonus increases from 60,000 to 75,000 to 100,000.
  • June 27, 2014: I wrote that the landing page for the 100,000 mile offer was gone but that a direct link to the card’s application (with no mention of the 100,000 mile bonus) still worked. Several readers confirmed getting the bonus through that link.
  • July 11, 2014: The direct link stops working. There were still offers available for 75,000 miles on the card.
  • July 14, 2014: The same direct link works again.  FlyerTalkers are reporting applying through the link, getting approved, and confirming with a phone agent that they are in line for 100,000 bonus miles on the card.

It is still be possible to quickly earn 110,000 American Airlines miles by getting the card and meeting its minimum spending requirement of $10,000 in the first three months, but there are major drawbacks to the Citi Executive AAdvantage World MasterCard that you should consider before getting the card.

  • What is the direct link to the Citi Executive AAdvantage World MasterCard application?
  • What is the full offer on the Citi Executive AAdvantage World MasterCard?
  • Can you get the card if you’ve had other Citi American Airlines cards?
  • Can you get this sign up bonus more than once?

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Amazing Summer 2014 Award Space to Hawaii

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American Airlines releases a ton of award space on its routes to Hawaii at the last minute.

On almost all of American Airlines’ routes from Los Angeles to the four major Hawaiian islands and Dallas/Fort Worth to Oahu and Maui, there is award space for 4+ people in the next few weeks.

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If you live in Southern California or North Texas, this is a great chance to use as few as 12,500 Avios per person per direction to get to Hawaii during high season when the weather is a perfect 85 degrees and sunny.

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If you live somewhere else, this is a great chance to use 17,000+ Avios or 22,500 American Airlines per person per direction to take advantage of the last-second award space.

If you’d rather fly a different time of year when American Airlines has released no MileSAAver award space, this is a great reminder to look again within a few weeks of departure because American Airlines has been routinely releasing award space a few weeks out on its routes to Hawaii.

  • What is the award space for four people from the continental United States to Hawaii on American Airlines flights?
  • How can you book that space for 12,500 Avios each way?
  • Why might you want to book the space with Avios even if it costs fewer American Airlines miles?

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Are US Airways and American Airlines Scamming Us?

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American Airlines and US Airways are currently offering huge bonuses on transfers from SPG Starpoints. Until July 31, 2014, you can transfer 20,000 Starpoints to 30,000 miles in either program.

American Airlines and Citi are still offering 100,000 miles on the American Airlines Executive Card, a deal which has been around since January, though presumably is on life support since the landing page is now gone.

US Airways and Barclaycard upped the public bonus on The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® to 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase this year, its highest level in my memory.


All this is great news, or is it?

  • Why do I feel like American Airlines and US Airways are scamming us?
  • Why doesn’t it bother me?

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BA.com Isn’t As Good At Finding Connections as AA.com

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British Airways has a unique, distance-based award chart that can provide fantastic value for short-haul flights.

Both Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards transfer 1:1 to British Airways Avios.

imagesBritish Airways has access to all American Airlines “MileSAAver” award space. Furthermore, on some routes British Airways actually charges fewer miles for the same flight than American Airlines.

Unfortunately, using ba.com is not as straightforward as using aa.com. BA.com is perfect for searching direct flights, but it often misses connecting itineraries, even simple ones with only one layover.

The other day, a reader emailed me saying that he had found MileSAAver award space from New York to Lima on American Airlines, but ba.com wouldn’t find it,. I looked into the problem and found a classic case of ba.com missing an obvious connecting itinerary.

  • What is the simple trick to finding award space on ba.com?
  • How can you book American Airlines flights using British Airways Avios?
  • When should you use British Airways Avios instead of American Airlines miles?
  • How can you fly a one way award flight for only 4,500 miles?

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