Category Archives: AAdvantage

American Airlines US Airways Combined Program Imminent?

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US Airways and American Airlines legally merged in December 2013, but the two airlines maintain separate frequent flyer programs that will be combined at some point.

That’s all we know.

Chatter is heating up on the FlyerTalk thread for speculation about that future combined program that the combined program could be announced “probably in the next 2 weeks or so.” The predicted date for the combination of the two programs is March 1, 2015!

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We know that the US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will no longer be offered as soon as the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs integrate. That means that the chance to earn 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase could disappear in just over four months. Check out all the places you can go with just the sign up bonus.

  • Why do I consider this most recent speculation very reliable?
  • What is the speculation for what the new program looks like?
  • What do I hope the combined program looks like?
  • What is the optimal strategy for the US Airways MasterCard?

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Brand New Flat Bed Business Class Option Between United States and Australia

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Qantas is refurbishing its A330s with “fully flat beds in business class.” Right now the A330s serve the following routes.

  • Sydney-Melbourne
  • Sydney-Brisbane
  • Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane to Perth
  • Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane to Singapore
  • Melbourne/Brisbane to Hong Kong
  • Sydney-Bangkok
  • Sydney-Jakarta
  • Sydney-Manila
  • Sydney-Honolulu
  • Sydney-Shanghai

I have medium hopes for the new beds, which will roll out starting in December 2014. The reason I am not more excited is that the picture accompanying the press release looks to me like an angled lie flat beds, not fully flat beds.

A330-Business-Suite-Fully-Flat-1024x756This jives with my experience in business class on the Qantas A380. I was expecting fully flat, but I got a small and uncomfortable angle.

Still these new beds can be great news for anyone flying between Hawaii and Australia, Asia and Australia, or within Australia.

  • More info about the new beds
  • Which miles to book the new beds
  • The award space picture

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7,500 Free American Airlines Miles for 10 Min Cadillac Test Drive

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You can get 7,500 American Airlines miles for test driving any new Cadillac, and you might not even have to do the 10 minute test drive.

From the promo page:

Right now, AAdvantage® members can earn 7,500 AAdvantage miles when you test drive any Cadillac* vehicle, including the striking 2015 CTS sedan with available adaptive cruise control and available OnStar 4G LTE with Wi-Fi®**. The available Wi-Fi® hotspot works inside your CTS and up to 50 feet away as long as your vehicle is on, while the 4G LTE allows you to use your laptop or tablet as a mobile office with a reliable connection.

Contact a Cadillac Concierge today at 844-469-2234 to schedule an appointment and participate in this exclusive limited time offer. Please allow 4-6 weeks to receive your AAdvantage miles.

*At participating dealers only.  Must have an AAdvantage account and be 21 years or older with a valid U.S. driver’s license.  Employees of General Motors are not eligible. Retail value: $221.00. Test drive lasts approximately 10 minutes.  Offer valid while supplies last.  Limit one test drive per person.  Allow 4-6 weeks for miles to be awarded after confirmation that test drive has been completed.  Offer is nontransferable, nonnegotiable and not redeemable for cash.

I value 7,500 American Airlines miles at about $133. If the test drive takes “10 minutes” and registering and driving to/from the dealer adds up to an hour total, that’s quite a return on my time.

  • How can you avoid the test drive and high pressured sales pitch and still get the miles?
  • What is this “Retail value: $221″ nonsense? Are you going to get taxes on the miles?
  • Why should you NOT call to sign up for this promotion right now?

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Amazing Off Peak Awards to the Caribbean with AA/US Miles

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You can get from anywhere in the United States to tons of destinations in the Caribbean for 20,000 US Airways miles roundtrip or 25,000 American Airlines miles.

The Caribbean from Google Maps

The Caribbean from Google Maps

Both deals rely on the airlines’ off peak award charts. US Airways’ off peak dates are September 1 – 30. American Airlines’ off peak dates are September 7 – November 14.

Both airlines, as well as Delta and United, normally charge 35,000 miles roundtrip in economy to the Caribbean. During off peak dates, both US Airways and American Airlines charge 25,000 miles. In addition, US Airways offers folks who have a US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® a 5,000 mile discount on all US Airways awards flown exclusively on US Airways planes. US Airways off peak awards have the same requirement, so cardholders get a 5,000 mile discount on all US Airways off peak awards, bringing the all in price to 20,000 miles roundtrip to the Carribean.

We know that the US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will no longer be offered as soon as the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs integrate, some time in early 2015. That means that the chance to earn 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase will disappear soon. That’s enough miles for two roundtrips to the Caribbean during September. Check out all the places you can go with just the sign up bonus.

  • What is an even better deal than off peak awards if you live in Charlotte, Philadelphia, Miami, New York, or Dallas?
  • How do American Airlines and US Airways off peak awards work?

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Australia over Christmas and New Years on Miles

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I get a ton of requests at my Award Booking Service for people who want to fly from the United States to Australia or New Zealand over Christmas and New Year’s with their frequent flyer miles. Usually the request is to fly in Business or First Class.

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I want to dissuade you from this goal because it is one of the toughest awards to book.

Last month I wrote “The Easiest Places to Get with Miles.” Miles are awesome and can get you almost anywhere in the world cheaper and more luxuriously than most people realize. But some awards are easier to book than others. Focusing on easier awards, especially at first, can get you some award-ticket “wins” that will hook you and lead to more successful bookings in the future.

Trying to book two people from the United States to Australia in Business Class from December 21 to January 3 is very hard to turn into one of those wins. It will mainly lead to frustration.

  • What is the award space picture to Australia this holiday season with American, US Airways, United, and Delta miles?
  • What is the most likely strategy to find award space?
  • What other times of year does Australia have better award space?

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Where is the Space? American Airlines New Flat Bed Business Class

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For a long time, a major weakness of American Airlines miles has been that American Airlines Business Class featured exclusively angled lie flat seats. That is changing rapidly.

  • American’s newest plane, the 777-300ER, arrived with fully flat beds in Business Class. The plane serves some flights to Sao Paulo, London, and Hong Kong.
  • American Airlines’ 767 is being retrofitted with fully flat beds in Business Class. The retrofitted plane already flies several routes to Europe, and more retrofitted planes will serve more of Europe in the coming months.
  • American Airlines’ 777-200 is being retrofitted with fully flat beds in Business Class and will arrive “later this year” to serve undisclosed routes.

All three of these Business Class products look nice. The question is: what is the award space picture on these flat beds?

  • Where is the award space on AA’s new flat beds?
  • How can you book AA flat beds?
  • What is the best flat bed space with AA miles on non-AA planes?

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4 Business Class Award Seats Every Day Between USA and Asia

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There are four Business Class award seats available every day in June 2015 on Japan Airlines’ flight from Los Angeles to Osaka, Japan. Hat tip to reader Oren for passing along the tip.

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The award space is bookable with American Airlines and US Airways miles much for as low as 50,000 miles each way. There are excellent connection options to and from Los Angeles and Osaka, so this space effectively connects all of the United States with all of Asia.

Unfortunately the seat servicing the route is angled lie flat. I’d wryly note that there’s a reason it won a 2009 design award and not a 2014 award.

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  • How can you search for the award space?
  • How can you book the award space?
  • How good is the seat?
  • What are your connection options in Los Angeles and Osaka?

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20 Percent Bonus on Marriott to American Airlines Transfers

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Reader Steve passes along a great deal for people with lots of Marriott points.

Until October 31, 2014, you can get a 20% bonus when you transfer Marriott points to American Airlines miles.

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This includes Marriott-points-to-miles transfers and transfers of Marriott points to hotel and air packages.

  • What are hotel and air packages?
  • Why are hotel and air packages often a better deal than just transferring to miles?
  • What airline transfer partner of Marriott points is always 10-20% better than other options?

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American Airlines/El Al Partnership Ends, Cheapest Options to Israel

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American Airlines’ and El Al’s partnership ends October 31, 2014.

Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 9.34.18 PM Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 9.34.25 PMTo use American Airlines miles to fly to Israel on El Al, you must book by October 31, 2014. You can book American Airlines awards up to 11 months in advance, so you can travel on tickets booked October 31, 2014 until about the end of September 2015.

Once the partnership ends, you will still be able to use American Airlines miles to book US Airways flights from Philadelphia to Tel Aviv. I took a look at that award space to see how big of a loss the El Al partnership is.

  • How good is US Airways space to Israel?
  • How many American Airlines miles does it cost to book? How can you save tens of thousands of miles?

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Five Underpriced Countries for Your Next Award

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Sometimes you can go really far for not very miles by finding underpriced countries on your favorite award chart.

Award charts, by their nature, group several countries together for a single price. The countries at the extremes of each group are often underpriced relative to the rest of the group, leaving you the chance to get a great deal with your miles.

Here are five examples of underpriced countries on the American Airlines, United, Delta, US Airways, and British Airways award charts.

1. Peru, by American, United, and Delta

Peru is the farthest south country in Northern South America on the American Airlines, United, and Delta charts. I’ve previously called Peru the Best Destination for Lie Flat Seats because it is the only country in its region with lie flat seats offered by United, Delta, and American’s partner LAN.

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The most distant country in Northern South America is Peru

You can book a one way award from the United States to Peru for as little as 15,000 American Airlines miles each way in economy on these dates: between January 16 – June 14 and September 7 – November 14. That’s only 2,500 miles more than a one way award within the continental United States and cheaper than an award to Hawaii despite Peru being farther award from the continental United States than Hawaii.

You can fly flat beds to Peru for:

  • 30,000 American Airlines miles each way (LAN)
  • 35,000 United miles each way (United)
  • 90,000 Delta miles roundtrip (Delta) [45,000 miles each way starting 1/1/15]

That’s cheaper than flat beds to Hawaii, despite Peru being farther away from the continental United States. Those prices are also a huge discount on the prices to Chile, Brazil, and Argentina which are just a few hours more of flying.

Peru also happens to be my favorite country to visit. Here’s my Top Ten Things to Do, Eat, and See in Peru.

  • What are the other four underpriced countries?

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The Cheapest Ways to Get to Hawaii

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Update on 9/23/14 to Remove Reference to American Airlines award stopovers and free one ways, which are no longer possible.

Hawaii is one of the best places in the world to visit, and judging by the number of inquiries I get about booking awards to Hawaii, it’s clear that many people agree. There are a number of cheap ways to get there that I’ll list in order.

1. Allegiant Air $358+ roundtrip- Allegiant Air is a super-low cost carrier that announced flights to Hawaii that will start in November. Flights to Honolulu from Bellingham, Eugene, Fresno, Las Vegas, Monterey, Santa Maria, and Stockton; and flights to Kahului from Bellingham begin in November. The flights are as cheap as $308 roundtrip, but a carryon will cost $50 roundtrip and a checked bag is $70 roundtrip. Additionally if you want to select your seat or board early, you have to pay extra.

But if you live in one of the cities serviced by Allegiant, don’t mind a middle seat for five hours, and can travel with only one bag, $358 roundtrip to Hawaii is the best deal in my opinion.

One key caveat is that Allegiant flights don’t earn any frequent flier miles or credit of any kind. Since normally flying from the west coast to Hawaii earns about 5,000 miles, and I value 5,000 miles at around $85 depending on the carrier, Allegiant flights must be $85 or more cheaper than the legacy carriers for this to be a good deal. Since the legacy carriers want $600+ from the west coast to Hawaii right now, Allegiant easily meets the criterion.

You can always pay for your Allegiant flights, bag fees, seat fees, and food with a Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®. Then you can redeem Arrival miles to remove those purchases from your statement. You could even use your Arrival miles for an airbnb stay in Hawaii or interisland flights.

2. Avios Award 25,000+ Avios and $11+ roundtrip- I love that Avios is a distance-based award chart. Flights like the west coast to Hawaii cost only 12,500 Avios each way plus taxes. For 25,000 Avios and $11, you can fly on AA planes from LAX to the four major Hawaiian airports.

Alaska Airlines has way more gateways on the mainland to the four major Hawaiian airports. For 25,000 Avios and $36, you can fly from Anchorage, Bellingham, Oakland, Portland, San Diego, San Jose, and Seattle to Hawaii. The extra $25 on Avios awards comes from the fact that awards on Alaska Airlines can’t be booked on ba.com, and calling BA incurs a $25 phone fee.

Avios is also the best option for anyone who lives close to one of the airports mentioned in this section, since a short hop flight only adds 4,500 Avios and $2.50 to the price each way. That means Tuscon to Los Angeles to Lihue roundtrip would be 34,000 Avios and $16.

Avios can be used for oneway awards at half the price of a roundtrip award, which means that if you can’t get the Avios deal both ways, it’s still a good idea to go oneway for 12,500 Avios and use another oneway deal.

See here for an Anatomy of an Award post for a step-by-step breakdown of the time I booked a oneway award from Honolulu to LAX with Avios.

3. Hawaiian Airlines Award 35,000 miles and $11- Hawaiian Airlines awards start at 35,000 miles for Hawaiian Airlines branded card holders. The normal price is 40,000 miles. While this price is no cheaper than an American Airlines off peak award to Hawaii, I think it’s a better deal because Hawaiian Airlines miles are worth less than most programs’ miles. (The reason Hawaiian miles are worth less is their lack of partners, junk long haul first class product, and lack of destinations.)

Hawaiian also has the only direct flight from Honolulu to JFK, which at 35,000 miles and $5 is a fantastic value in terms of low cost and getting a direct flight. The other flights Hawaiian operates from Honolulu to the mainland go to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle.

Hawaiian miles can be used for oneway awards at half the price of a roundtrip award, which means that if you can’t get the Avios deal both ways, this can be combined with a oneway Avios deal.

See here for an Anatomy of an Award post for a step-by-step breakdown of the time I booked a oneway award from LAX to Honolulu with Hawaiian miles. The post also includes information on the very useful mile pooling allowed by Hawaiian.

4. Star Alliance options from as little as 35,000 miles roundtrip in economy and 60,000 miles in First.

See this post.

 

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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