Category Archives: Anatomy of an Award

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

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, 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?

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Anatomy of an Award: Booking Etihad Business Class Using American Miles

Last month I booked myself an awesome award to the Maldives using AAdvantage miles and flying Etihad Airways Business Class. Etihad Business Class is one of the nicest in the world and award space is widespread and predictable between the US and the Middle East, Indian Subcontinent, and the Maldives.

Reaching the Middle East using AAdvantage miles is in general very easy with Qatar as a new oneworld member and Etihad as an American Airlines partner.

Routing from

Routing from

Though this is an extremely basic itinerary, there are several things everyone should be mindful of before tackling an Etihad award including how to search for Etihad award space and mastering the Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards.

How do you search for Etihad award space? Is Etihad reliable about releasing premium cabin award seats? Once you find Etihad seats, how do you book them? Which American Airlines rules trip up seemingly valid Etihad itineraries?

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Anatomy of an Award: Nabbing an Extremely Rare First Class Seat from Australia on Qantas

I nabbed a scarce First Class award from Australia to Los Angeles on Qantas during peak travel season and added a first class segment on American’s new Airbus A321T from Los Angeles to New York-JFK, both in fully flat beds.

I’m incredibly excited to try out another First Class product on the Airbus A380, especially after my great experience on a Thai flight from Paris to Bangkok.

Qantas A380

Relative to other Anatomy of Award posts, this one was simple to construct and even easier to book online. However, Qantas premium cabin award space isn’t widely available. You have to find the rare space and plan your hotel reservations around it, not the other way around. That’s one of the eight tenets of Highly Effective Award Bookers, after all.

How do you nab this tough to find award space? Can you add a stopover on a one way AAdvantage award? How am I getting to Australia?

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Anatomy of an Award: Burn United Miles for Flat Bed Lufthansa Business Class Before the Devaluation

United announced a massive devaluation of its miles on Halloween to take effect for awards booked February 1, 2014 or later. Until January 31, 2014, I’ll be running posts about the best ways to burn United miles at the current rates. Previously: Get in Bed on a United Dreamliner for Cheap!

I just booked myself a one way award from Ljubljana, Slovenia to Greensboro, NC including a fully flat bed on a Lufthansa 747-8 for the long segment for only 50,000 United miles + $85 in taxes.

My award with the flat bed in Lufthansa Business Class from Frankfurt to Dulles in blue.

My award with the flat bed in Lufthansa Business Class from Frankfurt to Dulles in blue.

If I had waited until February 1, 2014 to book the same flights, I would pay 70,000 United miles for the privilege, a 40% increase!

This Anatomy of an Award will discuss:

  • Booking US to Europe with United miles before the HUGE devaluation
  • A chart comparing pre- and post-devaluation prices to Europe
  • Which Lufthansa award space you want to avoid and which you want to book
  • The award space picture for 2014 to Europe
  • Ultimate Rewards transfers and how to rack up United miles

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Anatomy of an Award: Business Class Roundtrip to Europe with Two Free Oneways to Hawaii and Canada

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.

Old 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?

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Anatomy of an Award: Roundtrip from Chicago to Lusaka, Zambia Plus a Later Free Oneway to Alaska in Business Class with United Miles

I just booked two clients of the MileValue Award Booking Service a roundtrip award in business class to Lusaka, Zambia and added on a free oneway to Alaska several months later.

The award cost 120k United miles + $118 in government taxes per person.


Roundtrip Award from Chicago to Lusaka in Red and Later Free Oneway to Anchorage in Blue.

I am writing an Anatomy of an Award on this particular booking to illustrate:

  • Considerations on bookings to Africa
  • How to book a free oneway on a United award
  • Trouble shooting “phantom” award space
  • Searching for award space on
  • How to book a complex award (hint: not on

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Anatomy of an Award: Southeast Asian and Mexican Vacations in Business Class for 90k US Airways Miles, 30k Arrival Miles, and Zero Cash

Two weeks ago, in How to Save 70,000 Miles on US Airways Awards to Southeast Asia, Bill blew people’s minds with his post about one of the biggest tricks you can pull with US Airways miles:

When routing from the US to South & Central Asia, you can save up to 70,000 US Airways miles by adding segments from Mexico, Central America, or the Caribbean to your home airport before the main award.

The four step process is not difficult, but it is new, so there was some confusion in the comments section of that post. To allay that confusion, I’ll give an example of this type of award I’ve just booked for two of my friends in Los Angeles.

They’ll be taking two vacations in the next five months–a three day weekend in Cabo, Mexico and 17 days in Thailand–with almost all the flights in business class for 90k US Airways miles, 30k Arrival miles, and zero cash out of pocket.

How did I search for award space? How did I book the award? How is there no cash out of pocket? How many miles did they save?

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Anatomy of an Award: Booking Lufthansa Flights with US Airways Miles

US Airways has announced its plans to leave the Star Alliance for the oneworld alliance and later merge wither American Airlines.

But for the time being US Airways is in the Star Alliance and its miles can be used on its own flights or its Star Alliance partners.

At least in theory.

In practice, for the past few months US Airways agents have not been able to see award space on Lufthansa, the Star Alliance airline that releases the most space between the US and Europe.

You could find award space on, call US Airways, and the agent would tell you there was no space on the flight. Counter with the fact that you know there is space because you found it on, and you’d get a highly misleading claim that “Different partners have access to different award space.”

This glitch–unintentional or otherwise–that was causing US Airways agents not to be able to book Lufthansa award space was a major hassle for our Award Booking Service and its clients.

The good news is that I have now solved the problem and know exactly how to book Lufthansa award space with US Airways miles. The technique requires specialized knowledge, some confidence, politeness, and the ability to lead a phone call.

Using the technique, all the Lufthansa space that you can book on is bookable with US Airways miles (except Lufthansa First Class space, which is explicitly not bookable with US Airways miles.)

From the US Airways partner award chart

I know many of us have freshly bulked up US Airways miles because of the recent sale of miles for 1.13 cents or because we rushed to get the US Airways Premier World MasterCard® and its 30,000 bonus miles before it disappears during the merger with American Airlines.

What is the technique to book Lufthansa award space with US Airways miles? What was the US Airways agent’s reaction to my teaching her a new trick?

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Anatomy of an Award: Using Lufthansa Miles for a Hawaii Award to in a Flat Bed

Update 3/14/14: The 50k mile offer is dead. All links in this post go to the following offer:

  • Earn 20,000 award miles after your first purchase or balance transfer
  • Earn up to 15,000 award miles with balance transfers (1 mile per $1 transferred) within 30 days of account opening
  • Earn 2 award miles per $1 on ticket purchases directly from Miles & More integrated airline partners
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases
  • Annual Complimentary Companion Ticket after first purchase, then annually thereafter
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases made outside the U.S.
  • Redeem miles for flight awards and upgrades on Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, SWISS, Star Alliance airlines and other partners
  • $79 Annual Fee, waived for SEN and HON Circle Members



The big news in the miles world is that The Lufthansa Premier Miles & More World MasterCard is now offering 50,000 bonus Lufthansa miles after spending $5k in the first three months on the card.

This is the second time the card has bumped its standard 20,000 mile bonus to 50,000 miles. Last time, I got the card for myself and convinced a few friends to get it also.

I met the minimum spending requirement on the card and almost immediately was offered 15k Bonus Lufthansa Miles for Spending $750 per month for three months. I just completed that, so I’ll soon have 73,000 miles in my Lufthansa account from $8,000 in spending. I haven’t touched my own miles yet.

But I have redeemed 55,000 of my friend’s Lufthansa miles–the exact number you’ll have after meeting the minimum spending requirement–for a trip for myself. (Like nearly all miles, you can use anyone’s Lufthansa miles to book a trip for anyone else.)

The trip I booked is from Honolulu to Newark in United First Class on a fully flat bed, then returning Las Vegas to Honolulu in United economy. The award cost me 55,000 Lufthansa miles + $7.50.

Why did I use Lufthansa miles? How did I get a flat bed? How did I search for the award? How did I ticket the award? What did I do to save 15,000 miles on the award?

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Anatomy of an Award: How to Fly a Peak Time with Off Peak Pricing and Add Two Free Oneways

I recently booked my friends a roundtrip award to Chile and Argentina, so that they can explore Patagonia next January for only 50,000 American Airlines miles each.

Lake District of Patagonia near Bariloche, Argentina

The award should have cost 60k miles each, but I saved them 20k miles by applying the same trick I used in the post 20k Miles to All of Europe All Summer, and I also added two free oneways onto the award, so that they already have half of their next vacation to Hawaii booked.

Here’s a visual representation of the award from that shows the free oneways from Chicago to Dallas and from Dallas to Honolulu in red and the main award in blue.

This Anatomy of an Award illustrates:

  • How to trick into giving you the off peak price all year round
  • How to add two free oneways to an American Airlines award

How did I book this award for my friends? How can you?

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Which of My Personal Awards Could You Have Booked? Part 3

Today is the last part of my three part series on my personal awards for travel between mid-2012 and mid-2014.

Today’s six awards are overwhelmingly First Class awards on some of the nicest airlines in the world like Singapore, Cathay Pacific, Thai, and Malaysia Airlines.

My Bed in Malaysia Airlines First Class

Which of my most recent awards could you have booked?

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Which of My Personal Awards Could You Have Booked? Part 2

Yesterday I published the first part of a three-part look at 17 awards I’ve booked myself for travel between mid-2012 and mid-2014.

Today I’ll look at five more of the awards I’ve booked myself that range from economy flights in Argentina to First Class flights to my favorite award ever.

The awards I’ll discuss in this post

How many of these five awards could you have booked? How did I book them?

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Which of My Personal Awards Could You Have Booked? Part 1

Update: The offer to email me later in this post resulted in free drinks at the 2013 Chicago Seminars. The offer is now dead.

I book frequent-flyer-mile awards professionally through the MileValue Award Booking Service. I know how to book complex awards and squeeze every inch out of my miles. But do I routinely do it for myself?

I think I’ve booked myself 17 award for travel from May 2012 through March 2014. The bookings have run the gamut from economy flights to Hawaii all the way to First Class on four airlines’ A380s with every level of fanciness and number of miles in between.

A few–not all–of the awards we’ll be discussing

How many of these 17 awards could you have booked for yourself?

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Anatomy of an Award: Booking Singapore Suites

I have wanted to fly Singapore Suites since seeing Tahsir’s trip report of a flying double bed. Singapore Suites is what Singapore Airlines calls First Class on its A380 aircraft, which serves routes from Singapore to London, Paris, Frankfurt, Zurich, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Sydney, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

A few months ago, I came up with a plan to fly Singapore Suites, Cathay Pacific First Class, and Lufthansa First Class on the same round-the-world trip.

First I booked two Cathay Pacific First Class flights for the price of one. The next step was to book Singapore Suites Class from Singapore to Europe. (The last step will be to book Lufthansa First Class to the US, but I can’t do that until 15 days before the flight in March.)

How did I book Singapore Suites? Where did I get the miles? How is the award space picture?

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Anatomy of an Award: Last Minute United Award from Los Angeles to Phuket with a Later Free Oneway

Yesterday I booked an award with United miles from Los Angeles to Phuket, Thailand with a later free oneway from Los Angeles to Newark.

The award illustrates last-second award searching, problem solving with error messages, free oneways, and free changes to awards within 24 hours.

How and Where

How can you book a similar award?

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