Category Archives: Avios

Current State of Free Oneways

This blog became famous because I was the first to articulate how to book free oneways on United and US Airways awards.

A free oneway is a one way trip to or from your home airport that is tacked onto another award for no extra miles. Free oneways cut your flight bill in half for a second trip without adding to the price of the first trip!

American Airlines killed free oneways on its awards last week by nixing all free stopovers because free oneways always rely on a free stopover at your home airport.

What’s the current state of free oneways with major frequent flyer programs?

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The Times When BA.com Doesn’t Show Award Space You Found on AA.com

On Monday, I wrote about US Airways and TAM joining the oneworld alliance. That meant that US Airways and TAM flights were now bookable with British Airways Avios, a founding member of oneworld.

In the renewed interest in searching ba.com for award flights, there were some hiccups that people noted in the comments. Often the best way to plan an Avios award is to search aa.com, and then when you find the award space you want, go to ba.com to book it.

AA.com and ba.com didn’t seem to be matching up in the availability that you could book. See these two comments:

Scott, one example [where aa.com and ba.com don't match] is DFW-HNL, 12-7 to 12-12 (My hub is DFW). AA shows availability. I see availability on the outgoing but not the incoming on BA.

and

So, I tried AA.COM to find one ways from PHX – OGG. For example, PHX-OGG 9/9/14 (or any that week) show available Economy MileSAAver Off Peak. BA.COM shows no flights available.

Why doesn’t ba.com show the same availability as aa.com?

There are two times when ba.com won’t match aa.com on Saver availability. One of the times, you can call British Airways to book the missing award space, and the other time you are out of luck.

What are the two times that ba.com won’t show the same Saver award space as aa.com?

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TAM Joining Oneworld Means Flights to Brazil for 4,000 Avios and $97

TAM, the largest airline in Brazil, joined oneworld today March 31, 2014.

 

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The oneworld roster with the addition of TAM.

You can now book a one way flight from the United States to Brazil for 4,000 Avios and $97.50!

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TAM flights are bookable with American Airlines miles and British Airways Avios and searchable on ba.com. American Airlines and British Airways do not collect fuel surcharges on TAM flights.

TAM has flights between Brazil and New York-JFK, Miami, and Orlando. All three American cities have flights to Rio de Janeiro–Galeão and São Paulo–Guarulhos. Miami also has flights to:

I am very excited about TAM joining oneworld for three reasons:

  1. On short TAM flights, awards will cost very few Avios. For instance, Miami to Manaus is only 12,500 Avios each way or even fewer Avios with the Cash & Avios option.
  2. TAM First Class looks awesome. TAM First Class space is wide open between the US and Brazil, and American Airlines has the cheapest remaining award chart for partner first class redemptions. Between the US and Brazil, American Airlines awards are only 62,500 miles each way in TAM First Class.
  3. TAM segments are now bookable as part of an American Airlines Explorer Award, which is by far the best value around the world award.

Why am I so excited about TAM joining oneworld? What do you need to know about TAM awards?

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Three Reasons Los Angeles to London is the Best Value Transatlantic Flight

Yesterday I wrote that The Best Value Flight Across the Atlantic Has Almost No Premium Award Space. I was referring to American Airlines’ Los Angeles <-> London route as the best value flight across the Atlantic.

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The 11 hour flight features fully flat business class for 50k American Airlines miles each way and fully flat first class for 62,500 American Airlines miles each way.

The plane is brand new and features American’s best hard products as well as an onboard bar.

Compare the prices on this flight to what Delta and United charge for transatlantic premium cabins:

  • In business, United wants 57,500 miles each way on its own flights to Europe and 70k miles for partner flights. For United Global First, the cost is 80k miles, and they want 110k miles each way for a First Class flight on partners like Lufthansa.
  • Delta charges 125k miles roundtrip in business class. Delta miles can’t be redeemed for three-cabin first class.

Because the product and price is right, I called MileSAAver award space on the Los Angeles to London flight on American Airlines the best value transatlantically.

Twitter wasn’t having any of that:

https://twitter.com/OneMileataTime/status/446403419008282624

https://twitter.com/WanderngAramean/status/446402786172104704

Let me give you three reasons why I think Los Angeles to London is a better value than their candidate Boston to Dublin on Aer Lingus with Avios.

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Anatomy of an Award: Last Second Speculative Domestic Booking with British Airways Avios

I’m using my miles and points very idiosyncratically at the moment to do something I’m sure none of my readers would want to do. But I think the lessons from my trip should be applicable for a lot of trips you would want to take.

Starting last weekend in Greensboro, North Carolina, I’ll be following around the University of Virginia’s Men’s Basketball Team for the rest of the season. I’ve been a huge fan for about 13 years, and this is our best team in that time, so I decided before the season started not to miss any of the postseason.

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That means I am booking a lot of last second flights, hotels, and car rentals because where Virginia plays wasn’t determined until last night.

Arrival miles have been the most valuable currency to me overall for this trip because I’ve used the miles from my Barclaycard Arrival(TM) World MasterCard® – Earn 2x on All Purchases to book flights, motels, and car rentals that form the backbone of my trip.

For the flights and hotels I knew I would need, the 40,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months have gotten me $456 in free bookings. I loved the Arrival redemptions because I didn’t have to search for award space, and I could choose the cheapest and most convenient option to stretch my Arrival mile balance.

But I also have to book some speculative flights.

For instance, if Virginia makes the Sweet 16, it will play in New York City 11 days from now. But if it loses in its first two games, it won’t make the trip. I don’t need to go back to New York City unless Virginia is playing, so I wanted to lock in a flight in case Virginia goes, but one that I can cancel for free if Virginia doesn’t go.

Enter Avios.

In Another Reason Miles Are Better Than Cash, I mentioned that British Airways awards can be cancelled for as little as $2.50, which was perfect for my speculative booking.

Why else did I book my next award with Avios? Why not cash? What were all the factors considered?

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Combining Alaska and Hawaii onto One Trip This Summer for Only 40k Points

Alaska Airlines flies a direct flight between Anchorage and Honolulu.

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I love interesting routes from Hawaii–like the Island Hopper across the Pacific–since moving to Oahu, but I think this route has some cool possibilities for everyone, like one vacation that combines Alaska and Hawaii this summer.

Anchorage and Honolulu are 2,777 miles apart. This is a sweet spot on British Airways’ distance-based award chart. The approximately six hour flight costs only 12,500 British Airways Avios + $2.50 in taxes.

Combine a one way British Airways award between Alaska and Hawaii with a few other one way awards, and you can create a really cool triangle trip to see the 49th and 50th states for as little as 40k points.

Possible Summer Trip for a Chicagoan

Possible Summer Trip for a Chicagoan

What are the best awards to combine with the Alaska Airlines flight between Hawaii and Alaska? What is the award space on these routes? In what program, do you need to amass only 40k miles to take the whole trip?

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Another Reason Miles Are Better than Cash: Free Cancellations

Using miles to book trips instead of using cash has tons of advantages:

  • Easier access to First Class and flat beds: An international First Class ticket can cost $10k or the amount of miles you can get from opening a pair of credit cards.
  • Better open jaw and stopover rules: Few revenue tickets allow you to stopover without increasing in price. Most mileage awards allow free stopovers and open jaws for no extra miles.
  • Some mileage awards can be cancelled for free or close to it.

This last advantage–free or very cheap cancellations–is an oft-overlooked benefit of certain mileage programs.

I can afford this seat with miles, but not cash.

I can afford this seat with miles, but not cash.

Which program allows completely free cancellations? Which programs allow cheap cancellations, as cheap as $2.50?

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A Ranking of Miles from Most Broadly Useful to Most Niche

I naturally categorize miles and points into two groups:

  1. Broadly useful
  2. Niche programs

The first type of miles are the miles you want to stockpile if you’re hoping to follow a simple mile-accumulation strategy to meet all your future travel goals. Ideally these miles benefit from cheap award charts across all classes of service and to all regions without incurring fuel surcharges on awards.

By contrast, niche programs have some great values on their award charts, but lots of flaws. Maybe the program collects fuel surcharges on most awards, or charges too much for redemptions in premium cabins, or simply doesn’t release much Saver award space on flights.

Niche programs can be ignored my those who merely dabble in miles collection, but serious miles collectors should  know the strengths of and collect miles in niche programs too.

Which miles do I consider broadly useful? Which programs do I consider niche programs? What are the niche programs’ strengths?

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Should You Use British Airways Avios or Arrival Miles to Get to Hawaii?

British Airways has a loyalty program with a lot of high value awards available to Americans. One of my favorites is that for only 25,000 Avios + $5 roundtrip, you can book direct flights from the west coast to Hawaii on American Airlines and Alaska Airlines flights.

This deal featured prominently on my list of the Cheapest Ways to Get to Hawaii.

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LAX-HNL for 25k miles roundtrip per person

But even with such a cheap miles price to Hawaii, it may be a better deal to use Arrival miles from the Barclaycard Arrival(TM) World MasterCard® – Earn 2x on All Purchases to get to Hawaii.

The Arrival World MasterCard comes with a 40,000 mile sign up bonus after spending $1k on the card in the first 90 days. Arrival miles can be redeemed for literally any flight on any airline with no blackout dates (in addition to any hotel or car rental) at a rate of 1 cent per Arrival mile.

That means a $400 ticket would cost 40k Arrival miles.

But cardholders receive a 10% rebate on the miles used for each travel redemption, so on that 40k mile redemption, you’d get 4k Arrival miles back in your account, for a net outlay of 36k Arrival miles for a $400 ticket. This is why I value Arrival miles at 1.11 cents each.

Furthermore, since you buy the ticket with your Arrival World MasterCard (and then go online to redeem miles to remove the charge), the airline treats the flights like paid tickets, which means you earn miles and status on the flights. On a roundtrip from Los Angeles to Honolulu, this would be about 5,100 redeemable and status miles, which combined would be worth well over $100 to me.

If this sounds like a complicated list of things to take into account, I’ll break it down to a simple calculation you can do on your phone with a few taps.

When should you use Arrival miles and when should you use Avios to get to Hawaii?

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Trip Report: Cathay Pacific Business Class from Tokyo to Hong Kong

This review is a continuation of my fun US Airways redemption that I wrote about back in this post. I reviewed Turkish Business Class: Washington DC to Istanbul already and had a similar (great) experience on my flight from Istanbul to Tokyo also in Turkish Business, so I am skipping to the next segment in Cathay Pacific Business Class.

I was in Tokyo, and I wanted to add a quick side trip onto my main award, and Hong Kong seemed like the logical spot. I had British Avios to burn, there were several nonstops on JAL and Cathay Pacific from convenient Tokyo-Haneda, and one of Cathay’s was flown by their double-decker Boeing 747-400.

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As many of you noticed in my Lufthansa trip report, I’m obsessed with being on the top deck of planes (perhaps this translates directly from my bunk bed preferences as a child). The fact that Cathay Pacific is slowly retiring this plane from service provided added incentive to book.

Image from cathaypacific.com

Image from cathaypacific.com

How was the seat? Was the service up to Cathay Pacific’s high standards? Was this redemption a good use of Avios?

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British Airways (Yet Again) Tweaks Search Tool For the Better

While other airlines search engines regress in functionality (looking in your direction, Delta), British Airways’ award tool continues to improve. While researching for another article, I came across the slightly modified ba.com and noted a subtle consumer-friendly change.

Though the change is minor, British Airways has exhibited a recent history of positive improvements to their search tool. With these steps in the right direction, we can safely anoint BA.com as the go-to site for comprehensive oneworld partner availability.

Simple Tool

This simple search engine packs a punch relative to its peers.

Scott wrote up a detailed guide on how to use BA.com to search for oneworld partner award space. Make sure to check out his post, Free First Class Next Month: Searching BA.com to Find oneworld Award Availability. We’ve also detailed British Airways recent and noticeable improvements to their site here and here.

What’s the newest change to the BA.com engine? When should you search ba.com versus aa.com versus qantas.com? (Hint: it has nothing to do with what type of miles you want to book your award with.)

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Predictions for Major Changes to Loyalty Programs in 2014

2013 was a year of several major devaluation announcements including:

  • United (kicks in February 1, 2014)
  • Southwest (kicks in March 31, 2014)
  • Delta (already kicked in on current award bookings for travel that starts February 1, 2014 or later)
  • Hyatt (kicks in January 7, 2014)
  • Ultimate Rewards (with three major transfer partners devaluing–United, Southwest, and Hyatt–the program took a major hit through no fault of its own)

But the more things change, the more they stay the same. We’re still getting outsized value from our miles and points and traveling the world in style for next to nothing.

What’s my outlook for 2014 and what’s my strategy for earning and burning the major points’ currencies?

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How to Get on a Qatar Dreamliner or Use American Airlines Miles to Fly Qatar to the Middle East and Beyond

Qatar Airways has fantastic Business Class award space on its Dreamliner and on its routes from the US to Doha and beyond in 2014. These routes are a high-value way to use Avios or American Airlines miles on a recent addition to the oneworld alliance.

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Your Bed in Business Class on a Qatar 787

Where do Qatar’s Dreamliners fly? Where does Qatar fly in the US? How many American Airlines miles or British Airways Avios do you need to fly Qatar?

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Buy Avios for 1.37 Cents Each (and Why You’d Want to)!

You can currently buy Avios for 1.37 cents each through a miles-transfer promotion. At that price:

  • A roundtrip from the west coast to Hawaii is $347.
  • A roundtrip of less than 651 miles flown each way in the US is $128.
  • A roundtrip from Boston to Dublin is under $450.

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How can you buy Avios for 1.37 cents? Why would you want to?

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Gold Mine Award Space to Europe in Summer 2014 on airberlin

Update at 5:49 PM ET on 12/20/13: Many commenters are saying they’ve had problems with aa.com showing “phantom award space” on airberlin flights. I have never had that experience, so I was surprised by the reports, but I’m sure they’re accurate. My advice changes in light of this info. Search for airberlin award space on ba.com, then book on aa.com or ba.com depending on the miles you want to use.

“Reports of the award space’s death have been greatly exaggerated.” ~Miles Twain

Right now, you can lock in an incredible vacation to Europe for Summer 2014 for only 50k American Airlines miles roundtrip and award space is wide open!

Award space to Europe for Summer 2014 has been bad since award space was loaded onto award calendars several months ago. (Awards are generally bookable 11 months in advance.)

But things are looking up. And just like last year–when I declared that airberlin award space was a gold mine to Europe for Summer 2013–airberlin is again a gold mine of award space to Europe for Summer 2014.

Break out your American Airlines miles and British Airways Avios, you’re going to Europe this summer!

Screen Shot 2013-06-08 at 5.55.19 AMWhere does airberlin fly in the US and in Europe? What miles do you need to book awards on airberlin flights? How good is the award space picture? What simple trick can get you a big discount on your award?

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