Category Archives: Avios

Gold Mine First Class Award Space from United States to Asia

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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Amazing Summer 2014 Award Space to Hawaii

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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Only 50,000 Miles for a Trip to Hawaii, Fiji, and Australia

Many people on the west coast can take a trip to Honolulu, Fiji, and Australia or New Zealand with stops in each place for only 50,000 miles one way.

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If you live in a city with a direct Alaska Airlines or American Airlines flight to Hawaii, this price is available to you. For folks in other cities, the trip is available for 5,000 to 10,000 miles more.

The trip combines one Avios award with one Alaska Airlines award on Fiji Airways. There is a sweet spot on the Avios award chart between the west coast and Hawaii, and there is a sweet spot on the Alaska chart between Hawaii and Australia/New Zealand on Fiji Airways.

  • How can you search for award space for this trip?
  • How can you book this trip?
  • How long can you spend in each destination?
  • What are your options in Australia and New Zealand?
  • How can people who don’t live on the west coast book nearly as good of a trip?

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

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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Great Award Space to Kona, Hawaii

Getting to the Big Island of Hawaii from the United States mainland is easy with miles. There are a ton of direct flights on several airlines, most of which have fantastic award space. Several of the flights can even be booked for as little as 12,500 miles each way.

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I’ve been on the Kona side of Hawaii Island this week with my family, and it has been fantastic.

The snorkeling on this coast is the best I’ve ever experienced. I’ve seen more turtles than I can count, and just last night 1,000-pound manta rays swam within a few feet of me on a beautiful night snorkel.

Plus the weather here is like the rest of Hawaii, but better. Every day has been in the eighties with a nice breeze, and the Kohala Coast (the northern part of the west coast of the Big Island) almost never sees rain in contrast to some parts of the state.

There won’t be any trip reports from this trip because we aren’t staying at a hotel–rented a house for the week–and because my flights are 27 minutes each way. But, better than a trip report, I want to share how you can get here with miles.

  • What cities have direct flights to Kona?
  • What miles are best to get to Kona?
  • What is the award space picture to Kona?

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Ten Minute Three Day Trip with Avios and Hawaiian Miles

Anatomy of an Award posts highlight real awards I’ve booked to show you the techniques needed to book your dream trip.

I recently made a last-second decision to head to Las Vegas and Phoenix for three days for a mix of work and pleasure.

I planned and booked the trip in 10 minutes with miles and points, saving myself $1,500 in the process and getting to fly First Class on one long flight. The cost? Only 40,000 Hawaiian Miles, 8,500 British Airways Avios, and $102.50.

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When you need to make a last minute trip for a family or work emergency or when you want to take a last minute trip for spontaneous adventure, having balances with the right types of miles is key.

  • When I decided to travel to Phoenix and Las Vegas, what miles did I immediately think to use?
  • How did I find my direct flight options?
  • Which airlines charge a booking fee for last-minute awards and which don’t?
  • How did I search for award space?
  • How did I book my awards?

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This One Mistake on the US Airways Award Chart Can Save You 15k Miles

US Airways charges the same price for three-cabin First Class within the United States and Canada as it does for two-cabin First Class or Business Class.

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I consider this a mistake rooted in the fact that US Airways only operates two-cabin planes within the United States as did its former partner United (with a few exceptions.)

But US Airways’ new partners American Airlines and Cathay Pacific both operate three-cabin planes within the United States on a few routes:

  • New York-JFK to Los Angeles (American Airlines)
  • New York-JFK to San Francisco (American Airlines)
  • New York-JFK to Vancouver (Cathay Pacific)

I expect that at some point soon, US Airways will charge 65k miles for roundtrip awards on these three routes, so book them now for big savings.

If you’re short on US Airways miles, The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® offers 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase.

  • How is award space on these three routes?
  • How can you book the award space with US Airways miles?
  • How is Cathay Pacific First Class?

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Free Spreadsheet to Download for Cash & Avios Award Analysis

Super Reader Jorge sent me an awesome spreadsheet that instantly does all the math on British Airways’ Cash & Avios awards, so you can quickly see whether booking one is a good deal.

Usually when redeeming British Airways Avios for an award ticket, you are offered a menu of prices. You can pay the normal amount of miles + taxes + fuel surcharges (though there are no fuel surcharges on these partners.) Or you can pay fewer Avios and more cash. Here’s a typical menu of six options on a one way economy award from Los Angeles to Lima.

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  • What does Jorge’s spreadsheet do with those options?
  • How can you use the spreadsheet when booking Avios awards?

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Why I Am Glad British Airways “Devalued” Its Frequent Flier Miles

This was the oldest unwritten “Draft” post in my folder. I wrote the title more than two years ago, but none of the post until today. Let me get something off my chest I’ve been holding in for, apparently, a long time.

Two-and-a-half years ago, British Airways went from a traditional region-to-region award chart to their unique distance based chart on which every flight adds to the total cost.

I know of no other program–other than LAN, and raise your hand if you’ve booked an award with LAN kilometers–where each flight segment adds to the price of the award.

Cleveland to New York to London costs the price of the Cleveland-to-New York leg plus the New York-to-London leg whether you stop in New York an hour or a month.

Each segment’s price is based only on the distance flown and the cabin of the flight. Here is the British Airways award chart for one way economy flights:

  • Up to 650 miles flown: 4,500 Avios
  • 651 to 1,151 miles flown: 7,500 Avios
  • 1,152 to 2,000 miles flown: 10,000 Avios
  • 2,001 to 3,000 miles flown: 12,500 Avios
  • 3,001 to 4,000 miles flown: 20,000 Avios
  • 4,001 to 5,500 miles flown: 25,000 Avios
  • 5,501 to 6,500 miles flown: 30,000 Avios
  • 6,501 to 7,000 miles flown: 35,000 Avios
  • 7,001+ miles flown: 50,000 Avios

The program has a lot of drawbacks:

  • Fuel surcharges on most partners but not these ones
  • Charging double the economy price for business class
  • Charging triple the economy price for first class
  • Treating domestic “First Class” on two-cabin American Airlines and US Airways planes as first class
  • Connecting awards get prohibitively expensive quickly

But British Airways offers extremely high value awards too. Most high value awards are:

  • Direct flights
  • short-to-medium haul
  • economy class
  • flown on partners with no fuel surcharges

What do you notice about those two lists?

I notice that the low value awards with Avios are almost exactly the high value awards with traditional programs like American Airlines or United.

I also notice that the high value awards with Avios are almost exactly the low value awards with traditional programs.

The fact that British Airways has a unique program enhances the overall value of our miles portfolio greatly. Before Avios, there wasn’t a super high value way to use miles from Phoenix to Kauai or Miami to Manaus, Brazil.

Any savvy miles collector will have a lot of different types of miles and points: United miles, American miles, British Airways Avios, Ultimate Rewards, Arrival miles, etc.

Logically when considering how to book a specific trip, you’ll book it with the miles that give you the best value.

If all your miles are good for the same trips, some trips you want to take will probably have no economical way to book them. If your miles are all good for different things, then you’ll have more potential trips covered.

Since I’m so glad British Airways “devalued,” do I want all airlines to copy the Avios program?

Heck no! Part of the value of Avios is the great awards that can be booked with Avios, and part of the value is that those awards are different from other programs.

If all programs were like British Airways’, the second source of value would be gone.

I’m ecstatic that British Airways “devalued” its award chart even if at the time everyone hated it. I’ll continue to diversify my miles and points across the Six Types of Frequent Flyer Miles and laugh all the way to the bank my next destination.

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Qantas Will Fly an A380 Between Sydney and Dallas Starting This Fall

Qantas will operate its daily flight from Dallas to Sydney with an A380 starting October 1, 2014. This is a large increase in capacity from the current 747 on the route.

The Dallas to Sydney flight will be the longest A380 flight in the world at 16hr55min, so it’s not one I’d be eager to fly in coach.

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The route is in addition to the A380 flights Qantas operates from Los Angeles to Sydney and Melbourne. I flew Melbourne to Los Angeles in Business Class on the A380 last year.

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Business Class on the A380

  • How is award space from Dallas to Sydney in Economy, Business, and First Classes?
  • Is it better to book the flights with American Airlines, US Airways, or British Airways miles?

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Life after the American Airlines Explorer Award? Maybe It’s Not So Bad

JB books awards for the MileValue Award Booking Service. He was an expert on the now-defunct American Airlines Explorer Awards and had been planning to book one for himself. With that option gone, he improvised this solution to the problem of how to book a round-the-world trip in a world without Explorer Awards.

By combining the strengths of American Airlines’ zone-based award chart and British Airways’ distance-based award chart, you can actually improve on the now-defunct American Airlines Explorer Award for only a few extra miles.

I was banking American Airlines miles for two years for my wife and me, so I was upset when American eliminated Explorer Awards several weeks ago with no notice as part of the 17 changes to the American Airlines and US Airways loyalty programs.

I wanted to book the trip of a lifetime, and Explorer Awards were perfect for that.

Explorer Awards allowed 16 segment/15 stop around-the-world trips using all of American’s oneworld partners.

After a sufficient grieving period, I started thinking about what to do with all those American Airlines miles I had saved. I ended up putting a trip together with eight stops and 35,879 miles flown. I booked it as a series of American Airlines and British Airways awards.

When I priced it all out, I realized it was not much more expensive than an Explorer Award and had a lot more flexibility.

Planning My Trip

Here is my trip.

final with ewr

This itinerary has stops in Berlin, Paris, London, Cape Town, Sydney, Auckland, Singapore, and Hong Kong–AKA the 5 continents tour.

Here is how I went about constructing the itinerary, and some of the choices I made to maximize routes, keep taxes/fees low, and pick cities compatible with the oneworld network.

Searching

All mileage is listed as economy/business.

Scott’s post about how and where to search for oneworld space came in handy here. I used the British Airways, American Airlines, and Qantas sites to search, verify availability, and determine taxes.

JFK to Helsinki to Berlin
20K (offseason) or 30K AA miles and $18 in economy / 50K AA miles and $18 in business on Finnair

I searched the American Airlines site for this award, since it shows Finnair and Air Berlin award space.

There was plenty of award space via London, but by avoiding British Airways’ fuel surcharges and the United Kingdom aviation taxes, I saved $317 in economy / $482 business! Per person!

Berlin to Paris
4.5K British Airways Avios and $38 in economy on airberlin. There are no fuel surcharges on airberlin flights.

I searched the British Airways site for this.

Paris to London
4.5K British Airways miles and $27 economy in British Airways economy. On intra-Europe flights, British Airways collects a flat cash payment instead of taxes and fuel surcharges.

I searched the British Airways site for this.

London to Johannesburg to Cape Town
30K AA miles and $500 economy / 37.5K AA miles and $750 business on British Airways.

This represents both high departure taxes from the United Kingdom and high fuel surcharges on British Airways flights. Sometimes you just have to pay those if you want to enjoy time in London and want to fly somewhere that British Airways flies most conveniently and comfortably.

I searched the American Airlines site for this.

My Gamble

I had planned on a London to South Africa leg in business or first class, but I could not find any business/first space to Johannesburg or Cape Town further than 2 months out from today. Nothing. Clearly they are keeping a tight leash on that premium space (economy was widely available).

I looked at the Johannesburg airport Wikipedia page for other American Airlines-partner airlines I could take.

Etihad connects via Abu Dhabi, but that would break the American Airlines award into two award tickets because I am transiting the Middle East region. Flying Qatar Airlines has the same issue.

So I skipped this leg for now. I feel fairly confident that I will find business class space closer to the date, and worst case I fly economy. This is also a good time to point out two benefits of booking multiple AA and BA awards compared to the old Explorer Award: I can book a leg later, and if I want to book First Class for just this leg, I can do that without increasing the price of the entire set of awards.

minus lhr-jnb

So far, with the big hole from London to South Africa

Cape Town to Johannesburg to Sydney
37.5K AA miles and $160 economy / 50K AA miles and $190 business on British Airways then Qantas.

I searched the American Airlines site, since British Airways and Qantas are searchable there.

Award space for this route is scarce. Unlike London to South Africa on British Airways, which has good availability closer to the date of departure, the Qantas flight from Johannesburg to Sydney is uniformly spread thin. I found some space close to the dates I wanted, so I decided to go back and change my other flight legs to accommodate the direct flight I found on Qantas. Always work backwards from the most difficult segment.

Sydney to Auckland
10K Avios and $50 in Qantas economy
(4 hour flight so I chose economy)

I searched the American Airlines site for this.

Auckland to Sydney
10K BA and $50 in Qantas economy
(4 hour flight so I chose economy)

I searched the American Airlines site for this.

Sydney to Singapore
25K AA miles and $74 economy / 35K AA miles and $74 business on Qantas

I searched the American Airlines site for this.

Singapore to Hong Kong
10K BA miles and $54 economy on Cathay Pacific
This is a 4 hour flight so I will do it in economy

I searched the British Airways site for this.

Hong Kong to Newark
35K AA miles and $33 economy / 55K AA miles and $33 business on Cathay Pacific

There was plenty of direct Cathay Pacific space that you can search on the Qantas website. I called American Airlines to confirm they could see it, and to get the taxes.

Here’s the final routing again.

final with ewr

Comparison Between American Airlines Award and Multiple AA/BA Awards

Now, let’s compare how much the old Explorer award would have cost versus the AA/BA mix of awards I used. I’m including the economy/business mileage numbers.

The Explorer Award was based on total mileage. For a 35,879 mile trip it would have been:

Total Countable Trip Miles = 35,001 – 50,000
Economy: costs 160,000 AA miles plus taxes
Business: costs 220,000 AA miles plus taxes

The final tally of AA/BA miles and taxes on my actual trip broke down to this:

AA: 167,500 miles and $863 economy / 227,500 miles and $1143 business
BA: miles: 39,000 and $219 all in economy

The grand total is 206,500 miles and $1007 economy / 266,500 miles and $1257 business.

The mostly business class award I booked will use 266,500 miles while an all business class Explorer Award would have cost 220,000 miles. I paid 46,500 miles extra. But for paying extra, I got some important advantages:

1) unlimited number of segments (the Explorer Award was limited to 16)
2) unlimited routing and date changes with some change fees (the Explorer Award allowed only date and cabin changes, not routing or airline changes)
3) you can backtrack, transit cities multiple times, and have unlimited open jaws (Explorer Awards had strict rules on these)
4) you can tinker with the itinerary before and during travel

I don’t know if that completely mitigates having to pay extra miles, but it certainly lessens the sting quite a bit.

And importantly, my stash of American Airlines miles didn’t become useless with the abolition of Explorer Awards. I was still able to book the trip of a lifetime for just a few more miles.

Recap

With some British Airways Avios and the same amount of AAdvantage miles as a comparable Explorer award would have required, I am to able to book my around the world trip and have a lot of flexibility to make changes before and during travel.

Are the BA miles worth it for the extra flexibility? What do you think?

If this kind of trip gets you excited, and simultaneously bewildered about how to book it, consider hiring our Award Booking Service.

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SriLankan Airlines Joins oneworld, Searchable on BA.com

SriLankan Airlines has joined oneworld, which means its flights are now bookable with US Airways, American Airlines, and British Airways miles.

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SriLankan award space is now searchable and bookable at ba.com. To book award space found on ba.com with American Airlines or US Airways miles, you’ll have to call those airlines’ award booking phone numbers.

SriLankan’s hub is Colombo, Sri Lanka’s largest city on the west coast of the island.

Sri Lanka in Southeast Asia

Sri Lanka in Southeast Asia

  • Where does SriLanakan fly?
  • How is SriLankan’s business class product?
  • How is SriLankan award space?
  • How can you book SriLankan award space?
  • In what region on the US Airways and American Airlines chart is Sri Lanka?
  • Is British Airways collecting fuel surcharges on SriLankan flights?

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5 Ways Avios Have Gotten More Valuable

United miles got less valuable in 2014. Delta miles have gotten less valuable in 2014 and will get even less valuable in June. American miles got less valuable this month. US Airways miles got less valuable this month. British Airways Avios have gotten more valuable relatively and absolutely in 2014.

What are the five reasons Avios have gotten more valuable in 2014? Continue reading

British Airways Cash & Avios Option Quietly Got Much Better! (Now As Cheap As 1.1 Cents per Avios)

I have already written the ultimate guide to Cash & Avios redemptions.

The gist is that on some, but not all, British Airways Avios redemptions you are given a menu of prices like this:

Screen Shot 2014-04-24 at 2.59.45 AMYou can spend the full price in Avios (plus government taxes and fuel surcharges on some partners) or you can pay fewer Avios and make up the difference by paying more cash directly to British Airways.

Not all awards offer Cash & Avios options–for instance American Airlines domestic flights don’t–and the “price” of Avios varies widely on Cash & Avios awards.

The pattern generally was that on economy awards, you could save your Avios by paying about 1.3 cents per Avios saved. On business awards, the price was almost 2.6 cents per Avios saved. First class awards were in the middle at about 1.9 cents per Avios saved.

Since I value one Avios at around 1.7 cents, I generally recommended maximizing Cash & Avios awards on economy awards by paying with the minimum number of Avios and maximum amount of cash. But since the “price” was too high on business and first class awards, I recommended not availing oneself of the Cash & Avios options on premium awards.

Now things have improved for the better!

  • How cheap are Cash & Avios awards now?
  • What is the best cabin for a Cash & Avios award?
  • On which Avios partners can you get the best Cash & Avios awards?

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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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