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Update 5/26/14: This deal is dead since American Airlines eliminated free stopovers.

Or: Save 10k Miles by Adding a Free Oneway

Summer airfare to Europe often tops $1,000 in economy class roundtrip. But you can get to Europe this summer for only 20k miles.

All the legacy carriers–American, Delta, United, US Airways–charge 60k miles roundtrip to Europe in economy class. That’s where the European award similarities end.

American and United let you go oneway for 30k miles. Delta and US require you to pay 60k whether you go oneway or roundtrip.

American lets you fly from October 15 – May 15 every year for 20k miles each way during the off peak season. US lets you fly for six weeks in the winter for 35k roundtrip or 60k roundtrip in business class. United even ran an off peak promo this winter, allowing 48k roundtrip awards. See my Off Peak to Europe Round Up for full details on each airline’s off peak deal.

Off peak awards are great because they represent a way to stretch your miles for even more trips. The problem is that peak time is peak time for a reason. The summer in Europe is the best weather, and the easiest time for most families to go on vacation. Luckily, there is a way to fly to anywhere in Europe from anywhere in the continental US, Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Bermuda, and the Bahamas for 20k miles all summer long! And you’ll get a free oneway to boot!

This trick relies on three things:

  • American Airlines off peak awards
  • Free Oneways on American Airlines Awards
  • How American Airlines determines the date of a trip

American Airlines Off Peak Awards

American Airlines off peak awards are incredible. There are no restrictions except the dates. You can fly any normal routing with any combination of partners and pay 20k miles oneway to Europe. From its chart:

With each way economy price in red to the top left

Being able to use partners, especially to Europe, is incredible because American’s partner airberlin has unparalleled economy class award space on all its routes all year round.

This is for the non-stop airberlin flight from New York (JFK) to Berlin (TXL) during June and July–ultra-peak season. There is space 24 of 29 days.

24/29 days with space. You have your pick of the litter.

Free Oneways on American Airlines Awards

I recently put everything there is to know about free oneways on American Airlines awards into Master Thread: Free Oneways on American Airlines Awards.

For the purposes of this post, I’ll just say that you can get a free oneway from anywhere in the continental US, Hawaii, Alaska, Canada, the Caribbean, Bermuda, and the Bahamas to your home airport before an international award.

There are some requirements–see the Master Thread–like MPM, the overwater-carrier-must-publish-a-fare rule, and the fact that your home airport must be the departure city for your international flight.

How American Airlines Determines the Date of Your Trip

American Airlines assigns one date to your trip–the date of your first leg.

Example 1: You fly Honolulu to JFK on January 17. You continue JFK to Berlin on June 10. AA considers the date of the entire trip January 17 and charges 20k miles because January 17 is off peak.

Example 2: You fly Miami to Chicago on June 1. You continue Chicago to London on October 25. AA considers the date of the entire trip June 1 and charges 30k miles because June 1 is peak time.

What it means

This means that no matter when you want to fly to Europe, you can fly for 20k miles. If the Europe leg falls between May 16 and October 14, the normal peak dates, just be sure to precede it with a domestic leg that falls between October 15 and May 15 to save 10k miles and get a free oneway.

Unfortunately, there is no way to game the return like this since AA fixes a trip’s date by the date of the first leg and the return’s first leg will be the Europe leg.

But 20k to Europe oneway is unbeatable, especially when you are getting a free oneway.

This also means that adding a free oneway before a trip to Europe might not be free at all if your free oneway is during the summer. Consider the MIA-ORD//ORD-LHR trip above. Chicago to London was off peak, so it should have cost 20k miles. Miami to Chicago was the first leg and during the summer, though, so it made the award the award 30k, meaning that it cost 10k miles.

Example Booking

Imagine you live in Miami and you want to go to the French Open final in 2013. (I highly recommend going to the French Open.) To get to Paris the second weekend in June, you would normally pay 30k AAdvantage miles.

But if you can just add a prior oneway trip to Miami during the off peak dates (October 15 to May 15), you can save yourself 10k miles and get a free oneway. Maybe you are going to the DC Frequent Traveler University from April 26 – 28.

(For a fuller description of how to book, see How to Book Free Stopover Online: American Airlines)

On the AAdvantage award search screen, search DC to Miami on April 28 and Miami to Paris in early June. I specified Dulles airport (IAD), but it still brought up National (DCA) search results. I used city code PAR instead of airport codes CDG or ORY for Paris.

On the search result screen, select your oneway to Miami and your oneway to Paris. To Paris, you should definitely avoid British Airways awards since they have surcharges in the hundreds of dollars. Airberlin or American awards have no surcharges.

As you can see, this award prices out to 20k miles and minimal taxes–an incredible deal for half a trip to DC and oneway to Europe during the peak summer travel season.

Recap

You can fly to Europe all year round for 20k miles if you live at a North American International Gateway City (complete list) and you add a free oneway beforehand that takes off between October 15 and May 15. This works because American determines the date of your trip by the date of the first segment.

Not only does the free oneway drop the price 10k miles, but it gives you half of a free trip to anywhere in the US, Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean.

Who will save 10k miles on your next European trip?

Bonus

This trick also works for other regions for AA off peak awards. Look for that post tomorrow.

Double Bonus

I discovered this quirk while researching the answer to a reader question. Researching that answer also gave me some other good ideas about free oneways that you should be on the lookout for in the coming days.

Triple Bonus

The “free oneways” in this post are really negative-price oneways since their presence makes the award 10k miles cheaper.

Two other examples of this phenomenon?

Adding a free oneway to/from the Caribbean onto a roundtrip economy United award to Europe drops the price 2,500 miles to 57,500.

Adding dummy legs to a four continent US Airways award allows it to price at 100k miles instead of 200k-300k. (I’m not sure how it would price without the dummy legs.)

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