This is another post in my Anatomy of an Award series, in which I take a real award I’ve booked and break it down step-by-step to elucidate the award booking process. If you have a real award you’d like to write up in a similar post, please contact me, and you can write a guest post.
My brother and I have decided to enter a tennis tournament in Hawaii this July. If you’ll be around Kailua in late July, come watch us play in the qualifying rounds of Men’s Night Doubles!
We just decided last week, and summer (along with Christmas-New Year) is peak travel time to Hawaii. I knew it might be a bit of a challenge to find an award or a cheap ticket on such short notice, so I would have to consider all my options.
The first thing I did was head to kayak.com, where I was mortified to learn that the cheapest roundtrip in late July is $760. If I couldn’t find award space, I would have to pay it since I want to play in this tournament.
Here are the options for which miles you can use to Hawaii:
BA (on AA planes)
American (you can use AA miles to fly AA, Hawaiian, or Alaska planes)
United (United or US planes)
US Airways (on US or United planes, $50 surcharge for travel to Hawaii)
Alaska (on Alaska, AA, or Delta planes)
Korean (on Hawaiian planes)
Ideally I would use British Airways Avios to fly to Hawaii on an American Airlines plane. The reason is that it uses the fewest miles at 12,500 oneway with taxes of $10.90 per direction. The quickest way to search for AA space to Hawaii is to head to aa.com.
Recently AA has added the ability to search Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines award space online. In general, that’s great, but for now we want to turn off the capability to search those airlines. Why? BA does not partner with Hawaiian, and Alaska does not fly direct LAX-HNL. And with Avios, I only want to fly direct since each segment adds to the cost. Here’s how to get aa.com to only display AA flights.
On the top left of aa.com, you’ll see the flight search box. On the bottom left corner of the box, click More Flight Search Options, which I’ve highlighted in red. Doing so will take you to this screen:
Along the top there are four tabs, make sure AAdvantage Award is selected. In the boxes I typed in LAX to HNL and my dates. Then at the bottom, under Carrier Preferences, I selected AA, American Eagle, and American Connection. This is the crucial step that eliminates Alaska and Hawaiian from the search results.
After clicking GO, I was taken to the results. I had about a week of flexibility in both directions, but on the outbound, there was no coach award space for the whole week. It is peak season, and I’m late to the party. Luckily on the return there was a perfect coach return direct on AA from HNL to LAX.
To book the perfect return, I noted its date, flight number, and departure time. Now it was time to go to BA.com to book. Why? BA charges 12,500 Avios and $10.90 for the flight. AA charges 22,500 AAdvantage miles and $2.50. AAdvantage miles are generally more valuable than Avios, so booking using 12,500 Avios instead of 22,500 AAdvantage miles is a no brainer.
I logged into BA.com, clicked on Spending Avios, and clicked on Book flights with Avios. That brings up BA’s award search screen, which looks like this:
When the next screen alerted me that BA doesn’t fly that route, I clicked the red button that says Include Partners, which brought up the AA results I wanted. I’ve created one image out of that screen and the next screen after I selected my one flight option and hit Continue.
As promised, the price is an incredible 12,500 Avios and $10.90. I still didn’t have a flight to Hawaii, just this return, but I would book that the next day. (See tomorrow’s post!)
Here is some info about the booking:
HNL-LAX cost: $380
My subjective value of the itinerary: $380+, I would have paid cash if necessary
BA Avios needed: 12,500
Total taxes and fees: $10.90
Miles foregone by not purchasing itinerary: 2,556
Cents per point as booked: 2.45! according to the milevalue calculator. (I plugged 380; 10.9; 12500; 2556 into the calculator. Do you see why?)
I’m pretty happy because 2.45 cents is way above my valuation of Avios (1.70 cents). Not bad for a supposedly devalued currency. In reality, I transferred Membership Rewards points into my Avios account at a rate of one MR = 1.5 Avios. That means I got 3.68 cents per MR point! Also I saved $370, which I plan to spend on restringing after my power rips through a racket every set!