American AAdvantage has been extremely stingy with international award space on its own flights over the past three to four years; premium award space doubly so.
What’s more, because American doesn’t have as many partners as Star Alliance airlines do, that leaves few options especially to Europe and fewer still that don’t hit you with big surcharges as their primary European partner is British Airways. So when American releases premium cabin awards on their own flights, that’s notable.
At one point it even became absurd domestically, with only a handful of dates during the whole year where saver seats could be booked Dallas – Austin — a $49 flight at the time with 14-15 flights a day. Fortunately that extreme scenario didn’t last terribly long.
This hasn’t been too big a deal for me, I’ve long preferred to redeem on partners, but it’s been a real shortcoming for many members. Indeed when premium cabin international award space opens up on American’s own flights it’s been noteworthy.
Award availability has gotten better though things seem to go in waves, feast or famine, and you have to jump on the space when it opens up wide.
Right now there is a ton of availability for the whole family, 4 or even 7 or more seats on flights, and that’s for awards and upgrades. It’s available in some cases late in 2016, but mostly early 2017. That’s low season for travel to Europe, but a time I’ve much enjoyed going and is when I usually go (but wouldn’t be appropriate for all destinations, such as the Mediterranean.)
Paris is Wide Open
Especially in the first quarter of 2017, but also late in 2016, American’s flights to and from Paris have opened up across the board for awards and upgrades.
All searches are for 4 non-stop business class award seats, but note that some days will have more than 4 and some days will have fewer but as a result do not show up on these searches.
And all searches are for American Airlines flights only, not partners, because I want to exclude British Airways flights for this exercise (so that you’re only seeing flights which do not incur fuel surcharges).
Miami – Paris
Dallas – Paris
Philadelphia – Paris
Chicago – Paris
New York JFK – Paris
London is Wide Open
In the first quarter of 2017 availability on American’s flights to and from London have opened up, mostly midweek (Tuesday/Wednesday) but for as many as 7 or more seats on some flights.
Here’s Philadelphia – London for 4 passengers non-stop in business class on American.
And Raleigh – London, a flight which rarely has premium cabin award space even when other flights are wide open.
And Chicago – London:
My most desireable flight based on distance and aircraft, Los Angeles – London:
Finally New York JFK – London which is in some ways surprisingly the weakest of the lot.
Dallas, Miami, and Charlotte do not have the same degree of availability.
Other European Destinations are Available, Too
Here’s availability for 4 passengers in business class on American’s Dallas – Franfurt flight.
Here’s New York JFK – Milan.
And here’s New York JFK – Zurich.
Don’t Forget Upgrades!
Generally speaking when award space is available, upgrades into that class of service are available too. In fact, upgrade space is usually even more available than awards.
I use ExpertFlyer to search for American Airlines upgrade space. Upgrades from coach to business book into ‘C’ inventory. Here’s a day in February for Los Angeles – London.
This is a great opportunity for paid tickets with miles and cash upgrades or to use Executive Platinum eVIP confirmed systemwide upgrades from nearly any fare.
Choose Your Aircraft Wisely
When selecting routes, be aware of the aircraft you’re going to be flying. The new (4-across business class on the seat map) Boeing 777-200 and Boeing 787 seat is quite good. As is business class on the Boeing 777-300ER (“77W”).
New Business Class Seat, American Airlines 777-200
7-across business class on the Boeing 777-200 (ie unreconfigured) is angled and to be avoided when possible. I’m also not a huge fan of business class on the Boeing 767. It’s fully flat and all aisle access, but also quite narrow.
American Airlines 767 Business Class
Cost of Awards
American charges 57,500 miles each way between the US and Europe in business class. You can connect beyond London on oneworld partner British Airways without spending additional mileage, and intra-European flights don’t incur substantial fuel surcharges (compared to transatlantic).
This award space is available to British Airways members, of course, and to members of other oneworld airlines — but with fuel surcharges for most partner programs.
It’s also available to American’s other partners — like Etihad Guest and like Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan (without fuel surcharges).
(HT regarding the London space: Traveling for Miles)