Now It’s American’s Turn: HURRY for Great Business Class Award Space to Europe!

Yesterday I wrote that US Airways had (briefly) opened the award floodgates for transatlantic business class space. Inventory had also been wide open for the weekend and two weeks ago we saw nearly whole cabins available.

These weren’t glitches mis-pricing awards, these were opportunities to get awards at their regular prices — but on most flights, most dates, on certain routes.

And they were opportunities to do it without fuel surcharges. With British Airways as the primary transatlantic partner of US Airways and American, and with the hefty fees imposed for awards on that airline, many find Europe premium cabin awards cost prohibitive. Over the past few years, American hasn’t offered much space on their own flights. There’s some airberlin space and occasional Finnair space, but their routes are limited. Iberia is feast or famine, often wide open especially for Chicago and Boston – Madrid.

Nonetheless, this was a huge opportunity. Although in each case it was short-lasting.

American has offered economy seats. But in recent times premium cabin seats have been tough to come by. This really seemed to start about two and a half years ago, but got a lot worse with the introduction of their 777-300ER (flying predominantly to London but also Sao Paulo). ‘New’ business class is something they ‘protected’ and pretty much refused to give out as an award. And as routes operated by other aircraft looked like they could convert to new seats, those closed off too, magnifying an already tight-fisted inventory policy with respect to business and first class awards.

First class to Asia used to be a gimme, but American is removing first class from all but their 777-300ER aircraft and that availability has dried up as well.

So it’s exciting, as a couple of readers pointed out to me in reaction to my posts about US Airways award space, to see a plethora of business class award seats:

  • On American
  • On a handful of Europe routes
  • Starting in the fall

One hopes that these ‘glitches’ may be ‘tests’ as they re-evaluate inventory management that has erred on the side of refusing awards to members.

Here’s availability for two passengers in business class New York JFK – Paris, operated with a reconfigured 767 that has fully flat seats.

Here’s Chicago – Paris operated by the same aircraft.

The thawing isn’t on all routes, not even all Europe routes. For instance you won’t find the same space (or at least I didn’t) on Dallas – Frankfurt or Miami – Barcelona (although seeing space for two business class awards on roughly a quarter of dates on routes like this is itself progress).

One Mile at a Time showed New York JFK – Milan space wide open. I’m seeing availability on that route as pretty tight. So something strange is going on here.

Will this last just a few hours? Who knows. I’d put awards on hold now — American allows 5-day award holds — if you’re looking for them for the fall.

I’m hopeful that the recent spurts of availability signal improvements going forward.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’ve already got US Air booked to MAD…which is better, the 767 or the Airbus 332…both have lay flat seats and all aisle access…will the retrofitted 767 be that much better…b/c the connection times work better with US Air.

  2. Thanks Gary! Can I place flights on hold on, and then call US Airways later to book with my Dividend miles using my AA record locators?

  3. I think when you search JFK-CDG, it includes openskies flights to ORY so that is why it looks so good for that route.

  4. Those calendars aren’t meaningful to those of us on the West Coast.

    When I search out of SFO, the BA SFO-LHR flights are rarely available at low awards.

    Instead, they route you through Phonix or some other city and the route is like 20 hours or more each way.

  5. I was able to get 2 Biz Awards for late July to LHR. The later flight had 4. , and the Rocket had 4 as well. ORD to LHR, great availability .

  6. Dilemma: AA F to LHR then Etihad First Apartment to AUH

    or Etihad F non stop to AUH?

    First world problem!

  7. Thanks for this Gary. Others were talking about it, but you’re consistent w/ the info so you’re one that I always read.

    Wanted to get wife, daughter, and self to Rome this summer. I ended up being able to book two (them) on CLT – JFK – FCO but the return had to be Milan – MIA – CLT. Not optimal, but better than the 110k-180k each way awards I was seeing on US yesterday.

    Now I need to decide on me. I’m a US CP so I might have some of those sticker / pull tab upgrade thingees by then. I’m considering buying a coach seat and either gutting it out or figuring out how to upgrade.

  8. This sAAver availability got sucked up so fast. I literally had my return direct LHR->LAX for 4 in U on July 7th, went to change one thing, came back, and it’s gone! Other alternate dates vaporized within about 15 minutes of that too.

    So… if the guy/gal who grabbed the 4 in U on the 7th is not actually using them (perhaps booked another date) and is now merely holding them… well… how about releasing them (and letting me know when you plan to do so).

  9. I don’t know how fast they got sucked up. I had about 7 hours in between when I first looked vs. when I booked. And four is a hard get regardless.

  10. Do these taxes and fees from JFK to CDG look right?


    Total Adult taxes and carrier-imposed fees
    $130.80 USD Per person

  11. Thanks for tip! I had two biz class on air berlin using AA miles for mid September-jfk-dus-lin…found AA/BA for jfk-lhr-lin and rebooked on 77w this morning. Thrilled to fly on 77w. Many thanks!

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