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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 worth jumping on.
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 but American has gone from first to worst in domestic award availability.
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.
Premium cabin international 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 on certain routes January through May 2017. Here are the key things to know:
- The best availability is for London and Paris. Those are the transatlantic routes that American usually releases the most space for when they open up the floodgates temporarily.
- There are other routes available, like Dallas – Frankfurt. But not all routes are available, you won’t find much space Dallas – Madrid, London – Los Angeles, New York JFK – Milan, or Charlotte – Madrid (a flight that used to be a gimme) to name a few.
- On most routes availability is better on weekdays than weekends.
- I’m doing searches for 2 seats, but there are days on some routes with as many as 5.
- In general there’s as much or more confirmed upgrade space on a given flight as there is award space.
Points from the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express transfer to American as well — and when moving 20,000 points to AAdvantage you normally receive 25,000 miles but right now you get an additional 20% bonus transferring Starwood points to American however the bonus doesn’t post immediately.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card‘s points transfer one-to-one into British Airways, and you can use British Airways Avios to book these flights however BA will add fuel surcharges onto the cost. Chase Sapphire Preferred has a 50,000 point signup bonus after $4000 spend within 3 months of account opening.
What Availability Looks Like on Different Routes
Dallas – Frankfurt is probably the best route right now for award availability outside of London and Paris.
There’s great availability for Dallas – Frankfurt from January through early April, and for Frankfurt – Dallas from January through end of April.
Here’s Dallas – Frankfurt:
Here’s Frankfurt – Dallas:
And the neat thing is that since the route still has an unreconfigured Boeing 777-200 on it (angled business class) there’s also great first class award space as well.
Here’s Dallas – Frankfurt in first:
Here’s Frankfurt – Dallas in first:
Having a look at London routes, there’s availability on Dallas – London in January and February.
The return London – Dallas flight is available January through March.
Chicago – London is more broadly available, January through May. It’s a good example that most routes have mostly weekday availability although April and May show weekend availability also.
London – Chicago is also available January through May.
New York JFK – London is more restrictive, with some availability starting in December but only lasting through February.
As with the routes above, the return flight from London to New York JFK seems to have availability stretching out a bit longer — there’s space December through March.
Philadelphia – London is open January through May.
And the same date range is available in reverse, London – Philadephia.
You’ll find Miami – London wide open in February only but London – Miami February through April.
On the other hand Charlotte – London shows very little space, and there’s a dearth of award availability (as there usually is) on Raleigh – London.
As noted, availability patterns on American’s Paris routes is similarly good.
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: Traveling for Miles)