American Airlines has been uniquely stingy making award space available on its own flights. I value American miles, but really just because I can book awards on partners like Cathay Pacific and Etihad.
At the end of September they promised better award availability though so far that’s focused on coach connecting flights, which you can use to your advantage.
Over the past few years there have been availability ‘dumps’. There will be a day or two or sometimes just a few hours where tons of international business class award space opens up on American flights. We haven’t seen that in many months, but are seeing it again right now.
This is important because transatlantic award space is hard to get outside of flying American’s partner British Airways but that entails extortionate surcharges where your award ticket can cost you $1000 out of pocket. Flying American (or Finnair or Iberia) avoids that level of expense.
Right now there’s good award availability between the US and London. In some cases there’s just one or two business class award seats available, in other cases I’m seeing as many as five on the same flight.
New York JFK – London Heathrow is available mostly midweek through mid-April and a trickle starting again mid-July. Here’s two passengers in business class non-stop on American Airlines only.
There’s availability London Heathrow – New York JFK as well.
There’s good close-in availability in business class for at least two passengers between Raleigh and London Heathrow.
There appears to be only a handful of availability from Philadelphia, Chicago, Miami, or Charlotte. You’ll want to check Dallas and Los Angeles and other European destinations. Award availability gets better again towards the end of 2018.
American charges 57,500 miles each way for business class saver awards between the US and Europe. Awards can be booked with Alaska miles — or using oneworld partner airlines like British Airways but when using those points surcharges will apply.
When there’s award space available there’s generally upgrade space available, too. This is the perfect opportunity to buy a coach ticket and confirm an upgrade at booking (while American upgrade instruments still allow you to go from coach to business, skipping premium economy). The upgrade inventory bucket is C and the most it will show is 7, so “C7” means “7 or more confirmed upgrade seats available.”
At some level what I’m seeing, probably only very temporarily, reflects a minimum level of award space we ought to be able to expect. But considering American’s history it’s space worth jumping on. And of course you can connect onward to and from Heathrow on American’s partner British Airways without spending additional miles.