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The New Best Use Of AA miles (why you don’t need the explorer chart)

2014-05-20_18-40-13The AA Explorer Award chart is dead, so we’ll make our own stopovers, and sometimes at prices better than the Explorer Award chart!

On some routes, it’s a bummer. And the fact that they were unlimited stopovers is incredible, but most people can’t use unlimited stopovers. So you may find that this post makes the dead explorer award chart irrelevant, as there are routes that you can piece together for the same price.

First I’ll go over some basics, some commonly accepted good uses, and then move into some advanced routings.

The Basics

As far as award charts go, AA is prime.

Just compare flights to Europe.

AA flights to Europe = 30k/50k/62.5k = econ/biz/F

Plus, Economy is only 20,000 miles in off peak, which is half the year.

Compare this to competitor award prices:

  • United = 30k/57.5k/80k  to  30k/70k/110k
  • Air Canada =  30k/47.5k/67.5k  to  37.5k/52.5k/62.5k
  • Delta = 30k/62.5k/na  to  65k/162.5k/na

I mean, goodness… everything sucks compared to AA.

For three reasons:

  1. AA has the best prices. Except for AirCanada prices in Business Class to western Europe. No, I didn’t show ANA… but #2 and #3 explain my gripes with ANA.
  2. The prices are simple. Look. They have non-saver extra seats for a premium, but for the most part the pricing is simple. United changes price depending on who you’re flying, Air Canada changes price depending on where you’re flying, and Delta just screws you on the price.
  3. No fuel surcharges. Okay, yes AA does charge fuel surcharges on British Airways and Iberia (which are the same ownership). But just remember not to redeem on BA, and Fin is small enough that it’s not really a concern. Just remember no BA and Iberia and you’re safe. When using ANA, or British Airways miles, it’s actually hard to avoid fuel surcharges.

 

Earning

Earning AA miles has never been easier. There are two personal cards you can get for 50,000 miles, one business card for 50,000 miles, and currently an “executive” card for 100,000 miles. In one year, one person could easily get 250,000 AA miles. Baller.

For more info on the 50k AA cards, see this FT thread. The AA Executive card can be found here.

Also, the regular AA cards give 10% of your miles back after a redemption.

* Wait a second. Random thought here.

Why is it that I’m okay with linking to cards that don’t make me money, but I’m scared to link to cards that do pay me because someone will start calling me a pimp? … Even though I spend a lot of time working on here creating original content, just to maintain being broke. Calling it how I see it. Continuing on…*

 

Good value is all around

This is boring, but the AA economy off-peak prices are baller. Seriously awesome.

Think about this.

Off-peak to Europe

Half the year, a oneway to Europe is 20,000 miles, or a roundtrip to Europe is 40,000 miles. Let’s just say someone gets a card and books a oneway to Europe for 40,000 miles and gets 10% of their miles back.

The grand total is 36,000 AA miles for a roundtrip to Europe.

Baller or not? (The answer is indeed baller). I mean, it’s the cold half of the year (Oct 15 – May 15), but at least arriving May 15 would be nice. :-p

Off-Peak to Southern South America

South America zone 2 is Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile (excluding Easter Island), Paraguay, and Uruguay.

The only unfortunate part is that the off peak times are shorter.

  • March 1 to May 31, and
  • August 15 to November 30.

Prices regularly are 30,000 miles each way, and 20,000 in off-peak. Pretty easy.

 

Off-peak to Japan, Korea, and Mongolia

Another great option is off-peak prices to “Asia Zone 1″, which is Japan, Korea, and Mongolia. 25,000 miles for a oneway, and 50,000 miles for a roundtrip.

The same logic with a 10% back from the credit card would bring the price for a roundtrip to Japan down to 45,000 AA miles. This is also baller, too bad I don’t really want to go to any of those places in the winter.

Off peak times are from October 1st to April 30th.

 

Replacing the Explorer Award Chart

“Okay, okay, we all know about off-peak prices. But the Explorer award chart is gone, and stopovers are therefore gone.”

I was thinking about it, and it’s actually not that bad. You can just book separate oneways and not worry about routing rules, and have as many stopovers as you want. Follow me on a train of thought.

US to India, the fun way

US to India with stopover in Europe used to be 100,000 AA miles in Econ. = 100/130/180

But

  • US to Europe = 30/50/62.5
  • Europe to India = 20/30/40

Or

  • India to US = 45/67.5/90

Or

  • India to Asia = 22.5/30/45
  • Asia to US = 35/55/67.5

Therefore, a trip from the US to Europe, to India and back would be 95,000 AA miles in Economy. 95k/147.5k/192.5k for econ/biz/F-class award tickets. Which, for economy, is actually better than a stopover booked with the old explorer award chart.

A trip from the US to Europe, to India, to Asia, and back would be 107,500 AA miles. 107.5k/165k/215 for econ/biz/F-class award tickets. In Economy, it’s only 7,500 more miles than it would have been on the old explorer award chart. However, the explorer award chart would really win in premium cabin.

2014-05-20_18-40-13

The reason this is worth mentioning is largely because AA has the best prices to/from India, and I don’t mean to North America, but simply to Asia and Europe. Air Canada charges 35k Europe to India. United charges 35k just to go from India to SE Asia.

Either way, this could potentially be a trip with 3 stops and similar price to competitors. The benefits might not be as awesome as the Explorer Award chart, but it’s still not bad.

 

US, Europe, and Asia

  • US to Europe = 30/50/62.5
  • Europe to Asia = 35/52.5/70
  • Asia to US  = 35/55/67.5

US to Europe, to Asia, and back is 100,000 AA miles. 100k/157.5k/200k for econ/biz/F-class award tickets. Economy is again the same price as the AA explorer award chart would have been.

 

South America to Europe in Economy

Even South America to Europe is the same price or cheap when routing through North America during off-peak times.

Look:

  • Europe to South America Zone 2 = 50k/70k/90k

But

  • South America Zone 2 to North America = 30k/50k/62.5k and 20k economy for off peak
  • North America to Europe = 30k/50k/62.5k and 20k economy for off peak

This shows again, the value of economy and off-peak. Therefore the explorer award chart showed it’s value in premium cabin and in flexibility.

 

Africa, Oceania, and a few others.

There are so many things on the AA award chart that are under 40,000 where competitors aren’t as competitive. Africa to Oceania is 55k with AC miles, and 50k with United. With AA miles, it’s 37,500 miles.

On the explorer award chart, a route from the US to Africa, to Oceania, and back would have likely been 140,000 miles in economy (or 140k/190k/280k).

But piecing it together it comes out to 112,500 AA miles.

  • US to Africa = 37.5k/70k/100k
  • Africa to Oceania = 37.5k/50k/75k
  • Oceania to US = 37.5k/62.5k/72.5k

The premium prices aren’t great… and yet still better than the Explorer award chart.

So yet another example on how you didn’t actually loose all that much, unless you were planning to stop in Europe… do a real RTW trip.

 

Booking & Finding Routes

If you look on AA.com, you won’t see most of the partners needed for the India routes, for example. And remember, while BA does show up on AA.com award searches, it would pass on astronomical fuel surcharges.

Thus, you need to call to book and to find award space you can look on Qantas or just call.

Specifically, if you’re looking to go from Europe to India, you don’t have to do BA and you don’t need to go direct. You could instead fly Royal Jordanian and stopover in Amman, Jordan. Or you could stopover in Doha, Qatar and fly Qatar, which has a number of routes to India.

In terms of direct from Europe that isn’t BA and going to pass on fuel surcharges, there is only Helsinki to Delhi on Finnair.

What I’m not sure of, is whether or not a ticket from Europe to India could route through Sri Lanka. For whatever reason, India is considered “Asia 2″ on AA’s award chart. Whatever.

Mixing Cabins

Another great freedom in this style booking is mixing cabins. For example, Europe to India is a long flight and it’s only 10,000 more miles to fly business class – 30,000 AA miles total. 10,000 miles for at least 7 hours of flying (from western Europe) could be worth it. But India to SE Asia might not be worth extra miles for an upgrade. Obviously, it’s up to the person to determine whether or not it’s worth it, but I simply am pointing out the flexibility in it.

 

The Future & Conclusion

What does all this show?

Looking at AA taking away the explorer award chart, the biggest practical difference is premium cabin.

If you look at the United devaluation, the biggest difference was premium cabin.

If you look at all the price difference between AA and the other airlines, economy is generally similar if not the same. However…

 

I would like to think that AA will increase the value of their program instead of decreasing it. In my opinion, the most powerful marketing is doing something remarkable (if you’re in marketing, you obviously need to read Seth Godin’s “Purple Cow” which states just that).

However, as sir Richard Branson put it, “all the airlines in America suck”. I seriously doubt AA cares about having a good product, my gut is that they’re more concerned with profit now. In many ways, AA has the best product and program, right now.

Therefore, AA is the best premium cabin award chart… for now. Book while it lasts. I’m not one for blowing miles on First Class tickets, but it’s seriously tempting to give it a go coming back from Asia as it’s not something we’ve done much.

Yet, at the same time… the best values are still in economy. Not “value” as others try to say, “it would have costs me $20,000″ but in a more logical sense.

Either way, there are so many great uses of AA miles. Earn and burn, get to it.

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52 Comments

  1. Love the blog, and you definitely make a good point about the continuing (current!) value of AAmiles.

    One small potential error though that you might want to take a look at – India is still in the “Indian Sub-Continent / Middle East” region, not Asia 2 as far as I can tell (https://www.aa.com/i18n/disclaimers/aadvantageAllPartnerChart.jsp#1).

    Also, are they definitely charging surcharges for finnair already? – I was looking at HEL-YYZ a few days ago and the total fees/taxes were only about £10gbp I think.

    Reply
    • Thanks Joe.
      No I just checked. Bad info from google results. Got lazy.

      Reply
  2. You are awesome!! Thanks so much for breaking this down! I am new to miles and have finally built up a little stash but I am still trying to understand how to use them effectively. This post helped a lot. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Awesome, hope it gets put to good use. :-)
      Drew

      Reply
  3. Jamba is pleased with this post. Bring Jamba more like this.

    Reply
    • Oh Jamba…

      Reply
  4. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

    Reply
    • Oh Astronomer…

      Reply
  5. Great post!! Just got the 100K AA miles so this is timely. Agreed on the off peak to Asia, I’ve been on the SAN-NRT flight on JAL twice for 45K AA miles round trip (With the 10% rebate). Winter in Japan isn’t bad, and if you’re really against it just go in Oct/Nov and March/April, it is beautiful.

    And don’t feel bad for posting links to cards! I’d say you are one of the less-than-handful of bloggers(maybe even the only one) that I’d click through. Keep it up!

    Reply
    • Thanks Jason. I imagine fall and spring are when the trees are the best color? I wouldn’t really know, but I hate the cold enough to avoid winter completely, but also don’t know how bad it is in the south. Okinawa must be pretty mild.

      Reply
  6. I’d say offpeak to Japan in April is pretty baller- most popular time of the year to go. Hang out with all the drunk salarymen, people in kimono, harajuku punks, grandparents and grandkids in public parks with beautiful cherry blossoms. I was there last week of April (sorta a crazy time, a bunch of public holidays)- there were still cherry blossoms (and azaleas!) even in Tokyo, let alone the mountains. Weather was beautiful- 70s-80s F, which was surprising to me.

    Reply
    • Sounds like April is the best time to go, imo. Besides the price. I’d love to do Kyoto and south on our next visit. Although I know nothing about Japan compared to the rest of asia… so if you have tips on where to go, let me know.

      Reply
  7. I see you have a creditkarma link, but i suggest you have your own homepage links like FM. your post are really informational. And I think its justifed to call the pimps out like mms and tpg. but some of you guys have very useful sites

    Reply
    • Thanks Steven. I would say FM has earned the respect of the community and can get away with whatever, because everyone knows he’s honest and trusts him. And they love his content. Maybe I’m not there. :-p Or maybe he gets plenty of critical feedback too and I just don’t see it. Probably, right? Anyone who posts stuff online probably does and maybe I shouldn’t be a little pansy.

      Reply
  8. Wow, what a post!! Drew, you continue to rock. Your content is just a treasure to be preserved in this internet jungle.

    Reply
    • Thanks Kumar! Appreciate the encouragement!

      Reply
  9. Any experience booking Etihad from India? I am trying to route back to the US on the 787 route from AUH-IAD. Any tips?

    Reply
    • Nick: the 787 goes into service on January 2015. You can definitely find space on it from AUH-IAD. The other option is to fly QR from DOH-BRU on their 787 and then BRU-EWR or BRU-YYZ on Jet Aiways…..I know, you also need the EWR-IAD part but….tough life :)

      Reply
    • Thanks Angel… you seem to know better than I.

      Reply
  10. This is a great post with some good ideas.

    Reply
    • Thanks. Simple, but I’m actually proud of the list. :-p

      Reply
  11. I tried to book an Explorer with multiple stops a couple of years ago, and the agent said, “No, you don’t want to do that. Add up one ways and it will cost less.” And proceeded to explain it to me. A knowledgeable agent for sure. I think the Explorer will be truly missed for the itinerary with many stops, but as you suggest if there are only a few, the values on the charts may be better quite often.

    Reply
    • An airline customer service agent that… helped a customer save? I bet they got fired.

      Reply
  12. AA doesn’t impose fuel charges on Finnair :)

    Reply
    • Thanks.

      Reply
  13. what the f is “baller” supposed to mean?

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  14. OK, I will be the skunk at the picnic.

    First, let me say that I appreciate your blog, it is one of the few so-called “travel blogs” that I think is with bothering with – because you are generally honest, transparent, and are not simply a slimeball credit card shill like almost every other blogger – and because you do post original, useful content (not just stealing from others and rehashing). All good so far. BUT (you knew that was coming…) I believe a lot of what you’re saying here in this post is a bit disingenuous.

    I’m specifically referring to AA and their program, which you seem to be heaping praise upon. It’s certainly true that AA makes it easy (probably too easy) to accumulate a ton of miles. Getting the miles is not the problem. The problem is actually using them, on a flight that’s worth taking.

    I’m currently sitting on about 800,000 AA miles, and for the life of me, I can not find a single decent flight option to use them on. IMHO, AA miles are the worst, least valuable currency in the game.

    Not because they can’t be used. But because they can’t be used for a decent flight experience. Everyone will have their own definition of that, but for me, three layovers (including a long overnight in an AA hub airport) and a seat in one of the new high-density coach cabins (17″ wide seats with non-movable armrests, zero effective seat pitch) is not something I’m willing to put up with on a 10+ hour flight. Especially when I have to pay double- or triple-miles for the privilege. AA seems to have put a great deal of work into ensuring that award seat travelers have a really miserable experience.

    Now, one could argue that none of these things are important – the only thing that’s important is getting your butt from New York to Brisbane, and you don’t care how many hours you have to spend suffering in painful seats and overnighting in airports. And having to spend days to get somewhere is OK for some folks.

    I would argue that that kind of crappy travel experience is not something I can or will put up with – life is too short for that, I do not have unlimited free time, and I’m not signing up for so many compromises. If you’re 20 years old, don’t have a job, a family, a mortgage to get back to, and you want to go surfing for a few months, then a long string of cramped seats and crazy layovers (gotta leave tomorrow) may represent your idea of a great option. It’s not mine.

    I think for most people, who have less flexibility (translated: a job) and who do not look forward to spending days in high-density seating, AA’s program is crap.

    The numbers you toss around for the “costs” in miles are irrelevant, because seats are simply not (literally never) available at those levels. Go take a look and see if you can book 2 business class seats to Europe on AA. Go ahead. Look at every day from tomorrow through the end of their booking window. You will find exactly zero, zip, nada at the saver level. So wile their numbers may look great in theory, those numbers are, well, to be honest, this numbers are a lie. So lets be real – for AA awards, you generally need to figure double or triple miles to actually get a seat – and then you discover that even after paying through the nose, you can only get crappy connections (3 stops to most places) because they simply do not ever release award seats on their good flights (e.g. non stops).

    I have been looking carefully at ways to use my 800K AA miles. They’re useless. I would be better off with 800K Delta skypesos – as much as those are derided, they are worth more than AA’s AdvantageRupiah.

    Reply
    • Hi Jamal,

      I’ve found AA miles to be very useful but you’re right that finding good availability can take a bit of work/knowledge – they could definitely improve the search tool!

      If you’re looking for availability from the US to Europe, I usually find Air Berlin (surprisingly good business class) has some availability from New York and Miami to Dusseldorf or Berlin (I had a quick look and there’s a number of days available with 2 biz seats from NYC in next week or two).Finnair from NYC to Helsinki can be solid too.

      Iberia can also be a decent option, but you have to use the BA or Iberia sites to search for availability.

      Other ‘hidden’ options are Jet from New York and Toronto to Brussels and Air Tahiti Nui from LA to Paris ( I did this a few weeks ago and was quite impressed). The agents can be a bit useless sometimes so it’s best to find the availability yourself and give them the flight numbers in my experience. – there’s plenty of info around online on how to search Jet and Air Tahiti Nui availability, but it is awkward.

      I live in Europe and for me the big value is heading East (30k/40k one way in biz/first on etihad to India or the maldives isn’t bad!), but rarely have a serious problem trying to find something suitable to the US if I look hard enough.

      As regards connecting flights, you can change your routing for free (even after travel has commenced) so long as the start point and destination remain the same, so if a more direct routing does become available at any point you can call and switch to it.

      Hope some of that helps and you get to use up some of that 800k before the likely devaluation!

      Reply
    • I’m also at similar situation. Tons of AA miles with nowhere to go :( I tried Airberlin but no go. Also tried Finnair but they require you have miles in order to see availability. My dates are pretty set (Dec 19 – Dec 31) so that might be one reason since it’s high season. I’m actually pretty flexible and willing to go anywhere in Europe or Central/South America. The ones I found all go through LHR which has insane fuel surcharges. Any help would be much appreciated!

      Bill

      Reply
    • Hi Bill,

      I’m not so sure about Central/South America but would imagine that LAN/TAM is a decent bet as the partner availability doesn’t show up properly anywhere online as far as I know (some of it can be found using the BA site, but not all). Hopefully someone more knowledgeable can offer some advice on that.

      As regards Europe, yep can definitely be a bit tricky this far out for specific dates. Is it one seat in Biz/First you’re after? Where in the US are you? – If east coast heading to europe, a daytime flight in economy might be something to consider. I’ve done it a couple of times and 6-7 hours during the day is absolutely fine (wouldn’t recommend a red-eye in economy unless there’s no other option really).

      First things first, I would (almost) always book AA Awards as 2 one ways rather than a return as it gives you more flexibility and you can lock in the flights one way while waiting for award space to open up the other way.

      While there are lots of things you can’t find on the AA website, you can search Finnair and Air Berlin availability on there (or on the BA site, which does occasionally show different Air Berlin availability to AA for some reason), so you don’t need to have miles in a finnair account.

      The first thing I would do is give AA a call (actually a couple of calls, as some of agents don’t seem to know how to find the space very well) and ask about the Jet Airways flights to Brussels from Newark (Jet Airways flight 227) and Toronto (Jet Airways flight 229) as the availability is usually good, there’s a flight on the 19th from both places, and they both seem to be pretty much empty in Biz at the moment with all fare buckets showing 7+ seats available. Give the agents the flight numbers if they can’t find anything, and remember the New York flight is from Newark not JFK.

      Connecting from Brussels to elsewhere in Europe is easy and pretty cheap -lots of low cost carriers in Europe and good trains to France/Germany/UK etc.

      If you’re west coast, it looks like there is availability on Air Tahiti Nui from LAX to Paris on the 18th (a day early I know, but it doesn’t leave until 19:35 so might be possible). and 2 seats on the 21st if you can wait a couple of days. AA from Miami to Milan is available as well on the 18th (14:30 flight). Also available on the 21st is JFK to Helsinki on Finnair.

      Personally, I would decide which start and end point suited me best even if the dates/route weren’t perfect, book it and then amend to a better itinerary if availability comes up (so long as the sub-optimal route/date was acceptable, just not ideal). I’m not sure what the precise rules are, but have never been charged for date changes and route changes, so long as the start and destination, and the class of service stayed the same. The trick is just to keep checking really, as availability comes and goes all the time (irritating, but it does work).

      Coming back, I’d try Jet again first if you’re on the East Coast (flight number 230 to toronto, or 228 to Newark). Alternatively, there’s Finnair on the 30th to New york at the moment (not the 31st), and there looks to be Air Tahiti Nui space back to LA on the 31st if you’re heading to the west.

      If you have/can get some Avios, dublin to boston in business on the 30th or 31st is available for just 25,000 avios and about $100, or Dublin-New York for 40,000 avios. You need to ring BA to book it though – can’t be done online.

      Hope some of that helps, and you get to enjoy your miles!

      Reply
    • @Jamal: you are partially correct. AA availability has dropped in the last few months but the key is to book other carriers with AA miles. As Joe points out, there are several options to Europe that don’t come up if you do a AA.com search. I know not everyone has time for this and paying for a search service is not ideal, but I found KVS and ExperFlyer extremely useful when planning trips. We are a family of 4 and we always travel together. I was able to take advantage of the Explorer Awards twice (again, the 4 of us) and flew around the world in J on every single flight. It takes time, patience and a few bucks, but in the end it is doable. Don’t get frustrated an use some of Joe’s recommendations and you should be ok.
      Safe travels!

      Reply
    • I agree with them.
      Their website doesn’t show all the availability. IMO, it’s the best mileage currency we have, except for USA and UA for economy.

      Reply
  15. This is really helpful, but I want to caution some against using AA to Europe. Even if you avoid BA, which can be tough to do, most times you have to connect through London, and taxes there can be high.

    Reply
    • I think the general consensus is to avoid BA and LHR. There are other options (lots of other cities if you fly US) if you fly partners. Look at Joe’s comment for great suggestions!

      Reply
    • I flew back and forth from Europe this year and it wasn’t on BA or via London.

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  16. Thanks for the very useful reply Joe. I think the key is not to rely only on the AA website, which really is an embarrassment in terms of being able to see partner space. On that UA wins hands down. As Jamal suggests, it depends on what you want to use the miles for. Specific dates, destinations, classes of service, multiple seats all limit reward availability. The game is biased toward those who are flexible and willing to put up with a few hours in a standard airline seat to get to where they want to go, no doubt about it.

    Reply
    • Yea, even right now I’m having a hard time finding Cathay Availability because BA and Qantas are dumb and AA doesn’t show up. But I know it’s there. I’ll have to sign up for expert flyer… or just call.

      Reply
  17. Any suggestions for One World travel between South Pacific and Africa? The redemption’s are reasonable but I am not sure what a viable (in the eyes of AA), itinerary would look like.

    Reply
    • It totally depends where and on the routing. Qantas has has a flight to Jburg and then some regional options from there.
      Otherwise, I imagine most Qatar routings (through Doha) are legal. And Qatar goes to MEL and PER. Then you can connect to north and east Africa.

      Reply
  18. Hi Drew, nice post, very interesting.
    I’m currently looking into something like that but involving Americas, from Brazil stopping somewhere in the Caribbean and then to US. Any tips?

    Reply
    • Well, ANA and Avios and my United Latin Hopper all have killer options. http://travelisfree.com/2013/11/13/the-latin-hopper-with-united-miles/

      With AA it’s a little more what you see is what you get. It’s 15k from SA to the Caribbean, and 17.5 to the US. So it could be a close to even situation but, it could be offpeak 20k to us with AA… In which case that would be much cheaper.
      I would use United. :-p

      Reply
  19. New to miles and points and first time to see/read your site. Great site!!! Thanks!

    Reply
  20. Any suggestions for the best use of AA miles for Business/First to Hawaii from Michigan (GR)? I’ve got a ton of AA miles starting to pile up from the Citi Executive card. My wife and I would both be traveling (neither of us has any status), so we’d need RT tickets for two passengers. Thanks in advance!

    Reply
  21. If you don’t have miles for a premium ticket to explore Drew’s suggested routes, but want to save, you can try to buy miles from others on a site like this: http://tripmakler.com/miles/

    Reply
  22. Please link to credit cards that pay you money; you work hard putting all of this together; you should get paid for your time.

    Who cares what the haters say.

    Reply
  23. Most of my flights are out of Europe, and for that purpose, AA miles have some real limitations. I fly to Africa a lot, but if I understand the AA award chart correctly I can’t book a flight to Africa from Europe with miles that connects in the Middle East. Which leaves British Airways as the only oneworld airline that flies directly to East Africa. Is there a way around this? A way to fly from Europe to Nairobi Kenya, using AA miles, that doesn’t involve BA?

    Reply
  24. I’m new to booking flights with miles. I really like the idea of using 100,000 AA miles to go from the US to Europe to Asia and back to the US but every time I search for flights the only results I get are on British Airways and not AA. I don’t want to spend $600 + on surcharges. Is there any way around this. Sorry if this is a dumb question. Great blog by the way.

    Reply
    • So two things.
      1) When using AA miles British Airways is the only airline to pass on fuel surcharges. (plus it’s a double whammy since LHR has high airport taxes).

      Therefore 2) This page shows you what airlines aren’t being searched on AA.com
      http://travelisfree.com/2014/12/02/master-chart-of-what-sites-search-airline-award-availability/

      So you’re missing out on major airlines Cathay Pacific. You can look for the awards on other sites but the only way to book is by calling AA.

      For hopping the atlantic, make sure you are on AA flights, or Air Berlin and NOT BA. This isn’t always so easy as BA tends to dominate the search results. But if you know what route you’re looking for then Air Berlin space is always there. Plus you won’t need BA to get you to Asia if you book on other partners like Etihad, Qatar, and Cathay. So when searching for flights you won’t need them to connect via LHR, but you can go anywhere in Europe one of the Asia/ME airlines will reach.

      Reply
  25. Drew, who would you recommend to help me book my points and miles, I’m looking for first class using my AA miles. I have a little disability so comfort is very important, Hope you could help me. Thank you.

    Reply
  26. Drew ,
    I am trying hard to look for first class in and out to Australia first class on December 2015 using AA miles. I found the return but no departure. Any suggestion, flying out of TXK. I have a little disabilities so comfort is very important, Hope you could help me. Thank you again.

    Reply
  27. We are going to be in Lucca after a transatlantic cruise in May. So we may be flying home to SFO/SJC out of Florence. Is there anyway to avoid BA and LHR using the AA miles or I can only do this by calling AA direct and pay that extra fee?? Thanks!

    Reply

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We have spent the majority of our marriage traveling full time, living out of hotels.   All the while, we list our expenses publicly, budgeting $25,000 a year for our nomadic life while still staying in mostly 4 or 5 star hotels across ~20 countries a year.
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