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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
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
- US to Europe = 30/50/62.5
- Europe to India = 20/30/40
- India to US = 45/67.5/90
- 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.
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.
- Europe to South America Zone 2 = 50k/70k/90k
- 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.
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.