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Oddly Priced Routes With Miles (in a good way)

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 10.23.31 PMThere are a few really sweet routes that don’t make sense. Like Flying Blue pricing flights to Israel as Europe tickets. And there are a few odd region definition exceptions, like Guam being “Asia 2″ on the AA award chart. This post is about me trying to think of a list of these odd exceptions and how we can maximize on them.

Then for fun I tried to put together all the incredible prices into one incredible ticket that stops in 11 cities around the world for 140,000 miles. And there’s more fun to be had.

AA Miles: Guam, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka both = Asia 2

This article idea started when reviewing the destinations in each zone for AA miles. For whatever reason it struck me odd that Guam was “Asia 2″. Then I noticed that Sri Lanka was too. Even just Hong Kong to Sri Lanka is a decently long flight for 15k miles.

So how many more odd (in a good way) routes are there?

 

AA Miles: AA’s off-peak applies to the Caribbean

Technically on the partner award chart, it shows prices from “North America”, which happens to include the Caribbean and Mexico. Off-peak to Hawaii, Europe, or Japan can originate or end in the Caribbean. So Jamaica to Turkey would cost you 20,000 miles from Oct 15 to May 15.

 

AA Miles: Egypt = Middle East + Japan to Middle East is 22.5k/30k

I’ve mentioned this route before because it’s a long route for 30,000 miles in business class. Basically India and Egypt are in one region. So when looking to go from Asia to India, it’s a bad deal, but when looking to go from Asia to Egypt, it’s a great deal.

 

AA Miles: Canary Islands = Europe

Canary Islands are a part of Spain, but really they are off the west coast of Africa. What’s cool about them being a part of “Europe” in AA’s award chart is that you can go from the Canary Islands to Istanbul for 10,000 miles. That’s a long flight. Or you could do Jamaica to Canary Islands for 20,000 miles in off-peak.

 

Flying Blue Miles: Promo Awards can be half-off

Flying Blue gives tickets for 25% to 50% off some months, making you want to redeem on Air France/KLM. However, their prices are already great to Europe at 50,000 miles. 50% is 25,000 miles roundtrip! Insane.

Read more: Best Use of Flying Blue Miles

 

Flying Blue Miles: “Europe” includes Israel, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and the Canary Islands

That’s crazy. One, that means you can go from the Canary Islands to Israel for 15,000 miles, which is insane. And it also means during promo awards you can go to Israel for 12,500 miles.

 

Lufthansa Miles: Hawaii to “Australia/New Zealand/Oceania” = 20,000 miles

The problem is that Lufthansa charges 50k each way when you transit through a third region. So you have to always stay within the Oceania region to get this price, which includes:

Australia (incl. Tasmania), Cook Islands, Fiji, Guam, Mariana Islands, Micronesia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Norfolk Islands, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tahiti (incl. French Polynesia), Tonga

That basically leaves you with routing through Guam on United (which can still get you to Cairns, Australia), or Air New Zealand if the stars align. This could be crazy if you did United’s island hopper route that stops on multiple islands in the pacific/micronesia. Plus you could use a stopover.

Either way, Hawaii to Palau for 20,000 miles is a great deal. Plus, it’s 20,000 miles to Hawaii from the US with Lufthansa.

Read more: Lufthansa Trans-Pacific Hopper

 

United Miles: Stopovers to save miles

This a concept I came up with and it ended up being one of my most popular posts when I fist posted it. But United has a funny thing where they arbitrarily pick a price when two different priced zones are combined with a stopover.

For example US to Oceania is 70,000 miles, and US to Australia is 80,000 miles. So if you stop in Fiji on the way to Australia, what’s the price? The answer is 70,000 miles. Thus, if you want to save miles on a trip to Sydney, stop in Fiji! Who’d a thought?

But it gets crazier. Want to know how to save miles on a trip to Africa (from 80k miles)? Crazy answer: Stopover in Japan, making the price 70k miles.

Read more (of the best post ever): United Stopovers Secrets

 

United Miles: Japan to “Oceania” for 12,5000 miles

This is a crazy route and a crazy price. Maybe it’s worth paying 30,000 miles though if you plan to go all the way to Tahiti or something via New Zealand. Trust me, I’ve done this route and it’s a lot of flying.

But this is an incredible “Hopper” ticket if you can stopover in New Zealand by making it a roundtrip. Imagine that. Japan, New Zealand, Fiji, and back for 25k. That’s a mild version of what we did except we got off the plane on the route back to get an extra stop in.

Read more: 4 Variations of the Pacific Hopper

 

United Miles: Caribbean and Central America to South America for 10,000 miles

This is the deal of the century that no one else seems to get. Get a cheap flight down to Mexico or the Caribbean on Southwest or something, and then hop down to Peru and back for 20,000 miles roundtrip with a stopover.

I say you do Puerto Rico – Panama (stopover) – Peru (destination) – Mexico (open-jaw/final destination) for 20,000 miles plus the Southwest tickets back, which can’t be a lot with the Southwest Companion Pass. You’ll spend less than a normal ticket to Peru.

Read more: The Latin Hopper with United Miles

 

British Airways Avios: Flights that are close to 3,000 miles but not more

The deal of the century is any British Airways flight that is 2,999 miles. It’s usually a mid to long haul distance but it only costs 12,500 BA Avios. For example, Boston to Dublin. That’s 25,000 miles for a roundtrip to Europe! Same with west coast USA to Hawaii.

Read more: Breaking British Airways Avios with Stopovers

 

2 Different Progrms that price the Caribbean at 12,500 miles

AA has lesser known “off-peak” pricing that allows you to go anywhere in the Caribbean for 12,500 miles each direction. Dates for Caribbean/Mexico off-peak are September 7 – November 14.

Flying Blue considers the US territories of Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands as domestic, and price it out as 12,500 miles.

 

Putting it all together into the bestest ticket ever

Let’s put together what we learned here, booking an around the world ticket for 140,000 miles!

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 4.53.01 PM

  • US to Canary Islands with Promo Awards = 12,500 Flying Blue Miles
  • Avios to Madrid = 7,500 Avios
  • Europe to Israel = 15,000 Flying Blue miles
  • Israel to Japan = 22,500 AA miles
  • Japan to Palau = 12,500 United Miles
  • Palau to Hawaii = 20,000 Lufthansa miles
  • Hawaii to Jamaica = 17,500 AA miles with off-peak
  • United Latin Hopper: Jamaica – Panama – Peru – Puerto Rico = 20,000 United miles
  • Puerto Rico to home = 12,500 AA (off-peak) or Flying Blue Miles

140,000 miles total!

 

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73 Comments

  1. Drew! Awesome post! Any chance you have a version of gcmap with all the routings BIS? Would love to see how crazy the routings can get (or feel free to email direct)

    Reply
    • Thanks man!
      Hmm… I’m confused. Wouldn’t the gcmap look the same regardless of what class you’re flying? Or am I missing something?

      Reply
    • I don’t think he means biz – BIS, or Butt in Seat. Maps would show all the connections etc. not just “as the crow flies”.

      Reply
  2. Will this count towards mileage runs? Or do we have to pay for tickets for mileage runs?

    Reply
    • Mileage running is flying to earn miles. This article is about award tickets, which do not earn miles.

      Reply
    • Thanks for the clarification, Drew.

      Reply
  3. This is great – thank you! I have so many questions yet don’t even know how to word them!

    Reply
    • Well don’t feel shy now. Perhaps other people have the same questions. :-p

      Reply
  4. you have everything in economy, what about Business pricing ? thanks

    Reply
    • Well, most of these route are good routes due to regions, so they could be good business class prices. But I suppose that would be a post in it’s own. But otherwise, you’d just have to look up the same award chart.

      Reply
  5. That would be a fantastic trip!

    For those inquiring about business class, your best bet is to look up the carriers that define geographic zones oddly as Drew has pointed out. Simply go to the chart and see if business class is as good of a deal as coach. Perhaps an idea for a new post.

    The AA off peak pricing only applies for economy class. For the above commenters who want to book in business class, any advice regarding AA would not apply.

    Lastly, flying blue often has promos for business class as well. While currently the best economy price during this promo is 25k, business class promos range from 62,500-93,750 per route round trip.

    Reply
    • That’s exactly right. Although the one good AA route for biz is Egypt to Japan for 30k in J.

      Reply
  6. United Miles: Caribbean and Central America to South America for 10,000 miles

    What destinations does this work for? Only Lima? San Juan PR to Santiago Chile, for example, prices as 20k. Good to know for Lima though.

    Reply
  7. A few of the awards listed is flying blue and Lufthansa, I got the impression that economy awards are most not worth it due to high fuel surcharge, have you taken this into account?

    Reply
    • You can book international delta flights with flying blue and this keeps fuel surcharges when departing the USA to a minimum (~$5).

      Reply
    • Yes but if you book through Delta you don’t get FB’s discounted prices.

      Reply
    • Plus fb surcharges are fairly low, usually below 200$.

      Reply
    • Right promo awards are usually below $200.

      And without Flying Blue, you can still get to Israel for 25,000 miles and $30 or more, which is still a great deal!

      Reply
  8. Why did you have to use Avios to get from Canary Islands to MAD? Couldn’t you have gone from Canary Islands to TLV on the Flying Blue award?

    Reply
    • Could have, but I just wanted to work in Europe as well.

      Reply
  9. Drew, great post I salute you for your imagination. One suggestion though instead of peru why not go all the way to the Galapagos for 10K? There is some avilability on AV1638
    Operated by AEROGAL.

    Reply
    • Just curious, did you ever actually try to book that? For me, this is one of those places where United’s website shows availability, but if you click through to reserve it, the seat disappears. Calling did no good – there were no seats. It was last year I was trying to do this, so maybe the glitches have been fixed (or maybe they’re still there).

      Reply
    • I would love to do that! However, I have never found award availability. But upon checking United.com right now there is tons of availability! Wow.

      DaveS, I clicked through and got all the way to the pay screen. I might actually do this.
      I think availability has just changed in the last year… by a lot.

      Reply
    • Good to know, but I’m on my way this week. I ended up using miles to Guayaquil, then a paid flight to the islands.

      Reply
    • You dog. Let me know if you have any tips for being on the islands. Remember we’re cheap. But I know there’s a park fee, airport taxes, and no points hotels. So I know we’ll end up paying but still…

      Reply
    • I booked San Francisco to Galapagos (stopover) to Lima (destination) to New York using 40,000 United miles. Availability definitely exists, though I booked very far in advance, so that might be it.

      Reply
  10. Once again, another grew post Drew. Posts like these are why you’re my favorite blogger in the game! You rock!

    Reply
    • Thanks Kurt. :-)
      Thanks for taking time to read and comment too!

      Reply
  11. I learn so much from reading this blog. Keep up the great work, Drew!

    Reply
    • Thanks for reading Jason! Will do.

      Reply
  12. Great Post Drew! Keep them coming!

    Reply
    • Thanks, you too. :-p

      Reply
  13. Amazing post. I’ll probably take you post and customize it. Thanks so much!

    Reply
    • Awesome, do. It’s all about concepts more than routes. Glad it might be helpful tho.

      Reply
  14. What does UA currently charge for the following? I don’t think the website is pricing correctly.

    TYO-AKL-NAN-BKK in J?

    Reply
    • *Sigh*
      So for the longest time I have not figured out what is going on. But basically it prices it TYO-AKL as one ticket. Then it prices AKL-BKK via NAN. That’s the most sense I can make of it. But I know for sure someone who booked that almost same route over the phone at the lower price but it took some work.

      Reply
  15. Thanks for this post. Very interesting. I’ll be in Guam at the end of this year for a couple of months. You said that Guam is considered by AA in the same region as Hong Kong… But the only AA or OneWorld flight out of Guam is JAL GUM-NRT. So are you able to transit Asia 1 to get to Asia 2?
    What I’d really like to do for our return flights from Guam would be to fly: GUM-NRT-HKG-SFO on JAL and Cathay. Do you think that would be a legal routing assuming award space?

    Reply
    • Hmm… you’re totally right. That is the only route and I doubt they’ll let you transit through Asia 1 to stay in Asia 2.
      Unfortunately, even at their partners I can’t find anything.

      Also, isn’t there a law about flying to the US via another country? Like GUM is US soil and therefore you can’t transit through Tokyo. Am I misquoting that?

      Reply
  16. You wasted 7500 avios on LPA to MAD. You can get that with Skyteam and flying blue. LPA-MAD-TLV.

    Reply
    • With a stopover?

      Reply
    • Nope, I really just meant LPA-TLV with a connection in MAD. Trying to maximize the whole “Europe” definition of FB.

      Reply
    • I see. Well, I just wanted to actually have a stopover/stop in Europe. But it true, it would definitely be the same price regardless of which partner you fly on.

      Reply
    • That won’t allow a stopover at lpa, right?

      Reply
    • I think he was saying that you can stopover in MAD on LPA-MAD-TLV… but I thought it had to be a roundtrip with FB.

      However, you probably could stopover in LPA on the way to MAD or wherever, but I’m still under the impression it has to be roundtrip.

      Reply
  17. Drew, after reading ucipass’ comment I have a UA routing question. Do you think UIO>GPS (stopover)>LIM (stop)>UIO is a valid routing? Thanks

    Reply
    • No, because it never changes regions. You have to change regions to add a stopover. So you’d need to start in Central America or Southern South America.

      But it’s a great idea, and exactly what I’m talking about. It just doesn’t meet the zone changing requirements.

      So PTY-GPS-LIM/UIO-CUN
      You can open-jaw LIM-UIO and fill with Avios. But you have to start and end somewhere else.

      Reply
    • lol, as long as we sign a prenup so you don’t get half my miles. 😀

      Reply
    • That’s an interesting idea and way of doing, because regions can be defined slightly differently, but countries aren’t (usually) with the airlines. So this covers that.
      Man that is an undertaking. Kudos to you.

      Reply
  18. I think I need to make something like “The Complete Guide to Central Asian Miles”…the great unknown. I ‘ll let you guys know- there’s gotta be some strange pricing there (and good deals?)

    Reply
    • I find some of the airlines unbearable to research. But I’ve only looked at a few. But rule of thumb. There’s always something good until everyone knows about the program.

      Reply
    • Since I am still building credit I don’t qualify for some of the swappable currencies. So I’ll probably focus on what I have access to like UA or AA etc.

      Reply
    • Makes sense. Unless there’s a really cheap way to buy miles.

      Reply
  19. Great post, again. Off most of the blogs, this is why yours is shining example of creative thinking.
    I did 2 UA one ways from carribean to GPS. For 10k each, I find myself dreaming another.

    Reply
    • Thanks sujith!
      Yes, me too! After the comment above by ucipass, I know I have to do the Latin Hopper again with GPS. Wow. Any budget tips on GPS? :-p

      Reply
    • Interesting and Etihad a citi transfer, right?
      So flights from AUH and the route from Seychelles to Mauritius is particularly cool.

      Reply
    • I thought AMEX points could also by transferred to EY?

      Reply
  20. Awesome post!
    Drew, off topic question – what strategy do you use for US Airways Dividend Miles which require RT at ~330 days out? It seems impossible to book even at ~330 days out when I see onward availability but cant book it because the return awards have not opened yet… and then if I wait for return tickets to open up, the onward award is gone.

    Reply
  21. All the posts on your blog are all so insightful.

    Reply
  22. Drew, excellent post, but I raise you:

    Using Alaska Airlines miles, fly from the US to JNB, with a stopover in HKG. I would go ahead and say this bad boy is worthwhile doing in First, since it is a marginal points difference (50k/62.5k/70k, Y/J/F). During your stopover in HKG, you can dip down to SE Asia if you would like, my favorite would be 4.5k Avios to Hanoi, then making your way to Singapore and catching a Scoot flight back, or some other LCC from wherever you are in SE Asia, possibly CMB as you mentioned it is a decent redemption for a decently long flight. I digress beyond my original raise.
    Once in South Africa, get your African hopper on for 35k UA miles, conveniently placing yourself in one of the FB promo awards cities, or in Dakar on one of your OJ’s. Dakar has a direct flight to the Canaries that you can use Avios on, if you wish, and FB has some stellar deals from places like Killi, EBB and some others. I would do something like Maputo (after taking the bus from JNB) – ACC/COO-ZNZ (or something, then overland to where I can catch the FB award). Another option could be MPT-ZNZ/KIG-ACC-DKR. I’d opt for the later, which would be 35k UA miles, then 7.5k for the flight to the Canaries. From the Canaries, take Ryanair…is $56 worth that many Avios…? Or you can get your TLV on with the FB award that was mentioned. Looking at the numbers, a FB for 12.5k is kinda the better deal, for sure.

    Ultimately, the goal is to get to BCN so you can take the Singapore Airlines flight to GRU. 17,425 miles if booked online. From GRU, you can go South, if you want, say to Santiago via BA. Avios to MVD, or BUE, your choice. Beyond here, using Avios in SA is stupid, unless you are pressed for time (I wrote a post about that myself…buses are just too cheap). Granted, we created a mega fiesta trip so time obviously is not the issue here. With that, make your way to Peru, via bus, and do a Latin Hopper of your choosing. Personally, I would go somewhere, say to SJU so I can catch a cheap ticket back to home (doing this for our Peru trip this year).

    Now. I have a bunch of places in Africa, Brazil, Hong Kong and whatever else one would like to add while in key gateway areas. There are flaws with this guy, as in it is not 100% miles, and some substituted cash bookings (like Ryanair, which would reduce your overall amount of miles required) and my Narnia ride through SA, which I fully endorse. With that, the above itinerary (routing through Dakar instead of a FB award to Europe from somewhere in Africa) is 137,425 miles. This, does not include getting home on points, because if timing it correctly, a 3k mile trip from say SJU to DEN is $150 o/w…not really worth points, IMO. Laso is for the coach flight on Alaska Miles. Originally, I cut out BUE from RIO and would just fly back on an AA off peak from there, which would save a few, but hey, why not live a little.

    Your trip, goes to some cooler places, like Hawaii and (I wish AA kept those stopovers at gateway cities…stopping over for 25k miles enroute to Japan was a dream) Palau, as well as Israel and Japan. Different flavors, for different people.

    I look forward to our next challenge and keep up the excellent content. I will now not think all night in order to maximize the minimum and make a better itinerary.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your ideas, Andrew. I love these kinds of posts.

      Reply
  23. Ha! So fun! Time to concoct another cauldron of travel plans. TY Drew…& ucipass & Andrew for the additional nuances.

    Reply
  24. Drew,

    Such an amazing post. Your write-ups are the ones i look forward the most of all blogs due to its rich and valuable content since i found it a few months ago thanks to the DoC.

    What impresses me further is that despite the fantastic content, you dont capitalize on it and push the CC sign-up links as others do. However i believe you could post the links at the bottom of your articles or on a separate page which would make it less intrusive. I am sure most of the readers here appreciate the honesty in your views/recommendattions and would be happy to contribute to your effort via the CC links. Just my 2 cents.

    Keep up the good work.

    Reply
  25. Drew, love your posts.

    Me and my wife will fly round trip to Seoul from Seattle, with stop over in CDG. My wife will have an open jaw, and fly back from SUB, in business. I will fly back to SEA from ICN, but via Europe, also in business. None of our segments will be in UA even though we use UA miles. We also took advantage of UA partners redemption promo.

    We will end up flying these segments:
    SEA-YYZ-CDG (stopover) -PEK-ICN (destination); in coach

    Then:
    ICN-PEK-VIE-ZRH-YYZ-SEA; in biz (me)
    SUB-SIN-NRT-SEA; in biz (my wife)

    We’ll end up flying Air Canada, Air China, Tyrolean Air, ANA and Singapore Airlines.

    I am spending Avios before the rule change in 4/28 for my wife to fly from ICN to SIN with CX. From SIN-SUB, we can use either Garuda, Silk Air or China Airlines paid ticket.

    I was looking for the Hello Kitty EVA bird on the way home, but could not string together segments that will get me back to SEA in time.

    Reply
  26. TLV is never part of the Promo awards with Flying Blue.

    Reply
  27. How do you get from TLV to NRT (or anything east of TLV) on AA award?

    Will AA allow you to route from TLV to the east via Europe? If not, then your only option is Royal Jordanian. Given the current situation in the Middle East, I’d rather not route via Amman. Are there any other options?

    Before El-Al broke off with AA, I redeemed an award from ADL-TLV via HKG on CX, LY and QF. But now that LY is no longer a partner, how do I book award flights between TLV and points east using an AA award, other than RJ?

    Reply
    • You can start from amman

      Reply
  28. Drew, newcomer to your site; awesome to find fellow travellers that like a bargain. Although well travelled, I have squandered opportunities to earn points previously. Some of the forum comments are over my head yet; but I will wrap my head around some of the concepts as time permits. In preparation for a trip accross the pond as we speak. If you could address the actual booking methodology; that would be really cool. I am failing to grasp something there; perhaps the booking directly through his the airline, or you are performing these gyrations through aggregators,metasearch? I guess the main question here is; are we dealing with multiple bookings, or are you accomplishing your routes on one ticket? Or perhaps under a network umbrella I.e. Star Alliance Group etc. I am admittedly somewhat confused, but perhaps I have not studied your site enough. Maybe, you could have a step-by-step basics for newcomers area, so we can get up to speed, and become contributors to the dialog. Some clarification on the actual booking of an open jaw leg for instance eludes me. The concept I slightly grasp; but actually booking a hypothetical trip using all the bells and whistles could use some dumbing down for amatuers like myself. I am currently at the point of just having signed up for a plethora of frequent flyer cards; and those are slowly evolving from printable cards of the temporary nature, to the permanent member cards as they slowly come in. Pretty much square one. In addition I have added available apps as provided by associated carriers. Anyway, thanks in advance to both your wife and your self for sharing your knowledge with others! Life is not a dressed be rehearsal; carpe diem!

    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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