I like to plan early. I mean really early. Like 11 months from the day I’d like to travel.
11 months or so are when many airline calendars open up for revenue reservations and award bookings. Sometimes, the day the calendar opens up can be the best day to book. For many people it’s pretty difficult to plan so far in advance.
In any event, next summer I’m hoping to embark on a Euro Trip (countries to be determined). Knowing full well what availability is like getting to Europe in the summer, I’ve already started my searches to identify award space trends. (See here for when to start planning a award trip).
While I have my outbound from North America locked in, finding a way back appears to be a bit trickier.
Delta/SkyTeam have space, but you’ll pay hefty fuel surcharges on the way back to the U.S. As for using United MileagePlus miles, I’m out of those, so I had to default to American.
Before the devaluation, using AAdvantage miles on Oneworld or American Airlines flights to Europe was a great deal: 30,000 in coach, 50,000 in business. The business redemption changed to 57,500 – which isn’t too bad, all things considered.
What still remains the same about using your AAdvantage miles on Oneworld or American Airlines flights is the following:
- High fuel surcharges on all flights leaving the U.K., especially when travelling on British Airways.
- Minimal fuel surcharges on Iberia flights
- Low taxes and fuel surcharges on all other flights leaving Europe when on American Airlines or other Oneworld partners
Routes from Europe
American Airlines operates 26 direct flights to the United States from Europe in the summer (many of these routes are seasonal). Here’s what it will looks like (as of now) for summer 2017:
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Most of the locations in the United States are East Coast hubs with the exception of Chicago.
And in non-map form, here are the routes from each hub:
- Chicago O’hare International Airport (ORD) – Paris (CDG), Dusseldorf (DUS), Rome (FCO) and Dublin (DUB)
- Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) – Paris (CDG)
- Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) – Brussels (BRU), Paris (CDG), Frankfurt (FRA), Munich (MUC), Athens (ATH), Dublin (DUB), Shannon (SNN), Rome (FCO), Venice (VCE), Amsterdam (AMS), Lisbon (LIS)
- John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) – Rome (FCO), Paris (CDG), Dublin (DUB), Milan (MXP)
- Charlotte-Douglas International Airport (CLT) – Paris (CDG), Frankfurt (FRA), Dublin (DUB), Rome (FCO)
- Miami International Airport (MIA) – Paris (CDG), Milan (MXP)
I conducted a search on all 26 routes for two passengers leaving from the European destination… The results were depressing. I knew that AAdvantage Saver award space was getting worse, but I didn’t think it would be THAT bad.
Please note that all searches were conducted on August 17, 2016 for two passengers and that award space can change at a moment’s notice.
Without further ado, here are the results…
|Route||9 – 11 Months, Coach||9 – 11 Months, Business||Latest date of space|
|BRU-PHL||Yes||No||7/11 – AA 751|
|CDG-JFK||Yes||Yes||6/9 – AA 45|
|CDG – BOS||Yes||No||7/6 – AA 147|
|CDG – CLT||Yes||No||6/27 – AA 787|
|CDG – ORD||Yes||Yes||6/27 – AA 151|
|CDG – MIA||Yes||No||7/5 – AA 63|
|CDG – PHL||Yes||No||7/12 – AA 755|
|DUS – ORD||Yes||No||6/27 – AA 241|
|FRA – PHL||Yes||No||7/11 – AA 701|
|FRA – CLT||Yes||No||6/28 – AA 705|
|MUC – PHL||Yes||No||7/6 – AA 717|
|ATH – PHL||Yes||No||7/6 – AA 759|
|DUB – JFK||Yes||No||6/7 – AA 291|
|DUB – PHL||Yes||No||7/7 – AA 723|
|DUB – CLT||Yes||No||7/6 – AA 725|
|DUB – ORD||Yes||No||6/29 – AA 711|
|SNN – PHL||Yes||No||7/12 – AA 777|
|MXP – MIA||Yes||No||6/8 – AA 207|
|MXP – JFK||Yes||No||5/9 – AA 199|
|FCO – CLT||Yes||No||7/5 – AA 721|
|FCO – JFK||Yes||No||7/7 – AA 235|
|FCO – PHL||Yes||No||7/6 – AA 719|
|FCO – ORD||Yes||No||6/29 – AA 111|
|VCE – PHL||Yes||No||7/12 – AA 715|
|AMS – PHL||Yes||No||6/28 – AA 203|
|LIS – PHL||Yes||No||7/6 – AA 739|
Though technically not the last day on the calendar, I looked at the calendar 9 – 11 months from today as that when there was the most
The only trend here is that all routes have coach space in end of April, May, June and the beginning of July. As of now only Rome-Chicago and Rome-New York (JFK) have a few days of business class space.
I also included flight numbers if you’d like to set alerts on ExpertFlyer or Award Nexus if space opens up.
How to Search
While there’s a lot to hate about the AAdvantage Award search engine, there’s one key feature that allowed me to zero in on space: the ‘non-stop’ selection.
Here’s what Dublin – Philadelphia looks like when you don’t filter. There’s space everyday. Most of it is connecting on British Airways:
It looks like there is business class availability everyday.
In the box in red, it says ‘No Preference’ – now watch what happens when we change it to ‘non-stop only’:
Now that looks right – unfortunately. There is no business space as of now on this route.
If you’re looking for non-stop flights, be sure to change that filter otherwise you’ll end up with a lot of British Airways flights with fuel surcharges ranging from $250 – $500+ on a one-way ticket.
Constructing an Award
What if you don’t want to fly out of one of these destinations on your trip? Or perhaps you do want to go to Dublin, but don’t live in Charlotte?
Well you don’t need to be locked in. You can construct an award that has mixed Oneworld partners and has multiple cities. If you hit multiple European cities you’ll pay a bit more in fuel surcharges.
Remember, you can also have your connecting city be a faux-stopover as long as it is less than 24 hours it should price out at as one award.
If you want to fly… Dublin – Charlotte – Dallas, your best bet is to search each leg individually. Then search Dublin – Dallas. If the whole trip doesn’t come up, but there is individual space on each leg, call American and they should be able to manually price it out for you at no extra cost. Do not pay the phone fee if it’s a legal award booking, but it doesn’t show up online.
In this case, it will come come up with no problems:
Though there’s a lengthy connection, it will get you home
You have no desire to go to Dublin, but there are no other dates that will work for you to get back home in New York.
In that case, Iberia a Oneworld partner has many routes through MADairport. You could do something like… Madrid – Dublin – New York.
Remember, search each leg individually and if it doesn’t show up online, call American Airlines to book the award flight over the phone.
For reference, here are all the Oneworld hubs/focus cities in Europe:
- London-Heathrow International Airport (LHR)
- London-Gatwick Airport (LGW)
- Madrid International Airport (MAD)
- Barcelona Airport (BCN)
- Helsinki International Airport (HEL)
- Moscow Domodedovo International Airport (DME)
- Moscow Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO)
- Berlin-Tegel International Airport
- Dusseldorf International Airport
- Hamburg Airport (HAM)
- Munich Airport (MUC)
- Zurich Airport (ZRH)
- Stuttgart Airport (STR)
You’ll find a lot of connecting options through a lot of the focus city airports (Zurich, Stuttgart, London-Gatwick).
So why not just fly Iberia, Air Berlin or Finnair from their hubs and be done with AA?
This post was originally meant to just highlight the lack of AAdvantage Saver award space, but it morphed into showcasing other options for a Euro Trip (or similar trip) and it includes other direct destinations available only by flying American Airlines.
Furthermore, with banks restricting sign-up bonuses it’s not such a bad idea to be smarter about how we redeem miles and points for award flights. Even if this means flying coach *gasp*. Routes like Dublin – New York aren’t much longer than Los Angeles – New York.
Unfortunately the business class award space situation here is bleak. Looking at the calendar so far out, one would assume that there would be a plethora of award space (many airlines release space like this). It used to be this way with American Airlines. The only positive note is that award space will (hopefully) change dramatically over the next few months. Be sure to keep an eye out on routes where you’d like to fly business and monitor them as closely as possible.
Summer 2016 Award Space to Rome
Summer 2016 Award Space to Dublin
Summer 2016 Award Space to Greece (and its Islands)