Help Booking with AA FF Miles

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Dec 9th, 2018, 01:10 PM
  #1
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Help Booking with AA FF Miles

Does anyone know any secrets for using AA miles? I'm trying to book a biz class ticket for the end of August, beginning of September to Europe. I've looked up & down for flights leaving from the east coast going into a variety of European cities and nothing available. Lots of flights available with BA but the fees are exorbitant ($605 for 1 way in biz class). Our objective is some hiking in Switzerland and we'd be happy to start pretty much anywhere and make our way there. I haven't tried to use AA miles in many years and don't recall having such difficulty.
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Dec 9th, 2018, 02:41 PM
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Sorry, what you are describing seems to be the norm nowadays. The initial (limited number) of award tickets first become available 330 days prior to flight date - these usually get booked up quickly so try as early as possible. Other award seats for that same flight may be made available from time to time but there are no set rules. You have to remain flexible with routing and dates of travel and be willing to use “more miles” to get what you want. And yes’s, using Aamiles for BA flights always requires high cash payments for “fees and taxes”.

All that said, we’ve been fortunate to be able to use our AA FF miles to book several B-class flights to Europe in the last couple of years (we just booked R/T to Italy about a week ago for next summer) however we did have to fly out a day earlier than we originally wanted and use more miles for the return flight compared to the outbound flight.
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Dec 9th, 2018, 02:45 PM
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RoamsAround - may I ask where you are leaving from? I book on Star Alliance all the time so I know how flexible one must be. As I posted, anywhere on the east coast to just about anywhere in Europe, any day during a month period of time.
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Dec 9th, 2018, 03:05 PM
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In the past 4 years we’ve booked international AA FF B-Class flights originating or ending in DFW, MIA, JFK, and LAX.
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Dec 9th, 2018, 03:08 PM
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Thanks! I tried flights from DFW and MIami as well as JFK, Boston, Philadelphia and Charlotte. Kept striking out. I think I'm switching to Japan where there seem to be flights at the moment.
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Dec 10th, 2018, 06:37 AM
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Originally Posted by RoamsAround View Post
Sorry, what you are describing seems to be the norm nowadays. The initial (limited number) of award tickets first become available 330 days prior to flight date - these usually get booked up quickly so try as early as possible. Other award seats for that same flight may be made available from time to time but there are no set rules. You have to remain flexible with routing and dates of travel and be willing to use “more miles” to get what you want. And yes’s, using Aamiles for BA flights always requires high cash payments for “fees and taxes”.
AA almost never releases business class award seats at the beginning of the booking period. Their algorithms differ from some other airlines (such as British Airways) in that premium-cabin seats are released into award inventory later, and more unpredictably, than is the case with others. BA, for example, does often release a few business class award seats at the opening dates, but the assumption is that they do so because the additional fees they impose offset the economic "loss" of the miles. AA and BA (and Iberia and Finnair) have a very close "joint business agreement" that essentially integrates the airlines' operations over the north Atlantic, including revenue sharing. (This agreement is coming under intense renewed scrutiny by UK regulators, as recently as a month ago.)

AA seems content to let its mileage plan members spend the extra money by booking through BA and paying BA's fees. It's a twofer for AA - the miles (which constitute an unfunded liability on AA's books) get removed, and they get some money back through the business arrangement (aka "kickback") with BA. Win-win. For them.

For you, not so much, unfortunately. There's only one way to use your AA miles for business class over the pond - keep looking. You might think about signing up for Expert Flyer - https://www.expertflyer.com/ - where you can set up an alert for award seats on given routes. Understand that AA's revenue management algorithms WILL result in some seats being released, but getting two together on convenient flights on days you want is going to be an uphill battle. Very often AA releases "U" inventory (business class award seats) very close to the flight date, when their computers have said it's unlikely somebody's going to walk up and shell out megabucks for a seat. By then, however, it's usually the case that anybody who's wanted to make plans ahead has already made them.

Ironically, paid business class fares over the Atlantic are often at their cheapest in mid-summer (while economy seats are at their priciest.) The assumption is that this is because actual business use (i.e. people traveling for business reasons) is at its low point during the vacation season, while tourist traffic in coach is at its peak. For example, Singapore Airlines is offering round trips in business class from New York to Frankfurt for $1990 during the summer; most of the year this is $5K or so.

So be patient and keep looking, or bite the bullet and pay BA's ransom, or wait for sales, or pick a different destination.

Last edited by Gardyloo; Dec 10th, 2018 at 06:39 AM.
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Dec 10th, 2018, 08:42 AM
  #7
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Hi Gardyloo! Was hoping you would see this. Like all the info you impart, interesting and helpful. I went ahead and used the miles to get biz tixs to Japan. We've wanted to go, so now we are! I learned my lesson on AA reward tickets -- dont collect miles on AA!
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Dec 10th, 2018, 09:15 AM
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Originally Posted by yestravel View Post
I learned my lesson on AA reward tickets -- dont collect miles on AA!
Oh I would never suggest that. AA's program is still pretty solid, it just requires you to know the ropes. Getting AA business class seats with miles is actually easier than with many other airlines, EXCEPT across the North Atlantic. Flying domestically, or to the Caribbean, Mexico, Central or South America... is actually pretty easy. And AA's roster of partners is first rate. It's just whenever your travel includes British Airways, or on routes shared by AA and BA, that things become more complicated.

The number of miles required for award travel on AA is usually fewer than in other airlines' programs for the same routes, and AA has frequent sales for FF miles, often where the cost of the miles comes out to less than 2c per mile. Doing the math, a round trip to Japan that would cost 120,000 miles can be "purchased" for around $2400, while buying a ticket for cash might be $4000 or $5000 or more.
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Dec 10th, 2018, 10:23 AM
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Good to know. I do still have some AA miles left. My problem with SA was finding lie-flat seats. They partner with Copa and all the returns I could find were on Copa who does not have lie flat seats.
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Dec 10th, 2018, 10:46 AM
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Originally Posted by yestravel View Post
Good to know. I do still have some AA miles left. My problem with SA was finding lie-flat seats. They partner with Copa and all the returns I could find were on Copa who does not have lie flat seats.
Copa is a United partner, not AA. AA's partner for South America is Latam.

Meant to add, it might be noteworthy to mention that Japan is one of the cheaper origination cities for Oneworld RTW tickets. A ticket for your New Zealand RTW is around $200 more expensive in Japan than in Norway, but you'd probably save that in taxes if you use American Airlines on both the transpacific and transatlantic flights. If you used AA miles to get to Japan, you'd use the RTW ticket to get home, then revise your plans for next winter to get to NZ from the east rather than the west. Here's an imaginary route - https://tinyurl.com/ya8kkhrl .

Just trying to confuse things further.
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Dec 10th, 2018, 11:16 AM
  #11
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Of course -- confusing my alliances. I am using both AA & UA miles for the trip.

"Just trying to confuse things further. ​"​​​​​​
Well, I did think about that because I recall you mentioning Japan as one of the places that was cheaper from which to begin the RTW. But it hurts my brain to start revising the RTW! Other than minor tweaking we're set with that. Will buy tickets this winter.
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Dec 15th, 2018, 11:04 PM
  #12
 
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Good info on AA. I've been kind of regretting my getting CitiBank cards/bonuses when I look at the award tix on AA --I use awards only for SFO to hubs in Europe and as noted the fees often trip me up. i didn't know about the releasing of biz class tickets either; that's also what we go for.
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Dec 21st, 2018, 01:23 AM
  #13
 
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FWIW I was able to avoid the BA surcharge trip up in Europe by flying Lisbon to Philadelphia.

Normally I save the AA miles for South America flights, especially between countries.
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