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Need help with AA mileage flights to Africa from US East Coast - for 4

Need help with AA mileage flights to Africa from US East Coast - for 4

Jan 22nd, 2010, 12:05 PM
  #1  
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Need help with AA mileage flights to Africa from US East Coast - for 4

Ok, I know it's a long way away, but I've been resisting and resisting posting, and I can't stand it any more! I want to be planning....

Here's the story:

Taking my nephews to Botswana on Safari; there will be 4 of us travelling. I've been saving & hoarding my AAmiles, and by the time I can book the flights I should have about 600,000 miles accumulated. I want to fly us business class. We should be leaving somewhere around July 1, 2011, and return approx July 17. We ultimately need to get to Maun, Botswana; and we will be departing from Livingstone airport in Zambia. The easiest airport to fly in/out is BDL; next would be BOS; then JFK. If I have to, I have spg points that I can convert over to AA miles too.

I want to spend a few of days somewhere in Europe prior to heading down to Maun to get a little acclimated to the time change before we head out on Safari. Naples, Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussells, London as a last choice - but still perfectly acceptable. We need to be in Maun on July 5.

So, the questions:

1.) Will we be able to do a 3-5 night stopover on a regular award trip, or do we need to do a one-world partners or rtw or something similar?

2.) "Cheapest" mileage routing?

3.) Is there a website that will show me available routes? I tried playing around with the one world booking tool, but couldn't really get the info I'm looking for.

4.) When can I start trying to book these flights?

5.) What do you think the odds are of my getting all 4 of us on these flights using miles?

Thanks for any help you can give!

Cyn
cynstalker is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 12:38 PM
  #2  
 
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1. With the new one way All Partner awards, you can only stopover in US gateways. If you wanted to stopover in Europe, it would price as separate awards, US-Europe and Europe-Africa. You can stopover on a Oneworld award but you need to take at least 2 carriers other than AA so including BA and Iberia would work.

2. An All Partner US-Africa award in business is 150,000 with no Europe stopovers. Assuming a Europe stopover in one direction only, it should price out at 162,500. A Oneworld 14001-20000 mile (which I think you could fit under) business award is 130,000.

I'll let Gardyloo make any corrections and fill in the rest
Patty is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 01:40 PM
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Try the Oneworld interactive network map. You can click on Johannesburg (most likely that's were you would connect) and it shows you which cities in Europe are served by Oneworld's members. I'm pretty sure that BA and IB are the only carriers that serve South Africa. I think BA also goes to Zambia. So unless you want to connect within Europe after your stop over, you are probably stuck with London, Madrid and maybe Barcelona as your stop over cities.
traveler318 is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 01:50 PM
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At your service.

Patty got it entirely right. You're better looking for an AA "Oneworld" award, which requires the use of 2 Oneworld airlines in addition to AA (if AA is used at all, otherwise just the two.) You can't use BA between the US and UK (but Canada's OK.)

Oneworld awards are mileage-based, and Patty correctly got the mileage tier that would apply - between 13,000 and 20,000 flight miles, for 130,000 AA miles each, i.e. 520,000 for the four of you.

You're allowed up to 16 segments but only one open-jaw or surface segment. You can stop over in any one location once, but may connect through that airport up to two times in addition to that stopover. The definition of "stopovers" is a little complicated, but in no case more than 24 hrs. Most importantly, once you're booked there are no changes allowed - you'd have to cancel the whole shebang and start over, and your seats might not still be available.

You'd probably want to start at BOS or JFK since BDL doesn't have any transatlantic flights on Oneworld airlines, so you'd have to get from BDL to someplace that does; that someplace would have to be Chicago, and for a mileage-based ticket that's going the wrong way. (There's no BDL-JFK or BDL-BOS service for obvious reasons.)

There are umpteen possible routes - BOS-CDG-MAD-JNB-LVI-JNB-LHR-BOS, for example, or BOS-LHR-AMS-MAD-JNB-LVI-JNB-MAD-BOS... With any stopovers in Europe east of, say, Germany, you're going to run out of mileage allowance pretty quickly - the above routes total between 18,500 and 19,000 miles, and you only have 20K to play with (unless you go to the next tier, 20-25K flown miles, 150,000 miles per person.)

Go to Oneworld.com and download the desktop schedule, then go to the (new, improved) Great Circle Map tool - http://www.gcmap.com/ and start plugging in some itineraries to see how the miles add up. You'll need to use routes served by Oneworld airlines.

Now some icky practicalities. You're planning to travel to Europe in the peak of peak periods, so getting ANY business class transatlantic award seats, much less 4 together, is going to be quite difficult. I'd definitely start thinking about how you could split your group into two, possibly traveling by different routes/different dates to common rendezvous points in Europe. Intra-Europe seats should not be a problem, but getting four of you over the pond in July will be a hassle.

Second, sign up for the British Airways frequent flyer program, the BA Executive Club. Even if you have no miles, you can use BA's great award seat calendar to see both BA and partner availability. Coupled with the AA web award availability tool, you ought to be able to get an idea of where some seats might be available so you can pounce on them.

Since it will still be seven months before you can even book award trips for July 2011, you can use that time to practice looking for award seats, get comfortable with the systems, all that. It's not easy but it's very rewarding practice.

One other thought is that AA all-partner business class awards between Europe and Africa are very good value (37.5K one way, 75K round trip) - and you can start anywhere in Europe and go anywhere in Africa (but no stopovers as Patty said.) So if you find that flights to Europe are hard to get, consider paying for your way transatlantic (maybe use miles to upgrade) and redeem your miles just for the Africa portion. We've done this on several occasions.

A final word is that there is much afoot in the world of frequent flyer programs, especially with AA, BA and Iberia - antitrust immunities, possibility of combined marketing/booking staffs, lots of things. July 2011 is so far out that it's almost certain there will be big changes in the meantime. Nothing you can do about it, just be aware that they're coming, and the results could be beneficial to you (or... not.)
Gardyloo is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 04:31 PM
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The only possible way you'd get seats on the same flights would be to wait until the last minute (10-14 days before each segment) and hope that business class hasn't sold well. While that's actually a possibility, esp in summer when airlines typically have trouble selling business class at full price, but I doubt you're interested in doing that.

I have done OW awards from BOS to Victoria Falls (stone's throw from Livingstone), and in my experience your best chance of getting biz space in summer is with IB, both from BOS to Europe and Europe to southern Africa. From BOS, it's extremely difficult to get a biz seat on AA's flight to Paris. Slightly better chance on AA's overnight flight to LHR and a much better chance on AA's daytime flight to LHR.
DonTopaz is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2010, 07:34 AM
  #6  
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Thanks everyone for the advice. I've done a little playing with the oneworld program - so far, every flight I've looked at that goes from Europe to JNB goes to London first - I looked at Paris, Brussells and Madrid so far - does anyone know if any other European city goes direct to JNB? Or am I doing something wrong?
cynstalker is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2010, 08:35 AM
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Iberia flies to JNB from Madrid. I'm not sure why it's not showing up.
Patty is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2010, 08:43 AM
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The only European gateways to South Africa are Madrid (Iberia) and London (BA). If you want to spend 150,000 miles per person (because of the greater distance) you could also try going through the back door - JFK - Hong Kong - Joburg (or JFK - Tokyo - Hong Kong - Joburg) and return via Europe, but getting 4 seats on Cathay Pacific's HKG-JNB route would be a labor of Hercules.

Iberia's service to JNB is not daily, and sometimes the timetables hiccup when you try to show a connecting itinerary where the next flight leaves after midnight when you've arrived that morning (one of many irritating bugs in the online timetables.) But the MAD-JNB flights are there for sure.

Note too that by July Iberia will have reinstated its BOS-MAD nonstop (runs seasonally.) You might think about taking your break in Spain - maybe Toledo for a couple of days?
Gardyloo is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2010, 04:41 PM
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Hi Gardyloo!

I am also new to redeeming miles. In my case, I have ~400,000 miles and I would like to redeem them for 3 people. I have read flyertalk's wiki page on oneworld and some of the stickies but still am confused. Where did you find the mileage tier? I would like to use Oneworld for Asia....STL-BKK-HKG-STL. (stopover in BKK for 3 days).Using the great circle mapper, that route would be about 15,000 miles. So if I use one world airlines, AA, JAL, CX, how much is the mileage requirement for business class tix??

If FF miles can't accommodate all 3 at once, we can vary each of our departure dates.

Many, many thanks and thanks to you to cynstalker for allowing me to ask this question on your thread.
Dionysius is offline  
Jan 24th, 2010, 04:56 AM
  #11  
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No worries, Dionysius - I always learn something from the questions others ask. Good luck with your flights!

I'll do some more playing around today to see if I can get the Madrid/JNB to show. I don't want to go the Hong Kong route - if I can get the flights for 130,000 I'll be happy (ier? ish? It's still a lot of miles! .

Is it 331 days out before I can book? So I'm looking at August 4 or there abouts for the flights out?

Thanks everyone!

Cyn
cynstalker is offline  
Jan 24th, 2010, 06:19 AM
  #12  
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Ok, found some flights that would work if we were going this year, so I'm hoping they'll be the same next. I did have to do some searching by different dates - it never occured to me (duh!) that the flights wouldn't be daily, so that's why I wasn't coming up with anything before. Thanks! This is what I've come up with:

BOS/MAD--------Jul 2----3,405 miles AA
MAD/JNB---------Jul 6----5,041 miles IB
LIV/JNB/LHR------Jul 18---6,241 miles BA
LHR/BOS---------Jul 20---3,260 miles AA
Total miles--------------17,947

If these flights exist in 2011, and if I can get them, and if they haven't changed the rules, would this qualify for the 130,000 bc award?

And then the next project - getting from JNB to MUB. I see South African Airways has a connecting flight from JNB to MUB through GBE, but that might mean I would need to add another day. I may see if I can arrange it with my safari operator to get the charter to the delta from GBE instead of MUB, but I don't hold much hope for that. Any other suggestions?
cynstalker is offline  
Jan 24th, 2010, 07:16 AM
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You need to count the miles in the surface segment (JNB-LVI) but otherwise you're fine. Up to 20K miles = 130K award in business class.

Yes, 330 or 331 days out, but you need to time it from the return dates, as you can't hold just the outbound reservations.

I think Air Botswana has direct JNB-MUB service, if not, connect via GBE using SAA to Gabarone. I can see bookable flights on Expedia.

Just a note - not knowing your route, but getting to Livingstone airport from Botswana entails crossing the Zambezi on a ferry that (I was told by a local) is not the safest of boats. (The same local took us across the river from LVI to Kasane in his 14' skiff.) You can go from Kasane to Victoria Falls (VFA) by road, if you don't mind transiting Zimbabwe. BA/Comair fly into VFA just as they do LVI.
Gardyloo is offline  
Jan 24th, 2010, 07:59 AM
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SAA operates from JNB to Gabarone (GBE), but not from Gabarone to Maun: you'll need Air Botswana for that. Botswana has opened up some if its routes (notably JNB-GBE) to external companies, and SAA had even placed a JNB-MUB flight on its schedule, but the Botswana government decided that JNB-MUB would remain exclusive for Air Botswana.

You don't necessarily have to time the buying to 330/331 days from the return date. Suppose Sep 1 (2010) is 331 days from your departure date, and suppose Sep Sep 20 is 331 days from your return. On Sep 4, you could book outbound flights for the actual date you want, and you would book return flights for 1 day after you arrive. Then, when Sep 20 rolls around, you would change the date of the return trip to the actual dates you want. However, you must be certain that the return routing -- the exact same city pairs and airline for each flight segment -- will be available when you go to make your return reservation. On a OneWorld award, you can change the dates and times, but you cannot change the routing in any way.

Finally, you should be aware of some differences between BA and IB in business class. BA is good for sleeping: their seats are flat/horizontal, while IB's seats are angled-flat. (I sleep much better on BA's product than any of the angled seats.) However, BA's seats are noticeably narrower and for some not as comfortable for seating. Half of BA's seats also face backward. BA will allow you to pre-select your seats only if you're an elite or if you pay a chunk of money ($90, I think).
DonTopaz is offline  
Jan 24th, 2010, 09:20 AM
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Rizzuto, the OP is asking about mileage redemption tickets. With AA Oneworld awards, you have to book the entire itinerary at once, and no changes except date changes are allowed.

As an AA Oneworld redemption trip, OP needs to have 2 Oneworld airlines in the itinerary besides AA; since only BA and IB serve JNB, one of the longhauls has to be on IB metal, unless the OP routes USA AA LON IB MAD IB/BA LON JNB... JNB BA LON AA USA, i.e. adding a separate "round trip" on IB intra-Europe. Doing so would most likely result in too many miles to fit in the 130K award budget.
Gardyloo is offline  
Jan 24th, 2010, 09:40 AM
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Rizzuto, sorry - I scanned your message and thought you were talking about purchased tickets.

I've never encountered much difficulty with getting business class space in July/August betwen LHR and JNB, while getting MAD-JNB was a major task. There doesn't seem to be much pattern for when IB releases award inventory; OTOH BA has enough flights to JNB and CPT that one usually can find space if one has a day or two flexibility.

Unfortunately, by doing both Europe-Africa legs on BA, and still having to add a second non-AA OW operator, the great majority of the itineraries go over the mileage maximum. BOS IB MAD IB LHR BA JNB BA LVI BA JNB BA LHR AA BOS for example comes in at 19,875 per GCM, but entirely hinges on getting seats on the BOS-MAD IB flight, which might be hard as hell for July. Even starting at JFK-MAD puts it over 20K air miles.

If the OP wants to use BA in both directions between LHR and JNB, then the only way I can see it working is to drop the LVI segments and just pay for those outside the award ticket, then add a short round trip from London to someplace like Madrid or Barcelona, e.g. BOS AA LHR IB MAD IB LHR BA JNB BA LHR AA BOS. Those award seats would likely be much easier to score due to greater BA availability to Africa. One of the passes through London would have to be a stopover, or else the routing would be illegal.
Gardyloo is offline  
Jan 24th, 2010, 09:40 AM
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Gardyloo, you're right that the OP needs to keep the OW award rules in mind. But she surely might have a choice between biz carriers for the longest trips. For example, if she wanted to stop in Paris and preferred BA for longest hauls, she could fly from Boston to Paris via Madrid, then BA for CDG-LHR-JNB and then returning JNB-LHR on BA and AA LHR-BOS. Or she could reverse all that if she preferred IB. Mileage needs to be considered, but doable -- Paris, for example:

bos-mad-cdg-lhr-jnb-lvi-jnb-lhr-bos: 19978 mi
bos-lhr-cdg-mad-jnb-lvi-jnb-mad-bos: 18776 mi
DonTopaz is offline  
Jan 24th, 2010, 10:29 AM
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Right, my concern is that the TATL portion of the itinerary might be the hardest to book - BOS-CDG is likely to be a 757L; BOS-MAD is on IB metal and might also be hard to score. Any route that goes BOS-LHR-BOS (on AA) runs the risk of exceeding the mileage limit once one adds any IB "side" trips - UNLESS space can be had to JNB on IB's Madrid flight (going or coming.) Remember we're talking 4 pax, so small planes won't help at all.
Gardyloo is offline  
Jan 24th, 2010, 10:58 AM
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Wow - I have to print this out so I can decipher what you're telling me - I'm just not that good at this ! In the meanwhile - Gardyloo - can you translare "TATL" for me? And what does it mean, "one of those passes will have to be a stopover"?

We'll be flying into LVI from Botswana - spending a couple of days at the falls at the end of the trip, so thankfully I shoudn't have to take that ferry!

Rizzuto (we met at the Boston GTG in 2007 I think?) I have flown IB business class (not my favorite, but better than coach) from MAD to JFK. Do they use the same type seats from MAD to JNB?

If I just do BOS/LHR/JNB/LHR/BOS, what am I looking at for miles, do you know?

Interesting that it may be easier to get award tix from LHR over MAD. For some reason, I think LHR would be more difficult.

I'll be back when I've understood more of what you're telling me.

Cyn
cynstalker is offline  
Jan 24th, 2010, 11:04 AM
  #20  
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Oh - wait - I think Patty has already answered the question on how mmany miles - 162,500 - if go bos/lhr/jnb/lhr/bos and stay a few days in London?
cynstalker is offline  

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