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Using FF miles - Do seats open up?

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May 21st, 2014, 02:16 PM
  #1
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Using FF miles - Do seats open up?

Looking to fly to Zurich at the end of Jan. My husband has enough FF miles for AA to do a R/T journey. However, it would be non-stop going but 1 stop (via Air Berlin) home. I've looked at the AA return flight seating chart and there are still about 90% or more of the seats available on the non-stop flight. So I wonder, why is the FF non-stop going home not available for that flight? Additionally, the non-stop on the following day (going home) IS available and has no more seats available than the one on the day we want.

What gives? Should I wait to see if a non-stop flight coming home opens up or just grab what I can?
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May 21st, 2014, 02:33 PM
  #2
 
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Simply put, not all seats on every flight are available for FF awards. On some flights there are only 1 or 2, sometimes more - the number varies from flight to flight and from airline to airline. FF Award seats usually first become available 330 days prior to date of departure and are often "booked" almost immediately by savvy travelers. Sometimes additional FF Award seats are released at later dates, sometimes not at all. There's no way to predict if or even when this might or might no occur.
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May 21st, 2014, 03:15 PM
  #3
 
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Grab what you can. You know the saying, "git it while the gittins good".

If something opens up later you can likely call and change it for a fee.
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May 21st, 2014, 04:12 PM
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Airlines release seats into redemption inventory based on very sophisticated and very confidential computer programs that monitor sales, competition, history, and numerous other factors. These models are updating themselves constantly - seats can open on a particular flight on a particular date, then vanish, then re-appear weeks later, all depending on how these models see things unfolding.

The "330 day" guideline is not especially reliable; that's when flights are first available for booking but it's not connected to any planned release of FF seats. Some airlines will release one or two at the opening, others won't release seats until the computers tell them that the seats aren't going to sell for money before wheels up. It's often the case, particularly in business or first class, to see nothing available for months, then numerous seats open up a week before the flight. The computers have spoken.

Using AA miles, for the time being at least, you can change award flights with no change fee, so if there's a one-stop itinerary available, you can book it with miles, then wait and see if the nonstop opens up. If it does, you can contact AA (for a phone fee, usually $25) and switch the itinerary. There may also be an adjustment in taxes and fees.

Watch out on European routes for award bookings using British Airways. AA passes through BA's horrendous fuel surcharges, which can hugely reduce the value of the miles you're spending for the flight. Try to stick with AA "metal" if possible, or use airberlin or one of the other partners that don't whack you with these fees.

If you're booking online, you also need to know that not all AA partners are shown for award bookings. Iberia in particular is not shown, but they can have excellent availability sometimes, particularly in business class, which is a first-rate product (coach is meh.) You need to use the phone for finding seats on those partners.
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May 22nd, 2014, 06:14 AM
  #5
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Thanks. I never use my FF miles with British Air as the taxes are ridiculous!

So, I'm thinking about using the FF AA miles since I am able to change the 2nd leg, which is now one stop on Air Berlin, to a non-stop if that should appear at some future time, without a change fee. Correct? The only problem is that the other ticket (husband and I would be flying together) would have to match the intinerary of the FF mile itinerary. Meaning, I would have to buy the non-stop going and the 1 stop coming home, even though I could buy R/T non-stops for both.

So, should I book the FF mile ticket but wait to buy the regular one to see if the FF ticket can be changed at some point to non-stop both ways? We will be traveling at the end of Jan.
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May 22nd, 2014, 07:17 AM
  #6
 
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So, I'm thinking about using the FF AA miles since I am able to change the 2nd leg, which is now one stop on Air Berlin, to a non-stop if that should appear at some future time, without a change fee. Correct?

Yes, for now. AA's merger with US Airways means the two airlines are going to integrate their FF plans at some point (they haven't said when) so any "can I do this?" questions have an asterisk - things might change.

The only problem is that the other ticket (husband and I would be flying together) would have to match the intinerary of the FF mile itinerary. Meaning, I would have to buy the non-stop going and the 1 stop coming home, even though I could buy R/T non-stops for both.he only problem is that the other ticket (husband and I would be flying together) would have to match the intinerary of the FF mile itinerary.

Any changes to a paid ticket will entail a hefty change fee, and if the base price has gone up in the meantime, you'd have to pay the difference too.
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May 22nd, 2014, 08:16 AM
  #7
 
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Why not just get both tickets now with the 1 stop flight home and be done with it. People change planes all the time and live to tell the tale. I just don't see it as something to lose sleep over.

Or take different flights if you really can't cope. People also fly alone all the time, I know.

The other possibility is that there could be FF inventory, possibly on other airlines, that isn't shown online. It doesn't cost anything to call and ask.
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May 22nd, 2014, 01:58 PM
  #8
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The "regular" payable ticket I would have to book over the phone as they don't show up on AA's site. On AA's site they only show flights directly from AA or a 1-stop via British Air. Funny that they offer the Air Berlin when you look at their flights bookable with FF miles, but not when you want to pay for them..
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May 22nd, 2014, 02:22 PM
  #9
 
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That is, at least part, of my point. Other airlines, although not necessarily any useful to you, like Iberia, don't show up on either search but are bookable over the phone.

Have you called them? It costs nothing to talk to them and they may have another option for you. Or you can keep talking here to no useful end, so far.
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May 22nd, 2014, 02:44 PM
  #10
 
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Kenav, I find that same sort of situation when I try to book on United. I get a different selection of flights if I want to use FF miles than if I am a paying customer! I don't understand it!

I don't typically call in to make a reservation, but you might find an extra $25 (+-) fee if you book with an agent on the phone? I am quite sure United does this. I have 1K status with United so I am not charged that booking fee.
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May 22nd, 2014, 02:44 PM
  #11
 
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Forgot to mention.... the best time to have a big selection of FF seats is within about 2 weeks of your travel time. But I know you want things finalized before then.
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May 23rd, 2014, 05:48 AM
  #12
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I think I will call AA at least to find out what the cost would be for of the direct flight to Zurich via AA with the return (1-stop) via Air Berlin.

simpson - No, I wouldn't want to wait until 2 weeks before our intended date, to book FF. That would totally stress me out, especially since, who knows if they actually would have any FF seats available!
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May 23rd, 2014, 07:19 AM
  #13
 
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I suggest you call the awards reservation number and get the complete picture of how you may be able to solve your problem, 800-882-8880.
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May 23rd, 2014, 07:20 AM
  #14
 
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Let's put a stop to this. What dates are you hoping to fly? I'm looking at award availability on AA's nonstop ZRH-JFK using Expert Flyer - www.expertflyer.com - a paid service - for the last three days in January through the 11th of Februaryt and see T4 to T7 on the charts ("T" is AA's economy award bucket) for virtually every day except the Saturdays. That means at least 4 to 7 award seats are available every day, typical for mid-winter.

But without knowing the precise dates you want (ideally, a range of dates if you're planning to use miles) who knows? You said "Looking to fly to Zurich at the end of Jan..." but not when you're returning. February? April?

Another thing, right now (through June 13) AA has a bonus offer on purchased miles. Off-peak awards to Europe cost 20,000 miles each way in economy, so 40,000 round trip (but all AA awards are one-way these days.) You can purchase 33,000 miles for $908 (around $950 after taxes) and receive 7500 as a bonus. That's around $100 cheaper than the cheapest round trip AA is now selling for late January. So if you want to use miles, go to AA.com and look for dates with award availability on the nonstop, go buy the miles, then phone AA and redeem them for the flights, badda bing.
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May 23rd, 2014, 01:45 PM
  #15
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We will be traveling from JFK to ZRH on Jan 22 and retuning on Jan. 31st.
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May 23rd, 2014, 01:49 PM
  #16
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Gardyloo - The problem was that there is only a 1-stop back from ZRH on Jan. 31st (but non-stop from JFk to ZRH on Jan 22).

If I did the booking as you say, why would I have to call AA to book and redeem the miles I bought? Why not online?
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May 23rd, 2014, 02:06 PM
  #17
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OK OK OK! Thank you Gardyloo. My thick skull has finally done what you recommended. I have 12,000 FF miles with AA. So, I went to their "Buy Miles". Looked at buying additional miles that would give me enough to fly using FF miles (25k miles which gets me 3k bonus for a total of 28k) . That would give me the total of 40k miles I need to fly using FF miles. Cost? About $680 (+ $75 in taxes). Very different than the $1200 to buy a "regular" ticket on AA.

So thanks again.
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May 23rd, 2014, 02:24 PM
  #18
 
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Gardyloo - The problem was that there is only a 1-stop back from ZRH on Jan. 31st (but non-stop from JFk to ZRH on Jan 22).

Right, I said there were plenty of seats on the nonstop every day except Saturday. If you're able to fly on the 30th or the 1st, there are numerous seats available.

Right now the seatmap for the nonstop on the 31st shows 100% open seating, so it's highly likely AA will open the seats long before the flight. You can either wait (which, at 8 months out I'd be doing anyway) or book something now for the day before or the day after, then change it to the 31st when it does open. Either way, I wouldn't fool around with airberlin and a connection on the way home, not for the slowest part of the travel year.
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May 23rd, 2014, 04:02 PM
  #19
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Yes I know my return is on a Saturday, and as you said, that was the only day without direct flights coming back using FF miles.
How long in advance of our dates do you think I should wait to book? Or, put another way, what's the latest I should book, given the possibility that FF flights may still not allow for non-stop flights RT?
Btw, we don't want to come home on a Sun. as work is the next day. Too tired. And coming back a day earlier is one day less to enjoy Switzerland! !
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May 23rd, 2014, 07:36 PM
  #20
 
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Like I said above, with FF seats AA doesn't charge for changes as long as the city pair (ZRH/JFK) remains the same, so book the outbound flight now, and if you want, book the one-stop return now too, then just watch for the nonstop opening up. Again, there's no such thing any more as round trip awards on AA; all awards are for one-way trips.
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