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Looking Up: Europe for Next Summer With AA Miles




It has certainly been a fun year for anyone willing to jump on generous Citi offers for AA miles. Using those miles, however, has been a whole different story. Especially for families hoping their windfall would send their family to Europe next summer. Unfortunately the forum thread Trouble using AA miles has a couple of very typical examples of the difficulty with finding award seats. While a few seats showed up at around 331 days out for early June, up to a couple weeks ago availability for family travel to Europe in summer 2015 was sparse to non-existent. Since then things have gotten a lot better for the last month and a half of the schedule. If you think you might be able use any of these options (or any of the city pairs I didn’t search) I would get them on hold now!

AA award holds

are completely free. 5 days to sort out plans, positioning flights if needed, figure out a return option on another airline if needed, whatever. Feel free to put a couple different realistic options on hold if needed, just don’t hog all of them!

Business class

is not something we generally worry about for shorter and daytime flights. However, for overnight flights, it makes sense to be able to stretch out and get some sleep so you can land jet-lagged and rested, not jet-lagged and exhausted. So let’s start with some very good business class availability to Europe in July and August 2015. All of these searches were done for 4 passengers, and some of these dates had 6 or more business class saver seats:

MIA-MAD J

Miami-Madrid on AA – lots of summer dates with 4 business class seats.

PHL-MAD J also JUL 6

Philadelphia-Madrid on US Airways, also available in business class on July 6 as well as many of the same dates in economy for 30K.

JFK-BCN plus 8-2,3 Y

New York JFK-Barcelona – note the coach seats 8/2 and 8/3. You can have a layover up to 24 hours in New York and fly into Newark or La Guardia if those are the only available seats.

Continuing within Europe

If seats are not available from AA or US hubs to the city you want to visit, you can hold a booking to Madrid and call in to add a segment from, say, Madrid to Prague. The simplest way to search for those available Iberia seats is at British Airways website.

AA.com is broken too

United’s problems are well documented, but AA has its own, especially if you start from a small airport. Most routes that follow AA’s rules will show up, but some may not. Here’s an example from April.

SAT-LHR

This should be one 20K award, not two awards at 32.5K. I tweeted AA, they said to go ahead and put this on hold and call in to get it priced correctly.

So always start with the most-difficult or longest segment and then build from there!

Other dates and destinations with 4 or more business class seats

Note I did not search nearly every combination. You can see the full list of Oneworld transatlantic routes is this resource from the Wandering Aramean. I did click through to make sure the space seen isn’t phantom availability.

Dallas-Madrid July 29, August 1, August 3, August 5, August 7.

Miami-Barcelona July 21, July 26, July 27, July 28, July 30, August 2, August 6

Philadelphia-Shannon, Ireland July 6, July 13, July 20.

Philadelphia-Rome July 20, July 21, August 2.

Philadelphia-Venice July 13, July 19.

Charlotte-Rome August 4.

Getting to your gateway city

There is currently just one bright spot among region-based programs when it comes to available domestic award seats: US Airways business class. Maybe the product isn’t the greatest, but you get some space and there are 4+ business class seats on nearly every flight 10-11 months out. AA isn’t releasing nearly as much domestic business class space. Of course you can switch those domestic flights to AA when space opens up thanks to the fact that

Date and routing changes

are free up to 21 days before travel. So if you have to put together a crazy routing for now and then a better one becomes available, you can call in and change flights at no charge.

Getting home

Oh, so you want to come home, too? Outside of a few dates with seats MAD-MIA, return options on AA and US are sparse. How is your United mileage balance? The return flight is a daytime flight and I’d say the added value of business class is much lower on the return. Not that you should necessarily share my opinion. Iberia is another option, but it does require learning to search on BA or Qantas’ websites.

Flying coach

to Europe is just fine, thousands of people do it every day and a surprisingly large number of them survive. They even have fun while in Europe! Here are a few of the city pairs with good coach availability late next summer. The problem with this approach is that coach saver seats may not currently be available to the gateway city.

PHL-FRA Y incl lots more Europe

Philadelphia-Frankfurt also has dates on either side of this calendar. This is one of the few routes with seats in early June.

PHL-CDG J also Jul 6 Y Europe

Philadelphia-Paris also has 4 seats on July 6.

Europe CLT-MAD also AUG 4,5,9

Charlotte-Madrid also has 4 seats on August 4, 5, and 9.

Other routes with 4+ late summer coach seats in my limited searches

Charlotte-London, Charlotte-Paris, Charlotte-Rome, Chicago-Paris, Dallas-Paris, New York-Madrid, New York-Zurich, Philadelphia-Edinburg, Philadelphia-Frankfurt, Philadelphia-Glasgow, Philadelphia-Lisbon, Philadelphia-Shannon, Philadelphia-Rome, Philadelphia-Venice

A while back I wrote about the value of doing dummy bookings. Lots of them. I practice what I preach, and I hope this info is somehow helpful to someone!

– Kenny

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Kumar September 13, 2014, 9:11 am

    Kenny – just wanted you to know that i enjoy reading all your posts and really like them for the value they provide. My only complaint is the infrequent posts 🙁

    • Kenny September 13, 2014, 4:19 pm

      Thanks Kumar. I’d rather post (hopefully) useful posts infrequently than nonstop fluff or selling!

  • Jamie September 15, 2014, 7:47 am

    Be careful putting on hold multiple reasonable alternatives, if you have two flights whose times overlap, which is especially easy to do if you’re holding RTs, the new hold will automatically cancel the previous one.
    Also, if you hold an award in a different person’s name from the acct holder, you’ll sometimes get an error when trying to look it up, because they populate the acct holder’s name with the record locator. Just manually type the last name of the traveller and the RL and you should be fine.

  • Kenny September 15, 2014, 7:55 am

    Excellent points, thanks Jamie. For any hold I’m not sure about, I would do it as one-ways just for simplicity.

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