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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!