American Airlines Award Booking Japan Airlines Real Life Awards

Real Life Award Booking: Getting to Taipei on Oneworld

I recently just helped a client book a one way ticket for his family of four (two adults, one 2+ child, and one infant in arms) from Taipei, Taiwan to the East Coast all in first class. It’s an itinerary that seems to be impossible when you try on aa.com but with a little bit of work it’s easily doable. Even though the client only booked a one way award, I’m going to show you how to do this as a round trip.

Getting into and out of Taipei – finding a connection in Tokyo Narita using britishairways.com

For starters, I just plugged in desired dates and origin/destination into aa.com. However, when I tried my search from JFK, I netted this result:

No flights available on aa.com from JFK to Taipei
No flights available on aa.com from JFK to Taipei

Here’s where an understanding of airline alliances and flight routes really comes in handy. I first got the idea from milevalue.com of searching wikipedia to determine what airlines fly to a given airport. It’s really straightforward, google the airport you are trying to get to, open its wikipedia page, and then under “airlines and destinations” you can find a list of all the airlines that fly into that airport.

So for this award, I just searched “Taipei TPE airport” which brought me to this wikipedia page. I then went to airlines and destinations and looked for what Oneworld partners fly into and out of TPE. Why? Because if I know a partner flies there and I can find availability, then I can connect to an American Airlines flight that I CAN find on aa.com and ticket the entire itinerary as one award ticket. Let me illustrate.

On the wikipedia page I found that both Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific fly into TPE. I’ve cut and paste those entries below:

No flights available on aa.com from JFK to Taipei

Here’s where an understanding of airline alliances and flight routes really comes in handy. I first got the idea from milevalue.com of searching wikipedia to determine what airlines fly to a given airport. It’s really straightforward, google the airport you are trying to get to, open its wikipedia page, and then under “airlines and destinations” you can find a list of all the airlines that fly into that airport.

So for this award, I just searched “Taipei TPE airport” which brought me to this wikipedia page. I then went to airlines and destinations and looked for what Oneworld partners fly into and out of TPE. Why? Because if I know a partner flies there and I can find availability, then I can connect to an American Airlines flight that I CAN find on aa.com and ticket the entire itinerary as one award ticket. Let me illustrate.

On the wikipedia page I found that both Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific fly into TPE. I’ve cut and paste those entries below:

cathaywiki

Both Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines are Oneworld partners with American and fly into TPE
Both Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines are Oneworld partners with American and fly into TPE

So both Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines fly out of TPE, which means if we can find availability on one of their flights we can connect it to a flight to JFK and ticket the whole thing as an award ticket on American. Since both airlines fly through Narita in Tokyo, I decided to start by checking if there is availability on flights between NRT and TPE on the dates I was looking for.

Unfortunately, I can’t search for that space on aa.com. However, I CAN search for it on britishairways.com as long as I have a British Airways Executive Club account. If you don’t have one you can sign up here. Even though I am looking for a trip departing 8/6 and returning 8/13, I searched for a roundtrip between NRT and TPE between 8/7 and 8/13. Why? Because I know that most transpacific flights to Asia land the next day.

Here’s what I put in for the search:

Both Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines are Oneworld partners with American and fly into TPE

So both Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines fly out of TPE, which means if we can find availability on one of their flights we can connect it to a flight to JFK and ticket the whole thing as an award ticket on American. Since both airlines fly through Narita in Tokyo, I decided to start by checking if there is availability on flights between NRT and TPE on the dates I was looking for.

Unfortunately, I can’t search for that space on aa.com. However, I CAN search for it on britishairways.com as long as I have a British Airways Executive Club account. If you don’t have one you can sign up here. Even though I am looking for a trip departing 8/6 and returning 8/13, I searched for a roundtrip between NRT and TPE between 8/7 and 8/13. Why? Because I know that most transpacific flights to Asia land the next day.

Here’s what I put in for the search:

BAsearch

 

And here were my results:

BAresults

Cathay Pacific has two business class seats both ways on the days I want. Now, you may remember I was trying to book this award ticket in first class. Most airlines including American only charge the miles needed for the highest class of service on any itinerary, so I could still book these seats (or even economy ones) for the same number of miles.

Looking at these flights, I can see that as long as I arrive in NRT before 1:50 PM on Wednesday the 7th (two hours for the connection) and depart NRT after 5:10 PM on Tuesday the 13th I’ll be able to use these flights. The next step is connecting between NRT and the United States.

Connecting Tokyo NRT to the United States and JFK

Another good reason to work with NRT is because I know it is a huge hub in Asia so it should be searchable on aa.com. (I could also have used Seoul-Incheon ICN because American has been promoting it’s new DFW-ICN route). So the next step was just to search for roundtrip flights between JFK and NRT on the dates desired (in first class). That netted this result:

Tons of first class availability in and around the days I am looking at
Tons of first class availability in and around the days I am looking at

Now for the outbound from JFK to NRT, the specific results look like this:

The circle flight meets the timing we need
The circle flight meets the timing we need

The flight I’ve circled requires an overnight in Dallas, but basically gets us into NRT when we need to be. An overnight in Dallas may seem annoying or it might be worth it to you depending on your needs. Since American allows stopovers in your gateway North American city (the last city in North America you depart from), you could actually spend some time in Dallas to stretch it out from an overnight, but I won’t get into that here.

For the return, there are a lot of options. You could overnight in Narita and return on Wed 8/14, or you can overnight in Chicago, or you can return on 8/13 but land in Newark. All these options are visible if you scroll through the results and compare them one by one with the Cathay Pacific flight above (which arrives in NRT at 5:10 PM on Tues Aug 13).

Ultimately, it’s up to you, but it’s the same concept. Just find flights that link together and leave enough connection time for your own comfort. And just like you can take a stopover in the North American gateway city on the way out, you can also take one on the way back, so if your first North American city is Chicago you can stay a few days and catch a Cubs game if you’d like. Ultimately, my client was taking public transportation to and from the airport so they didn’t mind flying into EWR instead of JFK so I took that flight (see below).

The circled flight gets you into the NYC area on Tues 8/13
The circled flight gets you into the NYC area on Tues 8/13

Putting it all together and booking the tickets

Since you can’t book online, you’ll need to call AA Reservations to ticket the award. Also, since this is a Oneworld partner airline redemption, it actually costs an extra 5000 miles per person (67.5K miles per person each way). You can see the Oneworld partner chart here. Personally, I think the 5000 extra miles is more than worth it.

Anyway, before you ticket the award, the easiest thing to do is right down the flight number, airline, departure, and arrival time of every single flight you want on your itinerary. Then call AA Reservations at 1-800-433-7300. The computer always has a hard time understanding me, which can be annoying because sometimes I get transferred to the wrong desk. I’ve been transferred three times before – to minimize the risk of that as soon as you get to a human be sure you tell them you need to book anĀ international AAdvantage award ticketĀ before giving them any information. If they say you’re in the right place, go ahead and feed them your flight numbers and dates. I generally find after you feed the first couple the AA agents are pretty competent and can take it from there. You’ll be charged an extra $25 per person to book on the phone which is unavoidable, but I think it’s worth it to get the partner airline travel.

Final Thoughts

Putting together an award ticket can be a lot of work. Yet with patience and hard work you can get where you want to go for the minimum number of miles. Don’t forget that aa.com doesn’t show all of its Oneworld partner award space. When that’s the case, use wikipedia to find Oneworld partner flights into your destination and britishairways.com to look for availability. Find flights on aa.com connecting to those flights, write them down, and then feed them to a phone agent to ticket your award.

Oh and one final thing. AAdvantage awards have this nice feature where you can change dates, times, and routings as long as your origin and destination are the same. So once you book your ticket, you can keep looking for flights that better suit your needs and reticket them without charge if you find them. Good luck, or if you need help, feel free to shoot an e-mail to my Award Booking Service!

 

Joe
Just an average joe trying to fly his family for less
http://www.asthejoeflies@gmail.com

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