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Advice on using AA miles

ncp

10+ Posts
I'm looking for advice, trying to schedule a trip to Italy late this year using miles for business class seats. Booking on line it seems there's practically no availability, and when there is the connections between flights are awful. If looking to just straight out buy a ticket all kinds of other options open up. Is there a trick or it this just the new normal? I'm wondering if calling would make a difference. I've also looked at buying a coach ticket and upgrading to business, which gives me better luck, and considering some of the airport fees, etc., may almost be a financial wash in the end. This used to be so easy 4 or 5 years ago and I know they've cut way back on the number of award seats they allocate. Wondering what other peoples' experiences have been. Thanks!
 

Cameron

500+ Posts
I've been an American Airlines Frequent Flyer for over 20 years. Getting air miles tickets to Italy is one of the more difficult. I have better luck with France and the UK for getting business seats going over and economy (with extra leg room coming back). I find this makes my miles easier to use. The important leg to me, for business class, is the overnight trip for sleep. I've booked a paid trip for October-- to Paris on business, and back from Bologna in economy for $1900. A roundtrip to Bologna with miles, was going cost $1700 in taxes due to being routed through Heathrow, roundtrip. So, I added Paris at the front.
 

ncp

10+ Posts
The lack of logic to this makes me crazy! So you are going business class to Paris and home from Bologna for $1700 using no miles? Great deal! My husband won’t do the long flights in coach, he’s tall. Did you find those fares all on line or did you call?
 

Cameron

500+ Posts
The lack of logic to this makes me crazy! So you are going business class to Paris and home from Bologna for $1700 using no miles? Great deal! My husband won’t do the long flights in coach, he’s tall. Did you find those fares all on line or did you call?

When I looked at business class round-trip to Bologna, using FF miles, the taxes were $1700. This was routing me through Heathrow on British Airways in Europe, American to Raleigh to/from LHR.

Instead, I'm buying a business class ticket to Paris, and flying back economy from Bologna for $1900.

I decided that I'd rather save those miles for another trip, and earn more miles on a paid ticket, given the price difference.

I booked on the AA.com website.
 

Steve R.

10+ Posts
I find using my miles on AA to be infuriating every time I try. However, my best results seem to come from splitting the booking up into 2 one way trips. I book the direction that gives me Business class on the day I want, then scout around for the other direction using adjacent days, other airlines and cash. As I guess everyone knows by now, make sure you look at the taxes/service charges if/when AA is showing availability on a BA flight. It doesn't pay to waste your miles and also spend that much cash.
 

NoSpin

10+ Posts
I'm an AA Million Miler from a lot of domestic travel when I was working. Using miles to travel to Italy (and Europe in general) is a pita. Most flights go through Heathrow and the taxes cost about half what the airfare would be if you paid for it, so there is no point to using mileage.

The best luck I've had is flying to Nice. Since we go for 3-4 weeks, I always lease a car and it is cheaper to pick it up in France.

Iberia is a partner, but you won't find their flights on the AA site. You have to call AA reservations. This is your best bet. We have flown Iberia business class and it is good.

AA miles are better for domestic, the Caribbean and South America.
 

Andrew

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Iberia is a partner, but you won't find their flights on the AA site. You have to call AA reservations
That used to be the case, but no more. IB flights can show on the AA site, but it's having a general glitch right now giving no results at all.
 

ncp

10+ Posts
Thanks, we were able to get an Iberia flight in business from Rome years ago and I was hoping to find one this time, but trying Nice is a great idea. We spend time in Lucca visiting family each trip and that would be an easy hop. I’ll give all ideas a try.
 

Cameron

500+ Posts
I was hoping to find one this time, but trying Nice is a great idea.
If you're going to pick up a rental car in Nice, that's fine. But, if you're thinking about flying from Nice to somewhere other than Rome, the flights out of Nice to Italy aren't great. If you're going to Rome, that's much easier for a direct flight.

Most all airlines will route you through Paris or Rome, eating up 4-5 hours for flying. I researched this ad nauseam because I wanted to go to Nice before Bologna, hoping for a more direct flight. Even the trains from Nice to Bologna are very long trips.

So, I'm going to Paris before Bologna to keep it simple. A direct flight from Paris to Bologna on Air France is $99, and is an hour +.

This brings me back to Paris, instead of Nice, if you're still going to fly into Italy, but not going to Rome.
 

NoSpin

10+ Posts
That used to be the case, but no more. IB flights can show on the AA site, but it's having a general glitch right now giving no results at all.
I wasn't clear there. I was only thinking using miles to pay for the flight. You're right, Iberia shows up if you are paying for a flight. If you want to use miles you have to call.

When you go on the AA site and select "Redeem Miles" and search for flights you will see on the left margin that only AA and BA airlines are available. So you search for paid flights, find the Iberia ones, and then call with the flights you want.
 

Andrew

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
To me it was entirely clear what you were staying, and I have just done a search on aa.com for a trip with "Redeem miles" for BOS-FCO. Oct. 13 was the random date I used. This Iberia itinerary shows in the results.
Screen Shot 2020-02-08 at 10.04.27 PM.png
 

ncp

10+ Posts
Thanks Paul, I had misunderstood, and Andrew, I get a completely different screen when I do the search but I think you’re in the UK and I’m in the US, who knows. But thanks, I have renewed hope and some work ahead of me.
 

Andrew

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
I'm in the U.S., and people can get old or new versions of award searches and results display; what I posted was the new, and I think people can choose to stay on the old. With the old version, as I recall on the left Iberia won't show if they aren't offering award seats for the date you've selected, but it will show if there are award seats. (The listing of airlines on the left is helpful if you want to exclude BA flights from results because of their high fees on awards.)
 

NoSpin

10+ Posts
To me it was entirely clear what you were staying, and I have just done a search on aa.com for a trip with "Redeem miles" for BOS-FCO. Oct. 13 was the random date I used. This Iberia itinerary shows in the results.View attachment 21932
WOW! This is REALLY interesting.

Andrew, I put in your date(10/13) for one way and sure enough that flight showed up under "Redeem Miles". I was shocked because I've never seen Iberia show up on redeemed miles.

However, that was for a one way flight. I always search for round trip flights (unfortunately I always have to come home :D). When I put in the same departure date but put in round trip dates of one week and two weeks after departure, the Iberia flight did not show up on departure or return on either time span.

I have to do some more investigating, but can you explain "old or new versions of award searches"? I assume I'm on new but maybe not.
 

Andrew

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
One write-up on old vs. new is here at View from the Wing. As I read it quickly (going through a difficult personal time and not focusing as much as usual), if, searching directly from the AA home page and checking "Redeem Miles," you get results with the look in my screen shot (new format). Actually the first result has a pull-down saying "Airlines" and, if Iberia is included, you can check that only. If, instead, on the home page you do Plan Travel > Flights and then check the Redeem Miles box, you get results in the old format, and sometimes the mile prices are different in the two versions. In the old version, in my search for 10/13 the default was "Economy Web Special," and I needed to change it to "Economy MIle SAAver" to get Iberia in the results.

Sometimes I hear advice to search AA awards as one-ways, because that's how they're issued, but if there's a chance you'll cancel the trip the re-deposit fee is per award and having it as a round trip is better (although I may be off on that and recent rule changes). Anyway, like you I couldn't find an award on Iberia flights if searching a 10/13-10/27 round trip, but there were awards if those dates were searched as one-ways, BUT the return called for an overnight in Madrid. So anyway, there are oddities on the site.
 

ncp

10+ Posts
Thanks Andrew, I was unaware of the old and new listings, just knew they were different from what I pulled up and your explanation is really helpful. I hope your personal life turns a corner soon. Thanks for your posts, they’re always so full of great info.
 

Andrew

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Are you getting that difference in miles for the same flights on the same dates? I mostly just search Main Cabin, and the new format reflects the move towards dynamic reward pricing, away from the fixed award rates of 30K each way for a transatlantic SAAver. Sometimes the miles price is less than that but with a crazy itinerary.

I see that, if you check "Advanced-Multi-city search" from the AA home page, the redirect is to the "old" format. One can argue that a multi-city search isn't needed for AA awards, because they're all priced as one-ways.
 

Colo

500+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
I too am a million miler on AA, and I have also experienced the pain of trying use miles of late.

First, I must say that I have finally accepted that using miles is just a nicety not a benefit from the airline. It is like going to a casino – the house always wins in long run.
Every now then you win, but that is not the norm.

If one looks at the etymology of the word travel - today’s use of AA miles comes to life.

"labor, toil," mid-13c., from Old French travail "work, labor, toil, suffering or painful effort, trouble; arduous journey" (12c.), from travailler "to toil, labor," originally "to trouble, torture, torment," from Vulgar Latin tripaliare "to torture," from tripalium (in Late Latin trepalium) "instrument of torture,"

Traveling today and using frequent flier miles definitely can allow one to experience the full breadth of the word travel.

Realizations and what I found works for me with miles. Normally it ends up the cheapest when all is totaled up.

- Realize that you will probably not be able to get your most desirable route and cost from the get-go. You are using miles probably to save money, not save time. If time is limited – buy the ticket. If you do get everything you want you win! However, it probably means you are travelling to Amsterdam in January.

- Try to stay on AA, because partners like BA charge a fortune in Taxes and Fees

- Get to Europe on your miles - Does not matter where. Travelling inside Europe is much more reasonable. Yes, this may add a day to the trip, but here again time is not the major factor if you are using miles.

- In recent trips, I have found going out of smaller airports like Richmond allows my miles to go further and opens more options. (not sure why) On the downside one has to add another stop along the way in JFK, Miami, Charlotte, and yes even Washington Dulles sometimes. Lucky enough most have a Vino Volvo to past the time. On the upside parking is $15 a day cheaper than in DC.

- As many have noted, treat each leg of the journey as a one way. Don’t lock yourself in to coming and going on the same airport. One trip, I flew DC to CDG to Pisa and came home direct from Milan to DC.

Having said all of this… We are going to Italy in April. After following my own instructions for a week or two I threw up my hands in regards to using miles and bought the damn tickets.

The pain and suffering had gone on too long. So our flights for this trip - Dulles to Zurich to Rome on Swiss Air and nonstop from Rome back to Dulles on United. Assigned Economy plus seating both flights. (my wife and I are short ) Ticket cost came in at $981 per ticket. But the weirdest thing was I found the deal on Lufthansa Airlines web page. Not a great deal, but Italy in April is not the cheap season.
 
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