There are a few myths and pitfalls when it comes to booking award travel on American Airlines. For many of you, these myths are common knowledge, but for others that are just starting out, I feel you should know about these to avoid making the same mistakes I have!
“A Round-Trip Ticket Will Only Cost 30,000 Miles”
This is the most egregious myth you’ll hear when flying American Airlines as of late. American’s flight attendants have been pushing the Barclaycard Aviator Red credit card down passengers’ throats and some of the things the flight attendants say just are not true or are incredibly misleading.
A flight attendant will usually say something like, “this credit card will get you 60,000 American AAdvantage miles, good for two round-trip tickets to the Caribbean!”
What they should say is, “this credit card will get you 60,000 American AAdvantage miles, good for two round-trip tickets to the Caribbean at the SAAver level, which is often only available if you don’t plan on traveling on a weekend or a holiday!”
We all know that American MileSAAver award space is stingy, which should make these types of falsities a crime. Don’t fall for it folks!
Awards Are Always Displayed on AA.com
Award tickets are not always bookable online. With this I mean, the selection of awards is sometimes limited depending on which loyalty program you’re using.
For example, if you have a load of American miles and want to book a trip to Bali, searching on AA.com will not give you any results. However, Qatar Airways is a partner of American and part of the Oneworld alliance. I know from Philadelphia, there is a direct flight to Doha and then on to Bali. In this scenario, it’s advisable to search British Airways’ website for Qatar award space and then calling American’s AAdvantage desk to book the trip with your AA miles. Though it should be noted that due to American’s fare rules, this itinerary will cost you more than the typical round-trip Business cost. This is due to the fact that you are transiting a third region not covered in American’s fare rule exceptions bible (North America to Asia 2, transiting Middle East).
Book Award Tickets 330 Days Out
You’ll often hear this advice when looking to pay for a flight. Booking 330 days before your trip is oft-mentioned as the sweet spot for the cheapest fares, but the jury is still out on that and the truth is it really just all depends.
In terms of award travel, this particular advice is somewhat of a “half myth”. I have seen awards open up only one to two days prior to departure (Etihad), whereas others open up as far as 330+ days out (i.e. JAL to Narita).
Don’t just stick to 330 days, but instead, constantly be checking around or if you don’t have the time/know-how, consider hiring an award booking service or using ExpertFlyer.
You Should Use Your Miles for Domestic Premium Seats
This largely depends, but my rule of thumb is that using miles for premium class on a flight under four hours is not a good value — especially if the aircraft hard product isn’t worth its weight in Biscoff cookies.
Be sure to look at the aircraft when booking. If you’re flexible, you could fly on an airplane with a superior hard product (i.e. lie-flat seats). For example, American flies 737s and Airbus A330s from Philadelphia to San Juan, depending on the time of year. The flight is about four hours long, which is decent, but not worth the extra miles in my opinion. When I traveled to San Juan in May I wasn’t paying for premium class, but knew my chances of being upgraded were high. I chose the flight operated by the A330 because I wanted to fly with lie-flat seats.
There are a number of myths you’ll be told by airlines so it’s important to do your due diligence before acting. Don’t always take what you hear from airline employees as gold and always be sure to double and triple check the information given. If you’re feeling uneasy about something and can’t seem to find an answer, shoot me an e-mail.