HURRY: American Airlines Europe Business Class Awards and Upgrades Wide Open

American AAdvantage has been extremely stingy with international award space on its own flights over the past three to four years; premium award space doubly so.

What’s more, because American doesn’t have as many partners as Star Alliance airlines do, that leaves few options especially to Europe and fewer still that don’t hit you with big surcharges as their primary European partner is British Airways. So when American releases premium cabin awards on their own flights, that’s notable.

At one point it even became absurd domestically, with only a handful of dates during the whole year where saver seats could be booked Dallas – Austin — a $49 flight at the time with 14-15 flights a day. Fortunately that extreme scenario didn’t last terribly long.

This hasn’t been too big a deal for me, I’ve long preferred to redeem on partners, but it’s been a real shortcoming for many members. Indeed when premium cabin international award space opens up on American’s own flights it’s been noteworthy.

Award availability has gotten better though things seem to go in waves, feast or famine, and you have to jump on the space when it opens up wide.

Right now there is a ton of availability for the whole family, 4 or even 7 or more seats on flights, and that’s for awards and upgrades. It’s available in some cases late in 2016, but mostly early 2017. That’s low season for travel to Europe, but a time I’ve much enjoyed going and is when I usually go (but wouldn’t be appropriate for all destinations, such as the Mediterranean.)

Paris is Wide Open

Especially in the first quarter of 2017, but also late in 2016, American’s flights to and from Paris have opened up across the board for awards and upgrades.

All searches are for 4 non-stop business class award seats, but note that some days will have more than 4 and some days will have fewer but as a result do not show up on these searches.

And all searches are for American Airlines flights only, not partners, because I want to exclude British Airways flights for this exercise (so that you’re only seeing flights which do not incur fuel surcharges).

Miami – Paris

Dallas – Paris

Philadelphia – Paris

Chicago – Paris

New York JFK – Paris

London is Wide Open

In the first quarter of 2017 availability on American’s flights to and from London have opened up, mostly midweek (Tuesday/Wednesday) but for as many as 7 or more seats on some flights.

Here’s Philadelphia – London for 4 passengers non-stop in business class on American.

And Raleigh – London, a flight which rarely has premium cabin award space even when other flights are wide open.

And Chicago – London:

My most desireable flight based on distance and aircraft, Los Angeles – London:

Finally New York JFK – London which is in some ways surprisingly the weakest of the lot.

Dallas, Miami, and Charlotte do not have the same degree of availability.

Other European Destinations are Available, Too

Here’s availability for 4 passengers in business class on American’s Dallas – Franfurt flight.

Here’s New York JFK – Milan.

And here’s New York JFK – Zurich.

Don’t Forget Upgrades!

Generally speaking when award space is available, upgrades into that class of service are available too. In fact, upgrade space is usually even more available than awards.

I use ExpertFlyer to search for American Airlines upgrade space. Upgrades from coach to business book into ‘C’ inventory. Here’s a day in February for Los Angeles – London.

This is a great opportunity for paid tickets with miles and cash upgrades or to use Executive Platinum eVIP confirmed systemwide upgrades from nearly any fare.

Choose Your Aircraft Wisely

When selecting routes, be aware of the aircraft you’re going to be flying. The new (4-across business class on the seat map) Boeing 777-200 and Boeing 787 seat is quite good. As is business class on the Boeing 777-300ER (“77W”).

New Business Class Seat, American Airlines 777-200

7-across business class on the Boeing 777-200 (ie unreconfigured) is angled and to be avoided when possible. I’m also not a huge fan of business class on the Boeing 767. It’s fully flat and all aisle access, but also quite narrow.

American Airlines 767 Business Class

Cost of Awards

American charges 57,500 miles each way between the US and Europe in business class. You can connect beyond London on oneworld partner British Airways without spending additional mileage, and intra-European flights don’t incur substantial fuel surcharges (compared to transatlantic).

This award space is available to British Airways members, of course, and to members of other oneworld airlines — but with fuel surcharges for most partner programs.

It’s also available to American’s other partners — like Etihad Guest and like Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan (without fuel surcharges).

(HT regarding the London space: Traveling for Miles)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Not a deal.

    I am only finding return flights on BA; the “fuel” surcharges amount to > $1200.00 RT for party of 2.

  2. Thanks for the news!

    Do you still prefer partners at the new redemption levels?

    I got in on a couple of partner awards before the downgrade; definitely going EY F to India. But although I have 2 placeholders for CX F, one is in J with a single F segment. Not sure I’ll use that one as the stress of the waiting to see if the second clears is not appealing.

    Now if availability it late May shows up; I’ll use AA J through LHR. From LAX, it’s by far the most appealing one world option

  3. Actually its even worse. It’s about $600 pp each way where BA is flown for fuel surcharges. Yes, the miles portion is pretty wide open but for a RT for one person is 115,000 miles + $1,200 + a layover.

    I could fly NS biz for $3500 pp while accruing mileage. $1200 + 115,000 miles would be 2c/mi, requiring a layover and not getting any miles. Not a great deal in cents/mi for a biz class seat.

  4. Thank you! This is very helpful – looks like our Europe trip will happen after all! Thanks for looking out for us 🙂

  5. Actually some great short term AA Upgrade availability to/from Europe for Labor Day Weekend. Managed to score to Y>J upgrades on PHL-MAD (flight was C7 when booked) and grabbed two Y>J upgrades ZRH-JFK on the Sunday before Labor Day (there was availability from CDG, FRA and DUS as well).

  6. I have a trip booked for ORD-IST-FCO in Business on 7/21/16, Staying in Rome for 2 days and then Paris for 1. I don’t have a return booked yet, because the wife now decided she has to be in business for the return as well. Need to fly back the night of 7/25 or sometime 7/26. I’ve been searching trying to find any award tickets in business but all I’m finding is Virgin Atlantic with high fees and British Airways with high fees. I am flexible on where in Europe to fly out of, and flexible in terms of anywhere in the Eastern US. I don’t have a ton of points, just started working on this! I’ve been searching AA to book with partners points without much success.

    I have 25k AS miles, 40k Delta Skymiles, 25k Avios, 30k MR points, and 450k Hilton points, which I’d happily change to airline miles as needed. I am getting 3.4k skymiles and 20k Hilton points per week via travel.

    Thanks in advance if anyone has any ideas.

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