American Opening Up Business Class Awards to Europe With No Fuel Surcharges

While I’m a big fan of American AAdvantage, that’s mostly for their generous top tier elite program and using their miles for awards on their airline partners.

American’s revenue management has been notoriously stingy about releasing seats for premium cabin international travel — over the past three years to Europe, and over the past 18 months or so even to Latin America and Asia.

What’s more, because American doesn’t have as many partners across the Atlantic as Star Alliance airlines do, that leaves few options.

  • Their primary partner across the Atlantic is British Airways, and awards on BA incur fuel surcharges. You can come out of pocket an extra $800 or so on top of taxes and fees when redeeming miles to travel on BA.

  • I usually find myself looking for business class awards on Iberia, Chicago / New York JFK / Boston / Miami to Madrid. They tend to be feast or famine, though of course connecting in Spain isn’t at all convenient for travel to Northern Europe!

So when American releases premium cabin awards on their own flights, that’s notable.

This Winter’s Availability for 2 Passengers

American is making transatlantic business class space available for the winter months. Actually, it opens up a bit in November and appears best in January-February.

Here’s Chicago – Paris for 2 passengers over the December-January period.

Dallas – Madrid availability isn’t that good, but far better than it usually is with American, mostly limited to the period at the beginning of the week.

London is a destination you can come by (and which from many gateways is served by the excellent new Boeing 777-300ER) from several American gateways. New York – London is a bit tough, despite having the most flights, it’s limited to the beginning of the week.

For Chicago – London you can redeem for first class, 2 passengers as well.

Business is slightly more available.

Miami – London is doable as long as you avoid the weekends.

The same is roughly true for Dallas – London.

Most surprisingly, availability for American’s non-stop Los Angeles – London flights is pretty good.

Granted, the winter may not be when you want to go to Europe. Although many do enjoy it for the holidays. What’s helpful here is that with seats widely available to London you can connect onward using British Airways award space from there, paying only the short haul fuel surcharges for the BA European segments and not the extortionate overwater surcharges.

Cost of These Flights

Here’s what American charges in miles:

  • American’s business class awards are 50,000 miles each way between North America and Europe
  • American’s first class awards are 62,500 miles each way between North America and Europe

Note that if you’re using miles on one of American’s partners, like British Airways (but not LAN), to claim this space you will incur fuel surcharges. Using American miles though for American flights you do not.

Choice of Aircraft Matters

It’s important to know which plane you’re getting. For instance, the old business class onboard the 777-200s (which shouldn’t be around too much longer) is angled not fully flat. The same is true for the few remaining 767s flying internationally that haven’t yet been converted.

Whereas the Boeing 777-300ER seat is among the best in the world (it’s similar to what’s installed by Cathay Pacific, EVA Airways, and others).

I like American’s 787 business class seat almost (although not quite) as much.

On the other hand I’m not a huge fan of the new 767 seat, though it’s fully flat with all aisle access. It’s just too narrow for comfortable sleeping, in my opinion.

(HT: MileCards)

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. Under ‘choose a carrier’ you can select either “AA + AAdvantage Participating Airlines” or “American Airlines and American Eagle”

    if you’re bringing up partner airlines in your search there should be check boxes to deselect certain partners on the website.

  2. I get what your posting about and I’m assuming you’ve done your homework on these routes but the screen shots you show don’t really prove much. I’m working on a trip to Europe or South America for 4 people and I get those same screens only to continue and find that I have to connect with or fly on BA with YQ. I hope your right about them opening up more. I’m not find much right now, especially for 4.

  3. Thanks for this Gary.
    Newbie Question: can I use my BA avios to redeem on these flights with the same costs?
    How about flights departing Europe?

  4. @DaninMCI – Kinda apples and oranges don’t ya think? When is it EVER easy to get four seats on transoceanic flights in F or J?

  5. I did a mock reservation between CHS and LHR in February and it priced out at 100,000 miles + $319.82 for business class. What’s the $319.82 for if it’s not a fuel surcharge? I then tried the same itinerary using BA across the Atlantic and it was 100,000 miles +$1,199. That clearly looks like BA’s famous fuel surcharge.

  6. @MLB airport takes and the UK ‘air passenger duty’ that’s also known as luxury tax or premium cabin departure tax, it’s more expensive for premium cabin departures from the UK than for coach.

  7. One way to get 4 people on the same flight is to find the flights that have both first and business class available on the same flight, then just book them separately, or call. As Gary pointed out, the best part of this strategy is that if you can stay on AA metal until you get to LHR, you can then connect to ANYWHERE in Europe travelling on those same dates, using a BA jet for the connection, and it won’t cost any more in either miles or fees. This still isn’t free; it’s going to cost around $250-300 per ticket, but it’s still 1/4 the cost of flying BA transatlantic.

    One other noteworthy mention. Most of the fee is attached to the return leg of the journey. If you’re only flying one way to LHR (perhaps taking a transatlantic cruise back or flight on another airline), the total fee is $11. (at least out of DFW).

  8. @restil note that UK departure taxes only apply when your return originates from the UK, not when you connect through the UK

  9. Off topic but regarding AA miles, I know the Citi card offers 30,000 AA miles now with $1000 spend but I can still find links for the 50,000 miles with $3000 spend – do you think it’s legit? I hate to put a SS# in and find out it’s a scam.

  10. @Kalboz- I mentioned American Airlines flight availability in the Winter. American doesn’t fly LAX – Madrid, and July isn’t winter 🙂 I did mention Iberia as a go-to for availability, but intentionally left out the Los Angeles – Madrid route!


  11. If you get bumped off an award flight (or volunteer) onto a different flight, can you collect miles on that flight?

  12. @joetraveler – often if you are put on another flight the agent will take the lazy way of doing it and book you into a revenue class, rather than getting your original booking class opened to put you in. when that happens, you’ll earn miles.

  13. This is a nice development. I think before I’d fly BA on an award I would just buy an economy ticket on AA and upgrade with miles.

  14. So is the fulecharge gone for good?

    If so maybe the economy ticket and upgrade with miles liked dbeach said is the way to go?

    As someone who loves the DFW-LHR ROUTE on the 77w it’s the huge file charge cost that kept me from upgrading in the past.

    But I would note that when researched last all the 77w flights cost more in miles then the crappy planes.

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