American’s Fantastic First Class Availability to Asia for the Whole Family

As a followup to my posts on how to find award availability for the whole family — I’ve written about the routes with four or more business class award seats on Star Alliance airlines (so using United, US Airways, Air Canada points etc) between the US and and Europe and between the US and Asia — I’ve put together an illustration of routes with best first class availability on oneworld between the US and Asia.

To begin, recall basic principles.

  • More seats are harder than fewer seats. If you can split up (a family of four might fly 2+2) that makes things much easier.
  • Roughly six months out is a good sweet spot for searching award space.
  • Shorter flights are in less demand. East Coast – Europe is far easier than West Coast – Europe. West Coast – Asia is far easier than East Coast – Asia. If you’re on the opposite coast, be willing to connect domestically or even buy domestic connecting flights if needed.
  • Multiple flights a day mean more award space. More total seats between a city will usually make it easier to get awards. But if the flights are ones that tend not to sell out that’s even better.

You want to use the right tool to search for award space on your own, even before calling up your mileage program to book an award or trying to do it yourself online. But what routes to plug in?

Using American miles to Asia we’ll talk later about options on other airlines, but American has so many first class seats and since they offer what many would consider more of a business class product with pajamas their ability to sell those seats is fairly limited. (At the same time, since the business class product to Asia is old angled seats, folks grabbing business class who know what to expect will certainly want to upgrade.)

Getting a whole family to Asia in American first class is really, really doable. In fact, American Airlines award availability in first class to Asia is so good that it even violates the rule that West Coast – Asia is doable while East Coast is tough. Even Chicago and New York flights are possible, and while these searches don’t illustrate it I even see the space over peak holiday periods.

All of the following calendars of availability are current as of this writing and show March 2014 dates and flights with at least four first class award seats open.

This is Chicago – Tokyo and Chicago – Shanghai

Chicago – Beijing

Here’s Los Angeles – Tokyo and Dallas to Tokyo

And New York JFK to Tokyo Haneda (the closer-in Tokyo airport, albeit with fewer international connecting options)

There are tons of options for getting to Asia using miles in a oneworld program by flying American Airlines first class.

In general American has better domestic award availability than competitor US airlines (although they aren’t as generous in this regard as they once were). More often than not you can get the domestic connection to the international gateway city.

With a bit of flexibility and advance planning, awards are not just for a couple but can be for the whole family.

Note: All award calendars generated using Award Nexus.

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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. @Gary. While booking an explorer award, is it possible to book economy now and then upgrade to business or first on the same flights later on without paying an additional fee even when you do not have any status with AA?

  2. To get from HND from NRT it takes around 45 mins by orange limo bus (on a good day)
    Give yourself an hour in case.

  3. “americans fantastic first class availability asia whole family/” if you are very flexible and enjoy leaving on M-Thu (=lose part of your vacation). Most families want to leave on FSS and maximize the vacation, especially when you are going so far away. Just to remind you, (in the US) most have ~15-20 days of vacation. Many companies only allow 1 week of vacation at a time. And that’s why some of us sit on 500K+ airline points. This is completely unrelated to the fact most families would much prefer going to EU/JP/CN in the summer (high season) rather than depressingly cold and dark March (in western EU at least).

  4. @ABC I have said in these posts that the Friday after work departure for a family is tough because airlines expect to sell out those flights.

    I don’t include the connecting flights beyond Japan or China because those are relatively EASIER to get, I’m showing the long haul segments here that are most available. And using March because we’re not yet in October and I find best availability generally six-ish months out.

  5. @caveman if you book a business class explorer award then sure you can substitute an economy segment for business later (you can change flight #/day/time but not airline or routing after ticket issuance)

  6. @Gary. Can you upgrade from economy to business or even first class later, on explorer award without any change fee? Downgrading is clear to me but what about upgrading to a higher class later on? Is it possible both ways?

    The reason I asked this is because on certain dates when you are not much flexible, you can book in economy for now and then in case business class opens up later, you can quickly grab those without change fee (hopefully). I am talking explorer awards only and without any status with AA

  7. @JohnnyD – Yes, NRT and HND are AA co-terminals. ITM and KIX are, as well.

    @Moody – The distance from one field to another is not per se a factor in determining co-terminal status.

  8. Kids arent old enough to drink and probably dont appreciate caviar etc. Stuff them in Y and be done with it! 😀

  9. If I have both UR and MR points but not enough in the individual accounts, can I book the exact Star Alliance itinerary/flights/carrier for me with MR (through ANA) and the other 3 members of my family with UR points (through United.) Can I run into issues with there is a problem (eg delays, rebooking) with any leg of the itinerary.

  10. @TI yes, certainly you can. Be aware that while Amex transfers to Aeroplan are instantaneous they can take a couple of days to show up with ANA. Chase transfers to United are instant. Book all on the same day but book the United seats first, those are easily cancelled within 24 hours if something happens and you cannot book through ANA. And of course points once transferred cannot be moved back to Amex or Chase.

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