A reader, Tommy, reached out surprised by American Airlines charging 250,000 miles for a business class award to Tokyo on a flight the next day with plenty of seats available. I’ve flagged that, though American’s new Flight Awards chart that shows ‘starting at’ pricing is supposed to give members an idea of what to expect, for international business class especially the price American is asking for awards often would make even Delta blush.
For instance I recently flagged the price every day for a single business class award to Sydney booked in the months leading up to a year in advance of 450,000 miles. One way. That’s 900,000 miles roundtrip, for a single passenger. The folks at 1 Skyview Drive should be embarrassed.
— gary leff (@garyleff) July 22, 2023
This reader needed to travel to Bangkok. With 670,000 miles in their AAdvantage account, and needing only a single ticket, it seemed like something they should be able to accomplish.
- He was searching on the American Airlines website, and coming up empty.
- He called, and got transferred from the first agent to one more competent. They helped find an award to Tokyo on American Airlines and a separate award from Tokyo to Bangkok on Japan Airlines.
The American Airlines flight was Philadelphia to Los Angeles in coach to Tokyo Haneda in Premium Economy for 45,000 miles and the flight from Tokyo Haneda to Bangkok was in business class for 30,000. And Tommy offers,
I’ll have to retrieve my bags at [Tokyo Haneda], apparently. But I land at 4:45am, the lounge doesn’t open until 6am, and I have a 7-hour layer — so it’s not horrible.
The American Airlines website isn’t great at pulling up all possible connections and especially across different classes of service. Also at work here is a broader point I’ve made for years. Always search for the transatlantic or transpacific flight award, and then work backwards and forwards from there.
But now most American Airlines awards aren’t even combinable with partner awards. The vast majority of seats on American Airlines aircraft are priced as dynamic, revenue-based flight awards. And those do not combine with partner awards.
If you want to book a flight on an AAdvantage partner, and include American Airlines segments, those segments have to be booked out of saver inventory – the same flight inventory (T, U, Z) that used to be used for milesAAver awards that do not exist anymore, and that is used when partner frequent flyer programs like British Airways Executive Club book mileage seats on American for their members.
When redeeming for American Airlines dynamically-priced flights, you can’t use the old approach of looking for that single long haul flights and then looking for domestic and foreign connections. That’s because American prices awards based on unique origin and destination. For instance I might find 200,000 mile business class awards between Los Angeles and Sydney or Austin to Los Angeles to Sydney, while Charlotte to Los Angeles to Sydney (that very same LA – Sydney flight) could be just 78,000 miles.
To put all of this together, the reader booked separate tickets from Philadelphia to Tokyo and then from Tokyo to Bangkok. Doing that creates a different problem. American Airlines no longer lets you check bags all the way through when traveling on separate tickets. That’s one of the most least-friendly consumer policies, for no real reason when it comes to award travel (they do it so customers don’t buy paid tickets this way, and to avoid splitting checked bag fees, but in the limit those don’t really apply to premium cabin travel on points).
An agent should have been able to sell both awards inside of the same reservation, though. They’d still be separate tickets but there’s a decent chance they would have been able to check their bags all the way through. American has a specific exception to their ‘no through checking bags on separate tickets’ rule when booking an award ticket and a paid ticket inside the same reservation when traveling entirely on oneworld carriers.