Award booking advice for LAX to Italy

Discussion in 'American Airlines | AAdvantage' started by bjcleaver, Oct 18, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. bjcleaver

    bjcleaver Silver Member

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    I'm planning a trip for September 2013 and have never attempted to use miles for an international award redemption. I've been reading up on the interwebs, but still not sure the best way to approach using my stock of AA miles (~450k). I have some miles/points in other programs that I could potentially transfer and bundle with another alliance if that would open up better redemption opportunities (Delta: 60k, USAir: 50k, Starwood: 250k, Chase UR: 200k, Amex MR: 275k). But since this is the AA forum let's focus there.

    Dates are flexible, but looking at about a total of 10 days for the trip in September 2013.
    LAX is my home airport.
    Will probably be in Rome, Florence and/or Amalfi. Fine departing out of different airports in Italy if that's better.
    I'd like to fly good premium class products (it's my 10th anniversary).
    I'd like to minimize fuel surcharges if possible.
    I'd like to minimize the number of connections if possible.

    I've searched AA but feel like I come up with minimal options (and lots of BA fuel surcharges, although their premium product seems better than AA's, so I need to weigh the cost benefit there.)

    Any suggestions on how to approach this? Are certain US departure cities better than others?
     
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  2. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    Looking @ Wikipedia
    FCO = You can do AirBerlin through DUS/TXL/BER; AA has seasonal flights from JFK/ORD; & IB has connections through MAD.
    FLR = airberlin through DUS
    Amalfi doesnt have any carriers that are OW

    Seeing how its 9/13 your date; most sites don't even have full schedule for Sept up... but I would look at possibly using AA/AB to get there & back if you want to avoid fuel surcharges...

    LAX - JFK - FCO via AA
    FLR - DUS - LAX via AB

    That might work?
     
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  3. bjcleaver

    bjcleaver Silver Member

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    Thanks for the reply! I will explore those options. I think I looked at the LAX = JFK - FCO via AA route and there might have been limited to no First/Business saver availability, but need to check again.

    And to add on to my original post, it seems BA has tons of availability. Is their first or business class product worth the surcharge over something like AA's Int'l Business?
     
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  4. DestinationDavid
    Original Member

    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    The AA/AB combo reduces the $$$ issue but raises a few others:
    • AA premium cabin space across the ATL has been scarce lately
    • AA and AB are unlikely to produce the quality premium cabin experience desired
     
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  5. DestinationDavid
    Original Member

    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    Value is hard to peg down because it's determined solely by you. You might value $1000 at a different level than I would.

    Personally I wouldn't pay the ridiculous (IMHO) fees BA imposes for their premium cabins, but there are certainly folks who would.

    The current BA product is likely to be a better experience than the AA product, though you can face service issues from FAs on both.

    Keep in mind you are not limited to BA over the ATL. You can try forcing a route through Helsinki on AY or on IB through MAD (the MAD-LAX flight seems to be off the books for now though).

    Why not try AA's 3 class 777 between LAX-MIA connecting to an IB flight to MAD before heading on to FCO? You can even stop a few days in MIA on the way there and back.

    Another perhaps outlandish option: you have plenty of AA miles, you can route through Asia on some of OW's better premium cabin products (CX, JL) if you really want to have a good in flight experience.

    The difficult part of your equation is that you have three goals that are often in opposition to one another. You can have it cheap and good but you won't get there quickly. You can have it quickly and cheap but it won't be good. Etc....
     
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  6. deant
    Original Member

    deant Milepoint Guide

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    The statement about AA premium cabin space is very true. When I was trying to book a flight from CDG to LAX for late July, I found that BA had not released very many seats for its flights within Europe. In fact they had not released a single award seat for a 3 week period for flights between CDG and LHR. I wound up booking a flight LHR to LAX and figured that I could get a separate CDG - LHR award ticket later if they become available. If not, I will just buy the ticket.

    Back to the OPs question, make sure you check segment by segment. You might be running into the same issue I had about the lack of award availability for flights within Europe (or any other single segment for that matter). By checking segment by segment you get an exponential increase in the possible flights.
     
  7. artvndlay

    artvndlay Active Member

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    With the miles you have you could transfer into almost any alliance and have enough miles for first or business to Europe. If you really want to burn the AA miles, you're limited right away to OneWorld partners. DestinationDavid is right...if you want to use the AA miles you can get decent cabins/seats with extra connections, closer to direct flights with worse seats or even decent seats and connections with a fee on BA.

    You have a ton of options, if I were you I would do a little research regarding the actual product you want to fly. The actual seat and service you get will vary quite a bit and are usually most important to me. Is a lie flat bed in business important? Would you take an extra connection for a better seat/product on the long overwater flight? If it were me, I look for lie flat business (or a first class cabin if you want to spend the points) and no/low fuel surcharges. Those conditions will make it difficult to use AA miles to Italy without incurring BA fuel surcharges unless you get creative with your routings, as DestinationDavid suggests. AirBerlin, Iberia, Finnair
     
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  8. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    I looked on 9/1 & 9/2 and AA had LAX - JFK - FCO in Bus. For first only BA had seats
     
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  9. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    I could search any month and find some seats at some point, but the fact remains that the number of premium cabin award seats on AA metal is much lower recently than in previous years which makes securing seats on specific days difficult if you want to avoid BA. J seats on AA into FCO looks solid for Sept though, so now might be a good time to book if I were the OP.

    That BA F seat is only from LAX-LHR. BA doesn't offer an F cabin LHR-FCO. Nor does AA. If one were to use AA miles for an F award to FCO, you'd have to connect in LHR on AA or BA and take a J seat onward. There are sadly no F cabins into FCO on AA miles.
     
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  10. bjcleaver

    bjcleaver Silver Member

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    Thanks everyone for the replies. I'm finding everything you say to be true. BA has good availability but surcharges of $450/person (which I need to determine if that's ok.) AA metal seems tougher to piece together and almost impossible to find anything under 100k miles each way. So right now I'm finding neither value or quality. :)

    When I'm searching for flights should I be doing LAX - FCO searches? Or should I be doing segment by segment searches and building things that way? If I search segment by segment how do I know how many miles I really need for the award?
     
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  11. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    Well it depends on what dates you're looking for. As noted above, simply searching LAX-FCO roundtrip starting in September has good award space on AA. What dates are you looking at that you're not finding anything?
     
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  12. bjcleaver

    bjcleaver Silver Member

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    Something may have opened up. Earlier all my searches for award space on AA metal were at the 100k level, not the 62.5k level.
     
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  13. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    I think the schedule only goes up to 9/15 or so ... so maybe AA just didn't load them yet?
     
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  14. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    The 62.5K level is going to route you through London and increase the chances that you'll need to take a BA flight with high fuel charges. If you are okay with a business class award (50K), you can try to do LAX-FCO and back all on AA metal or a mix of AA and IB/AY/AB with lower tax and fees.

    The extra 12.5K is a good upcharge to fly F, but going that route makes it more likely you'll need to pay the BA surcharges.

    You can currently do 2 F awards (125K per person round trip) from LAX-FCO leaving Sept 2 and returning Sept 11 on a mix of AA and BA for about $900 in taxes and fees.
     
  15. bjcleaver

    bjcleaver Silver Member

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    Yup, that's exactly what I'm seeing. For about 10 minutes there was a flight I believe on the 1st on all AA metal thru FCO that was available at the 62.5k level but that's gone now.

    The only 50k Business class redemptions I see are not out of LAX but SNA - ORD - LHR - FCO.

    Do seats tend to open up down the road? I know I'm right on the cusp of the 331 day thing but I feel like I've read about 9 months or 6 months out also being good times. That said, BA has the best awards right now, just with the surcharges to consider.

    Plenty of AA redemptions for 100k each way! :)
     
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  16. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    I'm suspicious of the "all AA routing" for 62.5K since that's not really possible. As I mentioned above, AA does not fly into FCO with an airplane with an F cabin, so you'd be in AA's business cabin if the routing was truly only on AA metal. AA does on occasion sub aircraft on to routes but I don't think FCO is currently planned to be served by AA's 772 or new 773 on a temp basis.

    All 62.5K F awards would need to route through London since AA only operates 3 class aircraft from the US to LHR, and the only AA partner into Europe from the US that has an F cabin is BA, which also only flies to LHR. You'd need to connect from LHR to FCO on another partner (likely BA, but possibly on AY/IB/AB as well) in a European-style business class cabin (it's not great).

    Seats do open up down the road, but predicting them is a bit difficult. There are a variety of methodologies that people will try to convince you of, but the best way to secure the seats you want is to check regularly. You can use an award search service like ExpertyFlyer to set a notice on the route you want and they will notify you when space become available. Or do it the old fashioned way - sign in every day and search.
     
  17. bjcleaver

    bjcleaver Silver Member

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    I may have mispoken when I said all AA. I think what I saw was an AA flight to LHR, and then BA to FCO. But it was at 62.5k and was the only AA transatlantic that I saw at that level.
     
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  18. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    If you drop the 2 person ticket and look for 1 person, you can see a few more options on AA across the Atlantic. Sadly, with the seat squeeze on premium cabin on AA metal, that likelihood diminishes when you look for two people.
     
  19. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    I saw as bus. Lax JFK fco. On 9/1 a few hours ago

    But that was for one person.
     
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  20. bjcleaver

    bjcleaver Silver Member

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    Would be a lonely anniversary trip by myself. :)

    There's one daily non-stop from LAX - LHR on the new 777-EW which would be cool, but at 125k each way for First...yikes.

    I'm going to play around with some other routings. Thanks for all the advice!
     
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  21. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    I wasn't suggesting you go alone, just suggesting you could see the issue I mentioned about space if you looked for one ticket only. :)

    And yes, the LAX-LHR AA flight is scheduled to be a 773ER by that time. The 125K is an AAnytime award and not ideal though.

    Good luck on your search.

    You might want to actually call AA to see if they have better and cheaper options for you that aren't visible on AA.com since award space on IB isn't visible.
     
  22. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    is IB visable on Qantas?
     
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  23. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    And BA.com.
     
  24. spgExplorer

    spgExplorer Active Member

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    I understand you're looking to burn your AA miles, as you have a pretty good stash saved up. Are you open to the idea of using your Ultimate Reward points and/or possibly throwing a few Starpoints towards United? From my past experience, using AA miles for premium travel to Europe (especially if you're looking for multiple stops) can be quite difficult. Personally I find that AA miles have much better redemption opportunities for South America or Asia (not sure if you ever plan to visit those places?). UA miles on the other hand, offer many more possibilities to fly across Europe, especially without the hassle of fuel surcharges. Another plus is that UA miles will allow you a stopover, therefore you can visit 2 cities on the same ticket. And of course availability is much better to Europe using Star Alliance partners.

    Not trying to steer you in that direction, just wanted to make sure you understand the benefits of using various airline mile programs for particular destinations... Also, if you're having difficulty figuring out connections and what airlines fly to what cities, I always recommend using the Wikipedia page for any given airport - they list all the carriers and destinations for the airport and it makes it easier to connect the dots. Good luck with your search!
     
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  25. bjcleaver

    bjcleaver Silver Member

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    I'm open to anything. I definitely have the AA miles to burn, but would consider other alliances if I could work out a better overall deal. Guess I should ask this question in some other forums. :)
     
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