Help maximizing my AA reward tickets

Discussion in 'American Airlines | AAdvantage' started by Jeffrey, May 7, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. Jeffrey

    Jeffrey Silver Member

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    I hope this is the right forum for this question. I'm about to be getting a signup bonus from the Citi AA card which will top off my account and give me enough miles to get my wife and I to Japan next April in business class. We have a bit of an odd situation, though, and I'd like to make sure I don't leave any strategies that might minimize my cost on the table. We live in Hartford, but will be flying out of ATL because we first have to drop our daughter off at grandma and grandpa's (this trip is adults only!) Most likely, we'd fly BDL>ATL on a Friday and leave the next day. I'm reasonably certain that I'll have to book this as a separate flight, in which case I'll probably do it on Delta because direct is so much easier with a toddler, but if there's a *way* I can fold it in to my reward ticket and not have to pay, then we'll definitely do indirect! We're also willing to drive a bit and fly out of BOS if it helps.

    In terms of actually getting to Japan, I don't care which city we connect in. Ultimately, we expect to fly in to Tokyo - either airport - and back from Osaka (KIX), which I think routes through Tokyo anyway. More important than connection is comfort on the plane and how easy it will be for us to sleep, so if flying out of BOS on JAL on the 787 is going to be significantly better in those terms, then that's my ideal choice, but I don't know if that's actually the case. *Most* important, of course, is that we actually get there! We're looking to go sometime in April 2013.

    With apologies for long-windedness, what I'd like to know is three things: Is there a "best" city to use as our connection out of ATL (it looks like ORD is the "default" one that AA tries to send me out of); is there a way to take advantage of the ability to build in a stopover in such a way that allows me to get a ticket from City X to BDL some day in the future but still make it back to ATL, and (3) is there a way to build in the BDL-ATL and back segments on either end? And, of course, is there anything else I should especially pay attention to (for example, I'm pretty sure my choices are booking on AA or JAL, not CX, because that would route me through Hong Kong and thus cost more miles for being a separate part of Asia, but I'm happy to be corrected on that)?

    I suspect the answers to (2) and (3) are "no", but if I don't ask, then they definitely are! Feel free to interpret (1) any way you like, but my interpretation of best would be some combination of comfort and availability, with a tiebreaker going to the quality of the airport (and business class lounge :))

    Thanks!
     
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  2. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    Despite your long-windedness, I'll admit that you lost me a bit on some of your questions, but let's see what I pull out here.... ;)

    1. At the end of the day what you really want is a city that has availability, that'll be your "best" city. :D If you're faced with many options, my first choices would be to use JL flights over AA flights, so you're looking at BOS (JL), JFK (JL to NRT, AA to HND), LAX (JL and AA to NRT), SFO (JL to HND), and possibly YVR (JL to NRT). Hawaiian is an option through HNL if they have a fare that goes from ATL to NRT. AA J vs JL J is won by JL in IMHO, but AA J isn't that bad and is only marginally worse than JL J. AA J and JL J both beat HA F.

    2. This is where I'm confused. Are you asking if you can stop over in TWO locations (ATL and another city?) on your way back from Japan. Your stop over is only allowed at the North American gateway (so your first stop on your way in or out) and JL and AA do not fly from ATL to any Asia 1 regions. BA has a flight to LHR but this would cost more miles to route from Asia 1 to Europe then the US. Your potential stopovers include BOS, JFK, DFW, ORD, LAX, SFO, YVR, and HNL depending on the fares published by the partners.

    3. Again, with the gateway rules, you can only stop in your gateway city, and no AA partners head from ATL to Asia 1 region. You can also look at Hawaiian Airlines as a viable partner to Japan, though you have to make sure Hawaiian has a fare from ATL to NRT or KIX back to ATL.

    Note that both Tokyo and Osaka have two airports. Tokyo has NRT and HND, and Osaka has ITM and KIX. With this in mind, you'll have to make smart choices about which flights to take because some depart from HND and some depart from NRT and connections from elsewhere in Japan can land at either airport. If your connection lands at HND, try to get a flight departing HND for your return. Connecting HND to NRT isn't impossible but it is certainly a burden and can be expensive.

    You are correct about not using CX, though, sadly.

    I'm sure I've misunderstood at least some of what you've said, so feel free to provide clarifying information for me and others to provide feedback.
     
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  3. Jimgotkp
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    Jimgotkp Gold Member

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    David is right on the dot. I'd go after JAL's C seats before considering AA. Remember that JAL has various types of Business Class seats and the better products are from/to JFK, ORD, and LAX. They do have pretty decent availability to those cities as well.
     
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  4. Jeffrey

    Jeffrey Silver Member

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    Thanks for the great responses... I can definitely clarify. I agree that the biggest criterion is availability for a gateway... What is the easiest way for me to find that on JL or HA? I tried using BA's website but didn't have much success. What are the differences in the business class products that JL has, and are the other benefits of the 787 enough to outweigh what sounds like the less-good version?

    I know that there is no way to stop in two locations, but what i was hoping is that i could build in the BDL-ATL portion into the trip... In other words, BDL-ATL-overnight stop-US gateway-Tokyo. I didn't think that was allowed, and it sounds like I am right, so the second part of the question was to now assume the BDL-ATL portion is a separate, purchased ticket and I'm just doing ATL to Tokyo one direction, and Osaka to Atlanta in the other, on AA/JL/HA, with my miles. Since I am not leaving from a gateway, do i essentially lose the stopover benefit in the sense of being able to make an entirely separate return trip with one direction being a continuation of this one? In other words, i believe it is a legal routing to do NRT-ORD-stop up to a year-Anywhere else in the US.... Is there a way i can approach something like this despite not using a gateway?
     
  5. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    HA availability can be searched on AA.com, so that's an easy option.

    JL availability is available on KVS and AwardNexus, or the JL website, and a few OW partners too. I typically use AwardNexus for my searching but everyone has their own favorite option. Hit me up with a private message and I may be able to help with looking at specific dates. I booked an award BOS-NRT in J last month.

    For your TPAC routes, JL offers three types of J seats in best to worst IMHO:

    Flat Neo - JFK, ORD, LAX
    Flat Shell - SFO
    Skyrecliner - YVR

    You can get more details on the seats here: LINK.


    BDL-ATL doesn't seem viable, I'd drop that idea. You'd need to pass through an AA hub to get from BDL to ATL in most cases, so you should be catching your flight to Japan there, not connecting onward to ATL and then another AA hub. So with regards to your second piece, all AA and partner awards are now one way, so your outbound doesn't change anything about your inbound award. So yes, doing NRT-ORD (stop) - HNL (for example) is entirely possible.

    I'm confused what you mean when you say "not using a gateway". It's impossible to leave North American without using a gateway. :confused:

    On a side note, can you tell us exactly how many AA miles you have? Perhaps a oneworld explorer award is an option for you? That would allow a stop in ATL and perhaps a few more locations as well.
     
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  6. Jeffrey

    Jeffrey Silver Member

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    Which of those seat types does JL use on the 787 from BOS? Otherwise, if flat Neo is the best (and it looks like it is!), then I'm completely in favor of flying out of any of those cities. What I meant by "not leaving from a gateway" is that my origin, Atlanta, isn't a gateway.

    Unfortunately, we've only got about 108K AA miles each, so a oneworld award isn't really feasible (and due to time constraints, we're only looking at about a week and a half vacation window anyway, which seems sufficient for Japan only). I don't have any SPG points to transfer into AA and I don't think there's any other way to gain too many more quickly (we both hold both Citi AA cards) already. If I find JL award availability on JL's website, is it fair to assume that those same seats will be open to AA's booking agents? Also, I'm confused about the idea of being able to do this route on Hawaiian "if HA offers an ATL-NRT route". HA doesn't fly to Atlanta, but neither does JL. The difference is, I can tell JL's website I want to leave from Atlanta and they'll put me on an AA flight domestically; Hawaiian's website doesn't give me Atlanta as an option. So I'm assuming that I can't use HA as an option (though it sounds like the inferior option anyway, especially since we won't have time to spend in Honolulu!)
     
  7. TheTravelAbstract

    TheTravelAbstract Silver Member

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    You can book an all partner award for 100k in biz RT. Only way to book this is by calling.

    It is not safe to think when airlines are in the equation. Often times partners do not have same award space as the operating carrier does.

    I would recommend calling AA and asking about your dates and go from there.
     
  8. JALPak
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    JALPak Gold Member

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    Try go via JFK if you want chances of better seat
     

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