Tips on Booking Oneworld Award Tickets?

Discussion in 'oneworld' started by tzoom84, May 7, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. tzoom84
    Original Member

    tzoom84 Silver Member

    Messages:
    81
    Likes Received:
    42
    Status Points:
    170
    Hey everyone.
    I have 100k+ AAdvantage miles and am interested in booking an award ticket to Thailand or other parts of southeast Asia. I noticed for international flights the AA.com award reservation tool doesn't work. Phone calls work but I prefer to make the calls prepared with a bit of research done first.

    For a seldom traveler (once/twice a year), what services/sites do you recommend using for finding available award fares on Oneworld (specifically AA) airlines?

    I've considered trying the ExpertFlyer trial, but because I don't travel often, I'm not sure it'll be worth it in the long run.

    Thank you!
     
  2. DestinationDavid
    Original Member

    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

    Messages:
    6,846
    Likes Received:
    12,715
    Status Points:
    11,770
    Well I don't think ExpertFlyer would be the right tool if you're looking to go to Thailand. Most likely the easiest connections from the US to Thailand is going to be with JAL or Cathay through Tokyo or Hong Kong, and as far as I can recall neither shows availability through ExpertFlyer.

    Some important things you need to figure out:
    • What TYPE of award are you using? Partner? Oneworld mileage award? Your choice changes the possibilities, tools, and rules. A partner award will restrict where and how you can fly to Thailand. The oneworld award will free you up in terms of carriers and routing, but might not be worthwhile in terms of mileage spent in the long run.
    • Where in Thailand to you want to go? You'll be able to get to Bangkok easily, further flights into Thailand will bring you issues though.
    That being said, your best free tool is probably the British Airways website. You can sign up for an account and do free searches for awards. It's not 100% perfect, but it's not bad either.

    You might want to look into a small time purchase with AwardNexus.com as well. I've used it for some of my award searches and have had a lot of success.
     
    joesmoe and tzoom84 like this.
  3. sagefemme52
    Original Member

    sagefemme52 Silver Member

    Messages:
    106
    Likes Received:
    100
    Status Points:
    310
    I just signed up for a Qantas frequent flyer account. It lets me search for award seats on One World flights. It will not let you search by specific airline though. I just booked my first One World award trip for 130K. I got a trip in C to Spain and a 2nd trip to EZE, SCL, and LIM, also in C. I live in BOS, so am using JFK as a stopping off point between the two trips. In my case, the two non AA carriers are Iberia and LAN.
     
    joesmoe likes this.
  4. tzoom84
    Original Member

    tzoom84 Silver Member

    Messages:
    81
    Likes Received:
    42
    Status Points:
    170
    Thanks for the tips. I tried the
    British airways site but had a hard time keeping it from routing me though LHR. I'm also going to try out award nexus

    With Respect to coach I'm looking to go lowest rate coach from JFK
     
  5. DestinationDavid
    Original Member

    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

    Messages:
    6,846
    Likes Received:
    12,715
    Status Points:
    11,770
    BA tends to search for BA flights when available, and then partners when not.

    Going through HKG instead of LHR saves you a few hundred miles, but not much. Do you have a specific carrier or route in mind?

    I know they're removing them, but the last time I flew Cathay in economy the seat was just awful. Not sure how far they've come along with moving those out of their planes. If I had the choice I'd take BA through LHR on a OW award or AA/JL through NRT on a OW award or a partner award instead of that awful seat.
     
    joesmoe likes this.
  6. sparxe
    Original Member

    sparxe Silver Member

    Messages:
    62
    Likes Received:
    63
    Status Points:
    210
    I think it would be easiest to make a free account on Cathay and search on their own site for available award flights.

    Lowest coach rate from JFK looks like 70k miles, with that you can do a simple roundtrip or open jaw with two one-ways. Also can get a free stopover in the North American gateway, but you should be able to get to asia directly from JFK.
     
  7. tzoom84
    Original Member

    tzoom84 Silver Member

    Messages:
    81
    Likes Received:
    42
    Status Points:
    170
    Thanks everyone. I'll play around with BA site more, Cathay, qantas, and award nexus. I think it'll be good for me to get an understanding of all of them, even if not specifically for this trip
     
  8. gleff
    Original Member

    gleff Co-founder

    Messages:
    3,616
    Likes Received:
    6,793
    Status Points:
    4,670
    You can't use the American Airlines website to book awards on partner airlines, though in the recent Milepoint chat with Maya Leibman, the President of AAdvantage, we learned that they're hoping to roll out this functionality before the end of the year.

    Your options really are to use other frequent flyer program websites to do your research, search for award seats, and then call up American armed with flight information you've found.

    Expertflyer is a good tool but not really so much for the airlines you're likely to be flying to Thailand. Here is what I would do.

    1. Search AA.com for flights to Tokyo on American Airlines. JFK-NRT is one option, though of course there are flights through Dallas and Chicago and Los Angeles.

    2. Search BA.com for flights to Tokyo on Japan Airlines. BA.com will try to force you onto British Airways through London when BA flights are available so the best thing to do is to pick a destination in Asia that isn't served by British Airways, that will pull up partner flights only if you're getting pushed towards British Airways. Maybe a city in China with service on Japan Airlines.

    With the two above steps you'll see what I'm suggesting that you do is break up the trip. Don't just search all the way to Bangkok, although you can try that also on British Airways. Once you find flights to Tokyo you then would search Tokyo - Bangkok.

    Then repeat this step with Hong Kong, find JFK-Hong Kong, Toronto - Hong Kong, Chicago - Hong Kong (and/or San Francisco, Vancouver, Los Angeles) on Cathay Pacific. And then Hong Kong - Bangkok.

    The British Airways website is your best bet even though it's cumbersome to work with.

    * The Qantas website is great in general for oneworld carriers, but it often provides erroneous information for Cathay Pacific and doesn't offer Japan Airlines availability.

    * The Cathay Pacific site only shows Cathay availability, and it's not always a perfect match for what American agents are going to tell you is available, though that's often as much a function of training and IT on the AA side as anything else. What the BA site shows you is going to be a much better match for what you can easily get from an AAgent.

    Hope that helps!
     
    tzoom84 and sagefemme52 like this.
  9. tzoom84
    Original Member

    tzoom84 Silver Member

    Messages:
    81
    Likes Received:
    42
    Status Points:
    170
    Gary, thank you for the great tips! I had a question on #2 though. You recommended searching for a destination in Asia not serviced by BA. Suppose I search for JFK-Tianjin (since Tianjin is serviced by JAL and not BA) and find a flight. Are you recommending that then I fly JFK-Tianjin-Bangkok, skipping Tokyo altogether? Or once the partner flights are pulled up I can then search for JFK-NRT directly?
     
  10. tzoom84
    Original Member

    tzoom84 Silver Member

    Messages:
    81
    Likes Received:
    42
    Status Points:
    170
    Following up on my last post. I think I may have gotten somewhere. I decided to try searching JFK-Guangzhou. The image below is the result. So by forcing a non BA city, I was able to determine that this is award available on Cathay Pacific from Toronto to Hong Kong? From there, I can ignore the Hong Kong to Guangzhou segment and just take note of flight CX0827 in building up my itinerary. Did I follow correctly?

    [​IMG]
     
  11. gleff
    Original Member

    gleff Co-founder

    Messages:
    3,616
    Likes Received:
    6,793
    Status Points:
    4,670
    Ding ding ding! You discovered that there is coach space Toronto - Hong Kong on Cathay. And by using a city BA doesn't serve, you get around the problem of having the site return British Airways flights only.

    The only potential hitch is when the final segment is unavailable, if HKG-CAN wasn't available then you wouldn't get the results at all, and wouldn't have learned that YYZ-HKG was available.
     
  12. PointyWings

    PointyWings Silver Member

    Messages:
    69
    Likes Received:
    34
    Status Points:
    195
    HKG has the unique advantage that local government regulations have kept the atrocious airline Fuel Surcharges in control for all flights that touch HKG (unlike many other places where the lawmakers are beholden to the airlines)
     
  13. Tenmoc
    Original Member

    Tenmoc Gold Member

    Messages:
    31,882
    Likes Received:
    212,880
    Status Points:
    20,020
    I am finding that AA can't find what QF tells me is available.
     
  14. jpripcord

    jpripcord Silver Member

    Messages:
    65
    Likes Received:
    46
    Status Points:
    175
    So in December, I'll be flying to Asia for a trip with my girlfriend.

    We'll be doing JFK > HKG > HAN > REP > HKT from 12/10/2011 to 12/24/2011

    I am having an IMPOSSIBLE time getting back home to NYC from Phuket on miles at the end of our trip though. We are willing (and hoping to be honest) to fly home on Christmas Eve/Day

    There are dirt cheap flights to Bangkok and Singapore, so those are options to depart from as well, but I'm still not having any luck. I've tried every possible combination that I can come up with and so far i've got nothing (aside from a BA flight that will cost 60,000 miles, $500 in fees, and 30 hours of travel time).

    I've got 120,000 miles on AA and 150,000 miles on BA. I'm not opposed to economy travel, but would do business class if it wasn't a ton of miles.

    Any advice/help/tips that you guys can offer would be greatly appreciated.

    - JP
     
  15. gleff
    Original Member

    gleff Co-founder

    Messages:
    3,616
    Likes Received:
    6,793
    Status Points:
    4,670
    Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, everything around New Years, are going to be tough. Some months ago I managed a family of 4 to/from YYZ for Christmas/New Years.

    The tip is not to search from Phuket. Search just the transpacific flights first. Eg HKG-LAX/SFO/YVR/ORD/YYZ/JFK on Cathay... JL's NRT-LAX/SFO/ORD/JFK and the HND flight... AA from PEK/PVG/NRT. Then search separately for how you get to the transpacific flight and how you get from that flight to your home airport.
     
  16. jpripcord

    jpripcord Silver Member

    Messages:
    65
    Likes Received:
    46
    Status Points:
    175
    Thanks Gary. I've tried all those options, but there isn't any availabily that I can find from ICN, SIN, or HKG, so I seem to be out of ideas. There is some availability from NRT, but getting there from Phuket is 11 hrs of travel and $500 (making it just worth it to buy a $1000 revenue ticket from HKT > ICN > JFK).

    Maybe we can just swim home.

    I appreciate your tips though. I'm still new at this, so any advice helps
     
  17. gleff
    Original Member

    gleff Co-founder

    Messages:
    3,616
    Likes Received:
    6,793
    Status Points:
    4,670
    Well, if you find NRT - US, consider then looking for flights from elsewhere in Asia to NRT. Especially places that have direct flights from HKT.

    For instance, is there any availability KUL-NRT? Then you could buy an Air Asia ticket HKT-KUL.
     
  18. jpripcord

    jpripcord Silver Member

    Messages:
    65
    Likes Received:
    46
    Status Points:
    175
    So apparently it is much better to own AAdvantage miles than it is BA miles. I found the BA miles to be extremely restrictive, and getting an agent on the phone is near impossible.

    I called the AAdvantage Plat line yesterday and the woman was able to help me find a ticket within 5 minutes from HKT > HKG > JFK. The HKG >JFK portion is in first class, and should be a great way to end our 2+ week vacation. The return trip home is costing about $50 in taxes/fees and 67,500 miles each.

    After we use the BA miles we got through the CC offers earlier this year, I think i'm focusing solely on AA. I found the customer service of BA to be terrible (20 min wait minimum to get a person on the phone) and more importantly, their miles are impossible to use. Why can't i book the same exact ticket on CX using BA miles as I can AA miles?
     
  19. gleff
    Original Member

    gleff Co-founder

    Messages:
    3,616
    Likes Received:
    6,793
    Status Points:
    4,670
    There's no question that it's easier to get an AAgent on the phone than it is to deal with BA's telephone agents. And the US line for BA Executive Club has interminable hold times.

    But in general you have the exact same access to award space on Cathay Pacific using American miles and British Airways miles. There are pluses and minuses to each. With American you can combine partners in a single award. With BA if you do that you will pay more miles. With BA you can have enroute stopovers for no extra charge, American only allows this at the North American gateway city.

    Tradeoffs, tradeoffs.

    But absolutely, American's customer service agents are much easier to deal with than BA's. And the calls go faster, too. Although some AAgents aren't especially well-trained looking for partner award inventory.
     
  20. jpripcord

    jpripcord Silver Member

    Messages:
    65
    Likes Received:
    46
    Status Points:
    175
    Maybe the issue is that they have separate award availability (that's what the BA agent told me over the phone) and that so many people took advantage of the 100k Chase card, so their asia award space dried up much quicker than AA.

    In the end, AA had award ticket available, but BA didn't for the same exact flight
     
  21. Gardyloo
    Original Member

    Gardyloo Gold Member

    Messages:
    1,421
    Likes Received:
    4,431
    Status Points:
    2,470
    I would be far more suspicious that the BA agent didn't know what they were doing while the AA agent did.
     
  22. gleff
    Original Member

    gleff Co-founder

    Messages:
    3,616
    Likes Received:
    6,793
    Status Points:
    4,670
    They don't have different availability. BA's computer systems aren't very good and neither are their agents much of the time. The BA agent was misinformed about different availability. The Chase offer, in the US, didn't likely move the needle on award availability in any meaningful way.
     
    jpripcord likes this.
  23. jpripcord

    jpripcord Silver Member

    Messages:
    65
    Likes Received:
    46
    Status Points:
    175
    Interesting...that's actually really helpful information then.

    So my next thought is that the easiest way for me to book an international award ticket using BA miles is:
    1) Call AA plat desk and have their agent search for award availability
    2) Put the trip on hold
    3) Call the BA reservation line, wait the 20 minutes on hold
    4) While on the line with BA, cancel the hold I had the AA desk put on the flight, and give them the exact flight info
    5) Complete the booking using BA miles

    When i cancel my "hold" that AA puts on the award flight, does the availability show up right away, or does it take time to process through the system?

    Also, it seems like there are different award prices for the ticket I want to book using BA miles. The hold I have on the first class ticket from HKG>JFK is only 67,500 AAdvantage miles, yet the BA agent on the phone told me the same flight would be 75,000 miles using BA miles. In this case, it makes sense I guess to book using the AA miles, as I'll save 15,000 miles between the two tickets.
     
  24. jpripcord

    jpripcord Silver Member

    Messages:
    65
    Likes Received:
    46
    Status Points:
    175
    Eh, the whole "placing the trip on hold" thing may be a little excessive. The only way I really need to do that is if I dont have the time to call and wait for BA that day.

    In reality, if I find the flight on the phone with the AA desk, it's going to be there a half hour later when I get the BA agent on the phone.
     
  25. gleff
    Original Member

    gleff Co-founder

    Messages:
    3,616
    Likes Received:
    6,793
    Status Points:
    4,670
    And there's never a guarantee that seats held will go back into inventory right away when cancelled.

    1. Dial British Airways Executive Club. Put hold music on speaker
    2. DIal American AAdvantage. Ask them to search for flights. Write down flights.
    3. Thank AAdvantage. Hang Up.
    4. Wait some more
    5. When BA answers, tell them you found flights on an earlier phone call and would they look up availability on those flights for you?

    Actually I find the BA website to work just fine most of the time when searching segment-by-segment rather than for a whole trip. It's cumbersome, but I can find seats on the BA website and then call BA much of the time.
     

Share This Page