Where to find AA business class award space to Europe

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If you want to use American Airlines’ miles to fly business class to Europe, then this post isn’t for you. AA’s award pricing for its own flights is a mysterious game. One search may result in terrible pricing whereas an identical search an hour later may result in awesome awards. Additionally, it seems that you’re more likely to find great pricing when booking multi-leg awards, especially to/from AA’s less well served airports. In other words, flying to/from AA’s hub airports often results in poor pricing.

This post is about finding award space accessible to partner miles like Alaska miles, British Airways Avios, and others.

American Airlines is known to be extremely stingy with their international business class award space, especially for non-stop routes. That’s a shame because they have a decent route network to Europe, and unlike British Airways, they don’t impose fuel surcharges on their flights. Luckily AA’s “no soup for you” policy appears to have thawed a bit. I’m not going to pretend that there’s great award availability, but it is out there. In this post I’ll show you where to look…

Overview

I used the Explore Alaska Mileage Plan page within Seats.Aero to find AA business class award space to Europe that is bookable with partner miles. With a Pro membership, I was able to set it to view flights to Europe over a full year, restrict results to those featuring American Airlines, with a minimum of 2 seats available, and nonstop only. I then tallied up all of the destinations where there were more than 20 dates with AA business class award space available.

I also checked AA award space to Asia and Oceana, but there wasn’t enough there to bother with.

Seats.Aero makes it easy to find awards quickly. Details here.

Best US to Europe routes for finding AA award space with partner miles

The following list shows the number of days over the coming year in which I found nonstop business class award space for two to Europe flying American Airlines. This list is limited to routes where I found at least 20 dates available.

  1. New York (JFK) to London (LHR): 74 days
  2. Chicago (ORD) to London (LHR): 58 days
  3. Charlotte (CLT) to Munich (MUC): 42 days
  4. New York (JFK) to Barcelona (BCN): 39 days
  5. Charlotte (CLT) to Frankfurt (FRA): 37 days
  6. Dallas (DFW) to Rome (FCO): 32 days
  7. New York (JFK) to Paris (CDG): 31 days
  8. New York (JFK) to Rome (FCO): 31 days
  9. Charlotte (CLT) to Rome (FCO): 28 days
  10. Raleigh Durham (RDU) to London (LHR): 29 days
  11. Boston (BOS) to London (LHR): 28 days
  12. Philadelphia (PHL) to London (LHR): 25 days

Best Europe to US routes for finding AA award space with partner miles

The following list shows the number of days over the coming year in which I found nonstop business class award space for two from Europe to the United States flying American Airlines. This list is limited to routes where I found at least 20 dates available.

  1. London (LHR) to New York (JFK): 189
  2. London (LHR) to Raleigh Durham (RDU): 75
  3. Rome (FCO) to New York (JFK): 71
  4. Madrid (BCN) to New York (JFK): 69
  5. Frankfurt (FRA) to Charlotte (CLT): 69
  6. London (LHR) to Los Angeles (LAX): 68
  7. London (LHR) to Chicago (ORD): 63
  8. Barcelona (BCN) to New York (JFK): 49
  9. Amsterdam (AMS) to Philadelphia (PHL): 45
  10. Madrid (MAD) to New York (JFK): 44
  11. London (LHR) to Boston (BOS): 43
  12. Zurich (ZRH) to Philadelphia (PHL): 38
  13. London (LHR) to Philadelphia (PHL): 37
  14. London (LHR) to Dallas (DFW): 29
  15. Frankfurt (FRA) to Dallas (DFW): 24
  16. Dublin (DUB) to Philadelphia (PHL): 22

Award Booking

Alaska Airlines charges as little as 45,000 miles plus $19 to fly business class from some east coast cities to western Europe on American Airlines

In many cases, American Airlines‘ own miles are best for booking AA award flights. However, AA doesn’t have an award chart for its own flights, so its unpredictable whether AA or a partner airline is best. If you have AA miles it will always make sense to check AA’s own prices before booking through a partner airline.

As to partners…

From the east coast, Alaska awards start at only 45K one-way to western Europe. That’s an awesome deal! Prices increase with longer distance flights.

If you want to use Avios, booking through Qatar is probably your best bet. As with Alaska, you can expect to pay more for longer distance flights.

Another good option may be to book with Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. Unfortunately, when booking AA flights this needs to be done by calling or messaging Cathay Pacific.

Check out the prices charged by different Avios currencies for business class from JFK to London on American Airlines:

  • British Airways Avios: 62,000 + $1,002.30
  • Iberia Avios: 62,000 + $232.80
  • Qatar Avios: 62,000 + $237.30

Even though Iberia is a tiny bit cheaper than Qatar, Iberia’s partner awards are non-changeable and non-cancelable. With Qatar you can change or cancel for only $25 per person up to 24 hours before departure.

Here are the programs that can be used to transfer to each of the airline miles discussed above:

Rewards ProgramAmex Transfer Ratio
(and transfer time)
Chase Transfer Ratio
(and transfer time)
Citi Transfer Ratio
(and transfer time)
Capital One Transfer Ratio
(and transfer time)
Bilt Transfer Ratio
(and transfer time)
Wells Transfer Ratio
(and transfer time)
Aer Lingus Avios1 to 1 (Instant)1 to 1 (Instant)1 to 1 via Qatar, BA (Instant)1 to 1 via BA (Unknown)1 to 1 (~5 Minutes)1 to 1 (Unknown)
Alaska MileagePlan1 to 1 (~5 Minutes)
American AAdvantage1 to 1
(Ends June) (~ 1 Day)
British Airways Avios1 to 1 (Instant)1 to 1 (Instant)1 to 1 via Qatar (Instant)1 to 1 (Unknown)1 to 1 (~5 Minutes)1 to 1 (Unknown)
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles1 to 1 (Instant)1 to 1 (Instant)1 to 1 (Instant)1 to 1 (~5 Minutes)
Iberia Avios1 to 1 (~12 - 72 hours (slower over weekend))1 to 1 (Instant)1 to 1 via Qatar, BA (Instant)1 to 1 via BA (Unknown)1 to 1 (~5 Minutes)1 to 1 (Unknown)
Qatar Privilege Club Avios1 to 1 (Unknown)1 to 1 via BA (Instant)1 to 1 (Instant)1 to 1 via BA (Unknown)1 to 1 via BA (~5 Minutes)1 to 1 via BA (Unknown)
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31 Comments
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Gary hauer

One of my favorite strategies for the 2 of us going from the west coast to Europe involves the utilization of multiple resources. Combining our SWA Companion pass with a few Hyatt points at a Hyatt place on the east coast is an inexpensive positioning approach. Secondly direct routing to Europe that offers at least an 8 hour night time stopover on the east coast again combined with Hyatt points allows a little rest for difficult time zone adaptation.

Raylan

This isn’t necessarily directly on topic, but in poking around the Alaska explore tool on seat.aero to try to find American availability, I am also seeing a LOT of good (i.e., 4+ seats) availability on Aer Lingus through Dublin. East coast gateways at 45k miles in Business to Dublin.

ToFly

I have a stash of Alaska miles and wanted to get from US West Coast to Italy in the autumn. I had to quickly book before Alaska changed their miles program. Happy I did, I’m flying Condor from Vegas to FRA with a short hop into Italy. I guess going forward I’ll have to look at repositioning to the east coast for better use of those Alaska miles I have left in my wallet.

whocares

could combine with SeatSpy, no?

Daniel

“an extensive route network to Europe”

I would not say their network is extensive to Europe.

Sean

I booked, canceled, and rebooked P2 multiple time as we figured out a trip to FCO, AA had great availability without the need for a positioning flight out of CLE. First was also often available for not much more. Pointsyeah was great with the daydream explorer picking up AA and then once I had dates pointing out availability.

Jerry

A few weeks ago I transferred from Citi to Qatar and the transfer was instant.

Lee

It all comes down to award inventory. Comments thus far are sort of touching on the issue but AA’s award inventory remains an occult subject. It would be too much to fully explain here but one needs to understand how Revenue Management allocates inventory before one can fully understand what’s really going on.

Let’s keep it simple and say that Revenue Management segregates business inventory into J Revenue, J Award, I Revenue, and I Award. And, know that Revenue categorization and Award categorization occur independently. This should feel familiar.

Next, several years ago, RM decided to slice and dice booking codes. They ran out of letters. Seriously. They started using certain booking codes — for example “R” — for multiple purposes. Hold this thought.

Shifting gears slightly, remember when Saver Awards went away? They didn’t. For consumers, they did. But, within AA’s inventory database, it still maintains Saver Award inventory . . . but not for consumers . . . it’s how AA designates award inventory that it makes available to partner airlines.

Next, AA transmits its booking codes to its partners . . . and which of those booking codes map to (hidden to consumers) Saver Awards. However, some partners — such as BA — have dog poop IT departments. And, some partners still have the booking codes from prior years.

So, when you’re searching on this partner or that partner and it’s saying that the inventory is coded as one of RM’s *new*and*improved* booking codes, BA’s (or whomever’s) old database doesn’t see it as eligible award inventory and says “no dice.”

Note: Web Specials are a completely different topic. And, Tom’s comment about daily variability is spot on. Stan’s experience was valid in the past but I believe his juicy prices will only be found as Web Special going forward. Doesn’t mean they won’t occur . . . just means they’ll be the exception.

This doesn’t solve anyone’s challenge but I hope it explains what’s causing the challenge. Best of luck.

Tom

I’ve been looking recently and notice there are pretty large swings day by day with availability and pricing on AA. One day AA wanted 118k miles and the next I snagged the seat for 64k. This was about 10 days out. Used AA miles, but same space was showing on Alaska for 70k.

Lydia

This is misleading because AA has its web special fares and they don’t share such availability with its partners. There are many web special us to Europe business class sweet spots. Try VCE for example. In other words, it is not about the award price, rather, it is about AA reserving web special availability to itself only.

Stan

This is the dumbest thing ever.
Why limit your search to city pairs that have more than 20 days and for non stop flights? You are limiting your results as well as the big picture by a HUGE amount.

I have snagged 2-3 business award flights per year for the last decade or so, on American metal, and I never pay more than 150k miles – one time I was able to get a special priced j fare for under 100k miles even!

It’s there, you have to look for it, but it’s there.

John

Stan, when you say you’ve snagged 2-3 flights per year, are those found on AA.com or are you using tools like seats.aero?

stan

Simply via searching on AA.com. I get an idea of when I want to travel and then I use the calendar search feature.
There are a few things to realize when it comes to award tickets, especially for the more expensive seats.

  1. you must be flexible. With your dates, your routing and your city pairs. For the context of this discussion we are talking about seats that normally sell for at least $3k, more regularly $4k+ on American. Does it really matter if you have to take a connecting flight that adds a few hours each way when you are getting a $4k value for only a few $ in tax plus miles? Same with city pairs. Fly out of an airport 100 miles from home maybe, or go into a big city in your destination country and take a train.
  2. american tends to release award seats in tranches. look today and there might be no seats but BA flights with their notorious $1000 fuel surcharge (each way). look tomorrow and there might be enough J inventory for you, your spouse, your kids, the inlaws and the cousins.
  3. be flexible. yes I’m mentioning this twice. be flexible. not just with city pairs but dates. plan your travel around what dates you can snag those low cost j seats.
  4. your schedule matters. dont just have flexibility in terms of a few days plus or minus – but keep in mind there will be less inventory and it will be spoken for fast, if you are interested in traveling during peak months.
  5. pro tip on searching: when you go to the calendar search you can filter for J seats, and then click on dates that show low priced awards. pay attention to the upper right hand side of the window. there will be a display that shows the total number of miles needed, plus the total cash fees involved. this can let you easily weed out the BA flights with huge surcharges. And dont fixate on only the green ‘lowest’ prices. 65k miles is pretty much just as good a deal as 57.5k.
  6. Think out of the box. often times I have found that there international leg from a hub is available for cheap, but the positioning flight from my home airport is priced sky high. look at an award ticket from the hub to your destination and consider buying a ticket to position with cash. $600 to position in first plus a 115k mile award ticket is no poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

and just for the record, I searched next month and the month after and found some 115k mile tickets on american metal to europe. So even with short notice in what. This isnt just 10 years ago. This is now.

DaninMCI

I agree with most of this strategy as it works for me.

Flexibility on dates is the MOST important part.

I will disagree about the positioning flights, the “few hours” many times is a 7-hour overnight layover or turns a 13-hour trip into a 25-hour trip but that is dependant on what airports you have nearby access to. It’s like AA punishes people through married segment logic. For example, my nearest “big” airport is STL but I can drive 5 hours to Chicago, 4 hours to Indianapolis, or several hours to smaller airports that mostly connect to DFW or ORD. The issue is flights from STL rarely go into JFK so that is a MAJOR hassle but I can go to IND and fly JFK so you have to be flexible.

There is also the issue of flight times. This isn’t restricted to award flights but how many people want to start their vacation with a 5:10 am flight? I don’t. It’s like they let Concur handle their award pricing for this sort of thing 🙂

I would also add a #7 to @stan’s approach. “If you can’t find good roundtrip availability on AA metal to Europe book one-way flights in an open jaw fashion like flying into LHR and out of AMS or whatever. This can also help with APD and misc. taxes if done right.

stan

I suppose YMMV on the positioning flights. I’m 1 hr away from my home airport. I’m 2 hrs away from the next large airport that sometimes has that magical first flight for a reasonable number of miles, but this might not apply to all. I do concur with #7 though….

John

Thanks for the thoughtful reply. After I replied to your comment, I went on AA and searched as I always had – using the calendar. I also found a few R/T flights for about 150k +-. Back in 2016 my wife and I took a biz class trip to Zurich on AA metal for only 50k each way and it was awesome. Of course, the return flight had THREE stops, but being in business class with lounge access, I didn’t care. That is, until our flight from JFK to IND was delayed and we landed in IND as the connecting flight pushed away from the gate (this despite us imploring the pilot to call ahead to hold the plane). We ended up sleeping on the benches in PHX until the next flight to SMF the next morning. Anyway, your points about flexibility and positioning are well understood, particularly given I live near Sacramento, CA and getting to Europe from here takes a bit longer than from the East Coast. We have companion passes on SWA so we’re pretty much willing to position almost anywhere in the US if we can get AA biz for less than 800k (ridiculous) per ticket. Oh, and now we have two kids to take along, so there’s the added difficulty of finding four tickets each way instead of two like many people. Thanks again.

Andrew

The limitation of non-stop flights is inherent for seats.aero. Since it only tracks non-stop routes you really can’t search connecting routes for award pricing/availability tied to the connections. For doing a post like this analyzing availability across a year I’m not sure what other tool you’d use besides seats.aero, since others don’t have the same calendar search option.

That said limiting yourself to non-stop routes does mean you’ll miss the opportunities to book a connecting itinerary that AA will often sell for far less on points than the direct flight. It tends to open up closer in but it’s not unreasonable to find business class that is AA metal over the Atlantic with a British Airways connector in Europe for 57.5K + $23 to $60 in tax & fees. It requires some date & location flexibility and more importantly limits you to AA miles for redemption. The direct flights without the European connector would often be 90K+ AA miles. I’ve found PointsYeah to be much more useful in trying to scour for these awards since it can handle a few airport codes on each end with an 8 day window but will search the AA multi-stop award options well.

stan

can someone please explain to me what the point of analyzing the current seat availability based on a tool that leaves out the vast majority of the options you have? it’s kind of like developing a tool that identifies various different bottles of flammable liquids and then claiming you have nothing to use to fight a fire, because all your machine came up with was gasoline, alcohol, etc…

Bob

Because most airlines don’t engage in the sorts of married segment shenanigans that AA do.

stan

yeah but come on, what is this article about? you dont use a BBQ cookbook to help you grade rare coins, do you?

Bob

There is no better tool for surveying AA availability a year at a time across all routes. It is not perfect, but it is better than everything else.

stan

ok, well maybe then I’m missing something here. This article is about using miles to book award tickets on AA to europe, yes? The tool mentioned tells you no useful information about your ability to do so. It gives you a LIMITED snapshot on any particular day, one that is likely not to be valid tomorrow, and one that leaves out a majority of the flight options by it’s own limitations. I dont understand why it was even mentioned by the author.

Andrew

Greg added a comment and additional section at the top after our initial comments, clarifying the reason for this article is for how to find partner award availability for American. In that respect seats.aero is probably the best tool as the married segment award discounts with AA miles don’t translate over to partner awards – adding a connecting flight should always make the total cost more expensive (in miles) when booking with a partner airline.

It may not be as good a deal as what could be booked with AA miles, but partner miles are easier to come by (especially Avios).

rich

I don’t like to travel a lot but earlier this year I was looking at a variety of airlines/programs and what you said is true of many places. For example with Flying Blue I saw award flights at over 1 Million (year million) miles but I found 2 tickets for 50K in business (one way).

Like a lot of stuff in like, you often have to work for it.

Alex Nutman

No love for AsiaMiles here? Easy to earn via Amex/Cap1/Citi/Bilt, and no surcharges on AA. Admittedly a mild pain since no online booking, but an easy chat or whatsapp message usually gets it ticketed in about 10 minutes.

Alex Nutman

+852 2747 2747

Brent

Do we know the pricing on Asia Miles? Is it the same for BA tickets through them for similar routes?

Alex

In my searches, it generally seems to be (with lower surcharges). I just booked Europe-East Coast for 63,000 miles.