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Taking AAdvantage of American Off Peak Awards

Write By: admin Published In: Blog Category Created Date: 2015-09-18 Hits: 1185 Comment: 3

While American Airlines already offers some of the most reasonably priced awards among US carriers, the airline makes certain bookings even more appealing, offering discounted redemptions during off-peak periods. Explore the available options and provides tips on how to take “AAdvantage” of these great offers.

While American Airlines already offers some of the most reasonably priced awards among US carriers, the airline makes certain bookings even more appealing, offering discounted redemptions during off-peak periods. TPG Contributor JT Genter explores the available options and provides tips on how to take “AAdvantage” of these great offers.

Compared to other US-based carriers, American Airlines already has one of the best saver mileage charts available. That’s one of the reasons that TPG values AA miles at 1.7 cents apiece — higher than both United (1.5) and Delta (1.2), the latter of which has removed its mileage charts completely.

AA one-way mileage chart, showing the regions that offer Off Peak awards.

Even better, during certain “Off Peak” periods during the year, AA discounts its already reasonable economy award charts by up to 33%.

The dates aren’t the same across the eight regions that offer Off Peak awards. However, we’re entering the golden period of Off Peak award travel. As of last week, all eight regions are now Off Peak!

Oneworld Off Peak chart-cropped
Trimmed Oneworld award chart, showing the regions with Off Peak availability for Oneworld partners.

While there are eight regions that AA discounts for AA-operated flights, only four of these regions have Off Peak availability for booking with AA miles on Oneworld partners.

Since you’d likely fly AA to the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America anyways, this isn’t a huge limitation. However, when flying to South America Region 1, you’re limited to cities served by AA if you want the discounted rate of 15,000 miles each way.

REGIONS WITH OFF PEAK SEASONS NOW

Check out Rome's Coliseum, like TPG Contributor Katie Genter did during her recent Europe trip
Check out Rome’s Coliseum, like my wife Katie did during a recent trip to Europe.

Europe

  • MileSAAver Off Peak round-trip miles: 40,000 (vs. 60,000 standard MileSAAver)
  • Off Peak travel dates: October 15 – May 15
  • Off Peak discount available on Oneworld partners: Yes – but beware of fuel surcharges on British Airways
  • Destinations to consider: Rome, Italy (FCO); Milan, Italy (MXP); Madrid, Spain (MAD); Barcelona, Spain (BCN); Paris, France (CDG); London, England (LHR)

For some European cities, there’s definitely a reason that October-May is an off-peak time, especially the further north you go. During the peak of winter, daylight hours are going to be a lot shorter and the temperatures much colder. However, don’t assume “Off Peak” means “miserable” for all options; fall and spring can be wonderful times to visit countries in southern Europe, such as Italy and Spain.

When flying to Europe, you can select “American Airlines and American Eagle” to avoid British Airways flights that tack on costly surcharges.

AA doesn’t add fuel surcharges and other fees to awards on AA-operated flights. However, flying British Airways- and Iberia-operated flights means you’ll have to pay costly fuel surcharges ($100-500+ round-trip). For the cheapest out-of-pocket costs, limit your award searches to cities where AA flies, including:

Not such a great redemption once you include taxes and fees!

At first, Los Angeles (LAX) to Istanbul (IST) for just 40,000 AAdvantage miles round-trip seems like a great redemption. Plus, availability is wide-open in November and December. But, after selecting your dates and flights, you might be shocked to see some incredibly high taxes and fees.

AA doesn’t serve Istanbul (IST) directly, so you’d have to fly BA for some segments. In addition to the steep BA fuel surcharges, flying BA-operated flights likely involves flying through London (LHR), which adds its own layer of fees. For some dates, the taxes and fees on these “free” flights are more than the cost of purchasing flights outright!

shutterstock_158038793
Check out the famous canals of Venice. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Want to visit Venice? Who doesn’t? When redeeming AA miles, you likely want to avoid flying directly into Venice (VCE). Instead, you can fly into Milan (MXP) and use Europe’s extensive train system to get between the two cities.

Both Venice (VCE) and Milan (MXP) cost just 40,000 AA miles during Off Peak dates. But, the taxes and fees vary drastically. Flying AA round-trip from Austin (AUS) to Milan (MXP) costs just $61 in taxes and fees vs. $710 in taxes and fees to fly on BA-operated flights round-trip into Venice (VCE). The $650 savings is more than enough to make up for the cheap two-hour train ride between the cities.

If you’re set on a certain destination that isn’t served directly by AA, limit your out-of-pocket cost by choosing an itinerary that consists as much as possible of AA-operated flights.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-307110335/stock-photo-japan-beautiful-landscape-mountain-fuji-and-chureito-red-pagoda-with-cherry-blossom-sakura.html
Off Peak season includes Japan’s spectacular cherry blossom season in April. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Asia Region 1 (Japan, South Korea)

  • MileSAAver Off Peak round-trip miles: 50,000 (vs. 65,000 standard MileSAAver)
  • Off Peak travel dates: October 1 – April 30
  • Off Peak discount available on Oneworld partners: Yes – but Oneworld partner flights are not bookable online.
  • Destinations to consider: Tokyo, Japan (NRT); Seoul, South Korea (ICN); Sapporo, Japan (CTS – a great skiing destination); Okinawa, Japan (OKA – a unique beach destination during winter months)

Unlike with award flights to Europe, you don’t have to worry about huge fuel surcharges on flights to Japan/Korea. However, this region has its own issue when searching award availability: Oneworld partners Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines don’t show up when searching award availability on AA’s website.

You can still book award flights on these partners by searching for award availability on other Oneworld airlines’ websites; via ExpertFlyer; or by calling AA and seeing what’s available. Searching and booking online, you’re limited to AA-operated flights: Tokyo (NRT) from Chicago (ORD), Los Angeles (LAX) or Dallas (DFW); and Seoul (ICN) from Dallas (DFW).

Wide-open availability from Chicago (ORD) to Tokyo (NRT) in April, during Japan’s famous cherry blossom season!

Due to the limited transpacific options, you’d want to first search award availability on these direct routes. This will give you an idea of the available dates before searching for options departing from your city.

As you can see in the screenshot above, the calendar is wide open from Chicago (ORD) to Tokyo (NRT) in April. If you’re interested in visiting during April, you just need to find saver award flight availability from your city to Chicago (ORD) during one of these dates.

Hawaii sunset beach featured shutterstock 162636074
Experience incredible sunrises in Hawaii — now for 22% less miles! Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Hawaii

  • MileSAAver Off Peak round-trip miles: 35,000 (vs. 45,000 standard MileSAAver)
  • Off Peak travel dates: August 22 – December 15 and January 12 – March 13
  • Off Peak discount available on airline partners: Yes
  • Destinations to consider: Honolulu (HNL), Kauai (LIH), Kahului (OGG), Hilo (ITO) and Kailua-Kona (KOA)

It seems that Hawaii would never have an Off Peak time. But — believe it or not — AA offers discounted award flights to Hawaii roughly half of the year!

AA no longer allows you to fly Hawaiian between the mainland and Hawaii, but AA does fly to five airports (LIH, HNL, OGG, KOA, ITO) on four islands (Kauai, Oahu, Maui and “The Big Island” Hawaii). Unfortunately, you cannot tack on a connection to a more remote airport on Hawaiian Airlines using the same ticket — although island-hopping flight options on Hawaiian can be booked with AA miles for just 5,000 miles each-way.

Quite a few dates available for just 17,500 each way from NYC all the way to Honolulu over the next month.
Quite a few dates available for just 17,500 miles each way from NYC all the way to Honolulu over the next month.

I’m not sure why AA decided this is an Off Peak time; November-December and January-March seem like excellent months to escape winter by flying to Hawaii! There’s currently fairly decent availability from New York City (JFK) to Honolulu in November round-trip for just 35,000 miles plus $11.20.

REGIONS WITH OFF PEAK SEASONS ENDING SOON, BUT RETURNING IN JANUARY

Machu Picchu in the morning. Photo by the author.
Machu Picchu in

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