Aug252014

AA.com awards AAnywhere, but Athens

This weekend I have put many hours into travel planning for trips to Norway in September and Greece in October. My situation is I have sufficient miles for a one-way economy class award ticket between Monterey and Europe with American Airlines AAdvantage and United Airlines Mileage Plus. AA takes 20,000 miles and United takes 30,000 miles for one-way award tickets in October. My ultimate destination is Athens, Greece, but I don’t mind working in a couple of other destination cities on the journey.

Award routings I have found from California to Greece would allow an overnight with 20+ hours in Dusseldorf, Berlin, Vienna or Philadelphia. I have stayed in the German cities in the past decade. Vienna and Philadelphia have been a few decades since I have visited those places. Venice has been on my mind to try out Comfort Hotel Diana at 10,000 Choice Privileges points per night and that is an option with good AA.com award availability to or from Venice.

I can find online 20,000 mile AA.com awards aanywhere, but Athens.

Does American Airlines confuse Athens with mythological Atlantis?

Using AA.com, I can find award tickets for 20,000 miles to the Greek islands of Santorinni (JTR), Kos (KGS), Mytilene (MJT) on Lesbos, Rhodes (RHO), Chania on Crete (CHQ), Kerkyra on Corfu (CFU) and Heraklion (HER) on Crete.

AA SFO-HER

SFO-HER is 20,000 miles + $42.60 to fly four segments to Heraklion on  Crete, an island of Greece, yet AA.com will not return award flights to or from Athens, Greece.

Iberia flies nonstop between Madrid and Athens. British Airways flies nonstop between London and Athens. Yet, if I search AA.com with Athens as a destination, this response comes up:

There are currently no awards available on AA.com for your requested Origin and Destination. Please modify your request or contact AAdvantage Reservations for award opportunities on all AAdvantage participating airlines.

FlyerTalk has several threads of people trying to use AA.com to redeem miles for flights to Athens. Here is one started last month AA Miles to Greece.

So how do you Expert Flyers get to Athens using AA miles?

Is a telephone and customer service award fee unavoidable?

Reader recommendations for any of these island destinations?

This will be my first trip to Greece and since award availability to the islands is much easier to find online, any reader recommendations about these islands is appreciated. Starwood has some great looking resorts like Mystique on Santorini or Blue Palace on Crete.

Greek islands with AA.com award availability bookable online:

  • Santorini (JTR)
  • Kos (KGS)
  • Mytilene (MJT) on Lesbos
  • Rhodes (RHO)
  • Chania (CHQ) on Crete
  • Heraklion (HER) on Crete
  • Kerkyra on Corfu (CFU)

Santorini looks like a fun award ticket with a 22-hour overnight layover in Vienna, Austria.

AA SFO-JTR

San Francisco to Santorini, Greece with overnight in Vienna, Austria SFO-PHL-BCN-VIE-JTR for 20,000 miles + 59.00.

*****

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California is writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler.

Loyalty Traveler shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests. Check out current hotel loyalty program offers across all the major chains in Loyalty Traveler’s monthly hotel promotions guide.

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About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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Comments

  1. YES — I have had that same problem for the last 6 months. Nada to Athens all throughout 2015. Eventually, I decided to start and end elsewhere and fly intra-Europe flights to Greece.

  2. You can try flying into Thessaloniki (SKG), which is actually my home airport right now. 🙂 From here, it is only a $30 flight down to Athens on Aegean (which is a pretty great airline). Are you headed to TBEX? I will be down there as well.
    The only issue in flying to Thessaloniki is that you have to fly into Heathrow and out of Gatwick, but it is about a 6 hour layover there. Quite a few dates with flights to SKG.

  3. This is not new and has been the case for more than a year. My solution was to use some *A miles or cash to add some Aegean flights to my awards. Also look at Vueling depending on where exactly you’re headed. Final note, US sometimes releases business awards on phl-ath a few weeks out.

  4. Corfu is great. My soon to be wife was born there and I’d say it’s one of the most underrated islands for American (Europeans seem to know it a lot better). The old town is a unesco site and they have great beaches, hiking, activities as well. Feel free to email me if you need more information…

  5. @Robert P. – Milan, Rome and Brussels are all cities where I can fly AA and get a flight to Athens for under $50. Milan is what had me looking at visiting Venice with a short train ride. I had a mistake fare ticket to Venice in summer 2003, but canceled the trip due to the heat wave when hundreds of people died.

    @Charlie – Like Athens, Thessaloniki does not show up on AA or perhaps it is a high tax BA flight, I don’t recall. I just know it was not a good option.

    @Nun – Aegean flights look like they will likely be part of my itinerary. I am actually looking at going for 16,000 miles with Aegean for Star Alliance Gold. I plan to put my Norway United flight on my Aegean account.

    @Paul – Corfu looks very interesting to me. And less than $50 for Aegean to Athens. Looking better with that airfare.

  6. I second the suggestion about Thessanoliki if you can find something…good little airport, 90 cents on the bus to downtown if a layover allows. Many flights to Athens.

  7. Santorini is great for a visit, but keep in mind after about two days there isn’t much to do outside of sitting on the beach or drinking wine. Very very pretty though.

    We grappled with the same question when we visited Greece and ultimately decided on Santorini since that fit into our schedule and then spent time driving to Olympia and Mycenae (both worth visits).

    The biggest thing to keep in mind based on your dates is hotels, or rather the lack of them. A lot of the hotels are only open seasonally on the northern islands and close around middle to end of October. I believe Crete is the exception since its more of a year round destination. Just something to keep in mind!

  8. I did Crete for a week last year. My first time, wife’s second. It was wonderful. There’s plenty to do in Heraklion. The people are great. Prices are pretty reasonable. Great culture and history. Stayed in a great city location for 65 Euros/nt with breakfast for 2. Took a day trip ferry & tour to Santorini. If you’d like, feel free to email for more information.

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