Over the weekend I booked AAdvantage award tickets for travel to London during Thanksgiving week and purchased American Airline revenue tickets from Stockholm ARN to San Francisco.
Award tickets from Monterey, California MRY to London LHR were 20,000 AAdvantage miles + $5.60 taxes and fees. The return ticket to California was much more challenging to visualize. Eventually, I decided to book a round trip ticket from Stockholm ARN to San Francisco for $500 with flights to California at the end of Thanksgiving week. The significance of the round trip ticket flying Stockholm ARN-SFO originating in Europe is our return flights from San Francisco to Stockholm are set for mid-July 2016. I plan to attend the TBEX Europe 2016 Stockholm conference July 14-16 in Sweden.
My $500 ARN-SFO round trip ticket gets me home to California after Thanksgiving on the date I need to return and I can fly back to Stockholm in mid-July when SFO-ARN round trip ticket prices are likely to be over $1,000. I only need to book a one-way flight from Europe back to California at either 30,000 miles for Economy or 50,000 miles for Business Class.
Knowing when to pounce on the mouse is a combination of finding a good fare and having the experience and data to know when you have found a good fare.
aa.com observations booking paid and award tickets
I have been studying American Airlines flight availability much of these past two weeks for award travel between California and Europe. Last week, I wrote about a scheme for flying between Sweden and California to rack up redeemable and elite status miles on inexpensive American Airlines tickets.
Hundreds of searches on aa.com revealed several features important to be aware of when searching for award and paid tickets.
1. AAdvantage award availability is in constant flux. There are periods, sometimes days, when only awards with British Airways transatlantic flights are available.
Award availability changed on most days this past week when searching for award travel through Thanksgiving week. Most departures from California airports to European airports for economy and business class were blacked out at MileSAAver levels for Friday November 20 and Saturday November 21. Some airports blacked out more days around the weekend. Sunday, November 22 departures from California on several days only offered British Airways flights for the transatlantic flight segment, meaning an extra $250 to $350 in taxes and fees on an award ticket.
I jumped on one-way award tickets flying American Airlines operated flights from Monterey to London LHR at 20,000 miles + $5.60 when I saw award availability on Saturday, after they had been scarce the previous couple of days. On several days this past week, the only itineraries offered for the dates I needed to fly were British Airways transatlantic flights with one-way award taxes over $200 per ticket.
2. AAdvantage paid flights eligible for transatlantic systemwide upgrade sometimes price higher than flights without systemwide upgrade availability.
I noticed during some searches for revenue tickets from Stockholm ARN to San Francisco SFO that all itineraries shown on aa.com with Systemwide Upgrade availability for American Airlines operated flights on the transatlantic segment were priced $135 more than itineraries offering flight segments without Systemwide Upgrade availability on the transatlantic flight segment.
I have 8 SWU certificates for economy class to business class upgrade as an AAdvantage Executive Platinum member.
3. Google flights showed different routings with lower fares available for itineraries from Stockholm ARN to San Francisco SFO. Google Flights itineraries originating in Sweden linked to American Airlines Sweden website for booking tickets. The same itinerary was priced 27% more when searched on the aa.com USA site.
On the day I purchased round trip tickets for ARN-SFO for $500 each on the American Airlines Sweden website, the same flight itinerary on aa.com USA website was priced at $635 round trip, a price difference 27% more.
The flight itinerary shown on Google Flights for American Airlines tickets ARN-SFO offered this same two-segment ARN-LHR-SFO itinerary with 2:10pm arrival in SFO on the date I needed for $500 all-in per ticket when booking through the American Airlines Sweden website.
I purchased two tickets with the same itinerary seen above on the Swedish website for American Airlines and paid 4,257 SEK per ticket or $1,000.41 USD for two tickets.
I saved 27% on the ticket price booking via the Google Flights link to American Airlines Sweden compared to the fare found for the same itinerary on aa.com USA site.