Aug302016

Searching for cheap AAdvantage awards to Europe for December holidays

American Airlines flight maps is a website tool I find useful for international award searches. One of its features is the option to search for nonstop flights by American Airlines or AA partners from any airport. This proved to be a useful tool for award search where I was seeking available award flights to Vienna, Austria at Christmas time.

AA Flight Maps shows me Los Angeles LAX airport is the only airport in California with American Airlines operated nonstop flights to Europe with LAX-London LHR 2x daily. British Airways also flies 2x daily from LAX to London. That means the only award space available to Europe on American Airlines operate flights for any given date is dependent on award seat availability for one of the two daily flights. Otherwise an award from California to Europe requires a domestic connection. There are three other airports, San Diego SAN, San Francisco SFO and San Jose SJC with nonstop British Airways flights to London Heathrow LHR.

American Airlines Flight Maps LAX – Europe

AA Flight Maps LAX-Europe

AA Flight Maps shows me there are three airport destinations in Europe with nonstop flights: Dusseldorf DUS, Madrid MAD and London LHR.

AA Flight Maps LAX routes

  • LAX – DUS Air Berlin
  • LAX – LHR American Airlines
  • LAX – LHR British Airways
  • LAX – MAD Iberia Airlines (seasonal service ends Oct 26, 2016 in a Google Flights search)

American Airlines Flight Maps other California nonstop routes to Europe are all British Airways

  • San Francisco SFO – London LHR British Airways
  • San Jose SJC – London LHR British Airways
  • San Diego SAN – London LHR British Airways

The Problem – Avoiding British Airways $350 High Award fees by flying AA and other AA airline partners

The basic problem I had was the only AAdvantage award flight I could find from California to Vienna, Austria is via London LHR flying British Airways at 30,000 miles one way + $350 award fees for economy class or 57,500 miles + $485 for Business Class. There is only one nonstop route from LAX California to London on American-operated flights and Air Berlin to Dusseldorf is the only other option out of California.

I did not have to check too many routes for AAdvantage award space before I ran out of California options with no other option for award tickets but to book British Airways and pay $350 high fees by flying out of California.

Searching Other USA Cities for Award Flights to Europe

My objective was finding a city with American Airlines operated flights to Europe or a partner flight on Air Berlin, Finnair or Iberia. FinnAir only has two

American Airline Flight Maps shows other cities where Air Berlin flies in North America

Set the hub airport as Dusseldorf and the AA flight map shows airports in North America with nonstop flights. DUS-ORD is the only AA-operated flight. The other flights are all Air Berlin.

Air Berlin Routes Dusseldorf – USA

Air Berlin routes DUS to USA

  • Dusseldorf – Boston BOS Air Berlin service increases from 4x/week to daily next season.
  • Dusseldorf – Chicago ORD American Airlines
  • Dusseldorf – Fort Myers, Florida RSW Air Berlin
  • Dusseldorf – Los Angeles LAX Air Berlin
  • Dusseldorf – Miami MIA  Air Berlin
  • Dusseldorf – New York JFK Air Berlin
  • Dusseldorf – Orlando MCO Air Berlin service begins May 6, 2017
  • Dusseldorf – San Francisco Air Berlin service increases from 5x/week to daily next season.
  • Berlin – Chicago ORD
  • Berlin – Los Angeles LAX Air Berlin 3x weekly begins May 2017.
  • Berlin – Miami MIA
  • Berlin – New York JFK
  • Berlin – San Francisco Air Berlin 4x weekly begins May 2017.

Air Berlin announced August 3, 2016 their flights to the USA will increase from 55 weekly to 78 weekly nonstop flights from Berlin and Dusseldorf for summer season 2017. Air Berlin flies Los Angeles to Dusseldorf year round now and San Francisco seasonally ending in late October 2016. The map does not include San Francisco, but there is a Berlin TXL-SFO flight scheduled to begin service May 2017. Orlando is another destination scheduled for Air Berlin service in May 2017. Earlier this month there were articles by The Points Guy listing 2017 flight schedule additions to USA and service from Berlin coming to San Francisco. View From the Wing mentions good award availability on new routes.

Additional flights from Berlin-Tegel to the US in winter 2016/17

The route expansion to the US already starts this winter: Flights from Berlin-Tegel to Miami will double to four times a week, compared to the winter of 2015/16. With the addition of a connection on Tuesdays, there will be daily flights to New York this coming winter. airberlin will also be adding a Thursday flight to Chicago in the winter which brings the number of weekly flights to a total of five. During the winter, airberlin flies 16 times a week via Berlin to three destinations in the US: Chicago, New York and Miami.

Frequency increase from Dusseldorf to the US in winter 2016/17

airberlin will furthermore resume year-round flights to Los Angeles from Dusseldorf with five weekly flights. In total, airberlin will fly 24 times a week from Dusseldorf to four destinations in the USA: Fort Myers, Miami, New York and Los Angeles.

Air Berlin Press Release Aug 3, 2016

FinnAir routes to USA

Finnair only has three USA airport destinations at New York JFK, Miami MIA and Chicago ORD.

Iberia Routes to USA

American flies from Madrid to Charlotte CLT and Dallas DFW.

Iberia flies Madrid to Boston BOS, Los Angeles LAX and Miami MIA.

Did I find Cheap Awards to Europe for December Holidays?

Checking each of these hubs for award space showed very few AAdvantage options for holiday season December award travel to Europe.

Still, I found a few options for low cost December award travel to Europe using AAdvantage miles.

Miami MIA – Paris CDG

AAdvantage Award 30,000 miles + $5.60 one-way

MIA-CDG Dec 19 AA award

The cost to get from California to Miami and Paris to Vienna negated this award ticket for me. Great deal for the right flyer.

Fort Myers RSW – Vienna VIE

AAdvantage Award 30,000 miles + $37.60 one way

AA award RSW-VIE AB Dec 20

Here is the Air Berlin flight from Fort Myers, Florida RSW to Dusseldorf from a city I had no idea offered an AAdvantage award opportunity until today.

Another great award ticket – for the right flyer. Unfortunately for me, while Fort Myers would have been a lower overall cost for a revenue ticket plus this AAdvantage award, the overall fare difference compared to a $350 award ticket from Monterey, California to Vienna was not sufficient to send Kelley to Florida, a state she tries to avoid in her travels. Bad air travel things always seem to happen when she plans to fly to Florida.

Sometimes I Can’t See the Forest for the Trees

My objective was finding a better AAdvantage award deal than 30,000 miles + $350 to get Kelley to Europe in December. As someone who can nitpick at the details mindlessly for hours on end, I often can’t see the forest for the trees. For this Christmas season trip, I ultimately decided the prevailing goal of giving my wife a good winter vacation was more important than finding the best deal and I went for the $350 award ticket flying British Airways on the same flights as me. Just in case something happens and we are stuck somewhere in transit, at least we are stuck together.

What a concept for a couple traveling to a foreign country over the holidays!

I get lost in the deals at times and forget the ‘togetherness in travel’ concept at times. Kelley has learned to be an independent traveler. Sometimes she travels with me to a place and sometimes I send her alone. Sometimes we leave somewhere together and other times we travel different routes home. That is the way travel budgeting works at times when a different flight can translate into a $500 difference in trip cost.

Since I left her standing on a street corner in Copenhagen, Denmark without a phone or map last month as I flew off to Norway, the least I can do is not make her arrive in Vienna alone wondering if I will be there to greet her at the airport. I once did that on a trip to Prague. I was there at the PRG gate to greet her when she arrived.

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.

More articles by Ric Garrido »

Comments

  1. Interesting post, we went through the same search to get to Paris / Mallorca from LAX in November. AA availability was just brutal. We ended up taking advantage of a Air France 50%off discounted award from YVR, just 32500 one way for business class (reverse herringbone!) + $200. Then a aeroplan award on SAS from Mallorca-Stockholm-LAX…icing on the cake is having no fuel surcharges. Sure, a reposition flight is needed LAX-YVR, and a cheap Vueling flight gives us a stopover in Barcelona enroute to Mallorca.

    I totally get your “forest through the trees” comment and found that being flexible with mileage currencies is a good way to avoid getting stuck in the weeds!

  2. AA is brutal to Europe during any peak season. I did the Christmas markets last year and ended up booking United.

  3. This info is so helpful. I’m trying to book something for December and very bummed that I can’t seem to find the right flights for my spouse and me. Anyone know of a service I can pay for, like a travel agency, that will do the work to find us the best bang for our AA bucks? Or have tips? Our travel dates are firm (Dec 26, 2016-Jan 3, 2017) and I’m learning the hard way that being executive platinum isn’t as helpful as I thought it would be. We live in Austin TX and are willin to travel anywhere Zika isn’t. 🙂

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