Kayak Direct Flights to find frequent flyer awards

One of the issues with my summer travel plans was no ticket home from Europe. Finding economy saver award availability using AAdvantage miles is tough in summer season until award seats open up in mid-August.

Current prices are $1,400 to $1,500 for two tickets to California on dates I want to fly. My usual strategy of flying Europe-California round trip tickets for cheaper overall ticket prices has failed to be cheaper so far for summer 2018. There have been far more summer low fare tickets flying USA to Europe than Europe to USA.

Today, I went into a deep dive of American Airlines miles tickets using Kayak Direct Flights to check cities I had not looked at yet in a search for AAdvantage award seats. Kayak Direct Flights helped.

Kayak Direct Flights is a tool that can assist finding frequent flyer award tickets with any airline program by learning which airlines and their partner airlines fly between which airports on nonstop routes.

Using Kayak Direct Flights to find miles award flights

I played around with Kayak Direct Flights today to determine if there might be some city I had not thought of checking for reward flights back to California in July 2018 using AAdvantage miles.

The main problem with award flights from Europe to California with AAdvantage miles is most options route through London via British Airways and those tickets have high fees.

London Heathrow LHR – San Diego SAN (overnight) – San Francisco SFO 

Sunday July 8:   30,000 AAdvantage miles + $361.21 one way award

Business Class award travel via London is even pricier. And a change of London airports is a deal-breaker.

Rome FCO – London LHR / London LGW – Oakland OAK

Wed Jul 10:   57,500 miles + $404.01 one way award.

Cheap flights between many city-pairs around Europe offers an opportunity to get to an airport with economy or business saver award availability. And possibly routing via countries and airline partners with lower taxes and fees.

Kayak Direct Flights can assist this search on international itineraries. If the obstacle is the trans-Atlantic part of the itinerary, then finding cities with nonstop flights between Europe and USA is the place to start.

Philadelphia is American Airlines largest hub for AA-operated flights to Europe. 

Kayak Direct Flights shows 18 American Airlines routes between PHL and European cities in July 2018.

Kayak Nonstop Flights July 2018 shows 18 American Airlines routes.

There are 18 potential routes From European cities to Philadelphia to check for award availability. London, Rome, Frankfurt, Munich, Barcelona, Madrid and Paris are commonly known routes.

Some of these places American Airlines flies are ones I did not necessarily know.

Shannon SNN, Glasgow, GLA, Manchester MAN, Prague PRG and Budapest BUD are places I would not have thought to check initially for AA operated flights.

Once availability is found on one of the major routes, then check for your desired destination beyond Philadelphia to reach home.

That search led me to a reward ticket in quick time due to Shannon, Ireland, as the closest European city to the USA, being the top of the 18 cities list on Kayak Direct Flights page for Philadelphia-Europe routes.

Shannon, Ireland SNN – Philadelphia PHL – Austin AUS (overnight) – San Francisco SFO

Tue July 17  30,000 miles +$54.71 one way AAdvantage economy saver award.

London to SFO on July 8 is 30,000 AAdvantage miles + $361.21 for a one way award.

Shannon, Ireland to SFO on July 17 is 30,000 AAdvantage miles + $54.71 for a one way award.

The price difference can be worth the flight to a different city and the cost of a hotel to reduce frequent flyer award fees.

London Stansted STN to Shannon is as low as $35 one way on Ryanair July 16. Park Inn Shannon Airport is 28,000 Radisson Rewards points per night.

This AAdvantage award flight does not work for my travels, but it is a good alternative to booking tickets from London or award flights transiting through London.

Kayak Direct Flights tool can be used to check any airport for any airline nonstop flights and potential partner airline flights when that frequent flyer award ticket search is proving elusive.


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 in 2008.

More articles by Ric Garrido »


  1. I don’t routinely comment on the BoardingArea blogs, but as a West Coast reader I appreciate your posts, Ric. Flying between the West Coast and Europe has unique challenges, and you are very helpful in addressing those challenges, in addition to alerting us to the value we can obtain from a wide range of hotel programs.
    One question: If you are flying between Europe and the West Coast, can’t you find cheap flights on Norwegian and Iberia/Level? They seem to have fierce competition on the BCN-OAK route. Norwegian flies the route 3 days a week, Iberia/Level flies 7 days a week, I believe. I’ve seen flights for as little as $250 from BCN to OAK, or around $350 with seat selection, checked bag and food.
    While Chase Ultimate Rewards online booking does not allow purchase with points of flights on Norwegian Air, I have seen Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal show tickets on Iberia/Level at $350. With points worth 1.25 cents each, this results in a completely free flight for just 28,000 Ultimate Reward points.

  2. @DWG – Norwegian, WOW and Level tend to be high priced $400+ for one-way travel in July to mid-August.

    @Matthew – Please elaborate. I don’t get your comment.

  3. After writing this piece I found two award tickets from a couple of cities in Europe connecting to an Iberia nonstop MAD-SFO for 30,000 miles + $131 in tax and fees.

    Still holding out for my preferred tickets, which are paid round trip tickets from Europe to San Francisco or San Jose with a return flight in late December for less than $560 each.

    Hope I don’t regret letting those Madrid flights pass me by. Gone this morning.

  4. I didn’t realize Kayak had this functionality. I have used a variety of tools to accomplish this over the years, some are more accurate than others. Just played around with it for a few minutes. I wish the kayak map function that goes hand in hand with this had some additional functionality:

    1. Ability to remove the $$$ price boxes and just see airport codes that have direct flights
    2. For both the List and Map view it would be useful if we could limit the results to certain geographic areas…i.e. plug in your home airport and then see all direct flights to Europe or all direct flights to Asia, etc.

Comments are closed.