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A few weeks ago I shared my disappointment with where the American Airlines AAdvantage program currently ranks among similar frequent flyer programs. Delta used to be the program that many mocked by calling their SkyMiles SkyPesos, but American has taken over my unofficial bottom slot as being the most difficult program in which to find logical saver award space tickets.
I gave examples of some pretty standard hub to hub routes where there just were virtually no saver awards for a month at a time, and when there was a saver award, it involved three flights to go 1,000 miles at an off-peak time. It’s a little nuts. Based on the comments in that post most of you guys feel exactly the same way.
However, even a broken clock is right twice a day, and a program that doesn’t generally have fantastic award space at the moment can come sometimes through for you when no one else can. In other words, never give up, and certainly never just dump your miles and write off a program all together.
I’ve been putting a bunch of time and energy into planning a family ski trip next holiday season to Whistler. I’ve had the hotel locked in on points for a while now, but the window to book award flights just opened in the last few weeks. Not surprisingly, getting award flights for four on a holiday week proved to be the hardest part of the whole equation. I was able to get saver award flights to Vancouver on the outbound by a stroke of luck + potential ‘trick’ I will share later, but getting flights home was just not going well.
I had secured some standard rate awards on United (25k miles each instead of the preferred 12.5k saver level) just before my elite status dropped, so at least I could get the “free” E+ seats on the reservation. However, at double the saver award price I wasn’t really excited about spending 100,000 United miles plus about $200 in taxes/fees just to fly our family of four home from Vancouver. That was my back-up plan, but I hoped to be able to come up with something better between now and next winter.
I still haven’t been able to find anything better home from Vancouver, but to my utter shock I did find four American saver award seats on a logical itinerary at a good time coming home from Seattle. Gasp. Of course, Seattle is not Vancouver, but that part may work out just fine.
Being able to spend a total of just 50,000 American miles + $20 in taxes/fees instead of 100,000 United miles + $200 in taxes/fees makes me much happier, even if the airport is a bit further than where we want to be in Whistler. Truthfully, I see tacking on a day in Seattle as anywhere from neutral to a perk.
The whole thing actually gets even better than that. Thanks to my newly matched Alaska MVP Gold 75K status I get free Main Cabin Extra seat assignments on American operated flights. I got a little help from American on Twitter to swap out my American AAdvantage number for my Alaska number in the reservation and voila, I was able to select extra legroom seats for all four of us at no extra charge.
If this all works out, getting back 100,000 United miles and $200 in exchange for 50,000 American miles and $20 sounds pretty solid to me. Since I recently posted about how much trouble I was having using my AAdvantage miles at the saver level, I wanted to also share this success story to encourage you to keep trying even if you are also not having much luck finding the flights you are after.
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.