American Airlines has been pulling back sAAver level award availability for a while now. I often can’t believe how hard it is to find a simple award flight from a hub city to one of their smaller markets. Usually, availability is especially restricted for holiday travel. After all, restricting sAAver level awards during peak travel periods makes sense. Why would American let you use just a few thousand miles for a more than likely sold out flight where they can charge passengers a few hundred dollars.
Last year I specifically remember looking at booking an award flight home for Christmas. At that time, American didn’t have any saver level awards available and instead was charging 30K miles for the 1 hour flight between Chicago and St. Louis. Keep in mind you can book an economy flight between China and Chicago for 32K miles! Availability and award prices were even more insane between American Airlines hub cities. For example, I remember seeing Dallas to Los Angeles for nearly 70K AAdvantage miles. Luckily this year it seem American has decided to release saver award space for the holidays.
AAdvantage Saver Level Award Bookings
I first searched from Chicago to St. Louis for the Wednesday before Christmas. Sure enough, American is currently offering saver level award space between these two cities. A one-way economy ticket costs just 7,500 AAdvantage miles.
The amount of saver lever award space between Chicago and St. Louis really surprised me. Often one-way American flights between these two cities can cost $300+ during the holidays. I can’t believe how wide-open saver availability currently is. It’s the same story between Dallas and Indianapolis.
However, space appears a little more hard to come by when LAX is involved.
Also, space between two smaller markets proved a little more hard to come by.
Saver level award space between Chicago and Los Angeles was most unavailable surrounding the Christmas holiday weekend.
Overall, I tried a few different city parings and found similar results. Chicago, Dallas, and New York (LGA) had the most saver space available to smaller markets. Los Angeles (LAX) had the least amount of space to smaller markets. Space between hub cities was a little more difficult to come by than space between a hub and a destination.
I Booked My Flight Home With Miles
I usually hate using miles for my own flights. Using miles means I don’t earn any EQD or EQM which I often need to qualify for AAdvantage elite status. This year however, I’ve already qualified for Executive Platinum and figured why not use some miles to fly home for Christmas.
I found the flight I wanted on AA.com and then went over to British Airways to book. Yeah, you read that right, I used British Airways Avios to book my American Airlines award flight. Since both are members of the OneWorld alliance you can use points on one airline to book flights on the other. The best part is that it doesn’t matter if the flight doesn’t touch British soil.
With this booking I used 7,500 Avios which was nearly all that was left after I transferred American Express Membership Rewards points over to BA a few years back. In total the flight cost 7,500 Avios and $5.50. The tricky part about this reservation is that my BA frequent flyer account number was listed on the reservation. That meant I couldn’t pre-select main cabin extra seats nor would I have my elite benefits on the date of travel. So, I quickly went over to Finnair’s website, updated my frequent flyer number to AAdvatnage on the reservation, and the reservation showed up in my American app just a few moments later. I’ll follow up with a post on how to do this soon. Now I’ll receive my Executive Platinum benefits on a reservation on which I used British Airways Avios to book!
Using award miles to pay for a flight home during the expensive holiday travel season can be a great use of miles if the price is right. Luckily it appears American Airlines is being generous this year with regards to holiday travel. If you are planning on flying home for the holidays and don’t have a flight booked, now is the perfect time to at least check to see if saver level award flights are available to you.
In my case I used 7,500 otherwise expiring Avios to pay for a $150 flight. While this isn’t the most lucrative redemption I’ve ever made, it did allow me to use 7,500 of 8,000 Avios which expire at the end of December. I was all, but prepared to let those miles expire too which is the best part of this redemption.