British Airways flights have traditionally been one of the harder products to redeem for. Not because of their lack of availability or program restrictions but because they were just so darn expensive. It didn’t matter if you were using British Airways Avios or American Airlines AAdvantage miles, it was never cheap to redeem for premium cabin award space on British Airways flights. In addition to the miles needed, fuel surcharges and London departure taxes alone would jack the price of any first class, roundtrip redemption to over $1,000 in taxes and fees.
But there’s something about British Airways that I am absolutely in love with. I don’t know what it is and I can’t quite put my finger on it. They just exude this grandeur and English charm that makes me swoon like a little schoolgirl. From their luxurious Concorde Room and arrivals lounge to their fancy first class pajamas, British Airways commands an elegance that should be experienced at least once in a lifetime.
If you guys have been reading the blogs, then you know that US Airways recently joined the oneworld alliance and you can now book British Airways (and other oneworld partner flights) using US Airways Dividend miles. But if you have been reading Matthew’s blog, then you know that US Airways has not been charging fuel surcharges on those redemptions. That’s right. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. And it wasn’t just British Airways fuel surcharges, they weren’t adding fuel surcharges for any partner airlines at all!
Needless to say, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to finally book a British Airways flight. And FYI, if you want to jump on this deal also, I would recommend doing it right now. US Airways has sent out a memo to all their phone agents advising them to add the fuel surcharges but apparently not everyone has gotten the memo yet. Some agents are still letting people slide by without the added surcharges. But I would imagine this won’t last long.
If you’re looking to book a trip, here are the US Airways award routing rules to keep in mind:
- You’re only allowed one stopover OR one open jaw, not both.
- Your stopover must be in a oneworld hub city.
That’s it. Those are the only rules. Everything else is fair game. Well, sort of. . .
Everything else is fair game in the sense that if a phone agent will let you book it, then you can. US Airways doesn’t publish their award routing rules and I’m not sure anyone really knows what those rules are. I’m pretty sure the phone agents just make up their own rules and some are more lax than others. So my recommendation, plan out several itineraries, call US Airways and see what sticks. And if you can’t get anything to stick, hang up and call again. For this booking, I actually had to hang up and call back four times.
By far, US Airways’ best redemption is their roundtrip award from the US to North Asia in first class for 120,000 miles. This award lets you start in the US and end in North Asia (China, Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea). The great thing about US Airways awards is that it just tells you where to start and where to end, it doesn’t say anything on how you have to get there. It certainly doesn’t make you take the most direct route and you can basically go whichever way you want. Want to go by way of Europe? Sure. Want to transit through the Middle East, South Asia or even Australia? Find the right agent and you can do whatever you want.
And I did just that. I sat down on British Airways’ website, searched my itinerary segment by segment and pieced together a pretty awesome itinerary.
- Los Angeles to New York: American Airlines A321 first class.
- New York to London: British Airways 747 first class.
- London to Dusseldorf: British Airways A319 business class.
- Dusseldorf to London: British Airways A319 business class.
- London to Dubai: Qantas A380 first class.
- Dubai to Hong Kong: Cathay Pacific A330 business class.
- Hong Kong to Beijing: Cathay Pacific A330 business class.
- Beijing to Tokyo Narita: Japan Airlines 767 business class.
- Tokyo Narita to Los Angeles: Japan Airlines first class.
But wait, did you guys catch that? That’s right. Somehow I managed to get TWO stopovers on my trip. The first stopover in Dusseldorf is for four days and the second stopover in Hong Kong is for two days. And that’s not including my destination in Beijing for five days.
Yeah, I don’t know how that happened either. Actually, I know how it happened. When I was going through my dates with the phone agent, I was switching back and forth between two itineraries and when the agent booked my trip, I think we both got confused and booked the wrong date. It turned out in my favor because I wanted to hang out in Hong Kong for a bit. Not wanting her to catch the mistake, I just let it go and gave her my credit card number.
After it was all settled, my trip cost me 125,000 miles, $239.98 in taxes/fees and $50.00 award processing fee.
But wait again, you thought I said a first class award to North Asia was only 120,000 miles? How did it go up by 5,000 miles? Well, it looked like she charged me for the first class rate to Europe and not North Asia but I was so happy with this itinerary that I just booked it right away. I didn’t want to give her a second chance to review it another time and risk her catching some mistake she made. Either way, it was worth it for me and I didn’t correct her.
And here’s another tip about booking US Airways awards. If you find something that you like, book it right away. They allow you to place awards on hold but the next time you call in, that agent is supposed to double check and re-price your award, thus risk losing your award. And because they do everything manually, all the taxes and fees have to be calculated by the rates desk. This can take up to 20 minutes so don’t worry if it’s taking a long time.
So what do you guys think? How did I do? What would you guys have done differently?