Thailand Trip Report, Post 1: Using Miles to Book Flights on American Airlines

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This is my first post in a series where I will be describing my 17 day vacation to Thailand this December. I recently asked my readers to help me plan my trip and received some great recommendations, so thank you everyone! I had many people comment or email me asking me how I went about redeeming miles for my free flights. Since a round-trip flight to Thailand over the Christmas/New Years time can run about $1,800/passenger, using miles was a great redemption ratio.

Since I have been a loyal American Airlines flyer, the bulk of my miles are with the AAdvantage program and thus are redeemable for any OneWorld Alliance. For Thailand, you have two options when redeeming with American:

  1. AA/Japan Airlines (JAL) to Tokyo then Japan Airlines (JAL) from Tokyo to Bangkok
  2. Cathay Pacific to Bangkok with a layover in Hong Kong.
    • If you are going to the Southern Beaches in Thailand you can also see if there is availability straight to Phuket from Hong Kong. This will eliminate having to go through Bangkok and get you to your arrival destination quicker. However, this route has limited availability, so will probably be very tough to redeem with miles.

The annoying part about finding award availability with American partners is that the American portal only shows available redemption opportunities for flights that are AA metal. Therefore, no code share partners are displayed, giving you one of two options:

  1. Call American and speak to a representative asking for availability. Prior to calling, make sure you have looked up all possible flight options from your home destination and understand that you can go Cathay Pacific through Hong Kong and Japan Airlines through Tokyo. Many times, a representative will ONLY look up Cathay Pacific, tell you there is no availability and that is that. You must ask if they have looked up Japan Airlines as well and push them to do so. If you are willing to drive to a nearby city, have them check availability in surrounding areas as well. Typically the representatives will just enter the two city pairs into the city and if nothing comes back they neglect to look into other options. Some representatives are better than others, but make sure you do your research prior. Also, since you are forced to book your flight through an American representative you will have to  pay the $25 booking fee per passenger. I have tried to have them waive this on numerous occasions explaining that there are no options to do this without going through a representative, but they do not really seem to care.
  2. View award availability using the Qantas Airlines portal. You will first need to create a Qantas account which is free for all residents outside of Australia and New Zealand. After creating the account, you can check for partner award availability here. For flights to Southeast Asia, Qantas will not display available flights on Japan Airways. Although Qantas will show available flights with British Airways (via London), Qantas (via Sydney), and Finnair (via Finland), remember that American will only allow you to redeem on Cathay and Japan Airlines. Once you find available flights, you will still need to call American and have them book your flights as you are not able to do this through the Qantas portal. Also, if you do not see anything available online, make sure to still call to see if they can find anything else (reports are that Qantas is not always 100% accurate) and to check on Japan Airlines availability.

To check availability on Qantas:

  •  Check the Qantas & Partner Classic Award button. Enter your departing and arrival city along with the desired dates. If your dates are flexible, make sure to check the corresponding checkbox.
  • A calendar view will appear giving you all available dates for each travel class. Remember though, even if your date is available in this view, you will still need to go into the details as it might only be a British Airways, Qantas, or Finnair option.

  • View the details of the flight and if there is a Cathay Pacific flight listed, you should be good to go.

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Comments

  1. great walkthrough on booking partner awards with AAdvantage miles. With this process and ba.com letting you see LAN and AA sAAver awards oneworld has good online award inventory resources. I have tons of AA miles from the 75k offers and will need this info. Did you book 1st class?

    • @ The Travel Abstract – I booked economy unfortunately. I am flying during the Christmas/New Years time so had limited options. I had to call many times just to get an coach seat. I did fly business class last year to Vietnam on Cathay and it was a great flight.

  2. can you share why do you have to call many time to get an economy seat even though it shows availability on the Qantas search?

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