There are certain occasions when using frequent flier miles for travel can be invaluable. Travelling at the last minute can often be a very good use of them, as close to departure, airlines will generally only make their most expensive fares available for sale. This is to extract the most amount of money from businesses that need to travel a short notice. However, if flights aren’t too busy, they often make seats available when redeeming your frequent flier miles.
Recently, the US based airlines in particular have started managing the release of award seats in a way that much more closely resembles cash bookings.
For example, I wrote about American Airlines using “married segments” on award bookings. For example LHR-DFW might not be available, nor might DFW-LFT, but if you want to book LHR-DFW-LFT, then that is available.
The British Airways website for example isn’t able to cope with this married segment logic, so if you’re looking to use your miles to head over the US, then it may be best to check on the American Airlines first for the end to end itinerary, rather than rely on BA.com.
Recently however, there have been reports of American Airlines limiting close in availability on trans-Atlantic flights in economy.
It appears that on most routes, you can’t see the cheapest seats available within two weeks of departure. Take a look at PHL-LHR. There’s plentiful availability for the second half of October, but nothing within a fortnight of today.
On the JFK-LHR route, they appear to be restricting availability to a week out, as opposed to two weeks.
Thankfully, British Airways revenue management haven’t implemented the same policies – I can fly this evening from Philadelphia back to London.
That flight would normally cost $2500 so it’s very good value.
However this is where things get very strange. Here’s the AA.com display for economy class flights this evening on the JFK-LHR route. As you can see, you can only use the full priced 65K miles redemptions for economy class.
However moseying over to BA.com it appears that the exact same flights are available using Avios for only 20K, plus the fuel surcharge.
This is odd. Very odd.
I’ve not tried to book one of these flights, but it could either be a BA.com bug and these flights aren’t actually bookable, or it could be an AA.com bug and for some reason they are actually available at the lower rate.
There’s also a third possibility in that British Airways gives Gold members an extra benefit of being able to book economy class award seats into “V” class, which is a standard revenue booking class. It could be that this benefit is also being applied to American Airlines flights that come under the trans-Atlantic joint business.
Having checked, all of these flights do have “V” class available.
Either way, it’s curious.