Revisited: How to Book an Around the World Trip with US Airways miles

Due to a ton of comments, questions and general interest on my last few posts about my First Class award flights around the World, I’m going to re-post the below post from a couple months ago where I detailed how to book one of these de-fact around the World tickets using US Airways miles ( it’s really an award ticket from North America to North Asia with a stopover in Europe).  My round-the-world flight reviews from that ONE TICKET are here:

A couple of notes regarding this post:

  • US Airways miles can no longer be redeemed for flights on Star Alliance carriers like THAI, ANA and Air China.
  • US Airways miles can NOW be redeemed for flights on oneworld carriers like JAL, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, British Airways and American.
  • The US Airways award chart will go away during the 2nd Quarter of 2015 when the Dividend Miles program will be folded into the American Airlines AAdvantage program.  At that point, all US Airways miles will be converted into American miles, and the American Award Chart and Award rules will supersede that of US Airways.  It will be a sad day.

US Airways Dividend Miles are some of the easiest miles out there to accrue, and at least for now, the airline has a very rewarding award chart with several awesome hot spots that one can exploit to derive maximum value from their miles.

Perhaps no award on the US Airways chart has more value than the business or first class award from North America to North Asia for 110,000 miles in business class or 120,000 miles in first class.   US Airways defines “North Asia” as China, Hong Kong, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macau, Mongolia, South Korea, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.   US Airways’ liberal routing rules allow one to really exploit this award and turn it into a de-facto around the world ticket.

In this post, I will demonstrate:

  • The mechanics and details of a US Airways award ticket
  • How to book a US Airways Award ticket on oneworld partner airlines using American’s website
  • How to book a US Airways Award ticket on oneworld partner airlines using British Airways’ website
  • How to book a US Airways Award ticket on oneworld partner airlines using Qantas’s website
  • The proper way to call a US Airways and book this award

You see, on roundtrip award tickets, US Airways allows a stopover in addition to the final destination.  This stopover can be in the same North Asia region, but it doesn’t have to be.

This stopover can also be in any other oneworld hub city — including cities in Europe.  This would allow you to book a ticket to Tokyo or Hong Kong as your destination, with a stopover in a European city such as London, Madrid, Helsinki, Berlin, or really anywhere else for that matter.

booked a very similar type of ticket for my upcoming trip to Munich and Tokyo, but that was booked when US Airways was part of Star Alliance.  US Airways is now part of the oneworld alliance, and as such, those partners must be utilized.  These partner airlines include:

  • US Airways
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Iberian
  • Finnair
  • Air Berlin
  • Qatar Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • JAL
  • Malaysian Airlines
  • Sri Lankan
  • S7 Airlines
  • Qantas
  • LAN
  • TAM

Planning the Award

Let’s say you want to make Hong Kong the ultimate destination for this award, but you want to use somewhere in Europe as the stopover destination.  This means that there are three major segments that you must look for:

  • North America to Europe
  • Europe to North Asia
  • North Asia to North America

This requires one to find award space on each of these segments.  In order to do this, there are a few tools that you should use… and none of them are US Airways’ own website.  The US Airways site actually has a terrible award search engine.  It really tells you nothing.  For best accuracy and insight into searching for these oneworld award sites, you should use one of or all three of these airline websites to search for space.

  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Qantas

For purposes of putting together this mythical trip, I’ll use each site to plan a different segment.  I will focus on a FIRST CLASS award.

Searching for award space on American website

For this segment, we are looking for first class availability from North America to Europe.  The important segment on this part of the trip is the over water leg.   We are in Washington, DC and want to spend some time in Frankfurt before heading to Asia.  Though Frankfurt is not a oneworld hub, I’ve had success with US Airways approving this routing anyway.

To start the search, go American Airlines’ website and perform a search for a one way flight between Washington (DCA) and Frankfurt (FRA).  Make sure the “Redeem Miles” check box is selected before you click search.Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 10.05.46 AM

A weekly calendar of dates will appear with the six award types.  We need to find “MileSAAver” space, because that’s the space that will be bookable on other oneworld carriers with my US Airways miles.  Since I’m looking for first class seats, I’ll select “First MileSAAver.”  As you can see below, there is first class space on every day during this week in August 2015.

Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 10.03.47 AMLet’s select August 2nd and continue.

Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 10.05.25 AM

An available flight itinerary is listed for a First Class SAAver award.  Make notes of the flight details.  This is as far as we will go for this segment of the trip.

  • On August 2nd, American Airlines Flight AA2245 from Washington-National (DCA) to Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) in first class, connecting to American Airlines Flight AA70 from Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) to Frankfurt (FRA) in first class.

*Note:  I always try to avoid award flights on American or British Airways that transit London (LHR).  These flights tent to have exorbitant taxes and fees associated with them (hundreds of dollars), so I naturally avoid this whenever possible.  Unfortunately, the majority of American and oneworld partner transatlantic flights transit London, so this particular segment can be a challenge.

Searching for award space on the British Airways website

So we have the first leg.  Let’s plan on spending a few days in Frankfurt as our stopover before heading to Hong Kong for a week.  Now, one could use the method above on American’s site, but in order to walk through how to search for awards on each of these three sites, let’s use British Airways this time.

First, go to the British Airways website.

Under the “Executive Club” tab, select “Spending Avios”.Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 10.07.13 AM

On the left hand column, select “Book flights with Avios”

Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 10.07.44 AM

Let’s now perform that search.  Frankfurt (FRA) to Hong Kong (HKG) on August 7th.  One way, in first class.

Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 10.11.42 AM

A calendar tab for the selected week appears up top, along with the available flights.  As it happens, there is first class availability on the Frankfurt to Hong Kong nonstop on Cathay Pacific!

Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 10.10.25 AM

Record the flight details, and let’s move on to the next segment.

  • On August 7th, Cathay Pacific flight CX0288 from Frankfurt (FRA) to Hong Kong (HKG) in first class.

Searching for award space on the Qantas website

In order to be able to search the Qantas website for award space, one must first join their frequent flyer program.  This can be done rather quickly by clicking  the “join instantly” link below the logon screen on the right side of the page.Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 11.05.34 AM

After you join, log in and then scroll down to input your award search criteria.  Though we want to get back to Washington DC, I know that the airline with a hub in Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific) does not fly there.  Their US gateways include Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York-JFK, and Newark.   Searching the non-stop flights to a US gateway city on the Qantas site usually yields better results since the search engine doesn’t have to put together connections.

Hint:  A great resource for figuring out which cities are served nonstop from a particular airport is Wikipedia.  Simply search for your airport on Wikipedia, for example “HKG Airport Wiki.”  On the airport’s Wikepedia page, scroll down to the “airlines and destinations” section.  This section includes a relatively accurate collection of the airlines and destinations served from that city.

Let’s search for a flight from Hong Kong to New York (JFK).  Make sure to check the box next to “Flexible with dates”.

Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 10.19.04 AM

The tricky part to the Qantas search is finding your city.  One MUST check the box next to “Show Qantas & Partner Classic Award cities” on the below search screen in order to get a full list of cities.  Otherwise, only Qantas destinations will appear.
Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 10.13.20 AM

The next screen to appear is to select your travel class.  Economy is the default value.  I usually select Business and First in addition and then click “Go.”

Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 10.19.27 AM

The full award calendar for flights that month from Hong Kong to New York-JFK appears.  This is why I really like the Qantas tool — the visibility it provides.  We are searching for the Gold-ish logo. It appears to be available on August 12, 13, and 15.  Let’s check out the 15th.Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 1.10.07 PM

 

Bingo.

The second flight option has availability.  Though there is a stop in Los Angeles that will still work for us since American’s LAX-JFK first class product is fantastic.
Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 10.22.59 AM

Record the flight info and let’s move to the last small segment to get us back to Washington.

  • On August 15, Cathay Pacific Flight CX898 from Hong Kong (HKG) to Los Angeles (LAX) connecting to American Airlines flight AA12 from Los Angeles (LAX) to New York (JFK).

Getting flights for the last, short segment

Finally, we need to check availability for the final segment between New York-JFK and Washington-DCA.  We will go back and use American’s website for this.Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 10.25.02 AM

As we can see, there is decent availability in first class back to Washington from New York.Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 10.25.23 AM

Again, take note of the flight info.  The 4:55pm flight works best.

  • On August 15th, American Airlines flight AA3365 from New York-JFK to Washington National (DCA) in first class.

Note:  Out of the three above sites, American provides the least visibility into award availability, and Qantas the most with British Airways somewhere in between.  I typically use American and British Airways for domestic awards and Qantas or British Airways for international award tickets.

Calling US Airways to Book the Trip

As noted above, we now have the flight information for each of the three major segments to construct this trip.  Since we cannot book this online with US Airways because their award booking engine basically sucks, we’re going to have to give them a call.

  1. Call US Airways award reservations at 1-800-428-4322 and ask to speak to an agent.
  2. I usually tell the agent that I’d already worked with an agent to confirm space on a complex award itinerary, and I want to call back to verify the space (otherwise, they’re going to want to try to do the availability search for you — and trust me — you don’t want that).
  3. Feed the agent the flight information one segment at a time, as follows:  “On XX August, American Airlines flight AA XXX from Dallas Fort Worth to Frankfurt in first class.  And so on.
  4. For our flights, let’s feed the agent the flight information we wrote down:
    • On August 2nd, American Airlines Flight AA2245 from Washington-National (DCA) to Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) in first class, connecting to American Airlines Flight AA70 from Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) to Frankfurt (FRA) in first class.
    • On August 7th, Cathay Pacific flight CX0288 from Frankfurt (FRA) to Hong Kong (HKG) in first class.
    • On August 12, Cathay Pacific Flight CX898 from Hong Kong (HKG) to Los Angeles (LAX) in first class connecting to American Airlines flight AA12 from Los Angeles (LAX) to New York (JFK) in first class
    • On August 15th, American Airlines flight AA3365 from New York-JFK to Washington National (DCA) in first class.
  5. Wait for the agent to verify availability and try to price the award
  6. Ensure that the price is correct (it should be 110,000 miles in business class or 120,000 miles in first) with a small sum of taxes (usually $100-200, unless you’re transiting London, in which case that taxes will be much higher).
  7. If you’d like, instruct the agent to ticket the reservation.  Otherwise, US Airways allows a three-day hold on the award reservation if you ask for it — this can be useful if you need to transfer miles or top off your account to pay for the award.
  8. Confirm that the reservation tickets and note the confirmation numbers from all the partner airlines
  9. I usually ask the agent to waive the $25 phone booking fee, as this is an impossible award to book on the US Airways website, and so far I’ve been successful in having this fee removed.

And there you have it — that’s how to book an around the world first class award ticket for only 120,000 US Airways Dividend Miles!  The same techniques can be used for searching availability for any oneworld flight.

How to Earn US Airways Miles

As I mentioned earlier, US Airways Dividend Miles are some of the easiest miles to accrue for many reasons.  First, US Airways regularly offers at least 40,000 miles by signing up for its co-branded credit card.  Second, US Airways is typically very generous by offering frequent promotions that allows one to acquire US Airways miles cheaply through its 100% bonuses on buying and particularly sharing miles.  In fact, the sharing miles promotion that is typically available a couple of times per year allows one to ultimately purchase US Airways miles for about 1.1 cents apiece.  That means you could almost flat-out by requisite miles for a first class trip around the world for only about $1400!  You really can’t beat that sort of value!

11 Thoughts on “Revisited: How to Book an Around the World Trip with US Airways miles

  1. Great post thanks. Have you ever or heard of someone doing the opposite? North Asia to N America? I’m thinking it’s the same booking process etc.

  2. Thanks for the informative post.

    Can I do North America to Asia and use the Europe stopover on the flight back?

  3. Since I am from north africa, I am planning to take a trip with my mother using us airways miles.
    the award chart is amazing for trips within affrica. tunisia to berlin(stopover there) to doa to cape town in qatar business class for 50000 miles roundtrip !

  4. Thank you for clearing up the Gateway City for me. I wasn’t sure what that meant. Sad how you have to fly west to go east on the very 1st leg, which can be a killer for those of us with limited PTO. I guess you just have to plan for it.

  5. Jacob C. on November 22, 2014 at 11:06 am said:

    Hi Sean,
    Do you think I could book tickets operated by Dragin air (one world affiliate and Cathay pacific’s codeshare) to get to my final destination in Beijing as part of the award?

    Thank you for such an informative post!

    • Jacob, typically yes — you should be able to use Dragonair for award flights as it is an affiliate member of oneworld through Cathay Pacific.

      Also, sorry for the late response — I’ve been traveling and never go the notification for this comment!

  6. Hi Sean, your blog stood out from other major ones since it explains so well on how to book trips like this. No skipping steps which usually makes me spend a couple of hours on trying to figure things out. Thank you! I’m trying to use my 100k skymiles to book a trip from Boston to Sydney with a stopover in PPT and a layover in Auckland before the end of the year. This will be my first award trip ever! Any insights?? Tks again!

    • Thanks for your kind words. For your award, it’s a toughie — but doable. Honestly, I could write an entire post on this, but sadly it’ll be out of date after 1/1/15. Anyways, here’s what I’d suggest:

      First find award availability for the long segments:

      1. Verify award availability for LAX-PPT on Air France or Air Tahiti Nui using http://www.expertflyer.com — you may need to get a subscription to search this space. Another option for Air France is to use its website (FlyingBlue), but you can knock out award search easily on Expert Flyer by looking for a coach award on the LAX-PPT route.
      2. Verify award availability for SYD-LAX on Delta or Virgin Australia using the Delta website

      Then the shorter segments:
      3. Verify award availability for PPT-AKL on Air Tahiti Nui on Expert Flyer
      4. Verify award availability for AKL-SYD on Air Tahiti Nui on Expert Flyer or on Virgin Australia on the Delta website.

      (Better yet, combine steps 3 and 4 by verifying award availability for PPT-AKL-SYD, all on Air Tahiti Nui. That will provide for a short stop in AKL on the same airplane).

      Finally, the domestic US segments
      5. Finally, verify DL award availability for BOS-LAX and LAX-BOS on Delta via its website

      Then, the hard part — calling Delta and getting the award issued. Use the same basic tips I gave in this post — note the dates, cities, airline, flight number, times and class for the agent and feed them to him/her one-by-one. This can be a very frustrating experience, but stand your ground if you find the award space. It may take a few calls, but if you found specific award flights for steps 1-5 above, it should be doable (as long as your layover in AKL is less than 23:59).

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