How to fly to Europe next Spring for FREE!
Earlier this week, I wrote about American Airlines devaluing their AAdvantage miles program, here. This devaluation takes place on May 22, 2016–but you can still book award flights using their old charts until that date. This is good news because it means it is not too late to take “AAdvantage” of some of the best sweet spots on their old award chart. There is also great availability to many great European destinations. This post will show you how you can fly roundtrip to Europe next Spring for free, assuming you currently have ZERO AAdvantage miles!
AAdvantage Program Off-Peak Awards
American offers some very good deals for what is considers “off-peak” times to various destinations, including Europe from October 15 through May 15. These off-peak awards to Europe only cost 20,000 miles each way, or 40,000 round trip in economy, which is a great deal!
How to get to Europe for FREE
Step 1: Apply for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard
This American Airlines branded MasterCard is currently offering a 50,000 mile bonus for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months that you have the card. The card does have a $95 annual fee, but it is waived the first year. Assuming you apply soon and get the card by the beginning of December, this allows you to meet the minimum spending by your March statement–giving you a total of at least 53,000 AAdvantage miles (50,000 mile bonus, plus a minimum of 1 mile per $1 spend.
If you are traveling with a spouse/significant other/friend, they can apply for their own card and take advantage of the same 50,000 mile bonus.
This card also comes with a few notable benefits that increase its value including: Group 1 Boarding, First Checked Bag Free, no foreign transaction fees, and you earn 2 miles per $1 spend on any American Airlines purchases.
Note: If you apply online and for some reason do not get an immediate approval, I recommend calling the Citi Reconsideration line at (800) 695-5171. Start by politely stating that you just applied online for the Citi American Airlines Advantage Credit card and you wanted to call and see if they needed any additional information for your application. Often they will ask you a few questions to clarify something on your application then approve you. It is always worth a try.
Step 2: Complete the minimum spending requirements
Once you get your card, start by transferring all of your automatic bill payments to your new card. Use this new card exclusively to maximize your spending for dining out, shopping, groceries, bills, etc. If you spend exactly $1,000 per month over the next 3 months you will earn an additional 3,000 AAdvantage miles. However, the sooner you complete the minimum spend, the sooner the bonus miles will credit to your account.
Step 3: Book your trip
Once your bonus miles post, you will have at least 53,000 AAdvantage miles in your account. The bonus normally posts about the same day as the day your statement which you meet the minimum spending requirement closes. Log-in to your AAdvantage account online, to confirm the miles have posted then, click on “Award Travel.” It will bring you to this page:
Note that you want to ensure the “AAdvantage Award” tab is selected. Determine whether you want a round-trip, a one-way, or a multi-city award. American will allow an “open jaw,” so, as an example, you can actually fly from Philadelphia (PHL) to London Heathrow (LHR), travel via train or some other means to Barcelona for some great Spanish Tapas, and then once you have had your fill (but before May 15th, the end of the off-peak season) fly out of Barcelona (BCN) back to Philadelphia.
Once you hit “search” the website will present you with a page similar to this:
Note that everything displayed in the screenshot above is light green Economy MileSAAver, 20,000 miles per leg! Look at the great availability! Select the dates you want and hit “continue.” I prefer direct flights, so I am going to select non-stop as my preference in Number of Stops. One caution, however, especially when flying into London, you may be presented with some British Airways flight options, circled below in red (BA is a One-World Alliance partner). Unfortunately, although BA has a decent product and some nice options, they charge you very high taxes on award tickets. I recommend sticking with other flight options–in this case the first option circled below is a direct AA flight.
Select your flights, and hit continue to get your final price. In this case this example priced out to 40,000 miles, as expected and about $48 in taxes. If you have a BA leg in your itinerary, taxes can easily double or triple, especially if flying BA out of the United Kingdom (much lower taxes if you only fly BA into the UK from somewhere in Europe, then AA outbound on the international leg).
Availability to go to Europe in April and May is outstanding. Here are some examples:
Washington, D.C. to Dublin
Philadelphia to Paris
New York to Madrid
And availability around the same timeframe returning from Europe is just as good!
London to Philadelphia
Madrid to New York
Additionally, almost all of these dates have more than one award seat available! I actually just booked 3 seats to Europe and back and had no problem getting the exact dates/locations that I wanted.
What if you don’t live in an International Gateway City?
Not everyone lives in a major international gateway city. But this is not normally a problem. You can often plan your flight from your home airport to one of these major cities for your international connection and it will not cost any more miles. Sometimes you may have to do one-way searches from your city to the major airport, and then find an international flight from there. If you are having trouble with your individual search, shoot me an e-mail and I will try and help you out.
Availability for American Airlines Off-Peak Economy saver awards is EXCELLENT next Spring! Even if you currently have ZERO AAdvantage miles, you still have time to earn enough miles to fly to Europe for free next Spring (ok, you will have to pay about $50 in taxes–hopefully not a deal breaker). The credit card sign-up is free (annual fee is waived for the first year) and the flights will cost you 20,000 miles each way. Take advantage of this great deal before the AAdvantage devaluation which takes place on May 22, 2016.