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The following post was composed by a friend of mine, Otto, who has been in the points and miles world for about six years. He's crazy obsessive when he sets his mind to something, and I wanted to share the results of some recent research he completed.
Since the formal integration of US Airways and American Airlines, securing a Business MileSAAver award to Europe has been an increasingly difficult task. Add the subsequent loyalty program devaluations and its a double whammy. I am a serial planner. I rely on the predictability and dependability of award ticket release schedules. Of course, “predictability” and “dependability” are more of the exception than the rule these days.
In the past, I rarely had any issues finding award space on nearly every transatlantic (TATL) route when they were released at 331 days out. For US Airways, I would call in at midnight eastern time and make the reservation over the phone (they would not be available online until 3 am Eastern since the reservation systems were based on the West Coast and released at midnight Pacific time). Those were the good ole days, I suppose.
My wife and I will be celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary in Florence and Barcelona next May. For the past few months, I've been searching diligently in an attempt to figure out a pattern to their TATL release schedule, route availability, and various other aspects of being able to secure our seats and hopefully provide my wife with an anniversary trip for the books. After a while, I started recognizing a pattern to the release schedule where availability opened up around 10 months out (roughly 297 days). It seems like AA's revenue department allows roughly five weeks for paid reservations before releasing the first seats to the award pool.
With the initial release schedule pattern established, my next focus was to identify the routes with availability in that release cycle. Unfortunately, routes that were almost always reliably available during the initial release cycle, such as Rome (FCO) and Athens (ATH), no longer appear to be an option. This is not a hard rule or an official AA policy, of course, but I would focus on the following airports when searching AA.com for flights departing the United States for Europe.
It is worth noting that some these routes are seasonal. These did not appear earlier in the year and likely won't appear later in the year after the summer seasonal routes come to a close.
Destinations with multiple seats available:
- Barcelona (BCN)
- Brussels (BRU)
- Dublin (DUB)
- Dusseldorf (DUS)
- London (LHR)
- Manchester (MAN)
- Paris (CDG)
- Venice (VCE)
- Zurich (ZRH)
Destinations with only one seat available:
- Amsterdam (AMS)
- Birmingham (BHX)
- Frankfurt (FRA)
- Glasgow (GLA)
- Shannon (SNN)
Destinations with no sAAver availability:
- Athens (ATH)
- Edinburgh (EDI)
- Lisbon (LIS)
- Madrid (MAD)
- Milan (MXP)
- Munich (MUC)
- Rome (FCO)
Remember, these routes represent the research he did in looking for sAAver flights for two. Larger groups bring on an additional challenge and of course his experience might not match yours. Search from American's hubs in the U.S. to these destinations. All that said, as a data point, if you were looking to redeem TATL flights I'd start with where he was successful — it would likely save you a few hours of research and a bit of heartache. Please share any results you have with your searches.
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