While working on the Last Chance Deals post last night, I was checking if a past deal was still available when I noticed something interesting.
I was checking availability from IAD-MAD on American Airlines’ website when I spotted something in the corner of the search results – Economy Web Specials. Clicking on that tab displayed results as low as 16,500 miles which was surprising as it wasn’t a search during off-peak dates – there was availability at this rate for more than two weeks in July.
When clicking through, the results were a bit of a bust. There was only one routing the particular day I’d selected and it was an absurd routing – I think it was Washington Dulles > Knoxville > Charlotte > Madrid.
When checking again today, there was a better option. There was no availability at the 16.5k level from Dulles, but there was from Reagan with a long layover in Dallas. That’s a ridiculously long travel time considering it’s traveling from the east coast to Europe, but if you’re swimming in AAdvantage miles and aren’t in a particular hurry, it might make sense.
Curious as to whether Economy Web Specials were only available on that particular routing, I checked some different originating and destination airports. We’re heading to Europe with some friends next year and they live in Portland. We’ll be out on the west coast at that point too, so I did a search from Portland to London.
Sure enough, there were Economy Web Specials available at the 16.5k level nearly every day in July…
…and it was a much better routing than the DCA-MAD one above – even better than the 36.5k and 44k levels. Notably, the flights were on American Airlines metal rather than British Airways, so no huge surcharges.
The next random search was between New York and Zurich and that had a reasonable amount of 16.5k availability too.
One thing to note is that there aren’t Economy Web Specials between every US city and every European city. For example, I checked Dallas to Copenhagen in case any Texans wanted to go troll hunting; that only offered regular Economy MileSAAver awards though.
But It’s Not Quite What It Seems
I’d done all these searches as round trips and was excited that you could book round trip Economy Web Specials from the west coast to Europe for only 33,000 AAdvantage miles.
Except you can’t.
What I’d initially missed on all the searches I’d done is that there weren’t any true Economy Web Specials available for the return leg. For example, London to Portland looked like this:
With the lowest available cost being 36k miles, that wasn’t very special. What was – sort of – more special than the Web Specials were the regular Economy MileSAAver awards. Availability wasn’t great, but 30k is better than 36k. That means you can still book a round trip for 46.5k which is good, but not as good as the 33k I’d thought was possible.
16.5k One Way? No Way.
OK, so why not book a 16.5k one-way award and find a return leg on a different airline for less than 30k? Because that doesn’t seem to be possible.
American Airlines appears to have copied Delta with regards to this. It’s often possible to use fewer SkyMiles booking a round trip overseas than it is to book two one-ways. For example, we flew with Delta to Europe last year and it only cost something like 34k SkyMiles. If we’d booked those flights as two one-ways, we were looking at closer to 45k SkyMiles.
When changing my searches on aa.com from round trip to one way, 16.5k awards disappeared and 20k awards took their place. Again, that’s a decent rate from the west – and east – coast to Europe, but not quite as good as 16.5k.
If you’re planning a trip to Europe and are happy flying in economy, be sure to check American Airlines as you might find some cheaper awards using Economy Web Specials. I didn’t have any luck finding any good Economy Web Specials for the return leg, but I also didn’t check every possible city pairing, nor every single date over the next year.
It might therefore be possible to find an elusive 33k round trip award using AAdvantage miles which would be great value, especially if it helps you avoid flying on British Airways with their high surcharges.