Premium routes with wide open awards

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UPDATE 3/20/20: I’ve added Qatar flights from North America to the list. Business class awards are wide open in January and February 2021!  I’ve also added United flights to Israel which are wide open this summer through September.  San Francisco to Tel Aviv via United is wide open in January and Feb 2021.

One of the many weird things about life under COVID-19, for me, is that I don’t have any travel plans.  I can’t remember the last time that I’ve logged into my Delta account to see zero future flights.  Similarly, I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t at least partially consumed with planning travel.  I usually have many upcoming trips yet to be booked.  But now… nothing.

Is it time to start planning prospectively?  When will it be safe to travel again?  Summer?  Fall?  Winter?  We don’t know.  But we do know that, in most cases, flights purchased in March for later travel are changeable for free.  Should we book now in the hopes that the Coronavirus will be under control by the time we fly?  Worst case, we can cancel or re-book when the time comes.

Along these lines, I started wondering whether airlines have opened up saver-level award space on their most coveted routes?  Can we today book first class lie-flat awards to Hawaii for next winter?  How about United Polaris from Newark to Cape Town, or Delta One from Atlanta to Johannesburg?

I searched many routes from June 1 to end of schedule to see which are readily available for 2 adults in business or first class.  To reduce complexity I looked only at nonstop flights.  Sometimes airlines open up more award space to connecting flights, so this should not at all be considered a complete picture.  But it’s a start.

For the first version of this post, I’ve looked only at nonstop flights flown and operated by AA, Delta, and United.  The only reason for this was to limit the amount of work involved.  I’m hoping to expand this post over time with additional airlines and routes.

Here’s what I’ve found so far…

To Australia & New Zealand

Kangaroo Lazing in the Afternoon.  Photo by J.M. Hoffman

When searching for business and first class awards to down under, I looked October 1 and onward in order to capture the usually hard to find spring and summer travel dates.  Sadly, I came up empty.  It appears that it’s not yet time to plan our trips to down under.

Wide Open Awards

Nope

Partially Open Awards

Nope

Fuggedaboutit

On the following routes I failed to find any premium cabin saver award space as of 3/19/20:

  • Dallas to Auckland, New Zealand (AA)
  • Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand (AA)
  • Los Angeles to Melbourne (United)
  • Los Angeles to Sydney (AA, Delta, United)
  • San Francisco to Auckland, New Zealand (United)
  • San Francisco to Melbourne (United)
  • San Francisco to Sydney (United)

To Europe

Eiffel Tower, Paris

When searching for business and first class awards to Europe, I looked June 1 and onward.  In general, I found tons of business class award space in the summer (especially on Delta flights), but only modest award space in the fall and winter.  United bucked that trend a bit by offering tons of business class award space all the way to the end of schedule on nonstop routes between United hubs in the US and Star Alliance hubs in Europe.  AA’s business class award space was extremely rare on most routes I checked except for Philadelphia to London, which was wide open in the summer months.

Wide Open Awards

As of 3/19/20, the following routes were relatively wide open for 2 adults in business class (one-way):

  • Chicago to Zurich (United) June through end of schedule.
  • Detroit to Amsterdam (Delta) June through August.
  • Detroit to Frankfurt (Delta) June through August.
  • Detroit to Paris (Delta) June through August.
  • Los Angeles to Amsterdam (Delta) June through August.
  • Minneapolis to Amsterdam (Delta) June through August.
  • Minneapolis to Paris (Delta) June through August.
  • Newark to London (United) June through end of schedule.
  • Newark to Zurich (United) June through end of schedule.
  • New York (JFK) to Brussels (Delta) June through August.
  • New York (JFK) to Prague (Delta) June through August.
  • Philadelphia to London (AA) June through August.
  • Seattle to Paris (Delta) June through August.

Miles required…

  • AA:
    • 50,000 Etihad miles one-way
    • 57,500 AA miles one-way
  • Delta:
    • 50,000 Virgin Atlantic miles one-way
  • United:
    • 45,000 Turkish miles one-way
    • 88,000 ANA miles round-trip
    • 55,000 Aeroplan miles one-way
    • 60,000 United miles one-way

Partially Open Awards

Delta One flight awards between Detroit and Frankfurt are wide open in the summer and open on scattered dates in the fall and winter.
  • Atlanta to Dublin (Delta) June through August.
  • Atlanta to Zurich (Delta) June through August.
  • Detroit to Frankfurt (Delta) September through December.
  • Los Angeles to Paris (Delta) June through August.
  • San Francisco to London (United) June through end of schedule.
  • San Francisco to Zurich (United) June through end of schedule.

Fuggedaboutit

  • Dallas to Paris (AA)
  • Charlotte to Paris (AA)
  • Chicago to Paris (AA, United)
  • Newark to Paris (United)
  • Philadelphia to Madrid (AA)
  • Philadelphia to Paris (AA)
  • San Francisco to Paris (United)

To Hawaii

First class flight awards from the US mainland to Hawaii are sadly just as hard to find as ever.  I searched for nonstop business/first class awards from October onward on a number of routes, but came up almost empty.

Wide Open Awards

None.

Partially Open Awards

American Airlines shows scattered first class saver award availability from Los Angeles to Honolulu in November and December. These awards are cheaper when booked with British Airways for 38,750 Avios, or with 40,000 Alaska miles.
  • Los Angeles to Honolulu (AA) [as of 3/19/20]

Fuggedaboutit

On most routes I couldn’t find any first class award space from the US to Hawaii.  Here are the routes where I tried, but failed to find premium award space…

As of 3/19/20:

  • Chicago to Honolulu (AA, United)
  • Dallas to Honolulu (AA)
  • Dallas Kahului, Maui
  • Dallas to Kona, Big Island (AA)
  • Denver to Honolulu (United)
  • Minneapolis to Honolulu (Delta)
  • Newark to Honolulu (United)
  • Washington DC (IAD) to Honolulu (United)

To Middle East

Qatar flies from from 11 different North American airports to Doha.  Their Qsuite business class (pictured above) is available on most of these routes and is considered by many to be the best business class product in the world.

Wide Open Awards

Most Qatar routes from North America to Doha are wide open for 2 adults in business class in January and February 2021.  A few routes have open award space in preceding months as well.  Additionally, United business class to Israel is wide open from Newark, DC, and San Francisco this summer (and Jan/Feb 2021 for San Francisco).

  • To Doha, Qatar from North America…
    • January and February 2021: From Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Montreal, New York JFK, Philadelphia, Washington Dulles
    • September, October, November 2020: From Atlanta
  • Newark to Tel Aviv, Israel, June-September (United)
  • San Francisco to Tel Aviv, Israel, June-September, Jan-Feb (United)
  • Washington Dulles to Tel Aviv, Israel, June-September (United)

Miles required…

  • Qatar to Doha: 70K AA miles one-way
  • United to Tel Aviv: 75K United miles or 47K Turkish miles one-way

Partially Open Awards

  • To Doha, Qatar from North America…
    • January and February 2021: From Chicago, Los Angeles
    • September 2020: From Washington Dulles
    • September-December 2020: From Houston
    • October-December 2020: From Miami
    • June-October 2020: From Montreal
  • Newark to Tel Aviv, Israel, January-February 2021 (United)
  • San Francisco to Tel Aviv, Israel, October-December (United)

Fuggedaboutit

  • Dallas to Tel Aviv, Israel (AA)
  • New York JFK to Tel Aviv, Israel (Delta)

To South Africa

When searching for business and first class awards to South Africa, I looked October 1 and onward in order to capture the usually hard to find spring and summer travel dates.

Partially Open Awards

This is the one place where I looked for award flights with one stop in-between.  Given that Qatar flights are widely available in January and February 2021, I looked for flights from North America to Capetown, via Doha.  As you can see above, there are plenty of dates available in January 2021 that are bookable for 75,000 AA miles one-way on Qatar business class.

  • North America to Cape Town, via Doha, January and February 2021

Fuggedaboutit

On the following routes I failed to find any premium cabin saver award space for two adults (or at most I found one or two days available):

  • Atlanta to Johannesburg (Delta)
  • Newark to Cape Town (United)

Reader Input

Are there any routes that you’d like to see added to this post?  Maybe there are premium cabin awards that you’re particularly interested in?  Or different destinations?

Also, please let us know if you stumble upon routes with huge blocks of premium award space.  Thanks in advance!

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