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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shaun
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shaun

The ORD-HNL/OGG for the summer on AA has some pretty good rates. I have on hold for July ORD-HNL on AA at 65k o/w in F while using their dynamic calendar. This is actually cheaper than the normal saver rate as it’s lie flat which is usually saver+20k i think. I also looked at OGG thru DFW and saw between 70k 75k o/w.

It’s obviously not as cheap as it could be. But considering normal rates on the lie flats to Hawaii are 145k it’s a decent option.

Troy
Guest
Troy

Qsuites US to Doha

Nick Reyes
Editor

That’ll be in version 2.0. This post was just a look at AA, Delta, and United metal.

Skaner
Guest
Skaner

AA has web specials to/from Europe this summer. Just booked MUC-PHL for 50k.

A C
Guest
A C

yea but web specials can’t be changed or cancelled at all. current covid19 waivers dont even apply to any aa award flight let along web special. if my trip gets cancelled (going for an event), then i can’t even pay to redeposit my miles if i wanted to. doesn’t seem like a good idea until AA has a waiver policy for award flights. right now only cash flights qualify for their waiver.

someone please correct me if i’m wrong.

Christine
Guest
Christine

Web specials can be canceled and the miles redeposited for a fee. From AA website:”Tickets that include a Web Special award don’t allow changes, and – while you can cancel and reinstate your miles – fees may apply. Reinstatement fees are waived for Executive Platinum members.” Fees are $150 for first ticket, then $25 for additional tickets on that reservation.

Skaner
Guest
Skaner

Multiple reports on FT that web specials are also covered under their policy and fees are being waived. Classic case of HUCA possibly.

A C
Guest
A C

oh right. they can be redeposited just for a fee. i guess thats same as any AA award flight at the moment. no free redeposit, similar to UA. Delta on the other hand does allow for free redeposit of miles so no risk to book

YoniPDX
Guest
YoniPDX

@Greg

You have horrible timing, I could have used this article three days ago – before I did basically the same seaches for award space to the Southern Hemisphere. Hahaha

That said – when the COVID19 tide turns – it could be completely different than post 9/11 or the great recession. I was headed to PDX for a flight on 9/11 – I ended up flying a week later as soon as flying resumed – but I had to share the whole plane with one other passenger.

Best case scenario – we’re on the road to recovery by 4.15.2020 or sooner -my personal expectation – is that we will have plateaued. As exponential growth requires a steady flow of new people to infect – this is my optimistic outlook. We may need a new playbook for award flying – capacity will likely be slow to return and do so in a conservative manner as wide bodies will likely remain parked or remain serving domestically rather than resuming long haul international routes.

Joey
Guest
Joey

I was looking at Delta awards on Virgin Australia metal earlier this week and found wide availability on VA business class on MEL-LAX, BNE-LAX, and SYD-LAX up to end of April!!!! However, obviously all that has changed since the reduction in flights.

Parts Unknown
Guest
Parts Unknown

While I hope you are right & I am proven completely wrong, I think it’s prudent to expect a much longer timeline than the middle of April. People aren’t really understanding the fundamental change to way of life that will be required for at least the next year, if not longer. The modeling being done suggests social distancing will need to be the norm for the foreseeable future (at least a year, probably longer), which obviously affects everything travel related. Conservative estimates are of 100,000-200,000 dead in the U.S. alone over the next 18 months, and many times that with significant, long term respiratory issues. The media likes to focus on the number of dead- the number of long term debilitating cases of lung disease will be much, much higher.
We can hope that things turn out better than the predictions, anything is possible. However, preparing for significant, mid- to long term disruptions to daily life is something everyone will need to start coming to terms with.

YoniPDX
Guest
YoniPDX

@Parts Unknown

100-200K possible – but for perspective 3 years ago in 2017 the US had a population of 325M people everyday in the US on avg 7,708 died or 2.14M people for 2017, So 200k is 10% of the deaths in 2017 –

Too many people think testing Positive = Sick or ill not necessarily the case.

On 3.11.2020 the US had 38 deaths and 1312 test positive for infection (not necessarily ill) COVID19 the mortality rate was 2.9% and primarily residents from the Washington state Nursing home. Most recent numbers a few minutes ago (3.20.2020) 16,018 have tested positive, mortality rate has dropped to 1.3% with 210 deaths (again mostly elderly with other comorbidity).

WHO says that the average age of those that died from COVID19 is 81yo.

Italy has the 2nd oldest population after Japan with more than 25% of the population over 65 as well as very social and greet with cheek kisses.

In Italy 47K have tested positive and 8.6 mortality rate with 4,032 deaths. As well as quasi-socialsit medical system.

A Nobel laureate Michael Levitt, a biophysicist who teaches structural biology at Stanford writes “….When discussing diseases, it frightens people a lot because they keep hearing about new cases every day. But the fact that the infection rate is slowing down means the end of the pandemic is near.”
There are several reasons for this, according to Levitt. “In exponential growth models, you assume that new people can be infected every day, because you keep meeting new people. But, if you consider your own social circle, you basically meet the same people every day. You can meet new people on public transportation, for example; but even on the bus, after some time most passengers will either be infected or immune. “Another reason the infection rate has slowed has to do with the physical distance guidelines…..”

Neos
Guest
Neos

@YoniPDX Michael Levitt’s comments’s are disingenuous at best, and dangerous at worst. His view is in the minority in the scientific community. So much so, I couldn’t even find any other references to him other than in the Jerusalem Post. I urge you and everyone else to view the current (read:sobering) worldwide COVID-19 statistics: https://www.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6

In the past few weeks, we’ve seen how different governments around the world have reacted to COVID-19. Those that take it seriously form the very beginning and take drastic measures immediately are seeing much slower rates of transmission than others that have not. Based on how many US states have yet to take important measures and that the US as a whole does not have yet have adequate amounts of tests means that cases (and deaths, unfortunately) will continue to rise.
I agree with @PartsUnknown. It’s hard to see this ending in the next few months unless all governments were to implement strict lockdown measures like they did in Wuhan.
Just like everyone else, I would love for everything to go back to normal (that we could all return to buying VGC’s and start planning trips). But I (and I think a lot of us in this community and beyond ) are finally coming out of the denial phase and realizing that there’s a very good chance that this will last many months (if not longer) and therefore are putting award trips on the back burner.

Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

YoniPDX
Guest
YoniPDX

@Neos
.

FWIW
NY mortality rate 0.6% 76 deaths 12,315 tested positive

Germany mortality rate 0.4% 84 deaths 22,2213 tested positive

So. Korea 1.2% MR 102 deaths 8799 tested postive

Diamond Princess 1.1% with 8 deaths 712 tested postive (50% recovered) 3,700 passengers

2.81M Americans died in 2017
647K Heart Disease
600K from Cancer
160K from Respiratory diseases
55K from Pneumonia and flu

Yes hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

I’ve banked our Amex cards with airline credits after switching airline all over to AS, in Alaska My wallet using AS now generous policy.

I’ve gotten AF on airline CC waived/credited or waived with spend. Will PC CSR to Freedom card as AF is coming up in about 90 days and we have USB AR for the Interim and we can PC P#2 CSP to CSR – when it makes sense.

Holding off on new apps – till lock downs end.

Even if we plateaued or flattened the curve by mid-April (in the US). I’m not sure when premium cabin award travel will rebound

Christian
Guest
Christian

Are the United flights to Hawaii bookable with Turkish miles?

Nick Reyes
Editor

Yes, there’s just no premium-cabin space. The Turkish website shows some options (usually 1-stop only). You can try email or phone to book stuff you don’t see online, but I’m not sure that you’ll hear back from them quickly.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Anything from the US to Asia around the Dec/Jan?

david
Guest
david

ewr-tlv united is wide open all year despite usually being impossible to find

trackback

[…] the comments on Greg’s post this morning about routes with ride open premium cabin availability, reader Troy mentioned that Qsuites is widely available in January and […]

Boraxo
Guest
Boraxo

Maybe the most useful blog post that I’ve seen this month! Many thanks.
Very Disappointing for Australia but good for Europe and Middle East.

Mark
Guest
Mark

I found 2 business class seats LAX – NAN – AKL (1/19/21) with return AKL – NAN (2/3/21) stopover NAN – LAX (2/8/21) on Fiji Airlines. Booked the trip with 110K Alaska miles per person. I did the booking a few days ago, but there seemed to be a few dates available in business around that time. Econ had a fair amount of availability.

YoniPDX
Guest
YoniPDX

@Mark that route in June is scheduled to fly the new A350 with true lie flat seats – vs A330 with angled biz sests LAX-NAN RT and SFO-NAN RT

Mark
Guest
Mark

When I picked my seats for the long haul portions of the flight (LAX – NAN), it was an A350.

Jack
Guest
Jack

Mark- did you do this through Alaska’s site searching under the “use Mile”s option?

Mark
Guest
Mark

I used the Alaska website. I searched by legs (LAX -NAN, NAN – AKL, AKL – NAN, NAN – LAX) and pieced together the trip. I booked the outbound trip (LAX-NAN-AKL) severals weeks ago when it was end of schedule in mid January. That’s when I found a few business class flights with at least two tickets. I went ahead and booked the one way to New Zealand (you have to stop in Fiji both ways if you are flying Fiji Air). I just hoped that the return flight was going to be available when the dates I was interested in for it were at end of schedule. I figured the worse case was I would have to do AKL – NAN in coach (I was planning to build in a stop over a stopover for a few days in Fiji on this leg and coach seats for the leg are widely available), then NAN – HNL in coach (which seemed to be available most days), then HNL – LAX in coach (likely on another airline because Fiji Air doesn’t fly that route). Fortunately, when two seats popped up on the date I wanted to do the NAN – LAX leg at the end of schedule in business class, I was able to pair them up with AKL – NAN business class seats five days earlier (like I said before, I wanted to do a stopover in Fiji for around five days). The AKL – NAN business class seats are pretty wide open most of the time, it’s the NAN to LAX in business class that’s hard to find. I just (3/21 at 1:45pm PDT) did another end of schedule search for the first two weeks in February. Unfortunately, there’s only one day left with the NAN – LAX route in business class; so I think they are drying up a bit. There was no availability in business going LAX to NAN in business through 2/5, but 1/3 to 1/7 has business availability for LAX to NAN every day (the rest of the month is gone). Finding a NAN to AKL leg in business to pair it up with is pretty easy (January 2 – 15 has availability everyday except the 13th). If you are willing to fly coach, there’s tons of availability both ways all on Fiji Air.

TimmyD
Guest
TimmyD

Really enjoyed this post. I’m curious about return flights for these same destinations. Also, could you add Southern South America? I’m particularly interested in Brazil.

trackback

[…] Good morning everyone.  This might be the most optimistic blog post / news story you read all day.  You’re welcome.  I know we haven’t had many happy pieces of news lately, but I wanted everyone to think about the future for a moment with your happy glasses on.  I’ve read a few blog posts over the last few days about incredible award space on many different airlines to many different places.  For example, check out Frequent Miler’s article Premium routes with wide open awards. […]

trackback

[…] Conclusion March 25 2020: Your best bet if flying with a second person is to concentrate on Etihad Airways since they had 2 first class seats available on almost all of their routes that include First Class Apartments.  If flying with more than 2, you may be better off looking for business class. […]