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A few weeks back I picked up 150,000 AAdvantage miles at a nicely reduced rate and by doing so, I immediately broke a cardinal rule of the miles & points world because I had no real plan for what I was going to do with the miles. I had a few ideas, but the truth is that chance to buy miles at 1.36 cents each was too big a temptation and I was happy to risk an AAdvantage devaluation before I got a chance to burn the miles in return for such a good deal.
Following that purchase, I now have access to a little over 170,000 AAdvantage miles (I’ll explain what I mean by “access” in a moment) and I’m trying to work out what trips I should book with those miles.
Ideally, I’d like to take one or two trips that have me flying in premium cabins and to destinations that would be fun to visit. Any destinations I visit don’t have to be places that I haven’t been to before (although it would be nice to explore somewhere new), but the cabins that I fly in have to be good, interesting, or meaningful in some way so that I can get some good reviews for this site.
What I’m hoping to do here is to say what I’ve been considering, and to then hear from readers with suggestions for where I should fly to and what cabins I should book (preferably cabins that you would like to see reviewed) as you’re the guys who are going to have to read about whatever trips that I do.
I Have 170,000 Miles To Burn
I said I have “access” to approximately 170,000 miles and that’s because I don’t actually have 170,000 miles sitting in my account. I had a little over 20,000 miles in my account when I bought miles from American Airlines, and I then spent 85,000 of those miles almost straight away on a roundtrip Business Class fare between Europe and the Middle East just to make sure that I had something booked in the event that American Airlines pushes through a non-notice devaluation (something the airline’s leadership is very capable of doing).
This booking is fully refundable at no cost to me (because American Airlines eliminated award redeposit fees last year) so if I can think of a better use for the miles (or if anyone else gives me a great suggestion that requires more than the 85,000 miles that are currently in my account), I’ll cancel that booking and use the miles elsewhere.
- Because I fly back and forth across the Atlantic reasonably frequently, I can start any trip(s) that I book in the US or in Europe.
- I’ll be starting out from LA or London but I’m happy to take cheap Economy Class positioning flights if it means that I can save on taxes/fees or if booking an award from another city gives me some other kind of advantage.
- I have no interest in burning miles on cabins below Business Class unless someone can come up with a very good reason why I should (good luck with that!)
- I’m not going to book any British Airways flights because (a) I fly with BA all the time and (b) the high surcharges that a BA award booking would attract would be too painful to bear.
- I’m not going to book a Qatar Airways Business Class award for travel between Europe and South East Asia because it’s often possible to book those trips with cash at great prices (under $1,700 roundtrip).
- I’m happy to gamble that a country that’s not currently open to visitors will open up at some point in 2022. I’m happy to make one or more speculative bookings.
That’s pretty much all the key information that you need to know as hopefully it goes without saying that I’d prefer not to fly into a conflict zone 🙂
My Ideas So Far
1 – Fly in a new cabin and in an aircraft that may not be around for much longer – 85,000 miles roundtrip
With Business Class awards between Europe and the Middle East being one of the more obvious sweet spots in the American Airlines award chart that was where my mind went as soon as I started thinking about what to do with my miles.
The booking that I have right now is just a straightforward Qatar Airways Business Class trip (Qsuites) between London and Doha and as I’ve never set foot outside Hamad International Airport, I was happy to use Doha as a placeholder.
What I think I would prefer to do (if I end up flying between Europe and the Middle East) is this:
- Book the Etihad 787-10 Dreamliner (out of Paris or London) – I’ve never reviewed this Business Class cabin and it has been a while since I’ve reviewed any Etihad flight
- Book the Qatar Airways A380 Business Class cabin (out of Paris or London) – The aircraft has been brought back into service because Qatar Airways has issues with a number of its A350 and this could be the last chance to fly in a cabin that I really like (it has great seats and a bar that puts the Emirates bar to shame).
If I could find Qatar Airways flights operating with the new Qsuite that the airline has installed on its 787-9 Dreamliners, that would be a good option too.
2 – Visit somewhere completely new and try a new cabin
Sri Lanka is somewhere that I have long wanted to visit but have never got around to going so as Business Class awards between Europe and the Indian Subcontinent cost the same as Business Class awards between Europe and the Middle East (42,500 miles each way), a visit to the beautiful beaches outside of Colombo is definitely on the cards.
I could fly the Qatar Airways Qsuites in one direction (for no other reason than because I can) and then I could try out Business Class on the Sri Lankan Airlines A330-300 in the other direction.
I’d choose to fly with Sri Lankan Airlines in whichever direction gave me a daytime flight as that would give me more of an opportunity to see what the service was like while guaranteeing me a decent night’s sleep on the overnight flight (in the Qsuite).
3 – Get back to Sydney
I love Sydney. I usually smile from the moment I step out of the aircraft right up to the moment when I have to leave the Qantas First Class lounge and catch my return flight and that’s just the kind of trip that I’d like to be able to look forward to.
Unfortunately, premium cabin awards to Australia are notoriously difficult to find so this may be a tough one to pull off. Qantas has recently said that it has released a lot of award seats for 2022 but I have yet to see any evidence of these award seats turning up on aa.com so the chances of booking a roundtrip Business Class fare between LAX and Sydney for just 160,000 miles look to be slim.
That means that I’ll probably have to hope that I can find something out of Europe and with Business Class between Europe and Australia costing 85,000 miles one-way, I have just enough points for a roundtrip booking if I can find availability.
The good news is that awards are currently available. The bad news is that the routings are not exactly straightforward!
Still, if it gets me back to Sydney it may be worth it 🙂
4 – Use the miles to get some great food
Trying to use AAdvantage miles to get to Bangkok or Singapore economically and in comfort is just too much hassle so if I wasn’t to get great food while using my AAdvantage Miles I’ll have to fly to Hong Kong or Tokyo.
I could fly between LAX and Tokyo with JAL or American Airlines for a bargain 60,000 miles each way and as I haven’t taken any sharp blows to the head lately, I would always ignore the American Airlines option and choose JAL.
Europe to Tokyo would cost 75,000 miles each way so as I can see that awards out of LA are currently easy to find, I would choose to save 15,000 and makes sure that any booking that I made coincided with a time when I was home in Los Angeles.
LAX – Hong Kong awards cost 70,000 miles each way and at the time of writing seem to only be offered by Cathay Pacific (for the dates that I’m considering) and that’s fine by me. Service in Cathay’s Business Class hasn’t been particularly impressive the past few times that I’ve flown with the airline, but the reverse herringbone seats are very good and I’d get a good couple of reviews out of the trip.
5 – Splash out and fly a great First Class cabin
I rarely fly in international First Class because I usually prefer to keep the extra miles/points in my account and fly in a perfectly acceptable (sometimes excellent) Business Class cabin.
It has, however, been a very long time since I sampled Cathay Pacific First Class and it’s been a few years since I flew in JAL First Class, and both of those sound like very nice options to aim for (Hong Kong and Tokyo are both places I enjoy visiting) as long as they’re booked for deep into 2022 – I don’t want to burn a ton of miles on an experience that I can’t really enjoy because the crew is dressed in hazmat suits, I have to wear a mask for the duration of the flight, and the catering has been pared to the bone because someone may catch Covid off a bottle of Dom (but not off a bottle of water).
JAL First Class between LAX and Tokyo would cost 80,000 miles each way but finding First Class award availability on this route is tough so I would probably have to start my journey in Europe. Unfortunately, travel between Europe and Tokyo in First Class costs 90,000 miles each way so I’d have to fly First Class in one direction and Business Class in the other for a total cost of 165,000 miles.
Cathay Pacific First Class between the US and Hong Kong would probably be a slightly easier award to find than JAL First Class but with the cost of First Class set at 110,000 miles one-way and with Business Class fares on this route costing 70,000 one-way, I wouldn’t have enough miles to make a roundtrip booking (I could generate more miles via Citi’s ThankYou program but that’s not keeping in the spirit of this exercise).
Cathay Pacific First Class between Europe and Hong Kong, however, would price up just like JAL First Class so I could fly First Class in one direction (90,000 miles) and then Business Class in the other (75,000 miles).
That’s all the information I have for you and those are my ideas sp far. I’m quite excited by the thought of doing some of the trips that I’ve mentioned above but I’d love to see if anyone else can come up with some great suggestions that would be even better to do. Where do you think I should fly? What cabins should I review? And where should I stay when I get to whatever destination you’ve chosen. Over to you.