Over the course of this blog, I will note aspirational air award tickets I have booked for my friends and I. Last night I was able to get an amazing business class award ticket to Dubai and Croatia for my friend Chad and his wife using US Airways miles.
Chad has earned his US Airways miles the hard way, mostly butt-in-seat miles. However, he rents an AVIS car each week for work, and AVIS continues to give 3,000 US Air Miles per 3 day rental. He now had at least 240,000 US Airways miles which are what is required for 2 business class to the Middle East region.
US Airways has some very bizarre award routing rules, that can work to your advantage. However, many of their agents are not well versed in the rules, nor geography, so creative routings can ensue. In general, US Airways rules for international partner tickets include:
- You get one stopover and destination, or an open-jaw. Not both.
- The stopover has to be in a Star Alliance hub city, or a US Airways international destination (and if not a Star Alliance hub city, but a US Airways international destination, you are supposed to arrive to that city on US Airways)
- You cannot have more than 8 segments (although sometimes folks are able to get one-off exceptions)
Chad’s award was for about 3.5 months from now, and availability, especially to Europe was not that good. I used a combination of United Airlines website to search for each segment in a one-way award search and this tool. I have no idea who has created the tool, but it works really well for Star Alliance awards. They are an awesome programmer, that is all I can say. It is important to search segment by segment for your preferred routing to piece together a workable award, especially when availability is tight.
Here is what we ended up with for Chad:
Charlotte – Munich – Zagreb – Split
- Split as a stopover on the way to Dubai. Split is a Croatia Airlines hub city, which is part of the star alliance. The first agent I called at US Airways to book this insisted Zagreb was the only Croatia Airlines hub. She even pulled out some list, I have never heard of before, of allowable stopover cities by partner carrier. Thessaloniki Greece was even on this list as part of Aegean Airways. But not Splut. I politely hung up and called back, and the next agent I spoke with was fine with Split as a stopover city.
- Lufthansa on Charlotte to Munich has a pretty solid business class, although some don’t like that the seats aren’t horizontal lay flat, and rather angled lay flat. It is still a very solid product.
- Munich to Split was availabile direct, but would have required a 9 hour layover in Munich. Thus we did the connection in Zagreb so they could get there much sooner. Interestingly enough, Croatia airlines offers business class on a turboprob. That should be interesting!
- 5 day layover in Split to stay at a Starwood hotel, like Le Meridien Split. You can do buy 4 nights, get 1 free on points which is an excellent value. Chad earned the 40,000 Starwood points required for this hotel buy signing up for the SPG Credit Card for he and his wife. This hotel does not suck.
Split – Vienna
- Vienna has a 23 hour, 30 minute layover. This is a well kept secret. All connections less than 24 hours on US Airways international award tickets don’t count as a stopover, allowing you to have a quick day and a night at a city to get a feel for it. Going Split to Dubai didn’t have great availability for the last day of their stay in Split, but there was a really good Vienna to Dubai direct flight on Austrian Airways (with new, awesome business class) so a 23 hour layover on Vienna was on order.
Vienna – Dubai
- Dubai as the destination. 6 nights in Dubai. They will probably stat the Ritz-Carlton through Marriott points earned from Marriott stays and opening up the Marriott credit card for Chad and his wife.
Dubai – Washington – Detroit
- Detroit as another 23 hour layover so Chad and his wife could see some family in Michigan. A direct Washington to Charlotte was available, so this one was tricky for an agent to go along with since it was a boondoggle. However, with some polite pushing, the agent was willing to see if the computer and supervisors would accept it. And they did!
- The Dubai – Washington is a 14 hour monster flight on United Airlines. The day they reserved, was the only day Dubai to Washington was available for 2 business class seats in a 2 month period! They got lucky here as this is an awesome 777 lay flat seat, with some seats even facing in reverse!
Detroit – Charlotte
- After 23 hours in Detroit, a quick domestic first class flight home.
Overall, this is 7 segments, a stopover in Split, a Destination in Dubai, and 2 23 hour+ layovers in Detroit and Vienna to see family and explore. A real value at 120,000 US Airways points each in business class and $119 in taxes and fees each. Almost 16,000 nautical miles flown! US Airways charges WAY less taxes and fees than most carriers. If this ticket was booked on ANA or British Air for example, it would be $1,000+ per ticket, just in taxes and fees!
What a routing!