Maximizing Off Peak Airline Awards on American and US Airways

by on January 24, 2012 · 33 comments

in American, US Airways

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One of the best ways to get the most bang for your mileage is to book an award ticket using off peak awards. Most airlines only offer two kinds of award bookings. There are the high-mileage standard awards that require a ton of frequent flyer miles, but give you the flexibility to go where you want when you want. Then there is usually a form of saver or restricted miles that require you to be flexible on dates, but take far fewer miles to redeem.

Two US airlines discount some award tickets even further with off peak awards: American Airlines and US Airways.

They pretty much require you to travel at the lowest of low season for many destinations, but there tends to be a lot more availability for them in the autumn, and right around now, after the big holiday travel glut.

A lot of times, I actually prefer traveling during low season, such as my recent trip to China, because there are far fewer crowds in the big destinations, it’s easier to book hotel awards as well, and you get a more authentic feel for a place.

American Airlines MileSAAver Off Peak

First, the bad news. American only offers MileSAAver Off Peak awards for Coach. You cannot use them for travel within the continental U.S. and Canada. You can use them to get pretty much anywhere else AA flies:

Hawaii: Jan. 12 – Mar. 8; Aug. 22 – Dec. 15
The Caribbean and Mexico: Sep. 7 – Nov. 14
Central America, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela: Jan. 16 – Jun. 14; Sep. 7 – Nov. 14
Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay: Mar. 1 – May 31; Aug. 16 – Nov. 30
Europe: Oct. 15 – May 15
Japan: Oct. 1 – Apr. 30

AA is pretty generous with these awards – for many destinations, over half the year counts as off peak season!

From North America, here are the one-way mileage requirements (all in Coach):

-Within and Between the Continental U.S./Canada/Mexico/Caribbean: 12,500 miles (instead of 17,500 for MileSAAver Peak or 35,000 AAnytime).

-Hawaii: 17,500 (as opposed to 22,500 for a MileSAAver Peak Awards or 45,000 for an AAnytime award).

-Central America, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru or Venezuela: 15,000 (17,5000 for MileSAAver Peak and 35,000 for AAnytime).

-Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile or Uruguay: 20,000 (30,000 MileSAAver Peak, 60,000 AAnytime).

-Europe: 20,000 (MileSAAver Peak is 30,000, AAnytime is 60,000).

-Japan: 25,000 (32,500 MileSAAver Peak, 65,000 AAnytime).

You can see the entire American Airlines award chart here, but to take an example, instead of blowing 60,000 miles (or even 120,000 miles if you had to take an AAnytime award) to get from Chicago to London, you could get there and back for just 40,000 miles.

Now that it’s no longer high season in Hawaii according to the airline, you could potentially score a roundtrip ticket there from anywhere in the continental US, Mexico, Canada or the Caribbean for 35,000 miles instead of 45,000 miles (or a whopping 90,000 with AAnytime awards, which is more than it takes to get there in business or even first class using a MileSaaver award).

And American allows you to build in stopovers in the domestic hub where you leave the country. TPG Managing Editor Eric likes to tell the story of how he flew from Los Angeles to New York, spent a week stopover in New York, then flew to Buenos Aires for a vacation, and directly back to LAX via Dallas all for 40,000 MileSAAver Off Peak miles and $52 in taxes.

Now, as you might have guessed, these awards are harder and harder to come by, even if you are planning a trip during off peak times, so they usually require a lot of foresight and planning, but they’re not impossible to get, especially if you set ExpertFlyer alerts - plus they also work on partners as well, so you could fly Los Angeles to Madrid on Iberia at the offpeak 40,000 mile rate.

US Airways Off Peak GoAwards

US Airways is the other major carrier offering off peak awards, though unfortunately it doesn’t have quite as many options as American. However, it does have Business and First Class off peak award seats on some routes, making it an option for those of us who like premium cabin travel (and US has been installing nice lie-flat beds on their international planes).

You can find the whole award chart here, however, here are the mileage numbers for roundtrip off peak awards:

-Between the continental US or Canada and the Caribbean: 25,000 Coach, 50,000 First (ranges from 35,000-80,000 for Coach and 60,000-140,000 for First at other times). Off peak dates are September 1-30 (just one month!).

-Between North America or Hawaii and South America: 35,000 Coach, 60,000 Business (ranges from 60,000-125,000 Coach, and 100,000-350,000 Business otherwise). Off peak dates so far for 2012 are March 1-31 and May 1-31 (though probably October 1-31 as well).

-Between North America or Hawaii and Europe: 35,000 Coach, 60,000 Business (ranges from 60,000-125,000 Coach, and 100,000-350,000 Business otherwise). Off peak dates are January 15-February 28.

Off peak awards are not available within and between the continental US and Canada (including Alaska), between the continental US or Canada and Mexico or Central America, between North America and Hawaii, or between North America or Hawaii and the Middle East.

US Airways off peak awards chart.

So the program here is a bit more restrictive in many ways including tickets must be roundtrip, and the destinations and dates are very limited in several cases. However, for certain travel needs, they could definitely be worth it. Though there are only 6 weeks of off-peak awards to Europe and they’re happening right now!

Note: If you have the US Airways Barclay’s Mastercard, you can save an additional 5,000 miles on your award, including off-peak awards.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Rebecca

    I scored 3 US coach tickets from PHL-CDG for only 90K miles for my sister, father, and niece. Minimal taxes and I saved 15K miles just for having the US MC. They leave on Thursday! What a deal! Thanks again TPG for sharing all of your knowledge!

  • PJ

    I have been looking for the link to AA Mastercard 50K offer to expire on 1-31-12 with statement credit toward AA indidental charges 2 lounge acesses..a match to United Explorer to certain degree anybody can point out the link?

    I assume decision at Citi has no bearing on the imminent Chase United Explorer 50,000 application. My last chase card Sapphire Preferred was approved on the November 19 ,11

  • Anonymous

    My wife and I took advantage of the US Air off peak to the Caribbean a couple of years ago – 20,000 miles a piece! That was a great find, plus the resort costs were down as well since it is off-peak for them to. To me, for economy, that is really one of the better redemption values out there.

  • Senorric

    US Air “Elite” class SYR to MAD and return for 55K with Barclay CC for pending 2/5 – 2/23 trip. Super value —- Senorric

  • Megan

    Perfect timing, TPG! I’m hoping to burn some of my 150,000 AAdvantage mile haul (from the 2 credit card bonuses) this spring and this post has opened up some great options for me.

  • Modernnaus

    This is extremely helpful…when trying to get award tickets for my family of four, off peak awards seem to be the key.

    Would you be willing to comment or do a post on lesser-known airlines’ off peak opportunities (and their better-known transfer partners), esp. to Europe since most airlines’ off peak dates for Europe seem to be one month in the dead of winter?

    I had heard that Alitalia’s off peak (25k r/t) to Europe is Nov 1-march 24, and they’re transfer partners with SPG or AMEX?

  • Allison Marino

    I booked the USair offpeak DCA-CDG for 30k using my MC, which I think is a great deal. The only problem I see with the offpeak awards for USair is the “South America” award, which is really only to Rio, as they no longer operate their own flights to EZE or GRU, plus availability on that award is crap.

  • Modernhaus

    Upon further research, Alitalia 25k us-europe is actually a promotion they run rather than a fixed off-peak award schedule (see here

    Darn. TPG, can you comment on the lowest off-peak us-europe award you know of? With availability beyond Jan-Feb that is?

    Thanks so much!

  • M124

    One thing to note is that the US Airways off-peak awards are only available on US metal. No partners. So you are limited to those destinations where US flies to.

    I am not sure if AA is the same way.

  • Anonymous

    Aa allows partners on offpeak awards

  • calbear77

    Just wanted to point out that in a lot of cases, the MileSAAver business class award is still really reasonable. I just booked a trip to Ecuador and Colombia for 30K miles for each one way, which is pretty much in line with the 15K offpeak coach rate. It seems that Europe is the main place where you can get the best value in coach with a comparable business class award.

  • tassojunior

    US is adding San Paulo soon.

  • Guest

    Actually, for US Airways off-peak in coach is 30,000 mi. + $120 in taxes, if one has the US Airways MC.
    One of best values out there. Did it in 2011, and be traveling again this year for next to nothing.

    P.S.: I am 6″2, 210 lbs. And I can travel coach for 8 hrs.! If it saves me a fortune!!!!

  • Anonymous

    Another great post

  • Miriam Abrams

    Awesome post!
    You had mentioned in another post, that one could get an award ticket with Flying Blue from TLV-JFK/EWR for 50k. I looked but didn’t find it, only other countries in the Middle East. Any other options? Thanks for the BEST TRAVEL BLOG ON THE WEB!!!

  • Tony

    I got an off peak award with AA from ORD to MAR via MIA, with 15,000 miles and 5$. The interesting thing is that ticket would have cost some 2300$!!! I picked the date on December 22nd for a flight on Valentine’s day.

  • Seattlite

    If you have AA credit card you do have a choice to fly to specific regions for less miles. Regions change every quarter. How does that work with off-peak awards?

  • kiran mai

    Its very useful promo code. I glad to find your site and I got good information from you. We have long valid period of this offer. Thanks for the information of US off peak airline awards.

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  • Frank Sweep

    Wish USAir served more eastern euro cities directly… It’s often a two stop trip for me and extra pricey.
    Recently priced Phx to Prague… Delta was like $850 but USA was $1,700 w/ a double stopover… Delta was just to JFK then to Prague… Hopefully they add some of these routes w/ more direct service.

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  • Cammie

    Hello! I am wondering how you book the stopover tickets? Do you book them separately or as multi city? What is the best way to get the savings on the miles? Thanks!! -Cammie

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