Waiting for a Business Class Award — Reader Success Story

May 3, 2019

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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Saibal, whose persistence in searching for premium award availability paid off:

I had to plan a trip from Singapore to New York. I wanted to try Qatar, and I was able to find QSuite availability using AAdvantage miles from Singapore (SIN) to Doha (DOH). However, I couldn’t find any premium seats with miles from DOH to New York-JFK. I was violating one basic rule of award travel: my schedule was not flexible because my return date was fixed. But I remembered reading on TPG that you can book in a lower class to ensure your trip and then continue checking for premium award availability. At least that way you’re certain to fly on the date you need to fly.

So, I booked an economy itinerary from DOH-FRA on Qatar, FRA-LHR on British Airways, and finally LHR-JFK on American Airlines. I didn’t like the huge fees from flying through London, but I had no choice. For the next few weeks I reminded myself to check award availability between DOH-JFK. Almost a month after I booked the original flight, I finally saw a seat available in Royal Jordanian business class from DOH-JFK (with a stop in AMM).

I also remembered reading on TPG that American Airlines doesn’t charge a fee to change award tickets if you’re flying between the same city pair. So I called American to switch the DOH-FRA-LHR-JFK itinerary to DOH-AMM-JFK in Royal Jordanian business class. I saved myself an extra flight and will be flying in lie-flat business seats on the Royal Jordanian Dreamliner. Plus, I got a refund of about $130 in taxes and fees. Thank you for all the advice!

The search for airfare doesn’t always end when you purchase tickets. If the 24-hour cancellation policy applies, for example, then it may be worth keeping an eye on the cost of your flight, since you can cancel and rebook when the price goes down. Similarly, you may be able to improve an award itinerary like Saibal did by continuing to check availability after you’ve booked. American Airlines lets you modify AAdvantage awards at no charge when your origin and destination remain the same (along with a few other stipulations), so you can shift your schedule or alter your routing without the standard $150 fee.

Royal Jordanian’s Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner business class. (Photo by Brendan Dorsey / The Points Guy)

You can also upgrade to a higher class of service with no penalty; you’ll only need to pay the difference in miles between the two awards. That helps if you’re flexible about where you sit and just want to lock in your flights, or if you can’t find premium availability on a portion of your itinerary (like a domestic connection). This isn’t exclusive to American — other airlines may waive change fees if you’re upgrading to a premium cabin, though you’ll generally have to pay if you want to downgrade. Also, note that fees are only waived when switching between flights at the same award level; for example, changing from an AAnytime economy award to a MileSAAver business class award would incur a fee unless you’re otherwise exempt due to elite status.

Some of you may have noticed that Saibal booked two separate awards. This is due to American Airlines’ routing rules, which don’t allow you to fly between two regions via a third — there are exceptions, but flying from Asia to North America via the Middle East isn’t one of them. Booking two tickets separately means he used more miles (110,000 total versus 70,000 to fly business class via the Asia 1 or Asia 2 regions). Assuming he was limited to Oneworld partners (so Singapore Airlines’ nonstop service wasn’t an option), the trip is similar distance and travel time in either direction. I can’t fault Saibal if he had his heart set on trying Qsuites, but both Cathay Pacific or JAL have excellent business class products, and either would have made for a more efficient redemption.

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Saibal a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to info@thepointsguy.com; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes, or to contribute to our new award redemption series. If your story is published, we’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Featured photo of the Doha Skyline by Florian Wehde / Unsplash.

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