The Hidden Power of American Upgrades to Europe—Plus Jaw-Dropping Availability Survey

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Leisure and business travelers can make the most of AA miles when traveling to Europe with saving up to 84%, often with availability for six travelers.

This special report is primarily for oneworld (American / British Airways) members looking to achieve or maintain their elite status card—and for anyone who can’t otherwise find a low tactical Business Class fare.

Our Pitch: Forget about free mileage awards because they don’t earn elite credit and can be difficult to find availability; think about using miles to upgrade instead given you’ll earn miles and elite credit and are much more widely available.

American’s Upgrade Program

To Europe, American requires 25,000 miles plus a $350 co-pay each way to upgrade the lowest upgradeable economy fares (H, K, M, L, V, G, Q, N, O, S classes). The co-pay is kind of high, but when Business Class fares are high, this upgrade offers a great return.

Save 72% on Business Class
even if you miss the advance-purchase deadline

Say you’re traveling New York-Milan in mid-January. You can easily pay $787 for a non-stop on American, while Business Class is often $5,248 ($4,461 more). So even with the $700 co-pay, you can save 72% off the published fare by using miles. (See chart below for upgrade award availability survey.)

Save 64% on high-fare routes

Say you’re traveling Los Angeles-London, often an expensive Business Class route in general, even when booked way in advance. The lowest AA economy fare is currently $602 from LAX, while Business Class is $3,004 more ($3,606)—so even with the $700 co-pay, you can save 64% off the published fare by using miles. (See chart below for upgrade award availability survey.)

SAVE 84% ON SHORT-NOTICE

Book a New York-Madrid trip inside of 14 days and you’re looking at a Business Class fare of $7,460—while coach is just $493 to upgrade on routes with good availability so you can easily save $6,267 / 84% by using your miles.

Another short-notice example: New York-London goes for $691 inside of 30 days; by using miles to upgrade a $700 coach ticket, you can save up to $3,634 / 72%.

Bridge Route Connections can save up to 83%

Smart travelers use the long-haul Business Class flight as a “bridge”. All they have to do is get to and from the bridge gateway.

From the U.S., that means you might even buy an economy through-fare ticket, meaning the fare gets you to and from the international gateway all on one ticket—not two separate tickets. You just upgrade the long international / important legs of the trip.

For example, say you are traveling from Boston to Milan. The through-fare ticket gets you to and from Milan via New York for $545 instead of $7,458 for a Business Class ticket. Even with the $700 co-pay, you can save 83% off the published fare by using miles.

Traveling Onward in Europe: It’s easy if you stick with AA’s partners, British Airways, Finnair, and Iberia, and book the entire trip on one ticket.

For example, say you are traveling from Los Angeles to Dublin. On American, that means making a connection in London. The through-fare is $723 round-trip versus $3,525 in Business Class. You upgrade the bridge leg of the trip, Los Angeles-London-Los Angeles. Even with the $700 co-pay, you can save 60% off the published fare by using miles. Note that the London-Dublin leg will be on British Airways and will be in economy. Most people are okay in coach for 90 minutes.

How Anyone Can Play This Upgrade Game

Don’t have any or enough American miles? No problem. Just buy American miles when they go on sale (recent opportunity here), or transfer Starwood points (takes about two days), and you too can save up to 84%.

Sweet Redeems Survey: American Business Class Upgrades

RoutesDeparture AvailabilityReturn Availability
4 to 8 Days Per Month9 to 12 Days Per Month13+ Days Per Month4 to 8 Days Per Month9 to 12 Days Per Month13+ Days Per Month
Charlotte - LondonDec., MarchDec., Jan., Feb., March, April
Chicago - ParisDec., Jan.Dec., March, May, JuneDec.,
Aug.
April, Aug.
Dallas - FrankfurtFeb., March, April, May, JuneJan., Feb., March, April, May, JuneFeb., AprilDec., Feb. to April, May, June, JulyFeb., March, AprilApril, May
Dallas - LondonDec., Jan., Feb., March, April, July, Aug.Dec., Jan., Feb., March Dec., Jan., Aug.Dec., Jan., Feb., March, April, June, July, Aug., Sept.Jan., Feb., March to JulyJan., Aug.
Dallas - MadridDec., Jan.Aug.Dec., Jan., Feb., March, April
Dallas - ParisDec., Jan., Feb.Feb., March, April
Los Angeles - LondonDec., Jan., Feb., March, AprilFeb., MarchDec., Jan., Feb., March, AprilJan., March, AprilFeb., March
Miami - BarcelonaDec., Jan., Feb., March, April, MayJan., Feb., March, MayJan. to March, April, JuneJan., Feb., March, AprilFeb.
Miami - LondonMarch, Aug.Aug.Dec., Jan., Feb., AprilFeb., March, Aug.March, Aug.
Miami - MadridFeb., MarchFeb., March, AprilMarch
Miami - MilanDec., Feb., March, May, June, JulyDec.Dec., March, JulyDec., Jan., Feb., March, April, June, July Dec., March, JuneMarch, May
Miami - ParisDec., Jan., March, JulyDec., Jan., MarchJan., Feb.Dec., MayAprilJan. to March, April
New York - BarcelonaMarch, April, May, JuneFeb., March, April, JulyDec. to Feb., JulyJune, JulyMarch, April, May, June, JulyDec. to Feb., March, April, May., June
New York - LondonDec., Jan., March, April, May, June, July, Sept.Dec., Jan., Feb., March, April, May, July, Aug.Dec., Feb., March, April, May, July, Aug.June, July, Aug., Sept.March to May, June, JulyDec. to Feb., March to May, June, July, Aug., Sept.
New York - MardridDec.,Jan., Feb., April, JulyDec., Jan., March, Aug.Dec., Jan., April, June, JulyDec., March, April, MayDec., Feb., March
New York - MilanDec., Jan., Feb., March, May, JulyDec., MayJulyDec., Jan., Feb., March, April, May, JulyJan., Feb., June, JulyMarch, May
New York - ParisDec., Jan. to April, MayFeb., April, JulyAug.Dec., Jan., March, AprilJan., Feb.Dec., Feb., March
Philadelphia - LondonDec., Jan., Feb., March, AprilDec.,Dec., Feb., to Apr., May, JulyDec., Jan., Feb.,Dec.
Raleigh Durham - LondonDec. to Feb., March, JulyDec., Jan., Feb., MarchDec., Jan., JulyFeb., March, April, May., June, JulyFeb., March, MayDec., Jan., March
Months in black mean at least one seat available; in blue at least two seats; in green at least four seats; in purple at least six seats.

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