As a member of the Juicy Miles team, I’ve noticed that one of the most popular destinations for award booking assistance is travel to Australia. Incidentally, Australia is one of the toughest awards to book. Simply put, you don’t get to really decide when you want to go. Rather, you look at what is available and then plan your travel dates around the availability.
For those who have a large quantity of AA miles and are planning trips to Australia, there is an even bigger dilemma. Due to American’s restrictive routing rules, you cannot route through Asia or the Middle East for an Australia award (and of course, “routing through Europe” would mean going the completely opposite direction…also not allowed). In other words, you need to find a oneworld flight that goes directly from the US to Australia, which only Qantas can provide.
Award availability is tough to come by as it is, but a further complication is that Qantas opens their schedule before American does, 20+ days to be exact. Flyers with Qantas miles have access to Qantas seats 353 days prior to departure, while those with American miles have access 331 days before departure. What this means is that AA members essentially can only book whatever award inventory remains at the 331 day mark, well after Qantas and other Oneworld members have snagged seats. Of course, not all Qantas flyers book an entire year in advance, but those who are familiar with the game usually do.
Below, you can see the discrepancy in the schedule opening times. The top illustrates what is available to Qantas as of 3/7/2015 and the bottom shows what American has access to.
Gary has already shared a trick to hold Qantas First Class seats: British Airways and Cathay Pacific are part of oneworld and they have access to Qantas seats as soon as the schedule opens. Therefore, if you have a lot of BA Avios or Asia Miles, you can book those seats ahead of time and then cancel them when AA has access. Qantas award seats that are canceled reliably return to award inventory, meaning you’ll hopefully be able to immediately book the now-available seats with AAdvantage miles.
Here’s the problem. Not a lot of people have 300,000 BA Avios to spare, which is what you need to hold a roundtrip First Class ticket on one of the Qantas US-Australia flights.
So here is a trick that will help you hold Qantas tickets. The trick won’t allow you to hold awards as far as you can with Avios/Asia Miles, but you don’t need any currency in any program to do it…and you still get to beat the crowd that uses AA miles.
US Airways joined one world a little less than a year ago, and has access to award seats on oneworld partner airlines. US Airways and American Airlines have legally merged, but the two frequent flyer programs still operate separately. The nice thing is US Airways opens their schedule 334* – 336 prior to departure, which is more than American’s 331 days. On top of that, US Airways allows you to hold your awards for up to 72 hours, even if you don’t have any of the miles in your account. (* 334 seems to be the “official” number, but when you call and book, I have been able to book awards as far as 336 days out.)
What this means is that you can call US Airways approximately 332 or 333 days before departure and hold any available Qantas First/Business Class award seats. You would then either let the hold expire or call to cancel the tickets when you are within the AA booking window.
This trick will not last forever, especially since at some point in Q2 of 2015, the US and AA programs will merge. Additionally, not every US agent will be willing to do this, so you may have to hang up/call again a few times. Unfortunately, while this allows you to get ahead of the AA miles crowd, you will still behind those that have access to Avios and Asia Miles. US Airways also requires roundtrip travel on award ticket, but with some creativity, I think you can figure that part out. 🙂
Finally, this does not necessarily work for other airlines. Cathay Pacific, for example, performs an inventory management review on canceled award seats and they are not always placed back into award inventory. One final caveat, while Qantas has been reliably returning canceled award seats to inventory, there is no guarantee that they will continue to do so forever or for the flight you have selected.
Need help booking your award trip? Consider Juicy Miles for all your award booking needs.
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