With devaluations being a regular fact of life, most in our hobby subscribe to the “earn & burn” theory. There’s no sense in holding on to an asset that you know will depreciate, and at that, one that can be depreciated by any amount, at any time, and with or without notice. Accordingly, I’ve been trying to unload some of my 168,000 American Airlines miles for almost two years, without success. I’ve seen sparse saver-award availability in coach, and practically nil in business class. Currently I am planning a trip to Central Europe in September 2017, figuring I’d have more than enough time in advance to get good award availability. However, this search gave me the lesson that airlines are free to exercise bias in their allocations of partner award space.
I wanted to start in Berlin, and was hoping to be able to fly the Airberlin flight, nonstop from Los Angeles. On American, they show no availability at all for business class, and only one day with a seat open in coach on that flight:
Since not every airline in an alliance shows the same partner availability, I decided to search on a few other oneworld alliance carriers. When I got to Iberia Airlines, I saw the following:
Saver-level business class (and coach) availability on the nonstop flight from Los Angeles to Berlin, on Saturday 9/16, which was my desired date. With the distance-based chart and massive fuel surcharges, I wouldn’t want to book it through Iberia, so I called American to specifically inquire about that availability. Naturally, they confirmed that they had no availability at all. The representative was very friendly and professional, and politely explained to me that partner airlines have complete discretion as to how many seats they allocate, as well as to whom they are allocated. He even specifically added that Airberlin is notorious for giving far more seats to European-based carriers than those based on other continents, which explains why that flight is available to book with Iberia miles, but not with American miles. He also said that it is exceedingly rare for American to ever have access to business class seats on an Airberlin flight, except for in the final days coming up to a flight.
For this trip, it is simply “back to the drawing board”. But, for those who want to use their American miles to go to Europe in business class (and who don’t want to pay $500 in fuel surcharges to fly Iberia or British Airways), this is a very disappointing realization.
Has anyone out there had any luck booking Airberlin business class with American miles?
Michael Prodanovich is a contributor to Point Me to the Plane, and author of The Ultimate Guide to Free Travel.