American Airlines keeps getting worse and worse

Less than 2 years ago, I held Gold elite status on American Airlines, despite being based in a non-American hub (San Francisco).

Flash-forward to today, where I’ve not only gotten rid of my American status, but I’ve also canceled two of my American Airlines co-branded credit cards and where I’m actively avoiding the airline.

Why? Well, a few reasons.

The first was American Airlines eliminating its partnership with Alaska Airlines. While I totally understand that this happens, my issue here was that American Airlines announced the change in July 2017, which was a big deal to me, since I had already spent 7 months earning miles on Alaska Airlines (I was going for status on Alaska with my American flights because, up until American cutting the partnership, status on Alaska was basically the same as having as status on American, and vice versa).

Another reason is that customer service on American Airlines has gone completely downhill. One of my favorite travel bloggers, Lucky at One Mile at a Time, has written a ton of blog posts about this (and so have many others in the travel blogging community). If you don’t have status and end up needing to call American, except to speak to someone who is completely unfriendly, unhelpful, and trying to get you off the phone completely.

Third, American Airlines award available has quite recently turned to crap. I had 140,000 miles to use and couldn’t find reasonable routing to Europe or South America over the last 2 years (which I know is such an awesome problem to have, but it’s still an issue). If you want to book something using miles with American, particularly if it’s a “Saver” route, expect to be routed to 2-3 different airports, even if there are more direct flights generally available. Also, when you try to book business class, you’ll often get a mixed cabin award, with the longest flight actually being in economy (so, for instance, I wanted to book a business class flight between SFO and Sydney, and while the rate they wanted to charge me was full-fare business class, only the flight between LAX and SFO was in business, and the flight from LAX to Sydney was in coach).

Finally, American Airlines has completely slashed its credit card benefits and has made it almost impossible for travelers like myself (who find awesome deals) to get anything above Gold status. They even eliminated the ability to earn EQD through their famous Red Aviator card.

Just 2 years ago, I would have ranked American Airlines as the 3rd best in the U.S. (below Alaska/Virgin and Delta). Now, I rank it 6th, below Alaska, Delta, United, JetBlue, and Southwest.

How I landed a business class suite on Qatar Airways for 36,000 miles

My upcoming travel schedule just got a bit more luxurious!

As a background, in a recent post I mentioned how you can earn 60,000 miles with a new Business Aviator American Airlines credit card. The business card has an annual fee of $95 and gets you priority boarding, free checked luggage, and a 5% bonus on miles earned each year, among other benefits.

Business Class Deals

I also currently have an American Airlines Red Aviator card. This card also has a $95 annual fee, gets your priority boarding, and free checked luggage. The Red Aviator has another benefit — you get 10% of award miles used automatically credited back each calendar year (up to a maximum of 10,000 miles per year).  Using a $0.014/mile valuation for American AAdvatage miles, this can net you up $140 per year.

In considering whether to keep both cards, I realized that I’ve been holding onto a ton of American AAdvantage miles for a few years, mainly because my experience is that the award redemption options on American Airlines are incredibly limited. Award flights will put you on convoluted routes, particularly to Europe, and a lot of business class tickets turn out to be mixed cabins, with the longest leg (i.e., LAX to Sydney) in economy. Because of this, the 10% redemption value is worth less and less to me, and so I’ve decided to cancel the card.

But I had 100,000 miles to burn before canceling the card, so that I could get my 10,000 bonus miles, and wanted to find the best way to use it.

Enter Qatar Airways. Currently, Qatar Airways is a part of the Oneworld alliance and award tickets are redeemable through American. In the last few days, the CEO of Qatar Airways has threatened to leave Oneworld, and based on other rhetoric from BA and American Airlines, I think this is likely going to happen soon.

Qatar Airways is well-known for having one of the best (if not the best) business class product around. Recently, they have launched their QSuite business class product, which is exactly like it sounds — you get your own suite (privacy door included!) with some pretty cool features, including a sitting area, ability to connect your beds if you’re flying with your partner, and also an ability to set up a conference table for 4 if you’re traveling with your family and/or on a business trip.

QSuite2.jpg
Image courtesy of QatarAiways.com

Right now, redeeming American AAdvantage miles is one of the best ways to book these suites, and the cheapest routes that I could find that utilized the QSuites were to Bangkok and Tokyo, at a ridiculously low 40,000 miles (which is 36,000 miles after deducting the 10%. Aviator Red benefit. Considering the purchase price of this flight is $2,897 and 36,000 miles are valued at $540, this is an incredible deal.

Although I love Bangkok, the flight from DOH to BKK is about 2 hours shorter than Tokyo, and I wanted to be on the flight for as long as possible.

Importantly, not every flight between Doha and Tokyo has the QSuite product. While you can determine if the flight has QSuite by using ExpertFlyer, the easiest way is to actually price it out on Google Flights and then try and book through CheapOair, which will give you a seat map.

This is what the seat map looks like for flights with QSuite (right now, it looks like flight 806 between DOH and NRT has it):

QSuite.jpg

This is what the seat map looks like for flights without QSuite (right now, it looks like flight 812 between DOH and HND does not have it)

QSuite1.jpg

So, with that, I’ve booked the ticket and am looking forward to check out the Qatar Airways QSuite! I added on this onto a round-the-world trip that I was able to book for a total of 101,1250 AAdvantage miles (including this amazing business class seat), and I’ll blog more about that later.

Have you flown the Qatar Airways QSuite? Let me know about your experiences in the comments!

San Francisco/Los Angeles Trip Deal: $497 round-trip from SFO or LAX to Melbourne, Australia on Air Canada

Air Canada is putting flights from California to Melbourne, Australia on sale, starting at $497 round-trip from either SFO or LAX to Melbourne (airport code: MEL). There is currently availability in February and March 2018.

You can earn 18,558 United Premier Qualifying Miles (PQM) if you credit this flight to your United account, which will get you almost to silver status (though you’ll still need to meet the spend minimum, which is easiest to do with United Chase credit card).

To book this trip, use Google Flights to find dates and then book through CheapOAir. Air Canada and Expedia are repricing at $857, so I have a feeling this deal won’t last!

United announces San Francisco to Tahiti flight will be offered year-round

Earlier this year, in an attempt to compete with budget carrier French Bee, United Airlines announced a direct San Francisco (SFO) to Tahiti (PPT) flight, operating from October 2018 through March 2019.

The fares are actually quite decent (as far as trips to Tahiti go), and you can find direct flights on this route from United for as low as $618 round-trip.

According to the United Airlines California President Janet Lamkin:

“We are thrilled to extend this exciting flight to a year-round schedule… For Californians and our customers connecting through San Francisco, this route offers an escape to a little corner of paradise.”

While I’m personally excited for this route (and will be taking it in January!), the initial offer wasn’t ideal, as the hot, rainy season in Tahiti runs from December through March.

Because of this, I was thrilled when United announced this week that the route will now be offered year-round!

There’s no telling if this will be a permanent route yet, so my advice would be to take advantage of the flight while you can. For instance, when I lived on Guam, United announced yearly service to Fiji, and I was lucky enough to be able to take advantage of it before United eliminated it.

From Papeete (PPT), you can easily transfer to Moorea or, for around $400, fly to Bora Bora.

San Francisco Trip Deal: $308 direct, round-trip from SFO to Barcelona on Level by Iberia

Level, which is a long-haul, low-cost offshoot of Iberia, is putting direct flights from San Francisco to Barcelona, Spain on sale. Flights start at $308 direct, round-trip. There is currently availability between November 2018 and March 2019.

Sample travel dates include:

  • January 19-23
  • January 26-30
  • February 9-16
  • March 9-13
  • And more

To support Josh Trips, search for travel on Google Flights and book using this link:

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Chicago Trip Deal: $670 round-trip from ORD to Mumbai on Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines, a member of the Star Alliance, is putting flights from Chicago to Mumbai, India on sale. Flights start at $670 round-trip flight from O’Hare (airport code: ORD) to the Mumbai, India (airport code: BOM). There is currently availability in February through April 2018.

Note that the flight is “U” class, so you’ll receive no United PQM for this flight.

Sample travel dates include:

  • January 17-28
  • February 3-12
  • February 18-27
  • March 7-18
  • And more

To support Josh Trips, search for travel on Google Flights and book using this link:

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Phoenix Trip Deal: $387 round-trip from PHX to the Cayman Islands on JetBlue

JetBlue is putting the Caribbean on sale, including a $387 round-trip flight from Phoenix (airport code: PHX) to the Cayman Islands (airport code: GCM). There is currently availability in February and March 2018.

Sample travel dates include:

  • February 26 – March 5
  • March 5-12
  • March 12-19
  • And more

To support Josh Trips, search for travel on Google Flights and book using this link:

BOOK THIS FLIGHT