Now that I have my available routes/search criteria, as well as the proper point balances, its time to get my hands dirty. I normally perform award searches in ‘sprints’ similar to the sprints used in AGILE project management. Cut your work packages into bite-sized chunks or you could feel mentally overwhelmed with this process and either give up or become inefficient. I don’t spend more than 30 minutes at a time, or else my brain will fry! I try to spread the sprints out… during breakfast, lunch, and in the evenings.
The below is a compilation of routes tests over more than a week, so it might take some time to digest, but it gives a good overview of my workflow putting the puzzle pieces together.
Testing Routes in August:
I started off perusing UA’s calendar view of availability, finding an inbound flight on TK in mid August (15th ish). Using that, I worked backwards, binding my outbound OW search for something early August, since we’re looking for a two week stay. A quick search on AA shows plenty of availability early aug in all classes, but all through LHR, which incurs a $500 fuel surcharge pp.
I then tried to force LHR out of the equation by looking for the known Finnair direct routes to HEL (ORD, MIA, JFK, YYZ), which means I had to look one leg at a time.
I then realized I should have used ITA to filter OW stopover locations to exclude LHR, which returned these: Air Berlin through DUS, the ones above, and then CX + AY through HKG (though later found this wouldn’t work via AA’s routing restrictions)!
With those routes, I had to search each leg via AA.com, but even then, I had to manually remove “BA” from the carrier checkbox, only to find that BA is the only available carrier on all the routes I searched. Too bad I can’t force a non-stop search option with AA or BA, from the beginning of the search.
There was an interesting route for SJC-LHR-HEL in Y for 30k miles and $300 YQ pp, with dates that worked, so keep that in mind. The revenue fare would be at least $1600 r/t so that is not a bad CPM. However, I would much rather spend 20k more miles and fly business (w/o YQ) since the marginal value is outsized. With YQ, its not worth it since I wouldn’t pay that cash outlay in the first place.
Another interesting fact, AA charges a similar amount “YR” even though they don’t transit through LHR… thankfully they don’t pass that along for awards on their own metal.
Here are the thorough Search Results for Aug 5/6/7 departure to HEL from: ORD, MIA, JFK, YYZ, DUS
ORD (wide open, but stop in LHR on AA metal)
MIA (none, backwards through PHL->MUC)
JFK (wide open, but stop in LHR on AA metal)
YYZ (none, all backwards through ORD)
DUS (wide open direct, and the one stops to DUS look good):
Thorough Search Results for Aug 16/17 departure from CPH – SFO
For *A way back, try these segments:
So I must search for:
CPH-SFO, MUC-SFO, ZRH-SFO, FRA-SFO, CDG-SFO, ARN-LAX and the 2/4 search results yielded no luck.
CPH July empty, August only after 15th. MUC nothing, ZRH nothing, CDG same as CPH, ARN-LAX stops in DUB, so I tried DUB-SFO and yielded good availability with a stop in LAX.
We can make DUB our stopover… mh… so I started looking at cash fares from HEL-DUB.
Only Finnair offers non-stop at a hefty price HEL-DUB, so I started to explore BA Avios availability. Norwegian offers 1 stops for $150, with a total 7+ hour travel time, so that doesn’t seem like a good routing if I can’t find Avios availability.
Lo and behold! It exists for saver award! Now I have to see if BA will allow this to be booked – Wandering Aramean has a great calculator that prices this out to about 12,500 miles.
Only one way to find out, so I login to BA and try it out. There is no AY direct option by the one stop in LHR prices out to 12k +$50 in taxes. I’ll have to call to find out.
I’ll also entertain CPH-ORD and ARN-ORD in case I’m not too big a fan of DUB. Both had no availability… gotta keep looking. ARN-EWR only Y (mostly not saver).
CPH-EWR has a couple of dates that work, but they have an angled lie flat hard product. Their flights are daytime, so it may not matter, but no EWR-SFO availability, so that’s out.
At this point, I had enough information to string together an itinerary that stops in DUB, so we researched what to do in that destination. Long story short, we quickly decided to find another stopover route.
In my next post, I’ll reveal the stopover city and the final routes selected after all the due diligence.