20,000 miles in Business Class using US Airways and AAdvantage miles: Introduction

The Mrs. and I decided to head home to India for a winter 2014 break. We wanted a quick 2-week trip because we were going back to South-East Asia over Christmas and New Years. I turned to our stash of US Airways Dividend miles that I bought during a great sale on US Airways miles (100% bonus y’all!!). Well, turned out that we got held up for a good 3 months in India and had to do our South-East Asia trip using India as our base. This series will be about our trip to India and back. I’ll be doing a separate report on our trip to Hong Kong, Cambodia, and Singapore from India.

Introduction

Cathay Pacific 897 Business Class LAX-HKG

Cathay Pacific’s The Wing at Hong Kong International Airport

Cathay  Pacific 663 Business Class HKG-BOM

Etihad Chauffeur Service and GVK Business Class Lounge, Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (BOM), Mumbai, India

Etihad Airways 605 Business Class BOM-AUH

Abu Dhabi US Preclearance Facility

Etihad Airways 151 Business Class AUH-ORD

US Airways First Class ORD-PHX-SNA (the less said the better!)

Booking award flights from the US to India and back
Cathay Pacific using US Airways miles and an unplanned AAdvantage redemption

We had a stash of US Airways Dividend Miles after taking advantage of the lucrative US Airways points purchase and transfer sales. I booked us in Cathay Pacific Business Class LAX-HKG-BOM for 120,000 miles round-trip each.  Cathay Pacific award space is not searchable on aa.com. I searched britishairways.com as is outlined here.

We were delayed in India and spent much longer than planned back home. We had to forfeit the return leg of our US Airways redemption on Cathay Pacific (Boo!) It meant that I had to make bookings for our return leg. I had a large enough balance in my AAdvantage account to redeem 2 Business Class tickets from India to the US. I could’ve stretched it to 1 First Class redemption and 1 Business Class (since we were traveling separately anyway!) but decided to save valuable AA miles for another time. Using AAdvantage miles from India to the US meant I was considering travel on one of 3 routes – British Airways via London-Heathrow, Qatar Airways via Doha, or Etihad via Abu Dhabi – if you want to redeem 67,500 miles for Business Class and not more. This is because only a transatlantic itinerary from the Indian Subcontinent/Middle East to the US prices out at 67,500 miles for Business Class. If you want to travel on a transpacific route to the US (Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong or Japan Airlines via Tokyo, or a combination of both), the system prices it out as 2 separate awards – one from India to Asia 1/Asia 2 and the second one from Asia 1/Asia 2 to the US. Region definitions and pricing for AAdvantage awards can be found here. I was dead-set on not flying BA. I really didn’t want to pay taxes and fuel surcharges totaling ~$1,100 per  person. It would be cheaper to buy a one-way coach ticket back to the US. Between Qatar and Etihad, I chose Etihad for 2 reasons:

  • Qatar Airways doesn’t fly their A380, B787, or A350 to the US yet, which means they have only Business cabins with a 2-2-2 configuration to the United States. Not my preferred configuration for J class.
  • I wanted to experience the US Pre-Clearance Facility in Abu Dhabi.

Etihad Airways award space is not searchable on the American Airlines website either. To search space, you will need to use the Etihad Airways website to look for “GuestBusiness” seats. MileValue has a wonderful post on finding award space and booking Etihad awards with AAdvantage miles here. There’s nothing more that I can add to Scott’s post.

I ended up booking BOM-AUH-ORD-PHX-SNA since there was no availability on the AUH-LAX Etihad flight in Business. If you want to fly on Etihad’s new A380, you can also book this itinerary via LHR (like BOM-AUH-LHR-LAX) with the LHR to US leg on AA or BA for the same number of miles; taxes will differ.

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Hello!

My friends call me H and that’s what I’d like my readers to know me as too. I came to the US in 2009 as a student. Having completed graduate school, I now have a full-time day job and will be blogging on the side. I strategize credit card sign-ups and award redemptions for  my wife and I. We love traveling and our points and miles have enabled us to travel in style, stay at amazing hotels, and be the envy of friends and family 🙂

Why I started writing about this hobby- I’ve been in the miles and points hobby for only about 2 years now. Right from the start, I could see a dearth of people in this community who had started with no credit score. That’s right! I started from SCRATCH!

That’s hard to imagine but completely plausible. I’ve come a long way since 2009 –  came to this country as a student, got a brand new social security number within a week of landing in the US, built a credit history from scratch, and now am able to travel in style with miles and points.

I come from a country where there is no “formal” concept of a credit score. My parents didn’t believe in any sort of credit (my dad still hates using his credit card; my mom doesn’t even have one). I had educated myself and developed a strictly decent credit score by 2013. That’s when I stumbled upon Milevalue.com and haven’t looked back since. I remember emailing Scott Grimmer for some strategy help and received the most gracious and humble response. He was so patient even with a newbie like me. I decided that I would pay it forward if I could and this blog is my way of doing just that – paying it forward to newbies; especially those that come to the US and have to build a credit history from scratch. You too can TRAVEL IN STYLE!

I follow three blogs religiously:

I owe a lot to these blogs…I’ve learnt a lot from them (including how to start figuring stuff out on my own).

If you have any questions for me, please browse through the “Ask H” and “Credit Card Strategy” sections. You can ask me questions there too.

Disclaimer:

The advice on this blog does not amount to legal advice. Applications for credit are at your own risk.