Today is a bit of a different Reader Success Story: I wanted to share how I ended up with two round-trips to Europe for just $729 and 1,106 (net) AAdvantage miles. Even better, 1.5 of the round-trips were flown in business class! Hopefully you can glean some tips from this to help you with future flights.
First, this started with a rather exceptional deal – but one that most travelers would have ignored. You could book from Oslo, Norway to many US cities in business class for around ~$600 round-trip.
I needed to fly to Europe for RoboCup 2016, so I scheduled my “return” flights from the US to Europe to be the dates I needed them. Then, I backtracked to find an “outbound” (from Oslo to the US) date that was on sale and worked for my schedule. I ended up booking Sunday June 19 from Oslo to San Antonio and returning to Europe Sunday June 26. I would have rather flown to/from my base city Austin, but it wasn’t available as part of the deal. But, as you will see later, that didn’t mean I flew to San Antonio.
Positioning to Oslo
The first challenge was to find a positioning flight to Europe. Unfortunately, my vacation time was scarce, so I wasn’t going to be able to spend much time in Oslo before my flight back to the US. The benefit of this is that I had very little luggage for my positioning flights to Oslo, meaning I could book a budget carrier.
Norwegian Air Shuttle charges one-ways at half of the round-trip price (unlike any of the “legacy” carriers), so I booked a flight from New York’s JFK to Bergen, Norway for just $206 one-way. I could have flown into Oslo for about the same price, but I wanted to take the incredible train ride from Bergen to Oslo. I booked the flight with my Citi Prestige® (for more info on this card, see our review), so I ended up getting this flight for free by using part of my $250 travel credit.
Next challenge: Finding a way to New York City. I had some JetBlue travel funds that were expiring soon, so I stalked the JetBlue nonstop flight from Austin-NYC. Although the price was ~$200 one-way for months, it finally dipped to $111 and I jumped on it. After my $92 JetBlue Travel Bank credit, I ended up paying just $19 for this leg.
The timing of this flight and the Norwegian flight left me 12 hours in New York City, which I used to explore downtown Manhattan. But, this could have also been a great opportunity to hang out in the lounges of JFK thanks to my Priority Pass (benefit of my Citi Prestige).
Positioning from Oslo
After RoboCup 2016, Katie and I decided to travel around Europe a bit. Budapest had been on our travel list for a while, so we planned for me to fly back from there. Right before American Airlines’ March 22 devaluation, I snagged a one-way award flight from Budapest, Hungary to Austin in business class for 50,000 miles (57,500 miles after the devaluation) + $60 in taxes and fees.
There are a bunch of benefits to booking revenue flights in business class that made this back-and-forth worth it. Besides the obvious superior onboard product:
- Business class flights earn 50% more award miles
- American Airlines and British Airways are running a business class flight promotion that got me another 25,000 AAdvantage mile bonus
- Another business class flight promotion meant 500+ bonus AAdvantage miles for each leg
- 100 to 200% elite-qualifying mile bonus. I earned a total of 23,098 EQMs from the OSL-AUS/SAT-OSL flights, which is almost enough for basic Gold status on American Airlines.
- Lounge access in Oslo, London x2, Chicago x2
- Special treatment before the flight – including allowing me to change my “destination” to Austin when there was a flight schedule change.
- Special treatment along the way – including an offer from a flight attendant while onboard my Oslo-London flight to transfer me to less-full and more-direct flights from London.
In total, I racked up 48,894 award miles from the revenue flights, which almost fully offset my one-way business class flight back from Budapest to Austin (which cost just 50,000 before the recent changes to American Airlines award chart).
It seems a bit crazy to fly over to Europe just to fly back the next day, but I did just that on my first Europe trip of this itinerary. If I had more time, I would have used this first trip to explore Norway for a bit before flying back to the US.
With unlimited vacation time, I could have also gotten even more creative with this deal. Instead of booking flights from Oslo to somewhere near my home (in order to work for a week before flying back to Europe), I could have booked flights from OSL to somewhere else in the US – either to explore a new city or visit family. This would mean I would have gotten a trip to Norway, a domestic US trip, and a trip through Europe for just $729 + 1,106 net AAdvantage miles.
- If you see a business class deal (on SecretFlying or FlyerTalk) from Europe, don’t immediately ignore it. You can patch together an incredible trip from this deal, as I did here.
- If you have a flight schedule change, don’t be afraid to ask to be rebooked on an itinerary with better aircraft or into a different city.
- Sign-up for all bonus mileage promotions that you see. I got 4,000 bonus award miles from a business class promotion that I had signed up for and forgotten about – in addition to the 25,000 bonus miles that I certainly didn’t forget about!