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In spring 2020, as the coronavirus spread across the globe, travelers put their plans on hold, canceling trips and taking advantage of airlines’ new flexible change and cancellation policies.
Months later, most of us still aren't traveling, but we’re starting to look ahead to a time when it will be safe to fly again — thinking about where we want to go and how we'll get there.
Any traveler with a nice stack of frequent flyer miles, including the fortunate people who got their points refunded when they canceled spring 2020 trips, might be wondering how to enjoy those miles to the fullest when travel eventually resumes. And there’s no better place to enjoy hard-earned miles than the business class or first class cabin of an airplane headed to your dream destination.
Seems like it's time to take a look at award seat availability in premium cabins for upcoming travel, with an eye to spring 2021, when hopefully we will have safely returned to the skies. Here, sorted by airline, are some examples of the kind of award availability we found in premium cabin seats using miles.
American Airlines has an extensive route network to Europe, South America, Asia and even some flights to Australia. American’s award availability for March 2021 was a bit hit-or-miss during a recent search. Here’s what's available in premium cabins for flights from Miami to Paris.
American’s award chart says that a one-way business class flight from the U.S. to Europe should cost 57,500 AAdvantage miles each way. But as you can see, American’s Web Specials might offer cheaper redemptions, sometimes as low as 46,000 miles.
American also uses what is called "married segment" logic when pricing award flights. This means that the same itinerary may cost more if you take the direct flight. For example, those 46K flights pictured above were from Miami to Philadelphia to Paris. When we searched for a direct Philadelphia to Paris flight, that same March 3 business class flight from Philadelphia to Paris cost 103,000 miles.
» Learn more: American Airlines AAdvantage program: The complete guide
Qatar Airlines using American miles
One of the best uses of American AAdvantage miles is flying on its Oneworld alliance partner Qatar Airways. We found plenty of premium cabin award availability from the U.S. to Doha for next spring using AAdvantage miles.
On our recent search, nearly every day from January to April 2021 had premium cabin award availability to Doha. These seats cost 70,000 miles per person one way, plus minimal taxes and fees. For only 5,000 miles more, you can connect in Doha to anywhere in Africa.
For 75,000 American AAdvantage miles, there are lots of premium cabin seats to Johannesburg for spring 2021.
Cathay Pacific using American or Alaska miles
Another great use of AAdvantage miles is on Oneworld partner Cathay Pacific. To fly Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong, it will cost 70,000 miles one way in business or 110,000 miles in first class. We found solid availability in business class, but not as many seats in first class.
Using Alaska miles to book Cathay Pacific, that same trip to Hong Kong costs just 50,000 MileagePlan miles in business class or 70,000 in first class. Plus with Alaska, you can get a free stopover, even on a one-way award ticket.
Alaska doesn’t always show Cathay Pacific availability on its website. But before you give up, check aa.com or britishairways.com to see if they’re offering premium cabin award redemptions on Cathay for your itinerary. If so, you can likely get those Cathay seats using Alaska MileagePlan miles if you call Alaska to book.
» Learn more: What are layover, stopover and open jaw flights?
Delta Air Lines
Delta’s premium cabin availability is also pretty good for spring 2021. Here’s what we found in swanky Delta One seats from Chicago to Paris.
Delta no longer has a published award chart, so it takes a little extra time and flexibility to find the best deals, but they’re definitely available. Delta also regularly publishes sales on award flights, so if you have a specific destination in mind, it pays to check those regularly.
» Learn more: Delta Air Lines SkyMiles: The complete guide
Emirates using Alaska miles
Emirates has a lot of premium cabin award seats for U.S. travelers headed to Dubai using Alaska miles. A search for spring 2021 flights showed nearly every day had two or more spots available, and often on multiple flights.
Redemptions using Alaska miles to fly Emirates business or first class aren’t as amazingly low as they once were, but the taxes and fees are minimal. You also get a free stopover if you use Alaska miles. So you could spend a few days in Dubai before continuing on to Southeast Asia, Africa or India — all on one award ticket.
» Learn more: The cheapest ways to fly to Dubai using points and miles
United MileagePlus miles offer a good way to fly in a premium cabin on the 26 airlines in the Star Alliance, including Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, Swiss Airlines or LOT Polish. Award availability is wide open for business class seats to Europe in the spring.
Every day in spring 2021, United had premium cabin seats to Frankfurt, Germany, for 60,000 United MileagePlus miles. Star Alliance partners also had good premium cabin availability, though at a higher cost. Here is the calendar for direct flights from Washington, D.C., to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines, booked through United’s website using United MileagePlus miles.
You can get a stopover through United’s Excursionist Perk program if you book a round-trip flight using United miles.
The bottom line
There are lots of great premium cabin seats available with award miles for flights next spring. And because many airlines are allowing free changes and cancellations on new tickets, it might be worthwhile to start searching for spring flights now, before those comfortable, luxurious seats are snatched up. Read the fine print to make sure you can cancel or rebook without significant penalties.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card