10 Things You Need To Know About American’s Business Class Fare To Beijing

Filed Under: American, Great Deals

Last night I posted about an amazing American Airlines business class fare between Washington DC and Beijing. American was charging under $450 for roundtrip business class. After a couple of hours the deal was dead, though that didn’t stop hundreds of people from booking.


I’m receiving a ton of questions, so figured I’d answer some of the most common ones:

Will this fare be honored?

Given how cheap the fare was, I suspect American will make a statement soon as to whether they’ll honor it or not. I would expect them to do that within a day.

Personally I think it’s very likely that this fare will be honored.

Keep in mind that there are Department of Transportation regulations protecting consumers from post-purchase price increases, which are extremely pro-consumer. Here are the relevant regulations:

(a) It is an unfair and deceptive practice within the meaning of 49 U.S.C. 41712 for any seller of scheduled air transportation within, to or from the United States, or of a tour (i.e., a combination of air transportation and ground or cruise accommodations), or tour component (e.g., a hotel stay) that includes scheduled air transportation within, to or from the United States, to increase the price of that air transportation, tour or tour component to a consumer, including but not limited to an increase in the price of the seat, an increase in the price for the carriage of passenger baggage, or an increase in an applicable fuel surcharge, after the air transportation has been purchased by the consumer, except in the case of an increase in a government-imposed tax or fee. A purchase is deemed to have occurred when the full amount agreed upon has been paid by the consumer.

Recently United had a mistake fare which was marketed in Danish Krona, which the DOT didn’t honor. Here’s the reason they gave for siding with United:

The mistaken fares appeared on a website that was not marketed to consumers in the United States. In order to purchase a ticket, individuals had to go to United’s Denmark website which had fares listed in Danish Krone throughout the purchasing process. In addition, only people who identified “Denmark” as their location/country where billing statements are received when entering billing information at the completion of the purchase process were able to complete their purchase at the mistaken fare levels. Consistent with the Office’s treatment of fare advertisements and disclosure of baggage fees, it does not intend to enforce the rule in question (the post-purchase price increase prohibition) when the fare offer is not marketed to consumers in the United States. Additionally, the Office is concerned that to obtain the fare, some purchasers had to manipulate the search process on the website in order to force the conversion error to Danish Krone by misrepresenting their billing address country as Denmark when, in fact, Denmark was not their billing address country. This evidence of bad faith by the large majority of purchasers contributed to the Enforcement Office’s decision.

None of those circumstances are present here, and frankly I don’t see any way American could get out of this fare.

Should I book my hotel & positioning flight?

Just to be on the safe side I wouldn’t make any non-refundable reservations yet. Like I said, I suspect American will chime in about the fare very soon, most likely to say that they’ll honor it.

Can I cancel my ticket for free within 24 hours?

No you can’t. American is one of the few airlines to allow free holds for 24 hours, and because of that they don’t have to offer free refunds for 24 hours. So if you’ve ticketed your reservation you technically can’t get it refunded anymore.

I have a ticket on hold — can I definitely issue it until the deadline?

If you have a ticket on hold, I’d highly recommend issuing the ticket sooner rather than later. American can cancel tickets which are on hold.

Update: I’m not convinced American can legally cancel itineraries on a confirmed hold.

But my base fare showed as $0 — does that matter?

Interestingly with this fare, some tickets showed a $0 base fare, while others showed a $20 base fare. Some seem to think whether you booked the $0 or $20 version makes a material difference as to the fare being honored.

I disagree. It’s one thing if the airlines were just charging taxes, but keep in mind there are ~$400 in “carrier imposed surcharges,” which includes fuel surcharges. That’s considered to be the same as the rest of the base fare when it comes to what you paid for your ticket.


Can I do a 72 hour transit without visa on this fare?

China does indeed offer a 72 hour transit without visa. The catch is you must actually be in transit, meaning you must be connecting to a third country. If you’re flying from Chicago to Beijing and then 48 hours later back to Chicago, that’s not transit, since you’re not continuing to a third country.

The only way around that is if you continue to a third country while you’re in China. For example, say you booked a roundtrip ticket from Washington to Beijing, and are on the ground for a few days. If you make a separate booking to continue to somewhere else during that time (like Hong Kong), then you’d technically be in transit, and would therefore be eligible for a 72 hour transit without visa.

How should I get a Chinese visa?

The good news is that China now issues 10-year, multi-entry visa. So if you get a Chinese visa now it can be valid for 10 years, which is exciting news.

You can apply for a visa directly with the consulate, or otherwise you can use a visa service.

I recommend using Allied Passport for getting your visa, as they’re very familiar with the 10 year Chinese visas.


They’re offering a $5 discount to readers of One Mile at a Time — simply write a note on your Allied Order Form that One Mile at a Time referred you and you’ll receive a $5 discount.


What kind of a business class product does American have to Beijing?

American exclusively flies Boeing 777-200s to Beijing, which feature American’s old first & business class product as of now (these planes don’t have Wi-Fi).

While American is in the process of reconfiguring their 777-200s, the reconfigured planes aren’t scheduled to fly to Beijing as of now.


That means business class seats are in a 2-3-2 configuration and are angled flat. They’re definitely not the most comfortable out there for such a long flight, but can’t be beat for the price. 😉


Can I upgrade this fare to first class?

Yes! One of my favorite thing about being an Executive Platinum member with American is that I receive eight systemwide upgrades just for qualifying for the status, each of which can be used to confirm an upgrade from any revenue fare. So even discounted business class fares are upgradable to first class.


American does have their old first class product on the 777-200, though it’s still very comfortable. It features fully flat seats with direct aisle access.



How many miles will I earn for this trip?

Assuming you booked a one-stop routing between Washington and Beijing, you’re connecting either in Chicago or Dallas:

  • Washington to Chicago to Beijing is 7,191 miles
  • Washington to Dallas to Beijing is 8,163 miles

Map image from gcmap.com

On top of that, AAdvantage Gold members receive a 25% mileage bonus, and AAdvantage Platinum and Executive Platinum members receive a 100% bonus. Also keep in mind that American is offering additional bonus miles this year for paid premium class tickets, as follows:

Non-elite AAdvantage members

Non-elite Dividend Miles members
AAdvantage Gold & Platinum

Dividend Miles Silver, Gold, & Platinum
AAdvantage Executive Platinum

Dividend Miles Chairman’s Preferred
Medium and Short-haul flights less than 3,000 miles
Discounted Business Class Z*, I
Medium and Short-haul flights less than 3,000 miles
First / Business Class F, A, P, C, J, R, D
Long-haul flights greater than 3,000 miles and JFK-SFO/LAX
Discounted Business Class Z*, I
Long-haul flights greater than 3,000 miles and JFK-SFO/LAX
First / Business Class F, A, P, C, J, R, D

Lastly, you also receive 50% bonus redeemable miles and 50% bonus redeemable points for travel in paid business/first class:


So adding it all up, an Executive Platinum member traveling both ways via Dallas would earn a total of:

  • 16,326 elite qualifying miles
  • 24,489 elite qualifying points
  • 49,815 AAdvantage redeemable miles
    • 16,326 flown miles roundtrip
    • 16,326 bonus miles for being an Executive Platinum member
    • 8,163 bonus miles for flying paid business class
    • 9,000 bonus miles thanks to the promotion being offered this year

That’s less than one cent per redeemable AAdvantage mile in paid business class. Not too shabby. 😉

Bottom line

Congrats to those of you that got in on the fare, as it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen!

While I think it’s extremely likely this fare will be honored, I would hold off just a few hours for the mainstream media to pick up on the fare and for American to issue an official statement.

Were you able to take part in this amazing deal?

  1. > Keep in mind that there are Department of Transportation regulations protecting consumers from post-purchase price increases, which are extremely pre-consumer

    I assume that means pro-consumer…

  2. I found several dates to PEK and PVG , but at the end I passed as I had no interest in flying to China, have been there once , not on my list of countries to revisit. Instead I booked a summer first class tickets for my family to my favorite country, Norway!!!

  3. I was able to snag may 20-27 for $422 used my US Airways Barclay card, do I still get the double points via that card? The miles would go to my AA miles account I’m assuming once everything tranfereds, I’m assuming. Just recently opened both Citi AA & US Airways cards.

    I love your blog. My main goal is getting to the Maldives within a year for as little as possible using my point/ rewards so I’m def following you in that quest as well.

  4. At the end of the day, if it’s not honoured you lose nothing really. If it is honoured you get one hell of a status credit/qualifying mileage run. I would have booked it myself (I did confirm it, and threw a few dates in) but my calendar was just too busy in the limited date range this fare was across (if it had been available in August I would have jumped on it, but I don’t need any extra status credits until after May and time wasn’t available even for a points run).

    Still an interesting fat finger fare error, I can say I saw it myself lol

  5. I was fortunate in snagging the fare. I am Chairman’s Preferred, not EP, so should I credit the miles to US Air if the programs have not combined by the time I fly in order to maximize my miles? Do you think there would be an issue in changing? Do you think it’s possible to use same day flight change to go thru Dallas instead of ORD to maximize miles? Thanks for your insights.

  6. Too bad I didn’t know this earlier. Would have come extremely handy since that’s basically the route which I’m planning to fly in the next few month.

  7. The 50% class of service miles goes towards your eqm’s for the year? I couldn’t find on AA’s website that info, so I wasn’t sure if it would or not. In your example, one would net 24,489 EQM’s for this trip? Thank you.

  8. Lucky,

    my friends and I were able to get some of those fares actually out of SF… interestingly enough they also had them on JAL for 950 dollars.

    few questions here… how likely that they will honor both AA metal and Jal Metal?

    Also, the fare is sold as a AA codeshare, does that mean i am still eligible for the extra bonus for business class paid fare?



  9. Any advice on seats in J on the 772? Are you pretty much trapped in the window seats or is there room to get out? It’s a shame that the middle is 3 across.

  10. If I can recall correctly, I think there’s an AA internal policy that allows you to cancel or change a ticket free of charge even after ticketing. If you choose to cancel, you will be issued a voucher for use later on AA

  11. Was able to book DCA-ORD-PEK-ORD-DCA (5/13-5/20), thanks to you! Quick question. On the way back If I get off in Chicago and don’t fly the last leg how does that affect redeemable mileage earning?

  12. Interesting selection of Hong Kong as an example of a third ‘country’ that you could take a side trip to to qualify for a transit visa!

    Obviously it works for the visa issue but try telling CY Leung and Xi that China and Hong Kong are different countries!!!

  13. Not so sad about did not got a chance to book on this flight. I have no vacation from today through May 27th and provided that I need to fly 10 hours to get to Washington from Vancouver… Though I am a Chinese citizen..

  14. My dates didn’t work for me so I called in and after a 18 min conversation AA made a onetime exception and canceled my ticket 🙂

  15. @ Patrick — To clarify, the 50% bonus is redeemable miles and EQPs. You just earn 100% EQMs, regardless of whether you book discounted economy or full fare first class.

  16. @ chris — You are “trapped” in a window seat, in the sense that the person in the aisle has to get up in order for you to get into the aisle.

  17. @ Sergio T — The 2015 premium fare promotion doesn’t apply for travel on JAL. If it’s honored (which I suspect it will be), I suspect this will be valid for travel on both JAL and AA.

  18. @ Jana — You can’t do standby on international flights, so you couldn’t change ORD-PEK to DFW-PEK. If the programs haven’t merged then yes, you’ll want to credit to US to get the bonus miles.

  19. Hey Ben – I have a couple of seats on hold but need to change the name of one of the pax. Can this be done before it is ticketed?

  20. @ Craig — You want to change the actual passenger, or you made a spelling error and need to make a minor change?

  21. @ Craig — You can’t change a passenger’s name on a ticket. You’d have to start over, and obviously that fare isn’t available anymore.

  22. Still waiting for American Airline to make a statement. I booked two tickets for April, but now I’m thinking to cancel the tickets. Is there any chance I can cancel my tickets under AA’s 24 hour holding policy?
    I really wish that I got four tickets, and then straight to executive platinum. Now I’m struggling since I don’t think I can make another 50,000 miles flies to qualify.

  23. @ Charlie — Technically you can’t cancel, though you can certainly call and ask. In theory it’s possible that American makes an announcement and gives people the option to cancel for free as a way of freeing up seats, though I wouldn’t necessarily count on it.

  24. Hey Ben, I am a US CP and will be getting SWA’s with the merger next month. Any advantage to swap for a pair now and apply them over waiting until next month to apply them?


  25. @ Rusty — Ultimately the sooner you can upgrade, the better, though frankly I don’t think you’ll have much trouble clearing. I would just hold off.

  26. Lucky, I was able to snag one up last night, 1 week trip. For the 72h transit rule, in theory i can do the following without issue correct: DCA-ORD-PEK (stay for 72hrs) – HKG (stay for X amount of days) – PEK (stay for 72hrs) – ORD-DCA. this would require me to book (prob using BA avios) two separate one-ways PEK-HKG and HKG-PEK to prove transiting. my concern is that the 2nd time i enter PEK, will they ask me why i am transiting through again within the same week!!

  27. I want to thank everyone here….when the last deal was out and cancelled for “borderline” fraudulent claims of address on TPGs site (and himself)…the cries and shrieks of whiners was deafening. I have to say I’m happy to see how calm it is here.

  28. @ Al — Yep, that’s fine. Just make sure you’re transiting for LESS than 72 hours in each direction.

  29. @ brian — Hah, indeed, and I hope it stays that way. I also think this is a bit more straightforward than the last fare we saw. This one was bookable directly on American’s US website, so I really don’t see on which grounds they could get out of this (based on DOT regulations).

  30. Lucky, I got this ticket yesterday (thanks) and I’m thinking of crediting the flight to Alaska Airlines. I have no status on AA but have Alaska MVP Gold due to a status match. I think this will give me a 100% bonus plus 25% class of service bonus. Is that right? Do you agree for my situation that makes sense? Thanks!

  31. @ Daniel — Yep, and that’s absolutely what I’d do in your situation. Alaska is a great program to credit these miles to.

  32. Thank you Ben, and for AA Platinum, do I either need 50k qualified miles or 50k qualified points to qualify? By flying twice, I will have 48,978 qualified points and 32,652 qualified miles. Let’s say now I spend 40k on my executive card which grant me 10k qualified miles, technically I will have 42,652 qualified miles and still not qualify for Platinum, right?

  33. @ Charlie — Correct, you need 50K EQPs or 50K EQMs. So in that scenario you’d be just short.

  34. Bad news for those who had the tickets on hold. Both my reservations have now changed to “Your reservation details cannot be retrieved at this time. This may be caused by changes made to the reservation outside of AA.com. Please contact AA Reservations.” I am now unable to purchase them.

  35. I’ve been a Delta customer so I’m pretty clueless when it comes to AA. Do I need to sign up for a promotion to get the 3,000 bonus miles? Also, you mentioned that there’s a 50% bonus on elite miles but said that someone connecting through Dallas would only receive 16k+ elite miles. Shouldn’t it be 24k?

  36. Booked mine around 10:05pm last night. Got through to the pending screen, but no ticket confirmation email and no credit card charge. Safe to assume I didn’t get it?

  37. @ Eric — You automatically get those points as long as you credit to AAdvantage. With American you earn 100% EQMs regardless of whether you fly paid first class or discounted economy. It’s the EQPs that vary. So you earn bonus EQPs, but not bonus EQMs.

  38. Throw in the 3x miles (2x+50% bonus) from my us airways card and I’m clearing 51000 redeemable miles as an explat. Debating using a SWU

  39. i am so upset. i booked two RT tickets for $442 last night — even received an email saying “purchased” and booked seats and all– but unstablest to me, my credit card was declined, and when i called AA to give them another card earlier today they said that the fare is no longer available.

    do you think there anything i can do to fight this?

  40. Just curious…how did you first find these fares? Were you actually looking for a Washington to Beijing flight and stumbled upon it?

  41. Hi Ben,

    How did you see the 9,000 points? I thought if someone were exec plat, they’d get 1,000 for DCA-ORD and 12,000 for ORD-PEK. Wouldn’t that be 26K rt?

    In any case, thanks for sharing the deal!

  42. @ scw — This fare is in discounted business class (“I”) and not full fare business class, hence the reduced earnings.

  43. @ Derrick — A reader commented about a $1,000 business class fare between MSY and PEK, so I looked at it and noticed it was the combination of an MSY to DCA fare and DCA to PEK fare. Then I noticed it was DCA to PEK that was cheapest.

  44. @ chris — I’d first wait and see what American does with tickets that have already been issued.

  45. I see that this has been answered in short above, but curious of the official policy on earning miles after not getting on the last leg of a journey. So in the case of DCA – ORD – PEK – DFW -DCA … not getting on the DFW – DCA leg. Is there any risk of not getting mileage credit for the legs I was on? Any personal experience?

  46. “Lucky said on March 18, 2015 at 3:01 pm
    @ Derrick — A reader commented about a $1,000 business class fare between MSY and PEK, so I looked at it and noticed it was the combination of an MSY to DCA fare and DCA to PEK fare. Then I noticed it was DCA to PEK that was cheapest.”

    That was a great catch Lucky – kudos for looking closely (and for the reader pulling your attention to an odd fare pricing).

  47. Hey Lucky!

    Quick question – AA is only beginning their DFW-PEK flights on May 7 and in the press release statement they said they’ll be using the retrofitted 777-200s featuring the 1-2-1 layout in business for this route. I booked a May 9 flight but the seat map still shows 2-3-2. What do you think the likelihood is that the plane I fly on is indeed the retrofitted 777-200?

  48. Lucky,

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think there were two errors in your post.

    1. “Lastly, you also receive 50% bonus miles (both elite qualifying and redeemable) for travel in paid business/first class:” The 50% bonus miles are NOT elite qualifying.

    2. The calculation of the miles for EXP state “9,000 bonus miles thanks to the promotion being offered this year” As I understand it, the correct figure is 7,000 bonus miles.

    Again, correct me if I’m wrong. You know far more about this stuff then I do.

    Finally, did the post about the amazing fare to Beijing go out to all readers? For some reason, I didn’t see it.

    Thanks for all the useful travel tips and advice.


  49. @ Karl — Thanks for the correction. Fixed the first part. As far as the second part goes, you get 3,500 points per direction for DFW-PEK and 1,000 points per direction for DCA-DFW, so I believe my math was correct there.

  50. I don’t know about Beijing, but when we had a connection in Chengdu for UA’s new 787 flight to SFO we had a very hard time getting through immigration. They kept saying that we needed a visa even though we kept showing them our connection onward. Luckily we just got off an Air China flight in F and the FA saw us and translated for us. They stamped us there, but we never received a stamp upon departure. So it looks like we’ve never left China.

  51. @Daniel, I’m glad you brought that up, as I am in more or less the same situation (just status matched to Alaska MVP). I think I’ll eventually change my FF# on this ticket to my Alaska #.

  52. Is this a possible play to circumvent the rigid 72hr no visa rule:

    Buy a refundable one-way tix to a third destination to use for boarding and arrival in China, but use the return flight back to your origin.

    Never been to China so don’t know how thoroughly the custom agents there scan your passport upon departure.

  53. @ Raja — In theory you might get away with it, but it’s very risky. Keep in mind that on the immigration form you’ll have to put your arriving and departing flight information, and when you leave the country they might look at your boarding pass at immigration.

  54. Thanks for the tip, Lucky!

    Just scanned through the process of visa app and doesn’t seem too complicated; it helps living in NYC! I’ll err on the side of caution and apply for one.

    Keep up the great work; I’m a huge fan.

  55. Lucky, great article, but what is the lounge that AA business passengers will be able to use on this trip?

  56. @ Charlie — You might want to look at the chart again. Executive Platinum members receive 3,500 miles per longhaul segment in “I” class, and 1,000 bonus miles per shorthaul segment in “P” class.

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