My First Trip Of 2015: International First Class For $1,500

Filed Under: American, Mileage Runs

I put “mileage run” in quotes because it’s not really a mileage run. Nowadays mileage running is for the most part dead, in my opinion. But there’s still plenty of merit to finding good fares on fun routings for maximizing miles, ideally with stops at fun places in the process.

Oddly while economy airfare has increased drastically over the past several years, we’ve seen more discounted premium cabin revenue tickets lately than I ever recall seeing. Why? Probably because airlines are actually doing everything in their power to maximize revenue, rather than opening up award space or letting seats fly empty.

So what’s the first “big” trip I booked for 2015?

I wrote several days ago about how British Airways has a global business class fare sale around the holidays, whereby they’re selling roundtrip business class tickets to many destinations around the world for ~£1000. The catch is that the promotion is only for travel originating in London between December 21, 2014 and January 3, 2015.


As luck would have it, I’ll be in London off the Etihad A380 inaugural flight on December 27, and hadn’t yet planned my way home. I figured I might as well spend New Years in Europe (I really enjoyed spending last New Years in Edinburgh) and then fly somewhere using this fare.

So I looked at the possibilities. There were lots of places I could go in British Airways business class, though there wasn’t much upgrade space to first class available. Then I realized the same fares were available on American. And not just on codeshare flights, but also when booking directly with American (which is an important distinction, because American systemwide upgrades can’t be applied on codeshare flights, per the rules).

As luck would have it, the fares were valid to almost everywhere in the US… including Hawaii!

So I booked London to New York to Los Angeles to Honolulu, and then Honolulu to Los Angeles to London.


Both longhaul flights are on the American 777-300ER, and the flight from New York to Los Angeles is on the American A321.

While the fare was in paid business class, you can upgrade any paid fare on American, so I managed to apply a couple of expiring systemwide upgrades to confirm first class on all segments. While American doesn’t have much confirmable business class upgrade space nowadays, they usually have plenty of confirmable first class upgrade space.

I’ve reviewed American’s 777-300ER business class extensively, though haven’t yet reviewed American’s new first class. I’m not convinced it’s actually much better, but at least I’ll be able to review it to say for sure.

American 777-300ER first class

American 777-300ER first class

How many miles do I earn?

That routing is 16,500 butt-in-seat miles, and with a 50% class of service bonus (which is new as of 2015 — previously you only earned a 25% bonus for business class) I’ll be earning almost 25,000 EQPs (elite qualifying points). In all I’ll be earning over 40,000 redeemable miles as well. I wish I were eligible for American’s fall transatlantic promotion, though best I can tell that’s only valid for travel between North America and Europe, and not for travel between Europe and North America (though if anyone has a different read on it, please let me know).

Anyway, it’s certainly not a mileage run, but at six cents per elite qualifying point I’d say it’s a heck of a fare for being able to fly international first class.

Have you taken advantage of the American & British Airways New Years fare sale?

  1. Oh man, you wasted that opportunity on the same-old, same-old LHR-JFK- and -LAX route on American? Tsk, tsk.

    Ben, make 2015 the year you branch out of your American Airlines bubble!

  2. @ Nick — You have a better idea? 😉

    It’s a new review, haven’t yet flown first on the 777-300ER!

  3. If you would have opted for BA, could you have applied the stackable BA Visa & AARP discounts?

    And/or did you find using the SWU a better value?

  4. @ colleen — Nope, they’re only valid for travel originating in the US, and not for travel originating in Europe, unfortunately.

  5. Sounds like a great trip! When in Honolulu, let me know if you want to meet up with a local and/or if you want some pointers!

  6. I’m sorry Lucky, nobody seems to read what you write, but instead they would like to tell you how to travel.

  7. A quick LHR-EWR (flying BA’s 787) while on my EuroAsia trip 😉


    So now it’s an EuroUsAsia one.

  8. Just took AA LHR-LAX in Flagship First. Can’t say I was too impressed. Catering is virtually the same and the service didn’t seem any better than the Biz flight I took on the way over. The F seat is roomier than the new J seat, which is nice, but the extra space and privacy didn’t seem to to worth the extra premium you pay. It certainly isn’t as big an upgrade as going from J to F on the older 777-200s. You probably will see a benefit on the LAX-LHR route since you will get more time to appreciate the larger bed on the overnight flight. I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts.

  9. American’s fall transatlantic promotion should be valid for origins either way. Definately was for me when I originated from LHR during a similar promotion in Jul/Aug… Maybe an effective mileage run after all?

  10. I’m confused. Won’t you still end up back in London and have to get home? I thought that was the premise of the whole idea.

  11. @ Stannis — Hah, indeed. But keep in mind I live in hotels, so didn’t actually necessarily have anywhere to go. So it’s not necessarily getting me anywhere, but it’s a fun way to spend a week or so, in my (twisted) mind. 😀

  12. @lucky Great fare indeed!! The post title might be a little misleading since you need to have (or borrow) 2 SWU upgrades to really fly for $1,500 in F….. 🙂

  13. I just flew LHR to JFK business and JFK to LHR first with AA 777 and to be frank i regret paying the extra for first,i was seated 1G and the whole night the 2 flight steward spent the night chatting in loud voice like most american do with no respect for passenger sleeping,i just wanted to go and shout on them,the food not much difference,exactly same beef tenderloin,same dessert sundae,as for the turndown i dont need that piece of white sheet to feel more confortable,the service in general was decent just robotic,quality of food ok nothing special for first class.

  14. I think this is super awesome!!! will you be crediting all flights to AA or only the return segments in 2015? I recall you already qualified for exec plat earlier this year.

  15. So Ben, you can still spend NYE In Europe? We did londen last year and now we’re trying Berlin. I’ve redeemed some marriott miles in an Awesome hotel, called am steinplatz, their autograph collection. So meet you there?!?:)

  16. Ben – I don’t understand: you purchased AA tickets on 001 ticket stock, but paid BA’s sale prices through BA’s website?

  17. @Without Bacon – It’s not hard to understand if you actually read the post:

    “Then I realized the same fares were available on American. And not just on codeshare flights, but also when booking directly with American (which is an important distinction, because American systemwide upgrades can’t be applied on codeshare flights, per the rules).”

  18. @ Without Bacon — The fare was available on American’s website as well. They have a joint venture, so pricing across the Atlantic is the same.

  19. @ Lucky,

    I will have my first flight in F class from DFW – NRT on 3/30/15, AA flight 61.
    They just send me email confirmation saying that it will be in Boeing 777.
    Can you please tell me which 777 is it? 777-200, 777-300, or 777-300ER (I hope!!!)

    @ Mohamed,

    Wow, is it really that bad….I am skeptical and kinda regret to redeem extra miles for my first flight experience in first class on AA….should look for different airline carrier…sigh 🙁

  20. @ Christine — It’s the 777-200. The only destination in Asia to which they fly the 777-300ER is Hong Kong.

  21. @ Matt S. — Hah, getting more pages added to my passport next week. 😀

    Truth be told, between Global Entry on my US passport and my EU passport, I don’t actually get stamped *that* much.

  22. This is an amazing offer by BA standards. I have booked lhr-lax rtn for a crazy day trip. Booked with a hotel the price can actually drop below the quoted £1,007 base price. I’m paying £1,057 incl night at Bellagio.

    Also booked lhr-mia rtn over the new year – £1,007.

    Following on from biz lhr-ams-nrt rtn for £999 with KLM in October nice year end.

  23. Well, Ben, if you jump to Maui and have never been I would be happy to show you around (1/3 or 1/4). Otherwise, there are some real gem spots on Oahu (if you are staying there) that are worth the car rental and time to visit. Email me privately if you’re keen on the Maui personalized tour.

  24. Hey Lucky,
    Let me understand, you paid a business fare and upgraded to first by miles or paid upgrade?
    Did you use the multi-city search tool on AA website, or did you purchase one by one?

    Safe flights!

  25. how did you find such an awesome fare? all the business fares I searched on were over 5k for LAX-LHR

  26. @ Patrick — Thinking of going somewhere else for NYE. Not usually a fan of the “big city” NYE festivities.

  27. @ Lucky :

    Oh no! 777-200 is old!….I wonder why AA keep operating old model in their long transatlantic flights. Any chance that they will exchange their transatlantic flight plan from 777-200 to 300 by end of March or beginning of April?

  28. @ Christine — Well they’re still in the process of taking delivery of their new aircraft, and they’re updating them as quickly as possible. They’re also updating their 777-200s to take out first class and add a new business class instead. There’s a chance the aircraft type could still change.

  29. Hey Lucky you mention you looked at BA business class fares but there wasn’t much upgrade availability to First–how would you plan to upgrade if there was space? Do you use Avios or AAdvantage miles, or cash? Thanks!

  30. @ Jack — To upgrade on BA you’ll want to use Avios. That being said, I booked American and then could use my systemwide upgrades to confirm the upgrade.

  31. Lucky,

    if you were going to apply a system wide upgrade and they’re confirmable on any paid ticket, why would you purchase a business class fare? Why not buy an economy ticket and then apply the upgrade? isn’t it the same thing and you’d save some money?

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