Here’s How To Save BIG On American Business Class Fares

One trend we’ve seen over the past several years is that airlines are discounting premium tickets more often. They’d rather sell first & business class tickets at a discount than upgrade people, as it will condition people to start paying for the cabin they want to fly.

While full fare business class tickets continue to be $5,000+ per person, we’re seeing more discounted business class fares than ever before. For example, last November I flew British Airways business class from Los Angeles to London for ~$1,250 roundtrip. Furthermore, I just recently booked a ticket from Vancouver to Cape Town for ~$2,200 roundtrip in business class, with stops in Toronto, London, and Johannesburg. This is fantastic, because as airlines devalue award charts, there are more opportunities than ever before to just outright pay for business class for a reasonable premium.

Still, you have to book at the right time in order to take advantage of these deals, as they usually don’t last long.

How to save money on American business class

Here’s a fun trick which can save you a massive amount on the cost of American business class fares — often more than 50%. It’s something which has been discussed on FlyerTalk for a long time, and which I’ve frequently thought of taking advantage of.

American-Business-Class
American’s 777-300ER business class

You can save a huge amount of money on American business class fares by booking through American’s AA Vacations website. This is American’s bundled vacation package website, intended to compete with online travel agencies like Orbitz.

American-Airlines-Vacations

Why should you care? Because you can save a huge amount of cash by bundling the cost of a flight and hotel stay, even if you don’t plan on actually using the hotel stay. Let me give an example.

Say a party of two wants to fly from Los Angeles to London in business class. The roundtrip fare on American is ~$7,600 per person, or ~$15,200 for two people. Absolutely, ridiculous, no?

American-Sale-4

But let’s say you search the same flights through American Airlines Vacations.

American-Sale-3

You can choose specifically which flights you want.

American-Sale-1

And then you can also choose from dozens of hotels. For giggles, let’s choose the absolute cheapest hotel they have. Assume you don’t actually want to stay at the hotel, but rather are just using it for the savings. In this case it puts us up at the Mercure London Heathrow.

The total cost for two people including the hotel? ~$5,944, which is under $3,000 per person. That’s less than 40% of the cost of the business class fare alone.

American-Sale-2

There are tons of even better savings which result in lower costs, but I figured I’d give a simple, practical example.

Can you book nicer hotels with AA Vacations?

For a bit extra you can book a significantly nicer hotel, if you’d like. However, since you’re booking through a third party, you wouldn’t be eligible for points accrual at your preferred chain, if that’s a factor. Personally if I took advantage of this I probably wouldn’t use the hotel, so would just book the cheapest option.

Rosewood-London

Do savings only work to Europe, or elsewhere as well?

The savings seem to be biggest for travel to Europe, though in many cases there are also significant savings for travel to Asia, Australia, South America, etc. So it’s always worth looking at the fares, but Europe provides the biggest consistent savings.

AA-Vacations-Savings
Not especially compelling savings!

American-Sale
Huge savings, but still far from “cheap”

Do I have to book hotels for the entire length of my stay?

The minimum number of nights you can book with AA Vacations is three nights. However, say you want to go to Europe for two weeks, but don’t want to book a hotel for the entire time. That’s totally fine, as you’ll just have to plan a minimum of a three night hotel stay. The catch is that if you want to book a hotel stay shorter than your total trip time, you’ll need to book by phone. This shouldn’t be too complicated, though, and can add to further savings.

American Airlines Vacations can be reached at 800-321-2121.

Can you book for just one person?

Absolutely. The price will just be slightly higher, given that the cost of the hotel isn’t split among two people.

Do you still earn miles when booking through AA Vacations?

It’s worth noting that flights booked through American Airlines Vacations are eligible for mileage accrual, upgrades, etc., as they usually would be. They’re identical to booking the fare directly through American’s website.

American-First-Class
You can upgrade these fares to American’s 777-300ER first class

Bottom line

The next time you’re looking for an international business class ticket, be sure you check the American Airlines Vacations website to see how much money you can save there. The best deals tend to be in Europe, and the per person cost is lowered somewhat when you’re booking for two people, since the cost of the hotel can be split between two people.

Given that these fares earn miles, this is a fantastic opportunity to save big on transatlantic business class tickets.

Comments

  1. Grrrr you just gave away one of the best kept secrets! The airlines are surely going to eventually catch on to this I would think.

    Note: this also works great on coach fares. We did MSP-CDG-LHR-MSP a few years ago and booked as a package (and actually used the hotel) and the flight total was only $980 pp for all flights. If we would have booked those flights separate they would have been about $1,800 pp.

  2. @ ORD Flyer – If you benefitted from this deal years ago, it’s not any kind of secret. It’s been all over FT for ages, not hidden in the tricks thread or something like that.

  3. The same works with Delta Vacations. I’ve booked my boss on trips and the cost is always less than the flight as long as you choose a reasonable hotel. In my experience the only time it gets hairy is when you need a multiple destination itinerary and only want to book the one round trip. I booked him through Vacations to Amsterdam for a GREAT deal, but he needed to go to Berlin and London. I think we just booked the whole thing and paid for hotel in Amsterdam even when he wasn’t in the city. I know we still ended up saving a TON of money though.

  4. I did this in Maui. Actually did a rental car that we actually needed instead of a hotel. It wasn’t 50% savings, but it was around 25-30%. I didn’t know it was a “trick,” I just happened to give it a try and liked the deal. 😛

  5. @chancer it’s a little different being out there for years on FT and whereever else, and somewhere like OMAAT. Let’s see how long it lasts now. History is our guide.

  6. @ nemme – The fares quoted here are good compared to non-package prices but would be much better during sales like the one AA Vacations had in September which was written about in a post on TPG credited to FT. You can argue which blog gets more attention, but I wouldn’t call anything that’s appeared on TPG a secret of any kind.

  7. Ben, you are correct that the flights are eligible for upgrades, however, the process can be very challenging and can take a very long time. I’ve recently done this myself and the AA Vacations agent told me that their computer system is not fully integrated with AA’s system. Because of that, if you want to use miles, 500-mile upgrades, or system wide upgrades, you are required to call AA Vacations, the AA Vacation agent in turn will contact an AAdvantage agent. The AAdvantage agent will book new upgraded tickets. After the tickets are booked, the AA Vacation agent will cancel your original reservation, use the upgraded tickets and rebook the hotel, car, etc. that was on your original reservation. It can be done, but it can take several calls into AA Vacations to get an agent to actually do it and understand what to do.

  8. Perhaps this is obvious, but wasn’t clear (or I glossed over it):
    If one does this to save solely on the airfare, and then doesn’t use the hotel (cancel), will that flag anything with AA Vacations where in they cancel your return air?

  9. It looks like you can book the hotel for as little as one night, although I believe you are charged for three. This makes these mile-runnable.

  10. @ nemme, etc.
    To be fair to Ben, he waited a while to post about this. A few days after the FT thread went live, AA Vacations increased their prices. Still a good deal, particularly for Europe, but it used to be better.

  11. Can I credit these flights booked through AA vacations and earn miles on oneworld partners (like BA) as normal?

  12. I would like to get this clear. I travel to Milan for 2 weeks but going to the AA Vacation phone line I will get the business class fare published by them by just staying at the cheapest hotel for 3 (three) days?

  13. This has been working for years with ba.com & BA Holidays, and also back in the day for travel agents (when I was one) where there were discounted airfares which could only be sold with some ground product.

    So this isn’t new, it’s just revealing what’s been around for years.

    However beware – most hotel chains will not allow you to accrue their points/benefit from your status with them.

  14. looks like these packages only work for departures from the US or Canada.
    Below the warning when trying to use Europe or Asia as origin:

    “American Airlines Vacations does not offer vacation packages from the departure city you have entered. For vacation packages that include a flight, you must depart from a city within the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

    Even launching a request from a US airport and trying to modify the search to depart from outside the US/Canada, once in the site suggests a few options, will result in getting the nice “Oops! Something went wrong!” feedback… at least for me 😉

  15. Is there a way to book the minimum hotel nights (say 3) even if the tota trip time is much longer (2 weeks+)? I am not given the option to choose the number of nights.

  16. Yeah, too bad only for trips originating in the US, why do you think AA makes that distinction?

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