Booking Barcelona: $747 Round-trip in AA Business Class

Like many peeps, I got in on the fantastic British Airways business class fares to Europe.

There were so many ways to stack that it was hard not to.

And, without a trip planned, I was starting to feel weird.

October is the time of year you have to be on alert for a really good deal. And you have to be ready to jump. I knew this one would be fast-moving, and man, it was.

Here’s how my flight plans came together.

1. Messed around with fares

These fares were not kidding around. I casually typed in JFK to BCN not expecting to find much. But wow. The prices were incredible.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

JFK-BCN was pricing out at $436 round-trip in business class!

Exhibit B

Exhibit B

Literally every date I tried was turning out fares for ~$450, after the AARP and Avios discounts. Just insane.

Your pick of routes, airlines, and connections, too.

2. Gathered Avios/AMEX EFFED ME

Jesus Christ, I hate AMEX these days. That’s a whole “State of the Game” post right there (although I have expressed my hatred of AMEX many times before).

Their aggressive anti-customer antics are the biggest reason Chase is winning and Citi is gaining a huge market share. In fact, the Citi ThankYou cards (which I’m intensely interested in) cover the best of AMEX, and if it weren’t for the lounge access on the AMEX Platinum Card, I’d probably dump them altogether… and I’ve been wondering how useful the AMEX EveryDay Preferred card really is.

But anyway.

I transferred over all of my Chase Ultimate Rewards points. And here’s how many Avios I had:



59,445 Avios.

For 2 tickets, I needed 60,000 Avios. I was hmmm… 555 points short.

Not a problem! I’d just transfer over 1,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points (which now translate to 800 Avios, but even still, that would’ve been enough).

This is what blind rage looks like

This is what blind rage looks like

My points kept bouncing back. I kept refreshing my British Airways account.

The transfer wouldn’t go through. 

I made most of these aborted transfer attempts myself, but the unhelpful lovely (sarcasm) AMEX reps made a couple of them.

I was on hold for nearly an hour, transferred around to 5 or 6 different reps and departments. Each time, they asked me to verify the numbers on my card, my verbal password, etc.

And each time, I grew more and more frustrated to the point where I was ready to cuss these idiots out. No one could help me.

Finally, a rep came on the line and told me their system was down. F**k.

And SPG transfers to Avios take 3 days. I was ready to call it done.

3.   Chase saves the day

But, I called Chase again. I don’t really know why.

I explained my situation and how close I was to this award. I thought there was maybe… something… they could do. Advance me the points somehow?

More than enough on the way

More than enough on the way

After all, I could see I’ve already earned over 1,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points on just 1 of my 3 UR-earning cards this month, and the points will post next week.


Chase gave me points

The rep (who answered after 1 ring on the CSP line – I just love that) put me on hold and less than 2 minutes later came back and told me he’d adjusted my account and sent 1,000 points to British Airways.

No advance, no repayment, just… here’s enough and it’s already done.


I refreshed my British Airways account and had enough Avios to book the award, finally.

You know where this is going, right?

4. The price shot up

Yup. That hour on hold with AMEX really screwed me over.

I looked again, and the price on the dates I wanted shot up to $747 per person, round-trip.

Now, that’s not bad. At all. But it’s not $436.

So this AMAZING DEAL OF A LIFETIME got demoted to really good deal. I had a moment of…

  • Wow, AMEX is such a piece of shit…
  • Chase is awesome…
  • This is still a great award…
  • I’ve never been to Barcelona…
  • Just do it. Do it. Book it. Eff it.

And it kinda happened all at once. But there it was, all in front of me.


Booked ’em

And then, it was done.


All-in-all, it’s still worth it. I saved more than I paid

So, I paid ~$1,500 for 2 round-trip business class tickets (and 60,000 Avios) to Barcelona.

Not the amazing ~$450 that some peeps got, but not a bad deal, either.


Current prices

And certainly better than the ~$5,000 it would cost out-of-pocket with no discounts!

Why I did it

Lots of reasons.


A nice start on AA status

Plus, I’ll earn over 11,000 more miles for the actual flights, and get a nice head start on AA elite status for 2016 right at the beginning of the year.

But most importantly, I get to visit Barcelona, a place I’ve always to go! Especially after such a great trip to Madrid (on a mistake fare, not so great on Alitalia).


So yeah. Chase basically rocks. AMEX is garbage.

I was blown away by how amazing Chase was and how terrible AMEX was. The contrast was really quite striking. AMEX’s incompetence, in a roundabout way, cost me hundreds of dollars. Because the time I wasted on hold with them was just long enough for me to lose an incredible deal.


See you soon, Barcy!

That burns, a lot, but more importantly, I get to visit a new place, I got a great deal, and it’s still well worth it to travel. #MrBrightSide

Oh, and I’m an AARP member now!

But, I can see how my experience would’ve turned off someone new to “The Hobby” – especially the hour of boiling rage with AMEX. Imagine if that was your first time trying to transfer points? After getting your first AMEX card?

And, seeing how fast the deal can move, and how the prices shoot up when you think you’ve locked something down.

Bottom line

In a lot of ways, this was a deal for those more experienced with booking these types of awards. To stack all the various discounts, use the right card, transfer the points, and find the right fare.

But it also goes to show a little stick-to-it-iveness is well worth it because you can wind up with a $436 (or $747) round-trip business class ticket to Barcelona.

So, that’s my story of booking Barcelona. Hopefully it was much simpler for others!

Now that that’s done, anything I should look forward to in Barcelona this upcoming January? Anyone else find a good fare?

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About Harlan

Just a dude living in Memphis, traveling, and working toward financial independence.

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  1. Harlan — I always liked your posts and now I have another reason to do so — a shared hatred of AMEX!!

    I absolutely hate how people toot their horn about MR which is now such a sack of shit for most US residents who don’t want to fly a foreign airline, deal with possible mileage termination/loss if you can’t use your points,etc.

    I’ve been saying for a long time that Chase stole all the best players of MR and now all that is left are the Dopplegangers of the Rewards World — Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee — if you will, where you get the worst value imaginable === Delta SkyPesos and HHorribles Points == Each the laughingstock rewards currency of the airline/hotel game!

    I did not get the great deal as my AARP membership — which is real — sadly — did not assist me when trying to validate my membership — it kept bouncing me back — there was a problem with the web site and when it was finally fixed, the prices had gone up for me, as well — I think — since I was booking JFK to London over the holidays, I am not so sure that the prices would have priced out lower — had I been able to get into the system to see in the first place!

    Anyway, I paid with the Citi Prestige that my partner has and therefore, earned 3 FAT TY points per $ booked, which translates to ~ 4.8 cents when used to book future AA air tix! Now that is something!

    Also, liquidated 60,000 AVIOS from my account’s 120,000 Avios — which were planted there when they were at a 1:1 ratio with MR and AMEX was running a 40% bonus!! Now, that was the only decent redemption left to MR and they just neutered that by decreasing the transfer ration to 10 MR points = 8 Avios points!

    I think that the only value perhaps left with MR is possible Choice hotel transfers!! I kid you not!

    Anyway, enjoy Barcelona, it is a great city, but buy your tix online if you wish to see La Sagrada Familia — the tix lines there are horrendous!!!

    • I love your comments! 🙂

      Yes, after this whole experience, plus many many other negative experiences I’ve had with AMEX, I’m nearly ready to dump them once and for all.

      Their only good flight partners now are ANA, Aeroplan, and Singapore – the others are absolute garbage (except MAYBE for Flying Blue when they have promo awards and Delta if you can get a Virgin Australia or Korean Air award).

      But it’s nearly enough to make me want to give up and switch over to Citi instead, and check out a new points program.

      HHorribles Points! I love it!!! :p

      I heard some people had trouble with their AARP membership. This deal had a LOT of moving parts that all had to function perfectly – AARP, BA, Chase/AMEX, then pricing it out – and if anything faltered along the way, the whole thing went kaput (as it nearly did for me).

      Glad you earned a ton of TY points and got the best rate possible for your Avios! And I agree, BA was MR’s last best transfer partner, now gone (I think because of pressure from Chase).

      And thanks for the tip re: BCN! It’ll be my first time there, and I’m so very much looking forward to it already! And thank you so much for reading and commenting. XOXO

  2. Sorry you had such a bad experience with Amex, but glad Chase saved the day. You still booked a great deal and will be visiting an awesome city!

    This is one time I’m happy I speculatively transferred points. I had transferred a large chunk of MR over to Avios during the last 40% bonus promo, hoping to put them to a good use and hadn’t found a use for them until now. Ended up booking BWI-JFK-BCN in AA biz for 2 people June 16-24 for $542.98 and 60,000 Avios total. Essentially 21.5k MR (with the 40% bonus transfer promo) and $271.49 out of pocket per person. I’ll miss out on the 25k AA/BA Europe points promo, but this was the best time that worked for us.

    • That’s awesome! Even without the 25K points promo, still an amazing deal. Plus, you get to go in summer instead of mid-winter!

      Glad you got in on that last 40% transfer bonus! Who know how long it’ll be before they do that again!

      Thank you for reading – I hope you have a wonderful time in BCN!

  3. Yeah, Amex is really dumb with a lot these days, but especially transfer issues. One potential solution given my experience with that run around: have the Amex rep change your name and maybe address info JUST for the transfer request form to be EXACTLY (spaces, hyphens, initials, whatever) how the receiving program has it. that fixed it for us, but too late for a Valparaiso NY Eve party through LAN business class on the 787, since LAN availability shows up right at 330 days and then often disappears the next day.

    I do have to present a bit of an alternative view of what you paid. As I see it, you paid $16 AARP + $1495 cash + guessing 59K UR worth $738 in travel cash, and then you got back 41K AA+Avios and elite credit. I don’t acquire AA or Avios miles at more than 0.30c any more, but 1c is a reasonable acquisition value for most who want big discounts to retail fares, so $410 in miles back plus a bit of elite benefit credit say $40. I figure a net of $1800 for 2 roundtrip J on AA to LHR and Club Europe to BCN. Perfectly reasonable at $900 for that roundtrip J, but not great compared to a direct AA J flight at 100K AA which can be acquired these days easily by CC sign up or MS below $400+$75 tax. Sorry to be the math grump, couldn’t resist!

    • That’s what the 3rd or 4th rep suggested, and it still didn’t work. So I dunno, but I have the same info on my accounts with Chase and it went through flawlessly. In the end, they told me their system had crashed.

      I love the math. The wonderful/maddening thing about this particular deal is there are so many ways to think about it.

      Only tweak in your calculations would be that I booked for 2 people. So for myself, I used 30,000 Chase UR points, and will get back 25,000 AA miles + the miles I’ll earn from the flights.

      So I basically “converted” 30K Chase UR points into 25K AA miles via this deal and promotion, and value AA miles at nearly the same rate as Chase UR points. So the points portion of the whole thing, for me, is a net-net. Which means I’m looking strictly at the cash portion – $747 for a business class trip – and still earn elite credit.

      I love hearing how other people value their points – that’s the wonderful thing about points and miles, so many ways to look at it!

      Thank you for the tip regarding future AMEX transfers. That whole experience REALLY turned me off to earning more MR points. Did you ever get to fly on LAN’s 787?

      • Very good point regarding the 2 people earning miles on these tickets, and agree with your way of looking at the miles portion largely netting out with a net cost around the cash price of $750. Still would suggest MSing with all in time and effort costs including liquidation would be cheaper at around $400 inc taxes and a more direct AA J option, but I get that this was a much faster way than the whole GC & Serve at WMT rigmarole.

        Did not end up doing the LAN 787 J myself, but my wife did on the new 787-9 for business another time. She really liked it, as she doesn’t mind the open nature of the seats and cabin. Very comfy and good service, with the 787 air really making a difference.

        • I personally LOVE LAN’s 787 and have flown them many times. I wasn’t bothered by the openness of the cabin – it seemed to fit the design really well, and the service was fantastic. It’s also a nice treat to try a few Chilean wines before you get to the country proper.

          I don’t have (easy) access to a Walmart here in New York City, but man… if I ever leave, you better believe a Walmart with a KATE, and a few places to snap up gift cards with a credit card will be as much a selling point as anything else!

          And yup, it’s all a balance! At least it’ll give me a new product to try (and write about here), and the memories of a new city. After all has settled, I’m pleased with how it turned out. Could it have been better? Well, yes. But ah, living and learning! 🙂

  4. This post made my morning! I had the same exact experience!! I truly hate Amex (and that is an understatement). Somehow my BA Avios number was delinked and I received an address error online. It took me almost an hour on chat and the phone to get it fixed. I ended up transferring 20k Chase UR points and the price shot up! I’m still ok with $800 r/t, but almost cried when I got the booking error for the $400 fare.

    Amex goes out of their way to make it hard for people to earn their points (they hold them after the statement closes) and they make them next to impossible to use (hence this ordeal). I ended up cancelling my platinum card yesterday because of this and other MR debacles (though I kept the everyday).

    Until Amex becomes customer friendly and streamlines their process similar to Chase, I’ll continue using my Chase cards over Amex.

    • I gotta admit I almost cried too when the price shot up. $800 R/T is still pretty dang good, though. Like you, I settled on a great deal instead of a ZOMG spectacular deal.

      Even still, I’m sure it’ll be more than worth it. Where’d you book your trip to?

      I agree about the multiple MR debacles. I’ve never had an easy experience earning or using them, either. I had this half-hatched plan to one day use them for ANA or Aeroplan redemptions and it kinda… never happened.

      And yes yes yes to Chase. I’m thinking of dumping my AMEX cards and seeing what Citi Prestige and Citi ThankYou Premier are all about…

  5. What a bummer the whole thing AmEx.

    I managed to snatch 3 trips (2 DFW-MAD and 1 PHL-MAD) for thanksgiving, spring-break 16 and summer 16 for $265 + 30,000 avios…

    This sale absolutely made my year!

    • Holy crap! That’s incredible, Bill! Good for you!

      Man, that’s an incredible amount of miles and bookings. And for $265 each?!

      Gotta admit I’m a little jel-jel. I had a wonderful time in Madrid. I’m sure you will too.

      Congrats on your haul!

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