If you fly 100 percent on American, with no codeshare flights, you don’t have to pay the fuel surcharge, but you do have to pay $184 in taxes in coach and $286 in business class. Not all of American’s codeshare partners are like this, so check the taxes and fees on international award tickets before you cash in your miles.
Things have changed in the air when it comes to frequent-flier miles. If you want to use 25,000 miles for Christmas, I don’t think you can even get a ticket for that amount for a flight between Dallas and Austin, but you sure can get a seat for 50,000 miles.
If you want to find tickets at the lowest amount, look at flights after Labor Day through Nov. 18, the two weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the second week of January until spring break starts and after Easter through Memorial Day. If you travel during these time periods, you should have pretty good luck getting seats for the minimum amount — but you still may have to be flexible.
Know that midweek seats will be the easiest to find and Friday or Sunday flights are the hardest. You also may have better luck finding seats from hub cities on early morning flights and on late-night flights on the return to hub cities.