Best Ways to Use American Airlines Miles for Maximum Value


The best ways to use American Airlines miles is not on American Airlines. It is on their partners such as Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, or Qantas. 

American Airlines reduced the number of airline seats at the “Saver” level for their own flight. Thus, you have access to more award space and most likely a better flying experience by flying on one of American’s partner airlines. 


How Much It Will Cost

Travel from the U.S. 

Points below are for round-trip travel. For one-way travel, divide by 2. Premium Economy awards are currently only avaliable on American Airlines operated flights.  

DestinationRecommended AirlineEconomyPremium EconomyBusinessFirst ClassHow to Search Award Space
AfricaQatar80,000N/A160,000240,000BritishAirways.com or Qantas.com
Asia (Zone 2)Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines75,000100,000140,000210,000AA.com (Cathay) and BritishAirways.com (JAL)
Japan or KoreaJapan Airlines70,000100,000120,000160,000BritishAirways.com
Australia/New Zealand/OceaniaQantas, Fiji, or Air Tahiti Nui80,000130,000160,000210,000Qantas.com. For Air Tahiti use AA.com
EuropeAmerican or FinnAir60,00080,000115,000170,000AA.com
India or MaldivesCathay Pacific, Qatar, Or Etihad.80,000N/A140,000230,000BritishAirways.com Etihad.com for Etihad
Middle EastEtihad or Qatar80,000140,000230,000Etihad.com or AA.com (for Qatar)
South AmericaLATAM or American40,000 (North) 60,000 (South)80,000 (South)60,000 (North) 115,000 (South)110,000 (North), 170,000 (South)AA.com

American Airlines Award Chart

American Airlines has two award charts, one for travel on American Airlines and one for travel on their partner airlines. The pricing between the two charts is very similar, with the exception of the partner awards to the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America are 2,500 miles more.  The other difference is that the partner chart has more regions such as Africa and Indian Subcontinent since American Airlines does not offer flights from the U.S. to those regions. 

You can also save 2,500 miles each way in economy on certain dates to several international destinations with American’s MileSAAver, which is detailed on the chart below. 

Award Fees

  • Booking within 21 days: $75 (waived for all American Airlines elite status levels)
  • Changes to origin or destination: $150 (waived for executive platinum) (you can change dates for free, only change in routings have a fee)
  • Cancel and redeposit: $150 for the first ticket and $25 for additional awards reinstated to the same account at same time. (waived for Executive Platinum). You must cancel award tickets prior to departure. 
  • Call Center: If you can book an award online, there is a $30 for travel within the US and $40 for international. (some partners cannot be booked online, so the fee would not be charged).

Airlines You Can Fly On

Bookable on AA.com: Air Tahiti Nui, Alaska, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Fiji, Cape Air, Hawaiian, Iberia, LATAM, Malaysia, Qantas, Qatar, Royal Jordanian, SriLankan, and S7.

  • AA.com shows a ton of “Phantom” (fake) award space for Qatar Airways. Therefore, it is best to search award space for Qatar on Qantas.com or BritishAirways.com.

Call to Book Partners: China Southern, Etihad, Japan Airlines, Gulf Air, Seaborne Airlines, and WestJet.

  • Etihad Trick– If you would to book a one-way award on Etihad in their first class apartment from JFK to Abu Dhabi, try searching on Etihad.com for roundtrip (rather than one-way) “Guest First” award space from JFK to AUH and then call American’s New Zealand call center (09-308-4014) to book a one-way award. Since you are calling a foreign call center, be sure to use a phone or service with low international calling rates. 

Phone Number- 1-800-433-7300. A $25 fee does apply, but you might be able to get the fee waived by asking nicely or the partner is not bookable on AA.com. American’s Australia call center (+61-2-91011948) is also a good resource, especially for booking Etihad awards. 

Fuel Surcharges: American does not add fuel surcharges with the exception of British Airways and Iberia. 


Routing Rules

Third Region Rule

American Airlines restricts you from transiting through a third region on a single award with some exceptions (the full list is below in the Addendum section). For example, if you were flying from the US to South Africa you would likely have to fly through a third region (Europe, Asia, or the Middle East). American does make an exception for this routing for flights through Doha or Europe.  Therefore, you could book JFK-DOH-JNB in a single award on Qatar Airways for 75,000 points one-way in business class or that same routing on Etihad Airways, which would require two separate awards, for 125,000 points one-way in business class.

No Stopovers

No stopovers are permitted, but one-way and open-jaws awards are allowed. (i.e. Philadelphia to Lisbon; Paris to Dallas is an acceptable routing. Fees are high for flights starting in Europe, so booking this routing will save you hundreds of dollars in fees)

Reduce Mileage Awards

American offers reduced-mileage awards for those people who have one of the American Airlines credit cards. For flights longer than 500 miles, this can save you 7,500 points roundtrip. Just locate two city pairs that are both have check marks at the above link for a given month. However, you can only book this award via a phone or airport agent, which costs $35. 

Don’t Exceed the Maximum Permitted Mileage

Your itinerary must not exceed 125% of the Maximum Permitted Mileage (“MPM”). You can see the MPM on a paid subscription to Expert Flyer (or a trial) or email me at andy@dealspoints.com and I will look it up. Unless you are doing a very long and crazy routing, you probably will not run into this issue. Additionally, for each one-way award redeemed for travel within the United States and Canada, a maximum of three segments are permitted. For all other destinations (including Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands), a maximum of four segments are permitted.

Published Fare Rule

You can only fly between two cities if you could book a cash ticket between those two cities on the partners you want to fly. Since most of American’s partners are also codeshare partners (you could fly both American and Etihad on a single paid ticket), this likely will not be an issue.

Easter Island Exception: Flying from the U.S. to Easter Island (a remote island in the middle of Pacific Ocean) requires two separate awards. You can fly between the U.S. and Easter Island via Papeete, Tahiti for 57,500 roundtrip in economy or 110,000 in business, or via Santiago, Chile for 47,500 points roundtrip in economy or 87,500 in business class. 


Addendum

Transiting Through a Third Region

Below is a list of award region exceptions, which would allow you to transit through a third region. American Airlines does not officially publish a list of exceptions, so American could add or remove an exception at any time. The table and exceptions work in both directions.

Region 1Region 2Third Region Exceptions
North AmericaMiddle EastEurope
North AmericaIndian SubcontinentEurope, Middle East, or Hong Kong
North AmericaAsia 2Asia 1
North AmericaAfricaEurope or Doha (Qatar Airways)
EuropeAsia 1Asia 2 or Doha (Qatar Airways)
EuropeAsia 2Doha (Qatar Airways)
EuropeAustraliaDoha (Qatar Airways)
EuropeSouth PacificAsia 1, Asia 2, Doha (Qatar Airways), or Dubai (Qantas)
Central America, South America 1 and 2Africa, Middle East, or Indian SubcontinentEurope
South America 2AfricaEurope or Doha (Qatar Airways)
Middle East/Indian SubcontinentAsia 1Asia 2
Middle East/Indian SubcontinentSouth PacificAsia 2
AfricaAsia 1Asia 2 or Doha (Qatar Airways)
AfricaAsia 2Doha (Qatar Airways)
Asia 1South PacificAsia 2
Central America or South America Zone 1South PacificSouth America Zone 2

 

Region Definitions

RegionCountries within that Region
Central AmericaBelize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama
CaribbeanAnguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Curaçao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts/Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, Trinidad/Tobago, Turks/Caicos, and US Virgin Islands
South America 1 Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Manaus, and Peru
South America 2Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Falkland Islands, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela
EuropeAlbania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom
Middle East
Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates
Indian SubcontinentBangladesh, India, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan
AfricaAlgeria, Angola, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Melilla, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe
Asia 1Japan and Korea
Asia 2Brunei, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam
South PacificAustralia, Easter Island, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Palau, New Caledonia, Republic of Tonga, Republic of Vanuatu, American Samoa and Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu

MileSAAver Off-Peak Dates

MileSAAver only applies to flights on American Airlines, but it can save you 2,500 points each way in economy.

  • Hawaii: 
    • To Hawaii: December 29 – March 12, August 11 – November 18, November 24 – December 10 
    • From Hawaii: January 7 – March 19, August 18 – November 27, December 3 – December 25
  • Caribbean, Mexico and Central America: 
    • September 7 – November 14, April 27 – May 20
  • Europe: 
    • January 10 – March 14, November 1 – December 14
  • Asia Region 1 (Japan):
    • To Japan: January 1 – April 30, July 1 – November 30
    • From Japan: January 16 – April 19, May 2 – 31, September 1 – December 31
  • Asia Region 1 (Korea):
    • To Korea: January 1 – April 30, July 1 – November 30
    • From Korea: January 16 – May 31, September 1 – December 31
  • Asia Region 2 (China & Hong Kong):
    • To China/Hong Kong: January 1 – April 30, July 1 – September 30, October 11 – November 30
    • From China/Hong Kong: February 1 – May 31, September 1 – 19, October 2 – December 31
  • South America 1: January 16 – June 14, September 7 – November 14