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Let’s talk about how to use American Airlines miles for awards to the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent. American Airlines has the best award space to the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent by far and some of its nicest partners fly these routes.

Etihad First Suite on 787
Etihad First Suite on 787. I have mine Booked for May.

What You’re Reading

This is the eighth post in one comprehensive guide that tells you everything you need to know about American Airlines miles. Now is the time to write this guide because now is a special time to earn American Airlines miles.

American Airlines and US Airways have merged legally, but they maintain separate frequent flyer programs. The two programs will combine some time between April and June 2015, and your balances in the two programs will be combined as American Airlines miles.

Getting the American Airlines personal card, American Airlines business card, and US Airways personal card now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines miles by mid-2015.

This guide will explain the rules, quirks, tricks, and options for redeeming those 156,000 American Airlines miles all in one place. It might just put my Award Booking Service out of business when it comes to redeeming American Airlines miles.

If you find this guide to redeeming the most valuable miles in the world to be useful and want to apply for the credit cards that earn them, please use my links. The commission is what allows me to dedicate the time to writing this series.

“Redeeming American Airlines Miles” Series Index

Middle East and Indian Subcontinent

The Middle East and Indian Subcontinent is one very large region on the American Airlines award chart. It contains:

  • Afghanistan
  • Bahrain
  • Bangladesh
  • Egypt
  • India
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Israel
  • Jordan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kuwait
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Lebanon
  • Maldives
  • Nepal
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Syria
  • Tajikistan
  • Turkmenistan
  • the United Arab Emirates
  • Uzbekistan

The Partners for Middle East and Indian Subcontinent Awards

As I noted in the post on American Airlines award routing rules, awards to the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent must fly directly from North America to the Middle East/Indian Subcontinent or can transit Europe. They cannot transit East Asia even though trips from the West Coast to India might be as convenient or more convenient via Asia.

American Airlines partners with direct flights to the Middle East or India from North America:

  • Etihad Airways (Abu Dhabi)
  • Qatar Airways (Doha)
  • Jet Airways (Mumbai)

Other American Airlines partners with hubs in the region:

  • Gulf Air (Bahrain)
  • Royal Jordanian (Amman)

Plus any partner that flies between the United States and Europe or Europe and the Middle East can be potentially useful, so don’t forget about:

  • American Airlines
  • US Airways
  • Airberlin
  • Qantas (London to Dubai)
  • Finnair
  • Iberia
  • British Airways

Award space on American Airlines, US Airways, airberlin, British Airways, Finnair, and Qantas is searchable on aa.com. Here’s how to search aa.com.

Awards space on Iberia, Royal Jordanian, and Qatar is searchable on ba.com. Here’s how to search ba.com.

Award space on Gulf Air is searchable on Expert Flyer. Here’s how to search Expert Flyer.

Award space on Etihad is searchable on etihad.com. Here’s how to search etihad.com.

Award space on Jet Airways is searchable by calling American Airlines at 800-882-8880.

Pricing

From North America to the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent, American Airlines charges:

  • 45,000 miles one way in economy
  • 67,500 miles one way in Business Class
  • 90,000 miles one way in First Class

Compared to competitors, American charges fair prices. Compared to the rest of American’s outstandingly cheap award chart, these prices are unfortunately more expensive than I’d like. Ultimately though I have paid 90,000 miles for one way in Etihad First Class from Egypt to Washington DC.

American is not the leader to the Middle East and India because of its pricing as much as its partners. American partners with two of the big three Middle Eastern carriers, and the third, Emirates, only partners with Alaska Airlines among American airlines. Add in the other Middle Eastern and Indian partners, and American really has a lock on the region.

Booking the Awards

To book 99% of Middle East and Indian Subcontinent awards, you need to call American Airlines at 800-882-8880 to book. You will have to pay a $35 phone fee per passenger. I recommend searching award space on aa.com, ba.com, Expert Flyer, and etihad.com before calling and feeding the agent the date, cabin, and flight number of each flight with award space instead of relying on the agent’s searching skill.

Routes

There are too many routes to cover all of them, so I’ll restrict myself just to the direct Etihad and Qatar flights from the United States the Middle East.

Etihad flies from six American cities to Abu Dhabi and from there throughout the region including 11 cities in India and five in Pakistan.

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 6.57.44 PM

Etihad flights feature First, Business, and economy class.

I find award space to be excellent on Etihad. This is my go-to airline when I am looking for award space for MileValue Award Booking Service clients to the Middle East and India. With flexibility, you can find two seats in any cabin.

Qatar flies from seven American cities to Doha and from there throughout the region including 12 Indian cities.Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 7.00.44 PM

Qatar’s flights to the United States do not feature First Class, just Business and economy.

In my experience, Qatar award space is not as strong as Etihad award space.

I realize I haven’t said much useful about the award space to the Middle East, but it is difficult to sum up space on dozens of routes across several airlines and cabins. Better to just tell you which airlines to start with and where to search that award space.

Bottom Line

American Airlines has amazing partners to the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent, topped by Etihad and Qatar.

Awards are pricier than most places on the American Airlines award chart at 45,000/67,500/90,000 miles one way in economy/Business/First. Awards must fly directly from North America to the region or connect in Europe. They cannot go via East Asia.

Right now the personal and business American Airlines cards are each offering 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months.

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

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The Cave Man has generously donated two Admirals Club passes that expire February 8, 2016 to one lucky reader.

American Airlines operates Admirals Clubs in these locations. My favorite is at Honolulu International Airport, overlooking the garden, and stocked with better food (and soup!) than usual since Japan Airlines uses the lounge for its premium passengers.

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Last time in AA lounge at HNL: minestrone, potato chowder, and mini-donuts that are just too dang good

 

There are two ways to enter the drawing. On Thursday at 11:59 PM PT, I will select one winner. You can enter both ways to doubles your chances to win.

Way #1: Comment on this post with how you’d use the passes.

Way #2: Follow @milevalue on twitter and retweet this tweet.

If you don’t win, don’t forget that you can use your Citi Prestige® Card for free Admirals Club lounge access for you plus two guests. My full review of the Prestige’s benefits.

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Application Link: Citi Prestige® Card

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Now is a special time to earn American Airlines miles.

The personal deal has been the official offer since late October and the business deal since late November, so they’ve been around for three and two months respectively.

How much longer can we expect these amazing deals to last?

First, a quick word on why the deals are so amazing: American Airlines has a much better award chart than its competitors. If United or Delta are publicly offering 50,000 mile bonuses on their cards, that’s great, but not as good as these American Airlines offers.

Delta and United both jacked up the number of miles needed for premium-cabin awards in 2014. American hasn’t touched their award chart in years, so it’s like you can pay the last-generation miles price for premium-cabin awards with American Airlines miles. I gave an example the other day in my post about using AA miles to East and Southeast Asia:

  • American charges 55,000 miles one way to Southeast Asia in Business Class and 67,500 miles in First Class.
  • Delta charges 70,000 miles in Business Class. Delta miles cannot be used to book international First Class.
  • United charges 80,000 miles one way in partner Business Class and 130,000 miles in partner First Class.

These massive savings on premium-cabin awards compared to its competitors run throughout the American Airlines award chart.

Even on economy awards, Delta and United only bumped a few award prices up, but American still has by far the best economy award prices because it offers “off peak” awards in economy for much of the year to much of the world. For example:

  • American charges 17,500 miles one way in economy to Hawaii for much of the year and 20,000 miles to Brazil and Argentina for much of the year.
  • Delta and United charge 22,500 miles to Hawaii all year and 30,000 miles to Brazil and Argentina all year.

So 50,000 American Airlines miles does not equal 50,000 Delta or United miles. The American Airlines miles are worth more.

How long can we earn 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles on one card?

I don’t have any inside info, so I’ll look to clues from what competitors have done and what American Airlines is up to.

United publicly offered 50,000 bonus miles online on its basic personal card for one month last year. Delta also ran a few very short-term 50,000 mile public, online offers.

These American Airlines offers have been around for 2-3 months, so that’s not a good sign.

What is a good sign is that the US Airways credit card has been offering 50,000 bonus miles for the last two months.

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 12.09.21 PM

While American Airlines and US Airways are the same company, the American Airlines credit card and US Airways credit card are competitors. The cards are issued by two different banks.

Barclaycard, which issues the US Airways card, will lose its ability to issue new US Airways cards when the US Airways Dividend Miles program disappears, some time before the end of June. Barclaycard will retain the right to service those accounts, and will convert them to American Airlines cards.

That means Barclaycard has a strong incentive to sign up as many new customers as possible right now, which probably explains the prolonged 50,000 mile sign up bonus.

Right now I consider American Airlines miles and US Airways miles to be nearly identical. There are differences, but some time in the next few months, they will both be American Airlines miles, so the easiest way for me to think about them is 1:1 equals.

Since the main competitor of the American Airlines card is offering 50,000 bonus miles, that puts pressure on Citi to offer 50,000 bonus miles on the AA card.

I am cautiously optimistic that the US Airways card and American Airlines cards will both offer 50,000 bonus miles until the AAdvantage and Dividend Miles programs combine, some time between April 1 and June 30, 2015 according to the airlines. The offers could disappear at any time, but this is my best guess from competing banks.

I don’t mind putting my guesses out there and being proven right or wrong. Feel free to put your guess publicly in the comments. The range of guesses will be interesting, and we’ll see who gets it right.

Getting the Miles

American Airlines miles are super easy to get.

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings.

The business version, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, also comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. This card comes with 2x miles on select business purchases and a 5% miles bonus on renewal. One person can have both cards.

We also know that The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will no longer be offered to new applicants as soon as the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs integrate, some time by June 2015. That means that the chance to earn 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase on this card will disappear soon. Check out all the places you can go with just the sign up bonus.

All US Airways miles not redeemed on the US Airways chart by the time of integration will become American Airlines miles, and American Airlines has committed to not devaluing its award chart at the time of combination. The two types of miles are roughly equal in value. Getting all three cards now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines miles by June.
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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

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The Etihad A380 is the plane I most want to fly in First Class. The suite is so big, you get a seat and an entire couch/bed next to you. The suite is so big that First Class is in a 1-1 configuration on an A380. (Most airlines are 1-2-1.) The suite is so big that I might barely want to leave it to check out the onboard shower or Lobby lounge. Here’s the Etihad page on their “First Apartments.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 12.27.11 PM

I booked myself First Class on the Etihad 787, but I really want to get on the A380 which already flies from London to Abu Dhabi and begins flying from Abu Dhabi to Sydney on June 1, 2015.

I’ve mentioned a few times that award space between London and Abu Dhabi in both directions is available for up to two people per flight, and that it costs only 40,000 American Airlines miles each way in First Class. That’s a steal!

There are no fuel surcharges. Taxes out of London are high, but here’s how to dump them.

An even better deal, though, is paying only 60,000 American Airlines miles one way in First Class between Abu Dhabi and Sydney for 14+ hour flights–again with no fuel surcharges and just modest taxes.

Award space between Sydney and Abu Dhabi is excellent in both directions, and I often see two award seats on the same flight in First Class.

How to Search Award Space and Award Space Picture

As I mentioned in Where to Search All American Airlines Partners, Etihad award space is searched on etihad.com’s award search page.

First I searched Abu Dhabi to Sydney. This flight leaves at 10:15 PM and lands at 7:05 PM the next day. It’s just shy of 14 hours.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 10.13.18 PM

Since I would most like to visit Australia near its summer, I searched as late in the award calendar as possible. Award bookings are currently available through about Christmas.

I found no award space in December on the A380 in First Class. But I found ample space in November–on some flights for two passengers–until November 21. That’s already late Spring in Australia, so the weather should be pretty good by then.

Here’s what a typical award search result looks like.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 10.13.42 PM

Let’s break it down a bit. At the top is a calendar that shows how many miles First Class is each day. We will never pay these amounts. We’ll either pay 60,000 American Airlines miles if there is award space accessible to American Airlines or have no chance to book the space if there isn’t.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 10.13.49 PM

The miles listed are important though because you pretty quickly distinguish the cheapest price (121,000 in this case) from other prices (612,000 and 823,000.) Only days with the cheapest price have “GuestSeat” availability.

GuestSeat availability is the space that American Airlines miles can access. AA miles cannot access OpenSeat availability.
Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 10.14.00 PM

On the results, you’ll see how much space is available on each flight and which aircraft operates each flight.

Here you can see that on November 5, there are two seats available to American Airlines miles on the A380 flight.Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 10.15.43 PM

I also ran the search from Sydney to Abu Dhabi, and award space was basically the exact same. There is no space in December at the moment. There is great space in November for 1 or 2 people, and again the last day with award availability this year is November 21.
Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 10.19.44 PM

The Sydney to Abu Dhabi flight is also a nighttime departure. It leaves at 9:50 PM and lands the next day at 5:30 AM. It is nearly an hour longer at 14 hours, 40 minutes.

I’m not sure which I’d prefer to take. Since take off time is almost the same, I assume I’d get about the same amount of sleep on each flight, probably a few hours after take off. I’d lean toward the westbound flight because it is 50 minutes longer.

To book any Etihad award space, note the date, cabin, and flight number and call American Airlines at 800-882-8880.

You Don’t Live in Abu Dhabi or Sydney

Hopefully I don’t need to inspire you to THINK BIG with your trip ideas. Miles allow you to make an Abu Dhabi to Sydney flight part of a round-the-world trip booked with a combination of miles. For only 60,000 miles in First Class, this would be a luxurious middle leg that you would definitely enjoy.

Australia and New Zealand have more than you can see in a lifetime, so I wouldn’t hesitate to return no matter how many times I’d been, and Abu Dhabi can be an interesting destination or connection point to somewhere else in the Middle East that you prefer to see.

Getting the Miles

American Airlines miles are super easy to get.

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings.

The business version, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, also comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. This card comes with 2x miles on select business purchases and a 5% miles bonus on renewal. One person can have both cards.

We also know that The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will no longer be offered to new applicants as soon as the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs integrate, some time by June 2015. That means that the chance to earn 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase on this card will disappear soon. Check out all the places you can go with just the sign up bonus.

All US Airways miles not redeemed on the US Airways chart by the time of integration will become American Airlines miles, and American Airlines has committed to not devaluing its award chart at the time of combination. The two types of miles are roughly equal in value. Getting all three cards now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines miles by June.
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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

Let’s talk about how to use American Airlines miles for awards to East and Southeast Asia. Awards to East and Southeast Asia are some of the best value awards with American Airlines miles.

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Hiking the Great Wall of China outside Beijing in September

What You’re Reading

This is the seventh post in one comprehensive guide that tells you everything you need to know about American Airlines miles. Now is the time to write this guide because now is a special time to earn American Airlines miles.

American Airlines and US Airways have merged legally, but they maintain separate frequent flyer programs. The two programs will combine some time between April and June 2015, and your balances in the two programs will be combined as American Airlines miles.

Getting the American Airlines personal card, American Airlines business card, and US Airways personal card now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines miles by mid-2015.

This guide will explain the rules, quirks, tricks, and options for redeeming those 156,000 American Airlines miles all in one place. It might just put my Award Booking Service out of business when it comes to redeeming American Airlines miles.

If you find this guide to redeeming the most valuable miles in the world to be useful and want to apply for the credit cards that earn them, please use my links. The commission is what allows me to dedicate the time to writing this series.

“Redeeming American Airlines Miles” Series Index

Asia 1 and Asia 2

This post deals with American Airlines awards to what it calls “Asia 1″ and “Asia 2.”

Asia 1 is Korea, Japan, and Mongolia.

Asia 2 is:

  • Bhutan
  • Brunei
  • Cambodia
  • China
  • Guam
  • Hong Kong
  • Indonesia
  • Laos
  • Malaysia
  • Myanmar
  • the Philippines
  • Saipan
  • Singapore
  • Sri Lanka
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam

The Indian Subcontinent is part of the Middle East region, which will be covered in a later post.

The Partners for East and Southeast Asia Awards

As I noted in the post on American Airlines award routing rules, awards to Asia 1 and Asia 2 must fly directly from North America to East Asia. They cannot transit Europe, the Middle East, India, or any other continent. That means I’ll focus just on airlines with direct flights to East Asia and within East Asia.

To East Asia, American Airlines miles can be redeemed on:

  • American Airlines
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Malaysia Airlines (does not fly to North America)
  • Japan Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • SriLankan Airlines (does not fly to North America)
  • any combination of the six

Award space on American Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines is searchable on aa.com. Here’s how to search aa.com.

Awards space on Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines, Japan Airlines, and SriLankan Airlines is searchable on ba.com. Here’s how to search ba.com.

Pricing

To Asia 1 (Korea, Japan, Mongolia), American Airlines charges:

  • 25,000 miles one way in economy from October to April
  • 32,500 miles one way in economy from May to September
  • 50,000 miles one way in Business Class
  • 62,500 miles one way in First Class

To Asia 2, American Airlines charges:

  • 35,000 miles one way in economy
  • 55,000 miles one way in Business Class
  • 67,500 miles one way in First Class

The off peak awards to Korea and Japan are a steal. The premium cabin awards year round are outrageously cheap. Consider that you can fly Cathay Pacific First Class to China or Southeast Asia for only 67,500 miles one way.

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 1.42.22 AM

Cathay Pacific First Class is one of the nicest First Class products in the world, and for inferior products, Delta and United charge more miles.

  • Delta charges 70,000 miles one way to Southeast Asia in Business Class. Delta miles cannot be used to book international First Class.
  • United charges 80,000 miles one way to Southeast Asia in partner Business Class and 130,000 miles in partner First Class.

American’s under-pricing of awards to Asia relative to its competitors is one of the main reasons that American miles are the best miles to Asia.

Booking the Awards

To book an American Airlines award to Asia that features only American Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines flights, you can book right on aa.com.

If you want to include even a single segment on Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, or SriLankan Airlines, you need to call American Airlines at 800-882-8880 to book. You will have to pay a $35 phone fee per passenger. I recommend searching award space on ba.com before calling and feeding the agent the date, cabin, and flight number of each flight with award space instead of relying on the agent’s searching skill.

Routes and Award Space

To Asia 1, the possible routes are on Japan Airlines, American Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines. You cannot route from North America to Asia 2 to Asia 1 on a single award, so these routes are key to know. (For instance, Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Seoul would price as Los Angeles to Hong Kong plus Hong Kong to Seoul. Read the award routing rules post.)

American flies:

  • Dallas to Tokyo-Narita
  • Chicago to Tokyo-Narita
  • Los Angeles to Tokyo-Narita
  • Dallas to Seoul

Japan Airlines flies:

  • Boston to Tokyo-Narita
  • New York to Tokyo-Narita
  • Chicago to Tokyo-Narita
  • Honolulu to Tokyo-Narita
  • Los Angeles to Tokyo-Narita
  • San Diego to Tokyo-Narita
  • Vancouver to Tokyo-Narita
  • San Francisco to Tokyo-Haneda
  • Honolulu to Tokyo-Haneda
  • Los Angeles to Osaka-Kansai
  • Honolulu to Osaka-Kansai
  • Honolulu to Nagoya-Cetrair

Hawaiian Airlines

  • Honolulu to Seoul
  • Honolulu to Tokyo-Haneda
  • Honolulu to Osaka-Kansai
  • Honolulu to Sapporo-Chitose (Japan)
  • Honolulu to Sendai (Japan)

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The American Airlines flights to Asia 1 have OK economy award space, especially during the off peak window, and terrible Business and First Class space. The only consistent time I found Business and First Class Saver award space was in the last 1-3 days before departure in both directions.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 11.10.53 PM Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 11.10.13 PM

The Japan Airlines flights show a lot more Business Class than First Class award space. Th best route is probably San Francisco to Tokyo-Haneda, which has award space four days in a row the first week of March. I found award space on every route I searched, though, so with flexibility, you can fly Japan Airlines Business Class with American Airlines miles.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 10.23.39 AM
Image of Award Nexus Searching BA.com

To Asia 2, you can route via Asia 1. That means you can fly any of the transpacific flights above and connect on intra-Asia flights to Southeast Asia. Or you can fly directly to Asia 2 on American, Hawaiian, and Cathay Pacific.

I’m going to focus on Cathay Pacific’s award space “rules” because it has one of the nicest Business and First Class products in the world and the most consistent award space.

Cathay Pacific Routes

Cathay Pacific has seven current North American destinations and adds Boston in May 2015. All routes offer First Class except Newark and Toronto, which top out at Business Class.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 11.35.03 AM

 

Cathay Pacific Business Class Award Space Rule

Cathay Pacific opens up 2 Business Class award seats on a ton of flights when the schedule opens 11 months in advance. I ran a search 10 months from now (not 11 because that’s Christmas when all award availability suffers) on the following routes:

  • Boston, New York, and San Francisco to Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong to Los Angeles and Chicago

Over the seven day period I searched all the routes had multiple flights with 2 Business Class award seats except Boston to Hong Kong, which had none. The others all had 3-4 days with at least one flight with 2 Business Class award seats.

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Award Nexus Searching BA.com

Many days had multiple flights with award space. December 1 has three different Hong Kong-to-Los Angeles flights with 2 Business Class award seats and three different New York-to-Hong Kong flights with 2 Business Class award seats.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 10.58.49 AM
Award Nexus Searching BA.com

 

To get Cathay Pacific Business Class award space, try to book 11 months in advance. Space gets worse from that point, though it does reappear in the last few days before departure.

Cathay Pacific First Class Award Space Rule

Some Cathay Pacific First Class award space is available throughout the schedule but not a ton.

Within 36 hours of departure though, Cathay Pacific releases all but one unsold First Class seat on every flight. This usually translates to 1-4 more seats on almost every flight.

The following screen shots come from November. The snow storm on the East Coast today is messing up Cathay Pacific First Class award space.

Here are today’s flights from Los Angeles to Hong Kong. The far right column shows that the flights have 1, 1, 2, and 3 First Class seats respectively.

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 11.06.06 PM

Here are tomorrow’s flights. They have 1, 2, 0 (not pictured), and 1 seats available in First Class.

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 11.06.28 PM

If you can wait until the last 48 hours, you and your companion are very likely to be able to snag two of the six seats in Cathay Pacific’s mind-boggling First Class. Review of Cathay Pacific First Class.

Just because you want Cathay Pacific First Class doesn’t mean you want the stress of not having any flights booked until 48 hours before departure. That’s not what I’m recommending.

American Airlines does not charge a change fee to “upgrade” an award reservation, so a great strategy is to book two Business Class seats on Cathay Pacific when the schedule opens and then change the award to First Class in the last two days. This would cost 55,000 miles each way per person when first booked and 12,500 more miles per person at the time of the change. And if the plan fails, your consolation prize is Cathay Pacific Business Class–hardly a loss.

Beyond Hong Kong

Cathay Pacific and its affiliate Dragonair–both bookable with AA miles, both searchable on ba.com–offer excellent award space from Hong Kong throughout China and Southeast Asia.

Bottom Line

American Airlines miles are by far the strongest miles to East and Southeast Asia. First, American charges way fewer miles than its competitors–as low as 25,000 miles one way to Japan and Korea and only 67,500 miles in First Class to Southeast Asia. Second, American partners with very nice products on Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines.

Cathay Pacific award space, which is useful to China and south, is widely available in Business Class 11 months out and First Class 36 hours out.

Japan Airlines Business Class award space is available on all its routes if you have date flexibility.

Hawaiian Airlines Business Class is widely available if you don’t mind routing through Hawaii.

American’s own flights have good economy award space, but Business and First Class are only widely available in the three days before departure.

To fly to Asia 1 (Japan, Korea, Mongolia) on a single award, you must fly directly there from North America without connecting in any other region. To fly to Asia 2 (China and Southeast Asia) on a single award, you must fly directly there or connect in Asia 1. You cannot connect in Europe or the Middle East on a single American Airlines award to East or Southeast Asia from the United States.

Right now the personal and business American Airlines cards are each offering 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months.

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Never miss a post again! Follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook. And sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts!

Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

Etihad First Suite on 787

I booked myself a First Class award ticket from Cairo, Egypt to Washington DC with 15 hours on the brand new Etihad 787-9 Dreamliner for 90,000 American Airlines miles and a few dollars in taxes. Take a look at the suite:

The Trip

I had already booked myself from the United States to Dubai to Bangkok on two flights in Emirates First Class on its A380. Read that Anatomy of an Award.

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And from Bangkok to Luxor, Egypt in Business Class on a Qatar A380. Read that Anatomy of an Award. After a week in Thailand, I’ll head to Egpyt for a week.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 10.24.29 AM

I plan to spend a few days in Luxor and a few days in Cairo. Here is the trick I used to save 47% on my flight from Luxor to Cairo.

To get back from Cairo to Washington DC, I wanted to use American Airlines miles to fly Etihad Airlines. Etihad serves its Abu Dhabi to Washington DC route with a brand new 787-9 Dreamliner.

Award Search

To search for Etihad Awards, create a free Etihad Airways account, and go to the award search page.

My first search was from Cairo to Washington DC in First Class.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 1.05.36 PM Results look like this.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 1.06.05 PM

I’ve highlighted the GuestSeat column because that is the award space that American Airlines phone agents can access. They cannot access OpenSeat award space.

My first search showed no GuestSeat award space from Cairo to Washington DC in First Class. The problem is that Cairo to Abu Dhabi doesn’t have First Class, just economy and Business, and Etihad’s search screen won’t mix cabins.

It was time to search segment-by-segment. I started with the longer segment and searched Abu Dhabi to Washington in First Class. Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 1.08.36 PM
There was award space on my top-choice date. Note the calendar above the search result.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 1.08.17 PM

The calendar is useful because you can change dates without re-running the search. You can pretty easily tell which dates which will have award space on the calendar by the number of miles listed. OpenSeat prices are usually like 10 times the price of GuestSeat awards in Etihad miles, so on the calendar above, all the days that say “Miles 114650″ have OpenSeat award space and all the “Miles 949486″ or “942226” days don’t.

Of course, we are not going to pay the number of miles listed. Since I used American Airlines miles, I follow American Airlines routing rules and award chart. This is just a handy trick for figuring out quickly which days will have GuestSeat award availability.

I noted the date, cabin, and flight number of the award space I found from Abu Dhabi to Washington DC and moved on to Cairo to Abu Dhabi in Business Class.
Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 1.09.50 PM
There is award space on this route basically every day. There is a flight that connects in Abu Dhabi with only a two hour layover. I noted its date, cabin, and flight number.Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 1.10.04 PM

If You Don’t Live in Washington DC

I was done with my award search because I want to go to the Washington DC area. If you want to go somewhere not served directly by Etihad, you’d have another step. You’d want to go to aa.com and find award space from where Etihad flies to your home airport. Then you could move on to the last step, booking the award.

Award Booking

I called American Airlines at 800-882-8880.

I fed the agent the date, cabin, and flight number of the two flights I had found with Etihad GuestSeat availability.

She quickly put together my two flights.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 1.10.28 PM

As I mentioned in “Anatomy of an Award: Qatar A380 Business Class for 30k American Airlines Miles,” I booked my awards from Bangkok to Egypt and Egypt to Washington on one record locator to save $35 on the phone booking fee. (Usually you are only charged one fee per person, no matter how many awards you book at a time.)

The flights from Egypt to the United States cost 90,000 American miles. To the Middle East (including Egypt) and Indian Subcontinent, American charges:

  • 45,000 miles one way in economy
  • 67,500 miles one way in Business Class
  • 90,000 miles one way in First Class

The total taxes for both awards were only $72, so let’s attribute $36 to this award.

American only collects fuel surcharges on British Airways and Iberia award flights, so there were no other taxes, fees, or fuel surcharges.

Getting the Miles

American Airlines miles are super easy to get.

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings.

The business version, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, also comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. This card comes with 2x miles on select business purchases and a 5% miles bonus on renewal. One person can have both cards.

We also know that The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will no longer be offered to new applicants as soon as the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs integrate, some time before 2015. That means that the chance to earn 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase on this card will disappear soon. Check out all the places you can go with just the sign up bonus.

All US Airways miles not redeemed on the US Airways chart by the time of integration will become American Airlines miles, and American Airlines has committed to not devaluing its award chart at the time of combination. The two types of miles are roughly equal in value. Getting all three cards now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines miles by June.

Bottom Line

American Airlines miles are ideal between the United States and the Middle East because American has several partners that fly the routes with excellent products like Etihad and Qatar.

I booked myself Etihad First Class on its brand new 787-9 for 90,000 miles one way plus low government taxes, no fuel surcharges, and a modest phone fee. I saved myself $35 in phone fees by booking this award at the same time as my Qatar Business Class award on the same trip.

The American Airlines personal and business cards are each offering 50,000 bonus miles after $3,000 spending in the first three months.

Etihad First Suite on 787
Etihad First Suite on 787

Searching for GuestSeat space on etihad.com and calling American Airlines to book the flight were a snap.

————————————————————————————————————
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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

 

 

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Let’s talk about how to use American Airlines miles for awards to Hawaii.

Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 10.15.24 PM
View of Waikiki Beach from Hilton Hawaiian Village, December 2012

What You’re Reading

This is the sixth post in one comprehensive guide that tells you everything you need to know about American Airlines miles. Now is the time to write this guide because now is a special time to earn American Airlines miles.

American Airlines and US Airways have merged legally, but they maintain separate frequent flyer programs. The two programs will combine some time between April and June 2015, and your balances in the two programs will be combined as American Airlines miles.

Getting the American Airlines personal card, American Airlines business card, and US Airways personal card now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines miles by mid-2015.

This guide will explain the rules, quirks, tricks, and options for redeeming those 156,000 American Airlines miles all in one place. It might just put my Award Booking Service out of business when it comes to redeeming American Airlines miles.

If you find this guide to redeeming the most valuable miles in the world to be useful and want to apply for the credit cards that earn them, please use my links. The commission is what allows me to dedicate the time to writing this series.

“Redeeming American Airlines Miles” Series Index

The Partners for Hawaii Awards

To Hawaii, American Airlines miles can be redeemed on:

  • American Airlines
  • US Airways
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • any combination of the four

Award space on all four airlines is searchable on aa.com. Here’s how to search aa.com.

American miles can book all the exact same award space that US Airways and Alaska open up to their own members at the Saver level, though award availability differs a bit from what Hawaiian opens up to its members.

Pricing

Between the mainland and Hawaii, American charges:

  • 17,500 miles each way in economy from Jan. 12 – Mar. 8 and Aug. 22 – Dec. 15
  • 22,500 miles each way in economy the rest of the year
  • 37,500 miles each way in First Class
  • 47,500 miles each way in First Class if you fly a three-cabin First Class flight on the mainland as part of the award. There is no three-cabin First Class to Hawaii itself.

All the prices mentioned above are for partner awards or MileSAAver awards on American Airlines flights. MileSAAver awards are highly capacity controlled and not available on all or even most flights. When not available, AAnytime awards, which are much more expensive, are available.

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 4.13.31 PMScreen Shot 2015-01-23 at 4.13.20 PM

Hidden-City Trick on AA/Hawaii Awards

From the above screenshot, you might get excited that it’s zero extra miles to fly between Hawaii and Peru compared to just flying Hawaii to Los Angeles. The above chart is actually wrong.

It’s actually often fewer miles to fly between Central America/Northern South America and Hawaii than between Hawaii and the mainland. For example:

Honolulu to Dallas is 17,500 miles (or 22,500 during peak dates):

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 4.20.14 PM

Honolulu to Dallas to Lima is cheaper at only 15,000 miles (or only 17,500 miles during peak dates)!

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 4.19.40 PM

In Business/First Class the difference is even larger. Instead of 37,500 miles from Hawaii to the mainland, you can pay only 30,000 miles from Hawaii to Northern South America via the mainland.

You can take advantage of this pricing anomaly is two ways:

  1. Book yourself a vacation that goes to Hawaii, then Central or South America, then home.
  2. Book yourself a return home from Hawaii that transits your home airport but continues to Central America for a cheaper award. Get off at your home airport and save from the hidden-city trick.

There are always dangers to hidden-city ticketing:

  • Your checked bag will be checked to the destination. (Don’t check a bag!)
  • A mis-connection could cause a re-routing that doesn’t transit your home airport anymore.
  • You might raise the ire of an airline. (Hidden city ticketing doesn’t break any laws.)

Who Should Never Redeem American Airlines Miles to Hawaii

If you live in one of 10 western cities with direct flights on American, US Airways, or Alaska to Hawaii, you are better off redeeming 12,500 British Airways Avios each way to Hawaii. Full article on the 12,500 Avios routes to Hawaii and how to book them.

British Airways shares American, US Airways, and Alaska as partners, but it doesn’t partner with Hawaiian Airlines.

The cities/routes with 12,500 Avios awards:

  • AA = American Airlines
  • US = US Airways
  • AS = Alaska Airlines

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 11.11.09 PM

Footnotes:

  • 1: Seasonal flight
  • 2: Begins March 5, 2015

Award Space

Award space to Hawaii is highly seasonal on all airlines, and it lines up really well with American’s off peak dates.

Award space is usually fairly abundant from mid-January through mid-March and during the Fall. It is non-existent over Christmas and New Year’s and very sparse in the Summer and Spring. If you want to visit Hawaii over those sparse times, use Arrival miles.

American and its partners serve Hawaii from over a dozen cities, most of them on the west coast, though American also flies from Dallas to Honolulu and Kahului, and Hawaiian flies from JFK to Honolulu.

The best award availability is via the west coast during off peak times and in the last month before departure.

I’m going to show award space as a series of calendars. All calendars show availability on direct flights for two passengers. Most people reading this post won’t live in any of the cities shown on the calendars. That’s OK. You can connect via these cities to Hawaii. The award space to these cities shouldn’t be much of a problem and will not add any miles to the award price.

Los Angeles to Honolulu, next 28 days in economy

Award space is wide open for the next month from Los Angeles to Honolulu in economy on American and Hawaiian flights. Of course, if you live in LA, you want to book these direct American flights with Avios. If you live elsewhere, you’ll want to use AA miles and connect here.

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 12.43.30 PM

Los Angeles to Honolulu, next 28 days in First

There is a lot less First Class award space in the next month from LA to Honolulu, but there is some. There is very little Saver award space between the mainland and Hawaii period with American Airlines miles.

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 12.43.37 PM

 

Los Angeles to Lihue, next 28 days in economy

It’s not just Oahu that shows this pattern. American’s daily flights from Los Angeles to Kona, Kauai, and Maui also show more award space during off peak times and in the last month before departure.
Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 12.45.56 PM

 

 

Dallas to Honolulu, next 28 days in economy

For many folks, their most convenient itinerary would be from their home airport to Dallas to Hawaii. Unfortunately award space isn’t quite as good on the Dallas flights. It’s still pretty good over the next month.

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 12.42.47 PM

Dallas to Honolulu, March and April in economy

But look how terrible award space is for two people on the Dallas-to-Honolulu flight in March and April, which is not quite the highest season (summer.)

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 12.40.41 PM

 

New York to Honolulu, next 28 days in economy

Folks on the East Coast might be interested in award space on Hawaiian’s daily flight from JFK. It’s generally pretty bad. The next few weeks with award space on eight days are the high point. Don’t expect to find much award space in higher season.

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 4.31.55 PM

What if you absolutely want to fly an award to Hawaii in summer?

Los Angeles to Honolulu in June and July in economy

There are zero days with award space for two between Los Angeles and Honolulu over this four week window.

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 4.41.44 PM

Seattle to Honolulu in June and July in economy

Alaska offers award space on a few days on its routes from Seattle and Portland, cities which you can get to for zero extra miles from anywhere else Alaska flies.

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 4.42.33 PMYou should also see some award space open up in the last month and week before departure with American Airlines miles to Hawaii over the summer.

But if you need to plan farther out, book your Hawaii trip with different miles (United often has better award space) or Arrival miles, which have access to every flight to Hawaii with no blackouts.

Bottom Line

American Airlines miles have good access to award space to Hawaii during low season (mid-January to mid-March and fall), which exactly coincides with the off peak dates to Hawaii when awards are just 17,500 miles one way.

Economy award space is way more plentiful than First Class space, and the best space is available within a month or even a week of departure.

For me, it’s just as well that American Airlines miles are just OK to Hawaii when you understand the limitations. I never want to use them to Hawaii anyway because there are cheaper awards to Hawaii (like with Singapore miles) and because I save my American Airlines miles for international off peak awards and luxurious Business and First Class awards on partner airlines.

————————————————————————————————————
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Book your summer trip to Hawaii with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

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Right now there is a ton of First Class award space available on American Airlines flights to Santiago, Chile for 2015.

First Class Bed on American Airlines 777

I flew First Class on American Airlines to Buenos Aires two years ago. The flight and bed were comfortable, though the service was uninspired. American Airlines First Class is not an aspirational use of miles compared to these fancy partner First Classes you can book with AA miles, but if you want to go to South America, this is one of the nicest ways to do it. Read my full review of American Airlines First Class.

Normally First Class award space on American Airlines to South America is tough to snag. For instance, it is very difficult to find First Class award space to Buenos Aires other than within one month of travel.

New York to Buenos Aires First Class for the next month

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 9.39.38 AM

Buenos Aires to Miami First Class for the next month

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 9.38.37 AM

 

But Gary Leff flagged an equipment swap on American’s Miami to Santiago route in mid-April that sees a First Class cabin added with plenty of award space.

First Class Award Space to Santiago

From mid-February to mid-March, there is no First Class cabin between Miami and Santiago, and the Business Class cabin has no award space.

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 2.21.23 PM

 

But in mid-April, an older 777 layout with First Class replaces the reconfigured 777 on the route. The older 777 layout is the subject of my trip report above; it features fully flat First Class and angled flat Business Class. The reconfigured 777s got rid of First Class and have flat Business Class.

Immediately after the swap there is award space several days a week in both directions for two people.

Miami to Santiago April and May

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 2.21.51 PM

Santiago to Miami April and May
Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 2.22.22 PM

Miami to Santiago June and July

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 2.24.36 PM

Miami to Santiago November and December

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 2.25.18 PM

One thing I love about flying to South America on a bed is that if you get a good night sleep, you should be able to completely avoid jetlag because of the small or non-existent time difference. The Miami to Santiago flight gives you eight hours to sleep at normal sleeping times.

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 2.26.12 PM

How Many Miles?

You can book this First Class award space with American Airlines miles, US Airways miles, and British Airways Avios.

  • 62,500 American Airlines miles each way plus government taxes. Bookable on aa.com. Zero extra miles to add Saver award space on American Airlines, US Airways, Alaska Airlines, or LAN Airlines award space within the United States or South America.
  • 125,000 US Airways miles roundtrip plus government taxes + $50. Bookable by calling US Airways. Zero extra miles to add Saver award space on American Airlines, US Airways, Alaska Airlines, or LAN Airlines award space within the United States or South America.
  • 75,000 British Airways Avios just for this segment plus government taxes. Bookable on ba.com. Connecting to Miami or to somewhere else in Chile will cost more Avios.

Getting the Miles

American Airlines miles are super easy to get.

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings.

The business version, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, also comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. This card comes with 2x miles on select business purchases and a 5% miles bonus on renewal. One person can have both cards.

We also know that The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will no longer be offered to new applicants as soon as the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs integrate, some time before 2015. That means that the chance to earn 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase on this card will disappear soon. Check out all the places you can go with just the sign up bonus.

All US Airways miles not redeemed on the US Airways chart by the time of integration will become American Airlines miles, and American Airlines has committed to not devaluing its award chart at the time of combination. The two types of miles are roughly equal in value. Getting all three cards now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines miles by June.
————————————————————————————————————
Never miss a post again! Follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook. And sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts!

Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

10 1435

Etihad and Qantas both fly their stunning A380s with ultra-luxurious First Classes out of London. You can get on both for only 40,000 American Airlines miles one way, and you can do it while avoiding the big London departure tax.

Etihad First Class on its newest A380 has a couch that seats several people and a separate bed and costs only 40,000 American Airlines miles between London and Abu Dhabi.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 12.27.11 PM

Etihad’s fully enclosed suites are the most spacious in the sky.

Award space is widely available on the A380 between London and Abu Dhabi and from there to the rest of the Middle East, Indian Subcontinent, and Maldives for zero extra miles.

If you have the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®, which comes with 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months, you will even get an automatic 10% rebate on your award, so the final cost is 36,000 miles.

Qantas First Class costs only 40,000 (36,000) American Airlines miles between London and Dubai.

Qantas First Class features an open suite that converts into a bed…

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 11.25.48 AM

…or a table for two.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 12.33.16 PM

Qantas First Class is widely available between London and Dubai, Dubai and Sydney, and London and Sydney for low mileage prices.

The problem is that if you fly either of these beauties on an award beginning in London, you’ll pay $273+ in taxes.

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 1.07.15 AM Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 1.07.21 AMThe UK charges an arm and a leg to departing passengers (but not to arriving or connecting passengers), and extra if you fly in a premium cabin.

Solution 1: Arrive in London

You can fly these products from Abu Dhabi or Dubai to London and avoid the departure tax in London.

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 1.30.51 AM Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 1.30.57 AM

 

But what if you’re going east?

Solution 2: Connect in London

I’m looking at flying something like London to Abu Dhabi in Etiahd First Class on the A380 and Abu Dhabi to Mumbai in Etihad First Class on the 787.

But I don’t want to pay almost $300 in taxes.

If I just start the award anywhere else in Europe and connect in London, I can save a bundle. For instance, starting in Dublin and flying to London drops the taxes $273 to $62. Flying the first leg on British Airways does add in a $40 fuel surcharge, but I’d still come out $170+ ahead.

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 1.06.14 AM

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 1.06.30 AM

And I could start in other countries and look to fly other partners than British Airways like airberlin or Finnair to lower taxes further and eliminate fuel surcharges.

Getting the Miles

American Airlines miles are super easy to get.

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings.

The business version, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, also comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. This card comes with 2x miles on select business purchases and a 5% miles bonus on renewal. One person can have both cards.

We also know that The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will no longer be offered to new applicants as soon as the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs integrate, some time before 2015.

All US Airways miles not redeemed on the US Airways chart by the time of integration will become American Airlines miles, and American Airlines has committed to not devaluing its award chart at the time of combination. The two types of miles are roughly equal in value. Getting all three cards now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines miles by June.
————————————————————————————————————
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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

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Let’s talk about how to use American Airlines miles for domestic flights including its flagship service between New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco, which includes fully flat beds in Business Class and First Class. (This post doesn’t cover awards to Hawaii. That’s a separate post.)

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 4.39.10 PM
AA First Class between New York and California for 32.5k miles

What You’re Reading

This is the fifth post in one comprehensive guide that tells you everything you need to know about American Airlines miles. Now is the time to write this guide because now is a special time to earn American Airlines miles.

American Airlines and US Airways have merged legally, but they maintain separate frequent flyer programs. The two programs will combine some time between April and June 2015, and your balances in the two programs will be combined as American Airlines miles.

Getting the American Airlines personal card, American Airlines business card, and US Airways personal card now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines miles by mid-2015.

This guide will explain the rules, quirks, tricks, and options for redeeming those 156,000 American Airlines miles all in one place. It might just put my Award Booking Service out of business when it comes to redeeming American Airlines miles.

If you find this guide to redeeming the most valuable miles in the world to be useful and want to apply for the credit cards that earn them, please use my links. The commission is what allows me to dedicate the time to writing this series.

“Redeeming American Airlines Miles” Series Index

The Partners for Domestic Awards

Domestically, American Airlines miles can be redeemed on American Airlines, US Airways, and Alaska Airlines flights. Award space on all three airlines is searchable on aa.com. Here’s how to search aa.com.

American miles can book all the exact same award space that US Airways and Alaska open up to their own members at the Saver level.

Pricing

Awards within the continental United States, Alaska, and Canada price at:

  • 12,500 miles each way in economy
  • 25,000 miles each way in First Class on two-cabin aircraft (almost all aircraft) and in Business Class on three-cabin aircraft
  • 32,500 miles each way in First Class on three-cabin aircraft (only operated by American Airlines on certain flagship routes

The American Airlines A321T only flies between New York and Los Angeles and New York and San Francisco and features flat beds in Business Class (25,000 miles) and First Class (32,500 miles.)

American Airlines occasionally also flies three-cabin 777s between Los Angeles and Miami. These have fully flat First Class (32,500) and angled lie flat Business Class (25,000), though the 777s are being refurbished to have flat bed Business Class.

All other planes, including all Alaska and US Airways planes feature only two cabins. The forward cabin is called First Class, features regular seats, and costs 25,000 miles each way.

So far, every price listed is the MileSAAver or partner award price. All US Airways and Alaska space available to American Airlines miles prices out at these prices.

Not all American Airlines flights are available at the MileSAAver level. Some price out at much more expensive AAnytime levels that you should avoid.

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 4.15.12 PM

Award Space

In general, I find very good award space on most domestic routes with American Airlines miles. I wish I could be more specific, but there are tons of routes, so instead of generalizing, just go search the routes that interest you.

Make sure to search them for times of the year you like to fly and also for award space in the next few days and weeks to get a sense of whether award space is opened up–and in what cabin–at the last minute. (Here’s how to search for just award space on direct flights.)

How about the premium transcontinental flights with flat beds?

Premium Transcontinental Award Space

Right now, there isn’t much Business Class space on American Airlines’ A321T service between New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco. But First Class space is wide open.

First Class features 10 seats in a 1-1 configuration and looks like one of the nicest ways to pass a 5-6 hour flights out there.

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 4.39.10 PM

In all four directions, I see ample First Class award space for most of the next year.

New York -> San Fran, July

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 4.19.28 PM

San Fran -> New York, SeptemberScreen Shot 2015-01-21 at 4.19.54 PM

The exception seems to be February from New York to San Francisco where there is no space for the first half of the month. Even that is likely to open up soon because American Airlines has consistently opened up unsold First Class seats as Saver awards in the last week before departure.Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 4.20.45 PM

The other exception is right around Thanksgiving and Christmas. This shows no award space from San Francisco to New York for the week before and after Thanksgiving.
Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 4.20.57 PM

But other than those exceptions, award space is wide open on the San Francisco route and the Los Angeles route in both directions.

New York -> Los Angeles, February and MarchScreen Shot 2015-01-21 at 4.21.56 PM

Los Angeles -> New York, June and JulyScreen Shot 2015-01-21 at 4.22.07 PM

Two Reasons You Will Not Want to Book Many Domestic Awards with American Airlines Miles

You can forget most of this post. You will rarely want to book domestic awards with American Airlines miles for two reasons:

  1. You’re likely not to get a very good value for your miles. The cheapest roundtrip award is 25,000 miles. Unless the ticket costs around $500, you are getting less than 2 cents per mile, and you can often get 2 cents per mile or more of value on international awards–especially off peak awards and premium-cabin awards.
  2. British Airways Avios have the exact same access to the Saver award flights on American, US Airways, and Alaska Airlines. Avios awards start at 4,500 Avios each way, so it will often be cheaper to book an Avios award than an American Airlines award. Avios does charge TRIPLE the economy price for “First Class” awards (even for those recliner seats on two-cabin planes), but I wouldn’t book those with American Airlines miles or Avios very often because they aren’t worth the premium over economy to me.

Bottom Line

I can’t imagine too many times I would book a domestic award with American Airlines miles.

Transcontinental First Class is one option because British Airways would charge 37,500 Avios and American charges only 32,500 miles, which is a very good deal for 5+ hours in luxury. Transcontinental First Class award space is wide open for 2015 at the moment.

Another option would be if you found award space to Alaska or somewhere in Canada that normally had very expensive fares, so 12,500 miles one way was a great deal.

But in general, you should mainly be using American Airlines miles for international awards and booking domestic awards with Avios, Southwest points, and Arrival miles.

————————————————————————————————————
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Meeting the minimum spending requirement on the Arrival Plus give you about $500 worth of free domestic flights on any airline with no blackouts.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

I’ve got 2.5 weeks between high school and law school reunions this spring. It looked like the perfect time to check out Egypt and Dubai for the first time and more of Thailand (only been to Phuket so far), while also flying some of the world’s nicest First and Business Class products.

I, like a lot of people, have a big American Airlines miles balance because of how easy they are to get at the moment with the personal and business cards each offering 50,000 bonus miles after $3,000 spending in the first three months. I thought I would use some American Airlines miles to fly some of its nicest partners for part of the trip.

I had already booked myself from the United States to Dubai to Bangkok on two flights in Emirates First Class on its A380. Read that Anatomy of an Award.

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Picking the Route

Now I needed to get from Bangkok to Egypt. From doing a bit of research, I knew that in Egypt I wanted to see sites around Luxor and Cairo.

To avoid backtracking, that means flying into one and out of the other.

I expected to fly to Egypt on Qatar Airways and back to the United States on Etihad Airways, so I went to Wikipedia to check whether they both served Luxor and Cairo. I really can’t oversell how valuable Wikipedia airport pages are for planning a trip.

It turns out both Etihad and Qatar fly to Cairo, but only Qatar flies to Luxor.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 4.48.47 PM
Luxor airlines and destinations from Wikipedia

That means I would fly from Bangkok to Luxor and fly back to the United States from Cairo. Great! The order didn’t matter to me. I just wanted to save the time and money of having to fly two intra-Egpyt flights, and with a few extra minutes of planning I did. Also see: the trick I used to save 47% on my flight from Luxor to Cairo.

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The Plan

Picking the Airline to Fly

I already mentioned that I’d be flying Qatar from Bangkok to Egypt. Why?

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 5.08.12 PM

Qatar flies its brand new A380 between Doha and London and Doha and Bangkok. Even though Qatar hasn’t released First Class award space on the plane yet, Business Class looks spectacular.

Each fully flat bed has direct aisle access, laid out with only four seats per row for a very spacious seat.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 5.09.03 PM Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 5.08.48 PM

Just behind Business Class is The Lounge, which looks like a much snazzier version of the onboard bars a few other airlines feature.

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Between Asia 2 (Thailand) and Indian Subcontinent / Middle East, American Airlines charges only 30,000 miles one way in Business Class and 40,000 miles in First Class, both of which are outrageously good deals!

In the off chance that Qatar opens up First Class award space in the next three months, I set free oneworld award space alerts with the Wandering Aramean’s search tools.

Searching Award Space

As I explained in Where to Search Award Space for All American Airlines Partners, Qatar award space is searchable on ba.com. Here’s how to search ba.com.

I was specifically looking for award space on flight QR833, the daily flight served by the A380.

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 9.38.35 PM

There is ample award space on the A380 in Business Class if you are flexible with your travel date, which I was. Unfortunately, the A380 flight is not the best timed flight with the once-daily flight to Luxor.

Qatar has a flight out of Bangkok that lines up perfectly with the Luxor flight…

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 9.37.45 PMScreen Shot 2015-01-18 at 9.37.36 PM

…but the A380 flight requires a 7:45 layover in Doha.Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 9.38.09 PM Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 9.38.01 PM

I’m choosing to look at that as a positive because Qatar’s Al Mourjan Business Class lounge in Doha is regarded as one of the nicest in the world and is open 24 hours.

After I’m done feasting in one or more of the dining areas that feature buffets and a la carte options, I can find the game room or “cocoon into one of the private work stations.” Surely I’ll take a nap too.

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Booking the Award Space

The only way to book award space on Qatar Airways with American Airlines miles is by calling American Airlines at 800-882-8880.

I fed the agent the date, flight number, and cabin of each segment. She pieced it together, and it cost 30,000 miles (as expected) and something very small in taxes.
Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 10.25.07 AM

I haven’t broken it down by trip, but these flights plus my return from Cairo to the United States only totaled $72 in taxes.

The reason I booked them together should be apparent to anyone who read the Complete Guide to Taxes, Fees, and Fuel Surcharges on American Airlines Awards. American Airlines charges a $35 phone fee to book awards, but usually just one per passenger per call. By combining two award bookings into one call and one record locator, I just paid the $35 once.

Trivia: I highlighted the 4 h 5 m flight time above from Doha to Luxor because it is wrong. In May, they will be in the same time zone, and the flight is 3 h 5 m. Apparently Egypt has daylight savings time for about two months, then goes back to standard time for Ramadan, then has two more months of daylight savings time.

Getting the Miles

American Airlines miles are super easy to get.

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings.

The business version, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, also comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. This card comes with 2x miles on select business purchases and a 5% miles bonus on renewal. One person can have both cards.

We also know that The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will no longer be offered to new applicants as soon as the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs integrate, some time before 2015. That means that the chance to earn 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase on this card will disappear soon. Check out all the places you can go with just the sign up bonus.

All US Airways miles not redeemed on the US Airways chart by the time of integration will become American Airlines miles, and American Airlines has committed to not devaluing its award chart at the time of combination. The two types of miles are roughly equal in value. Getting all three cards now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines miles by June.

Bottom Line

American Airlines miles are ideal between Asia and the Middle East because American has several partners that fly the routes with excellent products and award space like Qatar Business Class on its A380.

Plus American Airlines charges the ultra-low price of only 30,000 miles one way in Business and 40,000 one way in First between the two regions. Check out five other under-priced awards on the American Airlines chart.

The American Airlines personal and business cards are each offering 50,000 bonus miles after $3,000 spending in the first three months.

Planning on Wikipedia, searching on ba.com was easy, and booking by phone were all easy, and I saved myself $35 by booking this award at the same time as my Etihad First Class award back to the United States.

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

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Let’s talk about the out-of-pocket cash costs associated with American Airlines awards: the taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges. How much are taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges on American Airlines awards?

What You’re Reading

This is the third post in one comprehensive guide that tells you everything you need to know about American Airlines miles. Now is the time to write this guide because now is a special time to earn American Airlines miles.

American Airlines and US Airways have merged legally, but they maintain separate frequent flyer programs. The two programs will combine some time between April and June 2015, and your balances in the two programs will be combined as American Airlines miles.

Getting the American Airlines personal card, American Airlines business card, and US Airways personal card now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines miles by mid-2015.

This guide will explain the rules, quirks, tricks, and options for redeeming those 156,000 American Airlines miles all in one place. It might just put my Award Booking Service out of business when it comes to redeeming American Airlines miles.

If you find this guide to redeeming the most valuable miles in the world to be useful and want to apply for the credit cards that earn them, please use my links. The commission is what allows me to dedicate the time to writing this series.

“Redeeming American Airlines Miles” Series Index

Taxes

All award tickets require you to pay the government taxes associated with your ticket. These are $5.60 per one way on domestic tickets and a lot more on international tickets, ranging from $50 to $300 roundtrip.

Premium cabin awards that originate in the United Kingdom are the most expensive. Avoid those, and you should often book roundtrip awards with about $100 in taxes.

If the award search is not possible on aa.com, and you will book by phone, the easiest way to estimate the taxes you’ll pay on an American Airlines award is to search a similar award on united.com. International taxes are determined by the country of origination and destination (and occasionally transit), so whatever united.com says the taxes would be on a similar award is what you’ll pay in taxes on your American Airlines award.

Fuel Surcharges

American Airlines only collects fuel surcharges on award flights operated by British Airways and Iberia.

British Airways’ fuel surcharges are outrageous. Between New York and London on British Airways flights, American Airlines collects fuel surcharges of $229 one way in economy and $414 one way in Business or First Class. These are in addition to the taxes on the award.

American Airlines does not collect fuel surcharges on British Airways intra-Europe flights.

On British Airways flights to other regions, fuel surcharges vary. You can look them up on aa.com, since aa.com displays British Airways award space and breaks down the cash component of awards between taxes and “carrier-imposed fees,” a euphemism for fuel surcharges.

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 10.47.02 PM

The fuel surcharges that AA collects on Iberia are much smaller. I priced out roundtrips in economy and Business Class from New York to Madrid on Iberia with American Airlines miles.

  • Economy had combined taxes plus fuel surcharges of $190 roundtrip.
  • Business had combined taxes plus fuel surcharges of $214 roundtrip.

Taxes on a roundtrip award of direct flights between New York and Madrid are $56 on united.com. That means fuel surcharges are $134 roundtrip in economy and $158 roundtrip in Business Class on Iberia between the United States and Europe.

American Airlines doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on any other airline for award tickets.

Fees

In addition to taxes and fuel surcharges, you may be subjected to fees.

  • $35 to book an award by phone. This is NOT waived even when you cannot book the award online. This is usually only charged once per passenger if you book multiple awards at once. Waived except for Executive Platinum elites.
  • $75 to book an award within 21 days of departure. Waived for elites.
  • $75 to change departure date to a date less than 21 days away. Waived for elites.
  • No fee to change the date of an award more than 21 days in advance.
  • No fee to “upgrade” an award to a better cabin than the one in which you initially booked the award more than 21 days in advance.
  • $150 to cancel an award, to change the type of award (e.g. AAnytime to MileSAAver or AA-only to partner), or to change the origin or destination of the award. For additional awards changed/canceled at the same time, you pay only $25 per award, so a couple canceling their award would pay only $175 total. Waived for Executive Platinum elites.

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Pay your award taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

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Hurry! A glitch is causing US Airways flights to have a ton of Business Class award space to Europe. This will not last. In fact, it has been corrected substantially, but lots of space remains.

Hat Tip Gary Leff

You can search the space on aa.com or usairways.com. American Airlines charges 50,000 miles one way in Business Class to Europe and US Airways charges 100,000 miles roundtrip.

Sample Space

Blue dates have space for four people on the direct US Airways flight in Business Class.

Philly to Munich has a ton of award space. Some other routes have just a litte award space for 4+ people, but that is still unheard of on US Airways transatlantic flights.

Philadelphia to Munich

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 12.10.32 AM

Charlotte to LondonScreen Shot 2015-01-19 at 12.12.23 AM

Philadelphia to MadridScreen Shot 2015-01-19 at 12.13.07 AM

Philadelphia to RomeScreen Shot 2015-01-19 at 12.13.42 AM

US Airways Business Class is fully flat, and all seats feature direct aisle access on the A330s that fly most of the transatlantic flights.

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Getting the Miles

You’re definitely too late to get miles for this glitch. The award space will be gone very soon.

But in general, American Airlines miles are super easy to get.

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings.

The business version, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, also comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. This card comes with 2x miles on select business purchases and a 5% miles bonus on renewal. One person can have both cards.

We know that The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will no longer be offered to new applicants as soon as the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs integrate, some time in the second quarter of 2015. That means that the chance to earn 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase will disappear soon. Check out all the places you can go with just the sign up bonus.

All US Airways miles not redeemed on the US Airways chart by the time of integration will become American Airlines miles, and American Airlines has committed to not devaluing its award chart at the time of combination. The two types of miles are roughly equal in value. Getting all three cards now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines miles in early 2015.

————————————————————————————————————
Never miss a post again! Follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook. And sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts!

Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

10 1817

What You’re Reading

This is the third post in one comprehensive guide that tells you everything you need to know about American Airlines miles. Now is the time to write this guide because now is a special time to earn American Airlines miles.

American Airlines and US Airways have merged legally, but they maintain separate frequent flyer programs. The two programs will combine some time between April and June 2015, and your balances in the two programs will be combined as American Airlines miles.

Getting the American Airlines personal card, American Airlines business card, and US Airways personal card now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines miles by mid-2015.

This guide will explain the rules, quirks, tricks, and options for redeeming those 156,000 American Airlines miles all in one place. It might just put my Award Booking Service out of business when it comes to redeeming American Airlines miles.

If you find this guide to redeeming the most valuable miles in the world to be useful and want to apply for the credit cards that earn them, please use my links. The commission is what allows me to dedicate the time to writing this series.

“Redeeming American Airlines Miles” Series Index

How Many Miles Do You Need for Your Dream Trip?

If you have found award space on American Airlines or one of its partners, you can use American Airlines miles to book that award space.

American Airlines awards are all one way awards. If you’re booking a roundtrip, think of it is as two one ways.

If your award is a single, direct flight, you can just read the price of the flight off one of American Airlines’ two award charts:

The two charts are nearly identical. There are only three differences:

1. The chart for an award with all American Airlines flights has five potential miles prices for each cabin because there are several levels of AAnytime awards, the expensive awards we never want to book. We only want to book MileSAAver awards, the cheap awards that are more highly capacity-controlled.

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 9.28.47 PM

The chart for partners only has one price for each cabin because all partner awards price at the MileSAAver level.

2. The chart for an award with all American Airlines flights has off peak dates to the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and Northern South America that the other chart doesn’t have.

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 9.31.41 PM

For other regions, the off peak award dates and prices are identical.

3. The partner award chart covers all regions of the world while the AA-only chart has all awards starting or ending in North America. That makes sense since all American Airlines flights start or end in North America.

If you’ve found a direct flight, go read the price off the appropriate award chart. Otherwise, how does the award price? That’s where American Airlines’ award routing rules come into play.

American Airlines Award Routing Rules

If you find multiple flights you’re hoping to fit onto one award, can you? Yes, but if only if you follow the American Airlines award routing rules. If you don’t follow these rules, your trip will split into two or more awards, which will mean spending extra miles.

Some of these rules are unique to American Airlines, and several are obscure, but you need to know them to know how American Airlines’ award pricing works.

  1. Stopovers are not allowed on American Airlines awards.
  2. The airline that operates the flight that connects the two regions must have a published fare for your origin and destination city pair.
  3. Your trip must not exceed AA’s Maximum Permitted Mileage for your origin and destination by more than 25% as flown.
  4. Awards between Region A and Region B cannot transit Region C unless specifically allowed.
1. No Stopovers

The length of your connection is the time from the scheduled landing of your previous flight to the scheduled take off of your next flight.

On domestic awards, no connection can exceed four hours.

On international awards, no connection can exceed 24 hours. On international awards, your connections within the United States can be up to 24 hours.

Allowed

  • Chicago to New York (23 hour connection)
  • New York to Berlin (23 hour connection)
  • Berlin to Madrid (destination)

This award would price out on the partner award chart as a single award between North America and Europe.

Not Allowed

  • Chicago to New York (2 hour connection)
  • New York to Berlin (3 day stopover)
  • Berlin to Madrid (destination)

By “Not Allowed,” I just mean you can’t book the second trip on one American Airlines award. You could book it on two awards: Chicago to Berlin and Berlin to Madrid.

So what if you only have American Airlines miles, and you want to book a stopover on a roundtrip? Think about your trip as having three awards to two destinations.

In the example above, Chicago to Berlin is one award, Berlin to Madrid is another, and Madrid to Chicago is the third.

In practice, Berlin to Madrid would be a poor-value American Airlines awards, so you’d want to book it with Avios or cash.

2. Published Fare Rule

This is quite a unique rule: the airline that connects the two regions on your award must “publish a fare” from your origin to your destination.

“Publishing a fare” is a term of art. It does not necessarily mean the airline flies from your origin to your destination, just that they’ve “published a fare” for that origin and destination pair.

Example

You want to fly Melbourne to Los Angeles to New York to Baltimore. You found award space from Melbourne to Los Angeles on Qantas and on the last two legs on American Airlines. All your connections are under 24 hours.

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 10.25.01 PM

Qantas is the region-connecting carrier because it flies the South Pacific-to-North America flight. Your origin is Melbourne and destination is Baltimore. Qantas must publish a fare from Melbourne to Baltimore for these flights to price as one award. Otherwise the trip will be split into two awards: Melbourne to New York and New York to Baltimore.

The easiest way to check whether an airline publishes a fare is to use the paid service Expert Flyer.

To see whether an airline has a published fare for an origin/destination city pair, once signed into Expert Flyer, click Fare Information.

Fill out the form with your origin and destination city pair, pick a random date next month, and type in the airline you are checking.

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 10.12.37 PM

After clicking search, hone in on the Airline column on the results page. You need to find at least one fare listed as being published by the two letter code of the airline you searched. (List of two letter codes.)

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By the way, “YY” does not count as a published fare for any airline according to this rule.

This search showed that Qantas does publish a fare from Melbourne to Baltimore though it most certainly doesn’t fly to Baltimore. That means the trip follows the published fare rule and as long as all the other rules are followed, it can be booked as one award from the South Pacific to North America.

Qantas is very good about publishing fares to obscure airports where it doesn’t fly, where even American Airlines doesn’t fly, like Roanoke, Virginia. Some AA partners aren’t so good. Etihad doesn’t publish fares to very many American cities, so to fly Etihad’s amazing First Class, you often need to book one award to a city where Etihad flies and then book the rest of the trip as a second award, increasing the miles price of your trip.

3. Maximum Permitted Mileage

Your trip must not exceed the Maximum Permitted Mileage for your origin and destination by more than 25% as flown.

Maximum Permitted Mileage (MPM) is another term of art. It is a number of miles that the airline puts on all city pairs for which it publishes a fare. MPM is not the direct distance between two cities; it is often a much larger number.

Again, I search MPM on Expert Flyer.

Example

Say you want to try this routing: Los Angeles to Boston to Tokyo to Taipei

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 10.25.18 PM

First I would head to Expert Flyer, and I would look up the MPM for Los Angeles to Taipei on the Fare Information screen.

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 10.34.31 PM

The results look like this. Click one of the highlighted icons.

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This takes you to the fare information, which lists the MPM.

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 10.35.02 PM

Los Angeles to Taipei has an MPM of 8,137 miles. (Note that this is much farther than the direct distance between the two, which Great Circle Mapper lists as 6,799 miles.)

Multiply the MPM by 1.25, since we can exceed the MPM by 25% on American Airlines awards. That gets us to 10,171 miles, the maximum number of miles an American Airlines award from Los Angeles to Taipei can fly.

Go to Great Circle Mapper and check the distance of our putative routing including all connections. LAX-BOS-NRT-TPE is 10,669 miles, which exceeds the allowable 10,171, so this is not a valid routing.

The trip would break into two awards. Los Angeles to Boston plus Boston to Taipei, so it would cost more miles than if it were one valid award.

4. Region Transit Rule

Awards between Region A and Region B cannot transit Region C unless specifically allowed.

You need to fly directly from your region of origin to your region of destination without transiting any other regions with a few exception.

Say you want to fly from New York to Melbourne. Your award can only transit North America and South Pacific, the regions of the origin and destination. It cannot connect in other regions like Asia 1 or Asia 2 (unless those regions are specified by American Airlines as allowable exceptions, and between North America and South Pacific, there are no exceptions; you have to fly direct.)

Here is a list of exception regions you can transit from flyerguide.com, which is almost complete. You can also transit the Middle East on Qatar flights only (not Etihad or Gulf Air) between North America and Africa.

You can see that there are very few exceptions, and some popular itineraries with other types of miles are not possible on a single American Airlines award:

  • As I mentioned, you cannot transit Asia between North America and South Pacific. Your trip would break into two awards: North America to Asia 1 or 2 and Asia 1 or 2 to South Pacific.
  • You cannot transit East Asia (Asia 1 and 2) between North America and Indian Sub-continent/Middle East. Your trip would break into two awards: North America to Asia 1 or 2 and Asia 1 or 2 to Indian Sub-continent/Middle East
  • You cannot transit Central / South America Zone 1 between North America and South America Zone 2. Your trip would break into two awards: North America to South America Zone 1 and South America Zone 1 to South America Zone 2.
  • And of course forget about transiting South America on your way to Australia or something fun like that!

Follow all the rules?

If you’ve followed all four rules, your trip should price as one award. Otherwise it will price as 2+ awards. How will your awards price?

  • Every segment needs to be MileSAAver or partner for the award to price at the MileSAAver/partner price.
  • If you have 1+ segment in First Class, that entire one way award prices at the First Class price.
  • If you have no First Class and 1+ segment in Business Class, the award prices at the Business Class price. American Airlines considers AA, US Airways, and Alaska Airlines domestic First Class to be Business Class (except on AA’s JFK-LAX and JFK-SFO services.)

Any questions?

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3 2415

What You’re Reading

This is the second post in one comprehensive guide that tells you everything you need to know about American Airlines miles. Now is the time to write this guide because now is a special time to earn American Airlines miles.

American Airlines and US Airways have merged legally, but they maintain separate frequent flyer programs. The two programs will combine some time between April and June 2015, and your balances in the two program will be combined as American Airlines miles.

Getting the American Airlines personal card, American Airlines business card, and US Airways personal card now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines miles by mid-2015.

This guide will explain the rules, quirks, tricks, and options for redeeming those 156,000 American Airlines miles all in one place. It might just put my Award Booking Service out of business when it comes to redeeming American Airlines miles.

If you find this guide to redeeming the most valuable miles in the world to be useful and want to apply for the credit cards that earn them, please use my links. The commission is what allows me to dedicate the time to writing this series.

“Redeeming American Airlines Miles” Series Index

Which Airlines Can You Book with American Airlines Miles?

American Airlines is a member of oneworld, so its miles can be used on all 16 oneworld partners.

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 10.47.45 AM

American also has partnerships outside its alliance. AA miles can also be used on all these eight airlines.

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 12.39.09 PM

Subject to other rules that I’ll cover in a later post, you can freely combine as many partners as you want onto a single award.

Where to Search Award Space on All American Airlines Partners

You have to search award space on American Airlines partners on a combination of aa.com, ba.com, other airline websites, or simply by calling AAdvantage reservations. The fact that there are so many places to look is one of the main reasons many people prefer to have my Award Booking Service book their American Airlines awards.

It is important to note that you should completely ignore the number of miles quoted for an award ticket during your search on ba.com, alaskaair.com, or etihad.com. Since you are booking with American Airlines miles, you are subject to American Airlines’ very different and very awesome award chart. How many miles will your award cost? I’ll cover that in Part 3 of this series.

Searchable on aa.com
  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • airberlin
  • British Airways
  • Finnair
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Royal Jordanian
  • US Airways

Here’s how to search aa.com.

In general, aa.com is pretty good at finding all possible connections for the airlines it is searching. However, your searching can always be improved by segment-by-segment searching.

Searchable on ba.com
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Iberia
  • Japan Airlines
  • LAN Airlines
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qatar Airways
  • S7 Airlines
  • SriLankan Airlines
  • TAM Airlines

Here’s how to search ba.com.

BA.com is fantastic if you want to search direct flights, but ba.com does a terrible job of finding connections. To search ba.com for award space when connecting itineraries are possible, you must master the very simple concept of segment-by-segment searching. Any award space for the preceding airlines found on ba.com is bookable by calling American Airlines.

Searchable Other Places
  • Air Tahiti Nui and Gulf Air are searchable on Expert Flyer.

Here’s how to search Expert Flyer.

Note that American Airlines cannot book Air Tahiti–a separate airlines from Air Tahiti Nui–or Air Tahiti Nui First Class. Any award space found on Expert Flyer for Air Tahiti Nui or Gulf Air is bookable by calling American Airlines.

Expert Flyer is a paid service that offers a free trial. If you don’t want to search there, you can search search by calling American Airlines.

  • Etihad Airways award space is searchable on etihad.com.

Here’s how to search etihad.com. American Airlines miles can be used to book any space labeled as “GuestSeat.”

Here’s how to search alaskaair.com. Any Fiji Airways award space on alaskaair.com is bookable with American Airlines miles.

  • Jet Airways and Seaborne are only searchable by calling American Airlines.

Note that no one in this FlyerTalk thread seems to have ever been able to book an award on Seaborne because of lack of award space even though it should be theoretically possible.

Booking the Awards

If your award is entirely searchable on aa.com, you can book there also or put the award on a five-day courtesy hold after selecting your flights. I recommend booking online when possible to save the $35 per-ticket phone fee.

If you cannot search on aa.com, note the date, flight number, and cabin of the award space you find before calling American Airlines at 800-882-8880 and feeding the agent the flights one at a time.

Once your award is constructed, you can ticket it or put it on a five-day courtesy hold by phone.

Bottom Line

American Airlines miles can be used to book 24 airlines. Only nine of those airlines’ award space is searchable on aa.com. The other 15 need to be searched on a combination of other websites or by calling American Airlines.

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