Two months ago, thexfactor emailed me to tell me that he’d booked something online at aa.com that was against one of the rules I laid out in The Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards.

His discovery greatly increases where you can take a free oneway when booking American Airlines awards online. I’ll break down what my research has uncovered about the new possibilities and give a little background on free oneways on AA flights.

Thexfactor emailed me to alert me to a question he’d posed on FlyerTalk:

JFK-LAX-LHR is 7931 mi.

The MPM for JFK-LHR is 5186mi (including the 25% allowance).

So it seems that’s an illegal routing, right?

If it is illegal, why is AA.com allowing a dummy booking?

Am I missing something?

Thexfactor’s question is very simple. Why is he being allowed to book an award from JFK to LAX to London on aa.com?

image from gcmap.com

You might be wondering why someone would want to route from New York to London via Los Angeles. The main reason would be if you live in Los Angeles. Then routing:

New York to Los Angeles (stop for a few months)

Los Angeles to London

would be a free oneway from New York to Los Angeles preceding the main award from Los Angeles to London.

While it’s exciting that thexfactor could price this award at 50k miles in business class, it’s also confusing. One of the Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards is that the total distance of the routing as flown can only exceed Maximum Permitted Mileage, or MPM, by 25%.

MPM is a distance that a paid ticket can route between two city pairs. MPM + 25% is one of American’s award ticket routing rules. (Other airlines have different rules. Different miles, different rules.)

The MPM from New York, the start of this award from American’s perspective, to London, the end of the award is 4,149 miles. Since an American award can go MPM + 25%, the maximum distance of an American Airlines award from New York to London is 5,186 miles according to the rules I know.

New York to London via LAX is 7,931 miles, which means it should not be allowed under the MPM + 25% rule.

from gcmap.com

And yet aa.com will let you book New York to Los Angeles to London as one award for 20,000 miles and less than $10 in taxes. You don’t even have to make New York to Los Angeles direct (although Los Angeles to London must be direct.)

Hmmm…This shouldn’t be, but is, bookable.

I’ve played around on aa.com to try to see what’s bookable online. It looks like MPM is not a factor if all flights are on American Airlines planes. Here’s a free oneway from Raleigh to Los Angeles.

But using Alaska, Hawaiian, Qantas, or British Airways flights throws a wrench in the plan to book MPM-busting routings.

Boston to London via San Diego prices as two awards.
Honolulu to Sydney via Los Angeles prices as two awards.

I have no answer to why American Airlines flights booked online seem immune to the MPM + 25% rule, but they are immune to that rule in every case I’ve checked.

For one final example, let’s look at Miami to Rio de Janeiro, which has an MPM of 5,014 miles, meaning the maximum distance of an award between the two cities (MPM + 25%) is 6,268 miles.

MIA-GIG MPM

Miami to Dallas to Rio is slightly farther than 6,268 miles at 6,343 miles.

info from gcmap.com

And yet the award with a five month stopover in Dallas prices at 20,000 AA miles + $5. That’s a nice free oneway from Miami if you live in Dallas.

Miami to Rio via Dallas is fine.

I also called AA reservations at 800-882-8880 to price out a few awards by phone. The results:

  • 92.5k miles + $5 + $25 phone fee for Honolulu to JFK in Hawaiian First Class and JFK to Hong Kong in Cathay Business Class (priced as two awards, no free oneway possible)
  • 75k miles + $455.50 + $25 phone fee for Boston to Dallas to San Diego in AA First Class and San Diego to London in British Airways Business Class (priced as two awards, no free oneway possible)

Bottom Line

You seem to be able to ignore the MPM + 25% routing rule when booking an award with American Airlines miles on aa.com that flies all American Airlines flights. This means you can get free oneways to farther away from your home airport than previously thought.

Bonus

You can take free oneways to/from Hawaii on American Airlines awards to Asia that fly all American Airlines operated flights. I discovered while researching this post that AA’s MPMs for Hawaii to Asia flights are incredibly high.

Recap

Thexfactor emailed me about AA’s award booking engine not following the rules he expected–letting us get away with longer routings than normal. From my research:

  • You seem to be able to ignore the MPM + 25% routing rule when booking an award with American Airlines miles
  • on aa.com
  • that flies all American Airlines flights.

27 COMMENTS

    • Yes, but if you live in HNL and want a free oneway, you have to have an award to Asia, which means you can get a free oneway pretty much anywhere in the US anyway.

      • Even when I try booking on AA planes only I can’t seem to get any free one ways when flying to Asia from LA? What am I doing wrong???

  1. > “although Los Angeles to London must be direct”

    By “direct” I assume you mean “non-stop.” Certainly routing somewhere Europe is only busted because of MPM. Otherwise, I offer up this data point: An award booking I made for my sister allowed this for 20k: OGG-DFW-LAX (N American 6 month stopover); LAX-TXL-VIE-VOL. 23 hours in TXL and VIE, FTW. Anyway, it does suggest one tactic against MPM is to leverage hidden city award concept. Obviously it would be helpful to have a listing of all MPMs for city pairs LAX-.

    • I mean the flight from LAX to Europe must be direct, so LAX is the NA Int’l Gateway City. In the example, I was talking about London, so in the example LAX-LHR had to be direct.

  2. i know why including HA and AS didn’t work for you… it worked for me… i got HNL-JFK-HND for 67.5k miles in first class. i think that the rule is that AA has to be the carrier on the international route and then it works.

  3. @ed very interesting trip OGG-DFW-LAX; LAX-TXL-VIE-VOL I love 23 hours stopovers, would you mind sharing whether it is AA/ partner (which partner) for each segment?

  4. Re: free oneway from Raleigh to Los Angeles.

    Your example itinerary has left a free one-way from LAX to XXX on the table. Book it as two one-ways & take a 2nd free one-way on the return from the gateway city LAX as well

  5. I actually noticed this about a month ago and can add a data point as well. I booked NRT-ORD-HON, with a stopover in Chicago for a few months, and it priced out at 25k points. Here are the important things to note from my booking as they relate to this post and free oneways on AA:

    1. Obviously this exceeds the 25% MPM as per this post
    2. The ORD-HON segment of the trip goes through Anchorage and is entirely on Alaska Airlines (seems to contradict some of Scott’s findings with his dummy bookings: maybe a YMMV type of situation not sure)
    3. I was charged the low season US to Japan rate (25000 points) even though the ORD-HON leg of the trip was not during the US to Hawaii low season time period. I am not sure if this is news to anyone, but it was news to me as I was expecting the high season ORD-HON portion of the trip to kick the NRT-ORD part to the high season as well since the entire trip wouldn’t be taking place during the designated low season. What this seems to imply is that the trip is priced off of the paid for leg only, thereby making the free oneway, free regardless of when it is taken; that is you can take the paid portion of a trip during low season and the free oneway at any time (low or high season). I would assume this would work similarly if the free oneway takes place prior to the paid for portion of the trip, but am not 100% sure on this since I haven’t played with the system to figure it out. But I can promise it worked with the above trip where the paid for part of the trip took place before the free oneway.

  6. I don’t believe the MPM has an universal application with AA. This has been going on for a long time now but no one wants to come out and point this out.

    Example 1
    I was successful in booking HKG to ORD, (stopover), then ORD to DFW, DFW to SFO. (Total mileage 10060). The MPM from HKG to SFO is 8659 with the 25% bonus. This booking will contradict with the notion that all flights have to be flown on AA to circumvent the rule.

    Example 2
    PVG-ORD (stopover), ord-HNL. Success. Exceeded MPM even with the 25% bonus.
    HKG-ORD (stopover), ord-HNL. Failed. Also Exceeded MPM even with the 25% bonus.

  7. that itenarary from jfk lax thru cmh on to london is not pricing out on aa for 20k anymore rather 32.5 so i guess they fixed the glitch!

  8. I’m going to be traveling in Spain next spring and I would like to fly business class home to New York (mid May) and then use my free one-way to get to a wedding in Cancun in the summer (mid July). I’m worried that if I wait until the July flight is bookable there may not be any availability left for the flight Home in May. Is there any way I can book my first leg home from Barcelona as soon as it is available and then simple add the other leg at a later date, or do I just need to roll the dice and hope there’s still availability when the second leg becomes bookable?

  9. I just spent 2 days trying to book a free oneway LGA-LAX, then LAX-FCO 1 month later. AA.com would let me book it, but it did not ticket. I called many times and they said it was not allowed. Exceeded MPM? Has anyone successfully ticketed one with a greater than 25% MPM. AA.com will initially let you book it, then sends it to a liason that disallows the routing I was told.

    • Tim,
      1. Is LAX-FCO direct? i.e. non-stop?
      2. Is LAX-FCO on AA metal?

      If the answer to either question is “No” you have your answer as to why this won’t ticket.

  10. Has anyone tried booking this on AA metal and then switching the airline after it is booked? I want to fly hnl-lax-nrt but would like to fly Cathay Pacific

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