Redeem American Airlines Miles: Part 15 — Wrap Up & Index

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Let’s talk about how….you did it! Those fireworks are for you!

You passed Redeeming American Airlines Miles 101. You should now have the basic tools to accrue and spend tons of American Airlines to destinations all over the world.

“Redeeming American Airlines Miles” Series Index

Now, let’s talk about the highlights of what we have learned. Below are key points drawn from each post in this series. I recommend reading each post individually to get a full understanding and complete details.

Part 1 — 5 Ways to Stretch American Airlines Miles on Economy Redemptions

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American Airlines miles are currently one of the most valuable airline miles for economy awards because of off peak awards. During some months of the year, your favorite destination can cost up to a 1/4 fewer miles to travel to.

All of the following examples are for one way in economy from the United States:

  • To Europe during January 10 – March 14 or November 1 – December 14: 22,500 miles
  • To the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America from April 27 – May 20, September 7 – November 14: 12,500 miles
  • To China and Hong Kong for most of the year: 32,500 miles
  • To Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia and Manaus, Brazil from January – June, and September – November: 17,500 miles

It also only costs 7,500 miles to fly America Airlines anywhere in the Contiguous 48 U.S. states & Canada that is (≤ 500 miles) away.

Part 2 — 6 Ultra-Luxurious First Classes to Book with American Airlines Miles

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As far as the three US legacy carriers go, it is almost always cheaper to use American Airlines miles to fly one of its awesome partners’ First Classes than it is to use United miles to fly one of its partners’ First Classes. You can’t even use Delta to miles to book a three-cabin First Class.

  • Japan Airlines First Class for 80,000 between the US and Japan
  • Cathay Pacific First Class for 110,000 between the US and China, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia
  • Malaysia Airlines First Class for 90,000 between Kuala Lumpur and London
  • Etihad First Class for 62,500 between Europe and the Middle East, Indian Subcontinent, or Maldives
  • Qantas First Class for 62,500 between London and Dubai
  • British Airways First Class for 80,000 between London and South Africa

However, First Class awards took the biggest hit with American Airlines’ devaluation.  So if you can, look to use Alaska miles, Korean miles, or Singapore miles instead for First Class awards.

Part 3 — Where to Search Award Space for All PartnersScreen Shot 2016-07-05 at 8.34.02 PM

Searchable on aa.com

  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • airberlin
  • British Airways
  • Finnair
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Royal Jordanian

Here’s how to search aa.com.

Searchable on ba.com

  • Cathay Pacific
  • Iberia
  • Japan Airlines
  • LATAM Airlines
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qatar Airways
  • S7 Airlines
  • SriLankan Airlines

Here’s how to search ba.com.

Must Search Elsewhere

  • Air Tahiti Nui and Gulf Air award space is searchable on Expert Flyer.
  • Etihad Airways award space is searchable on etihad.com.
  • Fiji Airways award space is searchable on alaskaair.com.
  • Jet Airways and Seaborne award space is only searchable by calling American Airlines.

Part 4 — Award Rules and How Many Miles You Need

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:

Otherwise, how does the award price? That’s where American Airlines’ award routing rules come into play:

  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.

Part 5 — Taxes, Fees, and Fuel Surcharges

Three most important things to remember about taxes, fuel surcharges, and fees:

1. Premium cabin awards that originate in the United Kingdom are the most expensive. Avoid those–see List of Award Taxes from Major Cities in Europe so you can plan a return to the US from a low tax country.

2. American Airlines only collects fuel surcharges on award flights operated by British Airways (outrageously expensive) and Iberia (can be reasonable).

3. 21 is the magic number. There is a $75 fee to book an award within 21 days of departure or to change departure date to a date less than 21 days away. Both fees are waived for elites. However there is no fee to change the date of an award more than 21 days in advance.

Part 6 — Redeeming for Domestic Awards

Domestically, American Airlines miles can be redeemed on American Airlines and Alaska Airlines flights. Award space on both airlines is searchable on aa.com. American miles can book all the exact same award space that Alaska opens up to its own members at the Saver level.

New as of March 2016: For direct flights only on American Airlines planes that fly a distance less than or equal to 500 miles within the continental 48 U.S. states and Canada:

  • 7,500 miles each way in economy
  • 15,000 miles each way in First Class on a two-cabin aircraft (almost all aircraft) and in Business Class on three-cabin aircraft

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

Part 7 — Redeeming for HawaiiScreen-Shot-2013-06-11-at-10.15.24-PM

To Hawaii, American Airlines miles can be redeemed on:

  • American Airlines
  • Alaska Airlines
  • any combination of the two

As of September 1, 2015, American Airlines miles cannot book Hawaiian Airlines flights between the mainland and Hawaii. AA miles can still book interisland flights on Hawaiian and flights between Hawaii and Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.

Award space to Hawaii is highly seasonal on all airlines, and it lines up well with American’s Off Peak dates (which have cheaper award prices).

Part 8 — Redeeming for East and Southeast Asia

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Business and First Class awards from the United States to Japan and Korea, in terms of duration and partner product (Japan Airlines), have the best value on the new American Airlines award chart.

Prior to their devaluation, American’s under-pricing of awards to Southeast Asia relative to its competitors was one of the main reasons that American miles were the best miles to Southeast Asia. Now I recommend using Alaska or Etihad miles instead if you have them (SPG and ThankYou Points both transfer 1:1 to Etihad Airways), because you can book awards to Asia with either of those miles at the same prices American had pre-devaluation.

Cathay Pacific premium cabin award space, which is useful to China and Southeast Asia, is widely available 11 months out and within a week of departure. Japan Airlines Business Class award space is available on all its routes if you have date flexibility. American’s own flights have good economy award space, but Business and First Class are spotty unless you can book far ahead of time or within a few days of departure.

Part 9 — Redeeming for Middle East and Indian Subcontinent

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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, Etihad and Qatar. Add in the other Middle Eastern and Indian partners, and American really has a lock on the region (i.e. the best award space to the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent by far).

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

Part 10 — Redeeming for Australia and New Zealand

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American Airlines miles have access to incredible economy award space to Australia and New Zealand flying Qantas and American Airlines from the continental United States. You can also redeem AA miles on Hawaiian from Hawaii easily with tons of economy award space (but US->Hawaii->Australia would price as two awards). Unfortunately Business and First Class award space redeemable with AA miles is incredibly hard to find across the board, although it does exist.

Part 11 — Redeeming for South America

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American Airlines flies more routes from the United States to Central and South America than any other carrier–by far! You can also use partner LATAM (previously LAN and TAM until May 2016) to fly pretty much anywhere you’d want to go within South America.

Award space varies by destination and season, but the general pattern on American Airlines flights is OK economy award space and poor Business and First Class award space that gets slightly better the last few weeks before departure. I also notice that there is often better premium cabin award space from South America to the United States than from the United States to South America.

LATAM’s award space from the United States to Peru, Colombia, Argentina, and Ecuador is pretty bad, but to Chile and Brazil. And LATAM intra-South American award space is consistently pretty good.

Part 12 — Redeeming for Europe

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Redeeming to Europe is not the best use of American Airlines miles because award space isn’t great, and American collects fuel surcharges on two partners to Europe. But there are routes with no fuel surcharges and good award space that you should know about.

Here are the American Airlines partners with direct flights from North America to Europe:

  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
    • not worth it, huge fuel surcharges
  • Iberia
    • Iberia charges moderate fuel surcharges, has great economy award space, and OK Business Class award space as long as you book in advance
  • airberlin
    • Airberlin has the best award space of these three partners
  • Finnair

Part 13 — Redeeming for Africa

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It is not the best use of American Airlines miles to redeem to Africa because award prices are high, and there is only partner you can really use while avoiding fuel surcharges (Qatar). But if you’re rolling in the AA miles, Qatar does have excellent economy and Business Class award space.

Part 14 — Redeeming for Fiji, Tahiti, Bora Bora, and French Polynesia

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American Airlines partners with Fiji Airlines and Air Tahiti Nui to offer the best options to these distant Pacific Islands. Both have wide open economy award space, but for premium cabin award space you’ll have a lot better luck with Air Tahiti Nui.

American Airlines is not partners with Air Tahiti, a different airline than Air Tahiti Nui which only flies a few long haul flights. To travel within French Polynesia (to places like Bora Bora or Moorea) you’ll need to purchase flights on Air Tahiti.

So What’s Next?

Your mileage education is never complete. The miles and points hobby is ever evolving, so check back daily at this blog, and sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts. You should now have the basics down and can understand the more complicated posts. You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date.

Bottom Line

After reading this entire series you should be equipped with the knowledge to start redeeming American Airlines miles to numerous locations around the globe. So start collecting!

For a limited time, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® is offering 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles and Admirals Club lounge membership, among other awesome benefits, after spending $5,000 in the first three months.Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 4.44.21 PM

By meeting the $5,000 total spending requirement you’ll earn at least 65,000 American Airlines miles. Read about 11 cool things you can do with that sign-up bonus.

Still don’t feel like applying the knowledge? We’ve got you covered. Just contact my Award Booking Service  by filling out this form and we’ll get to work for you.


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Good afternoon! This was a great review. Thank you!

    I have around $35,000 points that will expire with American at the end of 2016. I don’t plan on using them. What do you find is the best way to extend them for the 18 month period without spending a fortune or losing too many to buy silly magazines?

    Thank you in advance for your time.

  2. In reply Becky:

    What’s the “$” for? Just buy something through the AA eShopping portal for $1 and the miles will stay active.

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