Six Ultra-Luxurious First Classes to Book with American Airlines Miles

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I am updating and re-posting this series on redeeming American Airlines miles in light of the fact that right now it’s super easy to earn 146,000 American Airlines miles.

For a limited time, the Citi /AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard and the CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard are both offering 50k bonus miles for spending $3,000 on each card within three months of opening it. The new Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard is offering 40k bonus American Airlines miles after just one purchase and paying the annual fee of $95. You can sign up for all three in the same nine day period (you can be approved for no more than one Citi card in an eight day period) and earn at least 146k American Airlines miles within three months after meeting the bonus requirements. 

Credit card links have been removed from posts and added to the menu bar at the top of every page of MileValue under the heading Top Travel Credit Cards.

“Redeeming American Airlines Miles” Series Index

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.

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.

Luxurious First Class Options to Book with American Airlines Miles

I’ll give the miles price of a one way award because American Airlines allows one way bookings (we’ll cover that later), and I’ll give the price after a 10% rebate in parentheses. That’s because the American Airlines personal card offers 10% of the miles back on all American Airlines redemptions up to 100,000 miles redeemed per calendar year.

1. Japan Airlines First Class for 80,000 (72,000) miles

Japan Airlines First Class is among the best in the world, and is the best value award from the United States in terms of duration and partner product on the new American Airlines oneworld alliance award chart.

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It combines a mostly enclosed suite with a wide, fully flat bed and impeccable service and food.Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 2.37.30 PM

Japan Airlines First Class between the United States and Japan costs 80,000 American Airlines miles one way. There is not as much Japan Airlines First Class Award space open between the US and Tokyo as there was in February, but a smattering remains.

Here’s how to search for award space on ba.com (you won’t find Japan Airlines’ award space on American Airline’s website).

American Airlines miles used to be the cheapest way to book JAL First Class. Now they are the second cheapest, next to Alaska miles. That being said, it’s easier to get a lot of American Airlines miles quickly right now than it is to get a lot of Alaska miles quickly.

2. Cathay Pacific First Class for 110,000 (100,000) miles

Trip Report: New York to Hong Kong

You can book Cathay Pacific First Class one way for 110,000 American Airlines miles between the United States and China, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia.

Cathay Pacific First Class is a throne…

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…that turns into a large and comfortable bed.

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Cathay Pacific First Class comes with some of the best food, fanciest wines and liquors, and most attentive service in the sky.

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And best of all, award space is widely available from the United States to Hong Kong and from there to the rest of Asia if you can book either within a week of departure or 11 months out.

And now you can redeem American Airlines miles to the Indian Subcontinent via Hong Kong, so you could fly Cathay Pacific First Class to India.

If you have Alaska miles, you can book First Class to China, Hong Kong, or Southeast Asia in Cathay Pacific First Class for only 70,000 miles one way, so keep that in mind. Same logic applies to this example as does the last–t’s easier to get a lot of American Airlines miles quickly right now than it is to get a lot of Alaska miles quickly.

Here’s how to search for award space on ba.com (you won’t find Cathay Pacific award space on American Airline’s website).

3. Malaysia Airlines First Class for 90,000 (81,000) miles

Trip Report: Paris to Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia Airlines First Class on its A380 costs 90,000 miles between Kuala Lumpur and London.

Malaysia Airlines is a very large and comfortable seat that converts into an extremely long and wide bed.

The all-you-can-eat satay cart was the best food I’ve ever had in the sky.

And the attentive service–that included kneeling down to seat level for interactions–was way better than you’d ever get from a US-based airline.

Malaysia Airlines First Class is widely available throughout the year between Kuala Lumpur and Europe.

Here’s how to search for award space on ba.com (you won’t find Malaysia award space on American Airline’s website).

4. Etihad First Class for 62,500 (56,250) miles

Trip Report: Abu Dhabi to New York

Etihad First Class costs 62,500 American Airlines miles between Europe and the Middle East, Indian Subcontinent, or Maldives. From the United States to those destinations is 115,000 miles.

Etihad First Class on its newest A380 has a couch that seats several people and a separate bed.

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Etihad’s fully enclosed suites are the most spacious in the sky, and there’s a shower onboard that you can use in flight.

First Class Award space is usually plentiful on the A380 between London and Abu Dhabi throughout the year.

Here’s how to search for award space on etihad.com (you won’t find Etihad award space on American Airline’s website).

5. Qantas First Class for 62,500 (56,250) miles

Qantas First Class costs 62,500 American Airlines miles between London and Dubai. From the United States to Australia, the cost is 110,000 miles for flights that last over 14 hours.

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

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…or a table for two.

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Qantas First Class is widely available year round between London and Dubai. For example, here is the award calendar for two travelers this coming October (direct flights only)screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-8-06-52-pm

It is not widely available between the United States and Australia, but there is some availability if you can plan your trip 11 months to one year in advance.

You can find Qantas award space right on American Airline’s website.

6. British Airways First Class for 80,000 (72,000) miles

British Airways First Class on the A380 from London to South Africa is 80,000 miles. It is a partially enclosed seat that turns into a fully flat bed.

There are fuel surcharges when you use American Airlines miles to book British Airways–the only fuel surcharges for any bookings in this post–but if the schedule is convenient, they may be worth paying. British Airways First Class is moderately available between the United States and Europe and between London and the rest of the world.

Also check out First Class on the British Airways 787-9 from 40,000 (36,000) miles one way on a ten hour flight.

Bottom Line

For a limited time, the Citi /AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard is offering 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard is offering the same bonus. The Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard is offering 40k bonus American Airlines miles after just one purchase and paying the annual fee of $95.

By meeting the $6,000 total spending requirement + putting one purchase on the Barclaycard and paying its $95 annual fee, you’ll earn at least 146,000 American Airlines miles. If you decide to open all three cards, open the Barclaycard first, then either Citi card, and then wait eight days to apply for the second Citi card. For example, on day 1 you apply for the Barclaycard and then immediately following, the personal Citi card. On day 9 you apply for the CitiBusiness card.

With 146k American Airlines miles, you could book any of the examples listed in this post, and some of them you could book roundtrip.


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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53 COMMENTS

    • Two Qantas First Class seats USA to Australia on the same flight? You don’t. They never release that space. Collect 320k Delta miles for 2x roundtrips in Virgin Australia Business Class.

    • They are all the same to me, but the Middle Eastern carriers and Turkish seem to offer a little better set up with personal TVs and solid (small) food.

  1. looking to redeem aa mile to fly cathay pacific first class from the US to Hong Kong and back. for the life of me, and i have been spending tons of hours on BA website, i cannot find any first class for march or april.

    any suggestions on what i can do? or if my plans are too unrealistic.

    one friend suggested to me that i should settle for business class seats. is that a good strategy?

    i flew cathay first class once and it is truly a great experience. i was hoping i could fly one more time before the devaluation eats my miles……

    any suggestions welcome. thank you all.

  2. Thank you for the posting. I am trying to fly Etihad First Class between Abu Dhabi, UAE (AUH) to Sydney (SYD) or Melbourne (MEL) in November 2016. I followed the posting instructions in how to search space in Etihad and I found 2 first class (GuestFIrst) GuestSeats online. The problem is that when I called American Airlines to book the seats, the AA agent advised me that they only have coach seats.

    Just seeing if other people are having similar problems booking Etihad first class seats so far in to the future with AA.

    • Yes, others are having similar problems right now with Etihad space. Call the Australian AA call center:

      +61 02-9101-1948

      Should be about 1 cent per minute via gmail.

    • Hi,
      Thank you for the wonderful website. I followed your advice to book my award flights on BA website. I am trying to use my AA miles for Cathay Pacific flights from Newark to TPE for 2 pp. I only have 180,000 miles now, so I don’t have enough for 2 round-trip business awards. I am thinking to fly there using economy class and come back using business. I checked BA website and it says there are 4 business seats available for return from TPE to Newark in August. But when I called AA quite a few times, they keep telling me only one seat available. Why is it? Should I book one business and one economy for our return flight and wait for the departure time to upgrade another seat? But, I wonder whether AA will have more award seats be released closer to departure in August? I can only hold my current economy class for a few days. But, the award program will be changed starting 3/22/16. I appreciate any advice you can give. Thank you very much.

      • That’s perplexing. That basically never happens in my experience. Re-run the search and feed the exact flight numbers to AA. Hang up and call again.

        • Thanks for your prompt reply. 🙂 Yes, I tried to search many different times and called a few times yesterday and today. It was the same. Today I found another date in early August, same 4 busisness seats listed on BA, but when I called, AA says only 1 available. I don’t know what’s going on. So, I thought I would do something different. I did another search for 2 passengers on the same date, instead of the recommended search (1 passenger), then it showed no availability for 2 pp on BA website. Finally, I switched back to the one Passenger search and 4 seats shown available. Maybe BA is not accurate? Should I book 1 business first and wait for another to come up closer to departure? Or is it just wishful thinking? Is it even possible? Thanks very much for all your advice.

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