Book American Airlines Award Flights Like a Pro: Part 1 – Introduction

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I’ve updated this post to reflect the new American Airlines award chart that went into effect on March 22, 2016.

Book American Airlines Awards Like a Pro:

2016-03-22_10-28-01

American Airlines Miles Can Take You All Over the World! Use Miles for American Airlines, oneworld Partner, and Other Partner Flights

Introduction

American Airlines miles are among the easiest to redeem for both domestic and international trips and will let you have lots of Big Travel with Small Money. 

You can book 1-way awards which gives you terrific flexibility.  For example, you can fly to Europe using American Airlines miles and fly back using United Airlines miles.  And you can redeem American Airlines miles, but fly on American Airlines partner airlines.

In my experience American Airlines has some of the best telephone booking agents and some of the most available award seats for both domestic and international destinations.

oneworld and Other Airline Partners

More importantly, you can redeem your American Airlines miles for travel not only on American Airlines (this is very important!), but ALSO on oneworld partner airlines and other (non-oneworld) partner airlines which have partnered with American Airlines. 

The oneworld alliance is a group of 15 airlines (Air Berlin, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN Airlines (and merger partner TAM Airlines), Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, S7 and Sri Lankan Airlines) which together fly to over 1,000 destinations in 150+ countries.  

Oneworld includes 15 airlines that fly all around the globe

oneworld Includes 15 airlines That Fly all Around The Globe

American Airlines has also partnered with other airlines (outside of the oneworld alliance) such as Etihad Airways and Fiji Airways.  You can also redeem your American Airlines miles for travel on some of these other partner airlines!

Oneworld3

American Also Has Several Partners Not in oneworld

This is a BIG deal (no, it is a huge deal!), because between oneworld and other partner airlines you can use your American Airlines miles to fly to places where American Airlines doesn’t fly themselves.

Some airline award tickets can be booked on AA.com including:

  • Air Berlin
  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines (including American Eagle)
  • British Airways
  • Finnair
  • Qantas
  • Royal Jordanian

Unfortunately, to book all other partners you have to call American Airlines (NOT the partner airline) to book the award.  I’ll cover how to find available award seats on partner airlines in future posts so that you don’t have to rely on the phone agent to find the seats you want.

Where Can American Airline Miles Take Me?

Almost anywhere in the world!

Your American Airlines miles can take you to places where:

1)  American Airlines fly themselves

2)  American Airlines’ oneworld partners fly

3)  American Airlines’ other partner airlines fly

The easiest way to see where American Airlines and their oneworld partners fly to is to use the oneworld online tool.

A more time consuming, but more thorough way, is to individually visit the oneworld partner and other partner airline’s websites and see where they fly.

Use Miles to Fly Where American Airlines Doesn’t

Let’s take 3 out of many possible examples:

1.  Bangkok, Thailand.   You can redeem American Airlines miles for travel on Cathay Pacific from the US to Hong Kong and from Hong Kong to Bangkok.

American Airlines doesn’t fly its own planes (sometimes referred to as “AA metal”) from the US to Thailand, but you CAN redeem American Airline miles to fly on Cathay Pacific (a oneworld partner) from the US to Hong Kong and then connect to another Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok.

You won’t be able to search for Cathay Pacific award seats online at AA.com, because you can only search for flights on American Airlines and the partners listed earlier in this post online.

Currently, you have to call American Airlines (NOT the partner airline) to book awards on partner airlines such as Cathay Pacific.

But don’t worry!  I’ll show you how to find available award seats on many of American Airlines’ partners before you call and we’ll walk through how to call American Airlines and get the agent to book your $15,000 First Class seat using miles and only a few hundred dollars in taxes & fees.

2.   Anchorage, Alaska.   American Airlines has limited service on its own flights to Alaska.  But since Alaska Airlines is an American Airlines partner airline, you can use your American Airlines miles to fly on Alaska Airlines routes to Alaska.

For example, American Airlines doesn’t fly from Seattle to Anchorage directly.  You would normally have to fly from Seattle to Dallas and then from Dallas to Anchorage during the months when American Airlines flies from Dallas to Anchorage.

But because Alaska Airlines (an American Airlines partner) flies from Seattle to Anchorage you can redeem your American Airlines miles, but fly on an Alaska Airlines plane from Seattle to Anchorage.

3.  Cairo, Egypt.  American Airlines not only doesn’t offer any service to Cairo, but does not offer a single flight to any country in the Middle East.  But since Qatar Airways is a member of the oneworld alliance, you can use your American Airlines miles to fly Qatar to Cairo, with a quick layover in Doha. 

Another option would be to use American Airlines partner (that is NOT in oneworld), Etihad Airways.  With a quick layover in Abu Dhabi, you can also redeem miles to travel to Cairo. 

You have to book both airlines over the phone and not on AA.com.  But these are still great options for booking travel to the Middle East.  

Bottom Line

The American Airlines AAdvantage program has numerous opportunities to score great award tickets around the world.  Whether it is flying Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong, or British Airways to London, or any other partner destination, you have the chance to take great trips for a mere fraction of the cost of a normal ticket!

To be continued…(next post: award types, fees, and rules)

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227 responses to “Book American Airlines Award Flights Like a Pro: Part 1 – Introduction

  1. Hi Would like to flight this summer from NY to rome with my wife.
    (july 9 – august 26) flexible dates.
    We have 41.000 miles each with two different AAdvantage profile.

    Advice?

  2. Parinya Chucherdwatanasak

    Hi,
    I and my wife have enough miles to go to Bangkok, Thailand. We plan to fly there at the end of May and come back to the US in August. We were trying to find the award tickets for many weeks on the AA website. However, they never show up on the website. Is this time too early to look for those award tickets? We plan to fly off from Detroit though. Please help. Thanks. Parinya

    • @beth – Search for award flights on the British Airways website and then call AA to book those flights.

      @ bernial – It is 60K for a round-trip in coach from the US to Europe with AA miles.

      @Parinya Chucherdwatanasak – They won’t show on the AA website. But see the linked posts above on how to find them using the British Airways or JAL website on Cathay Pacific. Then call AA to book those flights.

  3. My son has a honeymoon of 2 wks. planned in Sept,’14, to arrive in Naples and return from Venice [leave & return from RDU]. I have 400,000+ AA Advantage miles which I have never used or booked before. I am so very confused trying to get possible flights on AA using its flights or its
    partners. I know I need an ‘open jaw’ type for return and can call and pay AA a $25 fee to book; however, your recommendation is to tell AA which flights to book? Should we go to BWI or JFK and book to Europe from
    either of those? Thank you for any help. Best Regards, JR

  4. I would like to plan a trip using miles from DFW to Athens and then returning from Venice to DFW in October. The outbound goes through LHR which is OK but the return goes through Gatwick and then LHR resulting in train travel and an overnight stay at Gatwick or LHR. Also, the taxes for two people run just under $1,000.00. Since AA eliminated the one world partner airlines, I can’t see any other route. Is there a better way to plan this trip?
    Thank you.

  5. WanderingMiss

    Hi,
    I just called AA to try and book a flight from PER – JFK using miles from Aus. I found the availability on CX but AA are telling me that although the award chart between the US and AU are showing the charge for this one for bus / first somewhere between 62.5k and 72.5k miles, they can only price it as separate flights, coming to 90k miles. It is actually the most direct route – shorter time in the air by an hour, and the stop over is only 4 hours. I thought it might be because it was an anytime award instead of the mile saaver – but apparently not.
    From your understanding is this correct, or should I try my luck with the American service desk / another agent? I’m currently calling the Au / Fiji service desk.
    Thanks in advance for any help – I’m a bit stuck on this one. I broke my back in 3 places a few years ago and this will be my first long haul since healing so being able to fly flat is really important to me at the moment….

  6. How many points will it take for a roundtrip from Miami, FL to Los Angeles, CA?

  7. Pingback: 3 Cards. 100,000 Miles and 105,000 Points | Million Mile Secrets

  8. Hello Daraius,
    Great website. Tried your method, want to go from Chicago to Hong Kong in November, 2014. AA shows only business anytime, no business mile saver. Business anytime is about 280K round trip. However, Cathay Pacific displayed with 110K round trip. Does this mean when I call AA to make a reservation I need to pay 280K miles for a round trip business ticket ? Many thanks.

    BH

  9. Quick question for you. A friend of mine offered to book me tickets from Los Angeles to Miami for Christmas of 2014 using his AA points.
    he did not need the points and offered. My question is, what happens, lets say, I get into a fight with him or he changes his mind? Can he just cancel my tickets all of a sudden if he decides and rune my Christmas vacation?
    Steven

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  11. Hi Darius,
    My husband and I are Hawaiiain airlines mileage people for the last 10 years. Rarely had to pay for a ticket. We are planning a trip to Indonesia. Im very confused on what is the right credit card for us to apply to get the miles and rewards. Any suggestions?

    Thanks for you time.
    Tanya

  12. Hi Darius,

    I am planning to use AA miles for a trip ( economy only ) – 3 sectors ; LAX – HKG; HKG – Tokyo: Tokyo – LAX. Any suggestions : Cathay or JAL; and how can I go around using AA miles ?? Thank you !

  13. Hi Darius,

    I am planning my 2015 vacation. Every award travel trip I am getting more and more creative with your help of course. I was curious on the maximum number of connections for award travel. I will be traveling from MCO to AKJ First Class. I haven’t tried yet but I am looking at MCO-JFK-LHR-HKG-HND-AKJ with a combination of AA, BA, Cathay Pacific, and JAL and having the layovers being less than 24 hours. Is this possible?

    Thanks.

  14. Hi, Darius.

    I just wanted to ask if I will get Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and spend $3000, than I will get 50,000 AA miles. Could I buy ticket for my girlfriend and not to fly with her?
    Round trip to Europe from LAX cost exactly 50,000 points. So I will just need to pay tax’es? ~$150-200

    Best Regards,
    Ric

  15. Can I buy the tickets from AA and then later get a credit by using the award? I do not currently have enough Miles but will by the time I leave, but I am not sure the flight will still be available.

  16. I was trying to buy two RT tickets on AA, LAX-FCO in September 2015 with flexible dates, then use miles + co-pay to upgrade to business. I checked all the seating in business class on various AA flights on various dates – all showed every business class seat still available. When I call AA to try and book, they tell me there are no award seats available. The agent even checked their One World partners – no seats. Is there a secret to using miles to upgrade to the next class of service, or are they correct in telling me they have NO SEATS available almost 11 months in the future? In other words, is an upgrade using miles to/from Europe really an award that actually does not exist?

  17. When redeeming AA miles for a one-way trip, can you fly with two different partners for the price of a one-way award?

    E.g. Trying to get from HNL (Honolulu) to Okinawa (OKA). Fly HAL from HNL to HND and then fly JAL from HND to OKA?

    Thanks.

  18. Hi Darius – would really love your input into this one. I used a lot of miles to buy 5 business class tickets for my family from Austin (yeah, our home town!) to Maui. route is Austin -Phoneix (us airways), phoenix – maui (Hawaiian Airlines). What I am struggling with is I used 75k for each round trip .. was this the best use of 375,000 miles ? (5 people x75,000) or based on your experience, can I still do this better – we are scheduled to travel in June 2015

    Thank you for your time. Love your website !
    Andrew

    • @MarkRR – You don’t get credit for booking award flights.

      @Richard Sedivy – Unfortunately, upgrades are not a great use of using miles and points.

      @ JasonD – That’s possible as long as there is a published routing for the flight.

      @Andrew Fernandes – That’s a good deal for business class. The best redemptions are the ones you want to take!

  19. I am somewhat new at this. How late can one use the reward during a busy flying season? I am thinking of applying for this card now, which means I’ll probably reach the $3000 goal in early February. Would it be possible to book a ticket using the award miles in March, for a trip in August?

  20. Darius, i am trying to book phl-nbo on Qatar air for 12/2015. i’ll soon haver 50k aa miles. can i use these and other miles for the award. also, would other miles (like from capital one) and chase points be used for the booking. I have some citi and chase points.

    thanks.

  21. The CITI AA business card is junk. It’s being handled out of a separate bank in NY. While they advertise Bonus 50,000 AA miles if you charge $3,000 during the first 3 month, they only give you a credit limit of $1,000 in the card of which is junky looking. Don’t believe me? Get one and you will see.

  22. Hello,
    Could you use AA points fot other people. I mean to exchange points for a ticket to another person, not the owner of the credit card?
    Thanks 😉

  23. Hi,
    I have booked tickets using miles from DFW to SEA , I booked them last month will be traveling on May 29 –June 7, 2015 it was 50 K miles each (2 Adults). I noticed that other times and lower mileage options have become available. How can I get the lower mileage option??
    Is their a way to track lower mileage options?? AMERICAN does not automatically reduce you mileage if one opens up Correct??

  24. My husband and I are looking to take a vacation with our American Airlines miles (currently close to 100k each). We prefer first class when travelling longer distances. We were interested in French Polynesia and have been reading your posts. However, I don’t like the first class in either Air Tahiti or Air France! We flew to the Dominican republic last year on us airways and had a great first class setup – this is a much longer flight and doesn’t seem that great. Is there any other flight options where there would be a nicer first class? If not, do you have any good recommendations on where else to go with American Airline Miles?

  25. Darius – I have a party of 6 travelling to Hawaii in June’15 on first class AA award tickets. I booked the trip in July’14 – 11 months in advance! I just found out AA has oversold the first class cabin – and they have effectively ‘bumped’ my 9 year old son to coach (by removing his first class seat assignment and refusing to add it back – they don’t have a seat available for him). Any tips for how to handle this situation?

    Thanks

  26. I love the ability to fly Air Tahiti Nui. PPT is a difficult place to get on miles, nearly impossible without AA, which I don’t actualy fly. However, thanks to a converted 35K bonus from USAirways, which is, of course, now AA miles, a 21K bonus would put French Polynesia in reach for my wife and I. Thanks for your consideration!

  27. Michael Wainstein

    I have managed to book two first class seats on Cathay Pacific using American miles to fly to Bangkok. By using expert flyer and checking regularly to see what the inventory level was I could manage to “predict” on what flight the seats might open up. It was a nail biter but in the end, the predictions proved correct, and the flights with 5 open first class seats opened up about a week out. So I’m off to Bangkok and using my valued AA miles to do it!

  28. in August 2013 I used 10,000 AA miles to go from Iceland (did a bike tour around the entire island for 2 weeks) KEF to HAM on Air Berlin, 12 hour layover from 7am to 7pm to meet up with friends and enjoy a nice summer day. Followed by a 19 hour overnight visit to DUS to see another old friend and a night out in the old town. Followed by a 23 hour stop in Mallorca for another rendezvous with a friend there as well. Finally finishing in Sevilla to begin my summer trip through the south of Spain. All on one booking, one 1-way flight from Keflavik to Sevilla but a ton of worthwhile stops mixed in!

  29. Great article! I love to save and use my miles on European trips – I feel like it maximizes their value.

  30. My favorite use for AA points is using the points to go to Europe. This past April my family of 5 used 200,000 AA points to go from LAX to Europe round trip. It was an amazing trip we visited 10 cities in 3 countries with 3 kids. Amazing!!!

  31. LIFESAVING! I was so thankful for American Airlines miles when my brother was battling cancer and needed me to come help drive him to and from radiation treatments after surgery. Buying a ticket was going to cost us $700+ but we were able to find Roundtrip tickets from San Diego to Detroit with miles- and surprisingly only the minimum amount of American Airlines miles! We get like we hit the jackpot! It was great spending time with my brother, who eventually was declared cancer free!

  32. can’t get any europe business or 1st tickets using miles w/american for the entire month of dec. what’s going on?

  33. I have a an American Advantage flight that originates at London Gatwick. I want to change the date and the only that are available are out of London Heathrow. Does a change fee apply to change airports in London?

  34. I’ve saved up 250k American Airlines miles that I’ve wanted to use so my wife and I can have the experience of traveling international first class once in our lives, we either want to fly into the UK or France, since we’ll be spending a week each in either country.

    I’ve found award travel to LHR and back on American for 62.5k each way, which is perfect, but there are carrier charges and fees of over $1250 per passenger! I know that’s a steal for round trip first class to Europe, but I’ve been saving up these miles forever, and having to pay the equivalent of a coach ticket just to use them kind of sucks.

    Am I always going to be looking at this high of fees to Europe on American? Any advice?

  35. AA availability to Europe is a joke. No MileSAAver awards in Business and First. If you can ever find one, it is on BA via LHR with $hundreds in surcharges.

  36. Re-cycled post? Would have been nice to see that bit of info highlighted. It took me a couple of minutes to see the date of the original post. I know the info is still valid, but …

  37. I like to use my AADVANTAGE miles to fly LATAM Airlines to Chile to see friends and family.

  38. Excitedly planning our first extended trip to Great Britain using AA points!

  39. I like to use AA miles for fun trips to the west coast.

  40. I like AA points because they work with many different airlines!

  41. I’ll use the miles to return to Europe

  42. I love your blog. I have a stressful job so I like to use points on AA to travel to relaxing places. Last year I went to France. Dordogne are is like going to another time in history with beautiful farmland, castles, rivers, and of course excellent wine. AA is my preferred airline that I chose with American Express which gives me valuable airline credits.

  43. AA points are the best because there are so many ways to earn them!

  44. AA points are great because they’re so easy to use to transfer to different airlines!

  45. AA to Boston!!

  46. I love AA points because they are so versatile!

  47. We used American miles to travel to Ireland for our 30th wedding anniversary. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend it. There you will find breathtaking scenery, delicious food and a plethora of historical sights all within a very short distance.

  48. Cathy Fitzgibbon

    Flying this Sept to Germany and back from Austria. This time we got award tickets for business class. Wanted to get in while there were a lot of seats opening up, before the devaluation on 22 Mar. Previously we’ve used miles to upgrade to business.

  49. I like to upgrade cheap coach tickets to business class on transpacific trips using miles

  50. Also making a trip to Germany this summer, in my case in early to mid August with my dad. It’ll be his first time in Europe, and as a long-time genealogy/family-tree researcher, he’s really looking forward to seeing the Rhineland where our ancestors hail from long ago. I got us First Class redemptions prior to the devaluation, so he’ll also get to experience medium-haul Intl. 1st and I think he’ll love that!

  51. I’m saving up AA miles to take a trip to Europe for my boyfriend’s 50th birthday. He’s never been, and I’ve only been once, when I was a teen.

  52. I love your giveaways!

  53. Best use of AA miles is for travels on Cathay Pacific business or first class!

  54. Business class!!

  55. Looking forward to a year of travel.

  56. I have yet to book with American Airlines miles but am saving for an anniversary trip to Hawaii!

  57. My favorite way to use AA miles is to book vacation travel.

  58. I’d use the extra miles to visit family or gift to a niece

  59. Haven’t done business class yet, but favorite way so far was to book RT non-stop from NYC to GRU via BA for 50K miles instead of 60K on AA or United. Great when transferring points from Chase UR!

  60. Flying to my next job in the carribean as a dive instructor.

  61. I usually go on one trip to Europe each year in Business Class and my wife & I book separately so we can each get the 10,000 rebate because of our Citi AA cards.

  62. My favorite way to use AA miles is for a safari and I could use some more to book an award ticket,

  63. My favorite use is creating family memories by flying to Disney World.

  64. Thanks for all the tips! It’s been so helpful!

  65. I am looking forward to a trip to Hawaii.

  66. I like to travel domestically and to Europe!

  67. I live in Dallas, so American Airlines is the big contender for international getaways. These points of helped my husband and I visit dream adventure travel getaways on our bucket list, including India (the Golden Triangle of Rajasthan) and Ecuador (the Galapagos). We are adventure travel junkies so banking miles to help make this happen is the best!

    • Michelle, when you go to the Galapagos Islands, get to the airport in Guayaquil early. They told us 2 hours but it wasn’t enough time to first go: in the long line to get your checked luggage zip tied. Second line: Next to first but longer line to pay your $10. (welcome to Ecuador fee), and get your paperwork. Third: NOW go to the ticket counter, we used Lan. FYI: They over book this flight everyday, and weight restrict it everyday. When we finally got to the ticket counter, they literally said, No seats, come back tomorrow! Didn’t matter how long ago you purchased your tickets. Our only option now was to come back or go to the wrong island and find a way to the correct island and catch up with our itinerary which is what we did. The weight restriction is because no fueling in the Galapagos Islands so they carry twice the amount of fuel. The flight originates in Quito and makes a stop in Guayaquil. The plane is already half full so anyone boarding downline in Guayaquil is in jeopardy of being bumped which was us. We went on AA as far as we could then used One World partner Lan for our trip. Good Luck, you will love the Galapagos Islands!!

    • Michelle,
      PS: Forgot to mention…when in the first line, have your husband stand in the second line to save time. Then when we were almost to the front of the second line, I had my son get in line at the ticket counter. Our big mistake (and waste of valuable time) was to get in the ticket counter line first because they ask you for the your papers you got from the second line.

  68. Miami on AA!

  69. Terry Anserello

    Using AA miles towards a trip to Europe!

  70. Love using miles for trip to Europe or the Caribbean … fantasy trips! one day!

  71. Taking my family on great trips to expand our horizons!

  72. Coming back from Johannesburg, SA from a safari, I used my AA miles, ultimately getting home to San Diego. I had to go thru AUH on Etihad, going thru DOH didn’t work with my ticket from Botswana so even though these 2 airports are less than an hour apart (by air), it cost my son and I an extra 60,000 miles to fly Etihad vs. Qatar. I questioned it but to no avail or mileage discount- there was no other ‘award travel’ available on the day I needed it and I looked everywhere…