Book American Airline Award Flights Like a Pro: Part 2 – Types of Awards & Charts

Book American Airlines Awards Like a Pro:

Award Types & Charts

American Airlines has 3 different award types for redeeming miles and 2 award charts for upgrades.

1.   American Airlines Travel Award Chart.  This award chart is for travel only on American Airlines, American Eagle and American Connection.

These are the only awards which you can book online at AA.com.  Booking online saves you the $25 telephone ticketing fee.

However, you CAN NOT search and book for partner airlines (besides Alaska Airlines) online.  For awards within North and Central America, this really doesn’t matter since your only options to get to those destinations are mostly on American Airlines or Alaska Airlines and AA.com is very good at showing you those options.

However, you may need to call American Airlines to book flights from the US to Hawaii using partner airline Hawaiian Airlines, since you can’t do that online.

For international flights, you are almost ALWAYS better off researching available seats on partner airlines (both Oneworld and other AA partner airlines) and then calling in to make the reservation.  Yes, you’ll pay a $25 telephone booking fee (waived for top tier Executive Platinum members), but you’ll get much more availability and options.

For example, if you search for flights from Chicago to Rome on AA.com, you’ll only see American Airline options online.  But you can also fly on British Airways (Oneworld partner airline) or American Airlines to London and then connect on a British Airways flight to Rome.  Or you could fly on Iberia to Spain and then connect to Rome.

2.   AAdvantage All Airline Award.  This award chart lets you combine travel on:

a)    American Airlines
b)    Oneworld partner airlines which include:

c)    Other American Airline partner airlines which include:

These awards can only be booked via telephone and you have to pay a $25 telephone booking fee per award (waived for top tier Executive Platinum elite members), but it is totally worth it because of the vastly increased flight options.

3.   Oneworld Airline Award ChartThe above 2 charts should cover 95% of your award needs.

The Oneworld award chart is a distance based award chart which lets you book flights on certain Oneworld airlines (but NOT the other airline partners listed  in 2. c) above.

You have to travel on at least 2 Oneworld airlines excluding American Airlines and can’t have more than 16 segments on the award.

This award chart is a terrific value if you are looking to book award travel with many stopovers or a round-the-world trip.

You can’t book this award online, but it is well worth the $25 telephone booking fee.

Upgrades

1.   American Airline Upgrades.   This chart lists the co-pay and miles required to upgrade flights on flights operated by American Airlines, American Eagle, or American Connection.

Upgrades are only possible to the next higher class of service, so you can’t upgrade from economy to first class, but you can upgrade from economy to business class or from business class to first class.

I’m not a big fan of using miles to upgrade flights because it is usually a poor value when upgrading from the cheapest discount economy ticket.

For example, it costs 25,000 miles PLUS a $350 co-pay to upgrade a 1-way discount economy ticket to Europe from economy to business class.

Total cost using miles to upgrade:  $1,350.   Cost of discount economy ticket to Europe (~$750) + co-pay to upgrade ($350) + value of 25,000 American Airline miles ($250 @ 1 cent per mile).

However, it costs only 50,000 American Airlines miles when you redeem miles for a business class ticket to Europe.

Total cost using miles to redeem for a business class ticket:  $500 (50,000 miles X 1 cent per mile)

However, using miles to upgrade could make sense if your company has purchased your ticket for you or if you regularly purchase business class tickets, or  if you just want to save your American Airline miles.

2.    Upgrades on British Airways and Iberia.  This chart lists the amount of miles required to upgrade flights on British Airways and Iberia.

However, this is a pretty meaningless option to me, because your ticket has to be booked in full fare economy, premium economy or business class.

Since these full fares are almost always higher than the discounted fares, this is usually not a great value unless you are forced to buy a ticket at full fare or your company buys the ticket for you.

You also have to book the ticket directly through American Airlines to be eligible to upgrade a British Airways or Iberia flight.  This means that tickets booked through any other sources besides AA.com or American Airlines reservations can not be upgraded.

Next in the series will be: how many miles does my award cost, fees, rules, & booking domestic and international awards.

 

74 Responses to Book American Airline Award Flights Like a Pro: Part 2 – Types of Awards & Charts

  1. Writing quality stuff like this is what sets your blog apart from the many other plethora of travel blogs out there….keep it goin…

  2. I’m looking to book a flight to Europe in the week between Christmas and New Year’s 2012. According to the charts, this is suppose to be off-peak for AA travel to Europe, however all of the award seats I’m seeing online in that part of late December are only “anytime” award seats. Would I have better luck calling or is just the busy holiday travel season?

  3. If only all airlines websites could search awards for all partner flight redemptions… We can dream!

  4. @Carissa

    The mile saver seats to Europe haven’t been released for those dates. I have been looking at London and the furthest date out you can book is 12/22/12. Tonight at midnight 12/23 should be available but they don’t always release everyday. I also don’t know that they release at midnight each day. I just know that I checked at 12:05am on Saturday night/ Sunday morning and the seats had been released at that time.

    As far as calling goes. You can always try calling. I have found that they can see what I can see. But it never hurts to try.

    This is all based off of my research I have been doing from ORD-LHR. Hope this helps.

  5. Thanks, Jay. That is all really helpful!

  6. Great article. You CAN book flights on the AA website to Hawaii. One other thing that should be mentioned ( you may mention it later) is that American allows a stopover ( within a year I believe) when flying in ternational in your “gateway city. For Example: I book 2 tickets to Europe this summer at 30,000 miles each way with the following itinerary.

    Miami-New York – Rome (one ticket) 30k (may 27th)

    Madrid – Miami – Honolulu (madrid-miami june10th/ miami – Hnl december 8th) 30k

    The price from Madrid to Miami was 30k but with the allowed stopover I got my flight back home (mia) and the first leg of a trip to hawaii 2 months later (usually 30k itself) for only 30k…nowI just gotta book the way back ( currently have a reservation ) honalulu – miami (3 months layover) – Buenos Aires for 20k miles or can switch to business at 50k…………..options with AA are great and if you play around with it a bit you’d be surprised what you could find………..enjoy

  7. With Delta, you can call to reserve a route over the phone and then book it online via reference number to avoid the telephone booking fee. Does AA do that too?

  8. As of the value of upgrade, don’t forget that you will earn miles and EQM on the upgraded flight, while getting no mile accrual if you redeem with all miles. For a flight to Europe, you will get about 6000 or 10000 miles back (depending on your elite status) and earn about 5000 EQM if you pay for discounted coach then upgrade with 25000 miles. If you value the mile at more than 1c, then the cost difference between the two approaches isn’t that much and you may need that 5000 EQM to re-qualify for next year.

    Also, I could be wrong but thought that upgrade is not limited by award inventory, i.e. you may still get to upgrade with miles when no 50K business class award is available.

  9. @jeff – Thanks!

    @Carissa – You can only book AA awards 331 days out. Booking is currently open until Jan 2, 2013 so if you don’t see the off-peak awards, they are likely unavailable now. I suspect that it is a busy Holiday travel season which is limiting the number of available awards. But Jay

    @Travel and Credit
    - It may happen sooner than we know. Or am I just dreaming!

    @Jay – Thanks for helping out. The booking schedule is open until Jan 2 2013, but have you detected a pattern with the London saver seats? Nice to know!

    @dbpoints – You can book AA and Alaska Air flights to Hawaii online, but NOT Hawaiian air flights. You have to call for those. Good point on adding in an extra leg if you’re in the international gateway city. I’ll be writing on that later!

    @Ken
    – Unfortunately, you have to call to get the flight ticketed.

    @bmguan
    – Good point on calculating the miles earned when you use miles to upgrade. This could make sense for some!

  10. Hey Daraius! Great article. Your blog is so addictive I’m sitting on a Hollywood set going through it on my phone!!

    Quick question, where on earth are you getting these miles at 1 cent a piece??
    I went to the AA website and they are $29.50 for 1000.

    Is there a Priority Club Rewards type 0.6 cent secret here that I don’t know about? Do enlighten.

  11. @ThunderStorm - Ha! Hollywood set? Are you touring or working? I don’t get the miles at 1 cent a piece, but I did earn most of them from the Citi AA credit cards. There isn’t a way to earn them for less, but I value them at 1cent per mile (i.e. I would spend no more than 1 cent per AA mile, so I don’t calculate my savings on a higher value).

  12. D, great series! I’m a big theoretical fan of the OneWorld Award Chart….theoretical because tons of segments really don’t go well with a toddler, but there is tons of value to be had there!

  13. @Mommy Points – But soon you can put the theory to practice!

  14. Soon is right. Our travel plans are slowly starting to get bigger. ;)

  15. Hi Daraius,

    Thank you so much for writing this AA award booking series. This has been so helpful.

    If you don’t mind, I have a question I would like to ask: When I book AA domestic tickets using British avios, will they let me choose our seats?

    Thanks for your time and help!

  16. I wish there were a flat-bed overnight flight from IAD to HNL!

  17. @Mommy Points – I’m waiting for your trip report!

    @Nanette
    – . They won’t let you choose the seats on the BA website, but you can call AA and ask them to assign you seats. Or you can do that online if you have the AA record locator (which will be different than the BA record locator).

    @Marsha
    :)

  18. Pingback: American Airlines Award Travel - Stopovers & Openjaws | Million Mile Secrets

  19. Hi Daraius,

    Thanks ! – I’m trying to digest all this great info, but have another question: … How do I search for award tix to AKL – as a newbie I’m not familiar with AA redemption but have tons of miles sitting useless – do I need to call ?

  20. @Genise – I answered your question in the other post, but will soon post on how to search for awards yourself.

  21. Hey Daraius i’ve been trying to book an award flight for my sister (i got her into the frequent flier game) and i’m somewhat confused on the american airlines award chart vs the all airlines award chart. If i wanted to book a first class ticket from LAX to LHR To FCO on american metal, depending on availabitility I could book using 100k anytimes booking through their site. But lets say i booked LAX to LHR on american but then did LHR fco on british, that would qualify me for thte all airlines award chart and hence be 62.5k miles?

  22. @Khoa – You can’t use the AAnytime award for flights which are not on American Airlines. In your example, the segment from LHR to FCO will be on British Airways so you can’t book the entire award as an AAnytime award. But it is bookable as a MileSAAVer award for 62.5K miles

  23. I booked an AA coach award ticket. I have earned more miles since then, so was wondering if there is any way to use my miles to upgrade to business at the airport? Thank you

  24. @Dima – In my experience, you can call AA and change your seat to business class (if there is availability) without having to pay the change fee. You can’t use miles to upgrade a coach award ticket at the airport, though.

  25. Thank you

  26. Pingback: American Airlines Award Travel | Million Mile Secrets

  27. Pingback: American Airlines Award | Million Mile Secrets

  28. Pingback: American Airlines Awards | Million Mile Secrets

  29. Pingback: British Airways Award Booking | Million Mile Secrets

  30. Pingback: Cathay Pacific Redeem | Million Mile Secrets

  31. Pingback: AA Redeem Miles | Million Mile Secrets

  32. Pingback: Book American Airlines Award Flights Like a Pro: Part 9 – Finding Iberia (& European) Award Availability using the Qantas Website | Million Mile Secrets

  33. I have a little over 110,000 AA miles, which I’d like to cash in for a round-trip Business class ticket from LIT to VCE, flying back from Paris–or if necessary, Frankfurt or London. Am I dreaming? I don’t want to make more than 2 stops either way, so my USA-Europe departure & return city has to be DFW or ORD. I plan to travel via train once I get to Venice, and am willing to return from any of the above cities, preferably Paris. Would love some advice & guidance.

  34. @Sam Blair - It is 50K for a 1 way ticket from the US to Europe, so you can get a return trip in business class for 100K miles. You can fly from LIT to ORD or DFW or any other departure city and then connect to a BA flight in the UK to Venice. AA.com shows BA flights as an option, but the fuel surcharges are high. I’d suggest making a dummy search around the dates you want to travel to see your options.

  35. Thanks, MMS. I was studying the options at the same time you were researching my question. The other option I found is flying via DFW to Madrid, then on to Venice on Iberia. I can go anytime from mid-Sept to early Nov, returning 12 or 13 days later. I doubt if they’ll give me a choice, but if they do, is there an advantage or disadvantage in going via dreaded Heathrow on BA vs via unknown (to me) Madrid on unknown (to me) Iberia? I don’t find any AA partner flights to Venice from Paris or Frankfurt. Thanks again. Sam

  36. @Sam Blair – The only downside of flying on BA is that you will pay ~$400 per transatlantic leg in taxes and fees, vs much less if your flight was on AA. Your flights to VCE on BA will go to London City airport (not Heathrow) and then to Venice. That’s why you may not be seeing AA flights to London, because AA doesn’t fly to London City airport. I’d search for only AA flights if you’re looking to minimize the fees and taxes.

    You may also see more availability if you fly in to say, Paris, and fly back from Rome etc. I found availability on a few dates between mid-Sept to early Nov, so it should be fairly easy to pay 100K miles for a biz class return flight.

  37. Ouch. That’s what I get for not saying precisely what I mean, MMS. There’s no question that I’ll fly AA across the Atlantic from DFW or if necessary ORD. What I meant was, once I get to London or Paris or Madrid, I have to try to find an AA partner airline that will let me extend my Business round-trip into Venice. I assumed there was an advantage to continue the leg into VCE on a partner airline rather than, say, AirFrance, where I would end up having to buy a one-way coach ticket. Am I wrong? As stated earlier, I’d like to return Business class from Paris or Frankfurt (or I suppose Rome; I hadn’t considered going that far south). Thanks.

  38. @Sam Blair – British Airways, Iberia, Air Berlin, and Finnair are AA partner airlines which you can use once you get into London (not all may fly to VCE, though). Keep in mind that you can also fly in coach for the leg from London, which will increase the chances of finding award availability and it is a short flight too. However, it just may be easier to pay for a ticket from London to VCE. You should be able to return from Paris or Frankfurt, either on a direct AA flight or via London or Spain (use BA or Iberia) to get there.

  39. THANK YOU!

  40. Ronny Horton

    I already have an AAdvantage Citi Visa card. Can I apply for the Citi Master Card and get the promotional mileage as well.

  41. @Sam Blair – You’re welcome!

    @Ronny Horton - You may be able to get the personal Citi cards again if it has been 18+ months since your last Citi approval for personal AA cards.

  42. Hi Daraius,
    Question on the one-world award as opposed to the AA award.

    I have a flight booked EWR-LHR (stop), LHR-AMS (stop), AMS-LHR-JFK-SJU. This cost 62.5k AA 1st milesaver miles for EWR-LHR. 4.5K avios economy for LHR-AMS. and 6.25k AA 1st milesaver miles for AMS-LHR-JFK-SJU. Total 125kAA and 4.5k Avios.

    I just used the great circle mapper tool to calculate the mileage for this itinerary, which came out to 8,975 miles. According to the one-world award chart, this falls into zone 3 and would cost 100k AA miles. Am I understanding that correctly?

  43. Also, I see that for the one-world awards, you need to fly 2 other one-world airlines (excluding AA). Do they have to be 2 DISTINCT airlines (like BA and Iberia), or could you fly BA twice and would that still count?

  44. one more question! the AA website doesn’t say anything about needing to fly 2 distinct airlines excluding AA. Where did you read that?

  45. @MissMiles – They have to be 2 distinct oneworld airlines, so flying BA twice wouldn’t count. Check out this post on FT and this blog post for more info on the AA Explorer awards.

  46. Dear Daraius ,

    I want to fly from Beijing to DFW , Sept 11/12/ or 13 ; return Oct 9/10/ or 11 . I want to buy the cheapest full fare ( y , b) fare I can get on AA so I can upgrade to Businees without co-pay and losing 50 , 000 miles . I can take JAL to NRT and AA to DFW and same in return . Only want to upgrade the AA part , coach on JAL is fine . Any way to beat the system ? Mike

  47. @Mike – Not sure I understand your question, but you may be able to use a SWU for an upgrade if available.

  48. We want to go on a week-long beach vacation (e.g. Hawaii or Cancun) during my child’s winter break, which runs December 22 through Jan 5.
    Fares are, of course, awful. And only unrestricted Aadvantage tix are available.
    Which is the relatively better deal, please?
    Thanks!

  49. @Celestial – The better deal depends on whether you have lots of AA miles or lots of cash. If you’d rather conserve cash flow, paying miles could make sense. Otherwise, paying cash could make sense, or you can see if an award booking service can help find you tickets at the low level.

  50. Daraius ,

    Mike again .. sorry about the confusion . My goal is to upgrade ( see previous email above ) from Coach to Business Class on the American A part of this trip .. NRT to DFW and return . Simply asking you if there is a way to buy an economy fare on AA w/o having to spend $ 700. fee ( rndtrp ) and 50 , 000 miles as the copay to upgrade as AA requires . Hope that helps . Thank you . Also , not sure what a SWU is and/or how I would request it .

  51. @Mike – Using miles to upgrade usually isn’t a great deal because you have to pay the co-pay AND the cost of a ticket. You may just be better off redeeming miles for a business class ticket.

  52. After two frustrating hours on the phone with AA yesterday, my spouse finally settled on this deal to use miles to get us to Rome and back in late December. We have 2 roundtrip tickets for 80,00 miles plus $1350 (according to agent the $ are for taxes, airline fees, etc.) for British Airways. The original phone call which ended in a hold on the tickets earlier in the day, did not mention the $1350 in fees, only that we could get the two tickets for 80,000 miles. Did we get “hoodwinked”/ If so, what recourse do we have?
    Thanks, Pat

  53. @pat – Sounds like you’re paying fuel surcharges for flying on British Airways. You could try searching for flights which don’t involve BA for the transatlantic segment such as AA to London and then BA from London to Rome or you could ask an award booking service if they can find you tickets without paying the surcharge which may be worth their booking fees.

  54. Pingback: LAN Awards | Million Mile Secrets

  55. Pingback: Air Tahiti Nui Award Booking | Million Mile Secrets

  56. Can I book a flight on AA.com but fly on Iberia using my AA miles? I am trying to avoid the high fees to LHR on BA. I did attempt to book BOS-LHR and then LHR-FCO the problem I am running into it if I fly AA to LHR they have me stopping over in for example DFW. I would like a flight straight to LHR from BOS and then book LHR to FCO.

    TIA!

  57. @Karen – You can use AA miles to fly on Iberia which does fly from Boston as well.

  58. I am trying to complete Nairobi to DFW and have a hold on the LHR London to DFW Business saver but the British Air awards arent opening up for Nairobi to LHR and I am not optimistic they will. ideas?

  59. “You have to travel on at least 2 Oneworld airlines excluding American Airlines and can’t have more than 16 segments on the award.”

    Can you explain what you mean by that? I’m not understanding why a oneworld booking would
    A) require at least 2 different airlines on the itinerary
    B) Why is it “excluding AA”.

    Thanx!

  60. @patrick – This likely comes to late to do any good, but perhaps book in coach and keep checking for a business award to open up?

    @Yitz – This isn’t a oneworld award as much as the special American Airlines distance based awards, which has these rules. Of course you can fly AA, but also need 2 other airlines included to be able to book it.

  61. Can you use “500 Mile Upgrades” for international upgrades or just AA miles?

  62. @Doug – You can’t use the 500 mile upgrades on what AA terms an international flight, but can use them on certain international flights (say Costa Rica to the US etc.)

  63. My husband and I are planning to travel to Argentina in October or November using AAdvantage awards from the Citi cards. We are also planning on doing a lot of internal flying to get around Argentina.

    It’s been looking like an openjaw MIA-SCL bus to Mendoza, MDZ to AEP, AEP to IGR, IGR to FTE, FTE-REL, REL- AEP, EZE-MIA.

    I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to do this. We have the Southwest Companion Pass and plenty of points so we could get to MIA from EWR, PHL or JFK. All are equally convenient from our home. Or does it make more sense to use Miami as my stopover?

    My instinct has been to try to get on a LAN flight with my points for the international flight and try the LAN South America pass for the in-country flights? I’d appreciate any insight you could provide. Thanks for all you do.

  64. regarding the AAAdvantage award do you have to have any flights on aa or is just one world ok??

    also,can you decide if you want a aaadvantage award or the mileage based one world award?
    thanks

  65. @Sara – I thought I answered elsewhere, but I’d price out the difference between the LAN pass and paying cash. I’d also try to get an AA flight to the international departure city to save miles and points, but using the companion pass to get to the international gateway city could give you more options.

    @adam – You just need 2 oneworld airlines (besides AA) for the mileage based award. You can choose which award you want.

  66. I have a 90K miles round trip ticket on American/ el al from lax to tel aviv. I am in tel aviv and want to change my ticket from early july to a couple of weeks later but no flights are available till the end of august. any suggestions?

  67. @dan roth - Nothing really except to perhaps try other routings, such as say to London and then to the US.

  68. Pingback: Air Tahiti Nui Awards | Million Mile Secrets

  69. Pingback: Cathay Pacific Redeem | Million Mile Secrets

  70. I have a question. If i am flying from NYC to YVR ( Vancouver), is it worth using miles for this trip? Or should i save the miles for a different international trip.

  71. Hi Darius,

    We just came back from Paris and Amsterdam and it was amazing!

    I am hoping you can help me with a trip to Spain with AA points. I’m not sure how to properly book the flights as I want to fly with Iberia so we don’t have to go through London and pay the very high taxes ($300 per person).

    I can’t quite figure out how to do this and I don’t believe I see it in your guide.

    Thank you!

    Jessica

  72. Hi Daraius

    I was planning a trip with family to India. Considering an infant child {< 1 year} with us – I checked online but I was not able to book for infant with miles. I had to call the American Airlines helpdesk – They said that I need to pay 10% of the Adult fare for the trip which is around 300$ and they will get the infant added to the itinerary. They said that there is no way to book with miles for infant.

    Is there any other way to go around this ?

  73. @Jessica – See part 9 in the guide!

    @Abdul – Unfortunately that is correct and you have to pay 10% of the adult fare in miles for an infant.

  74. Hi,

    How many transit/connect does AA allow for an award ticket from a partner airline? can I have 5 connects in one segment?

    Thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.