Book American Airlines Awards Like a Pro:
- Part 1 – Introduction
- Part 2 – Types of Awards & Charts
- Part 3 – How Much Will My Award Cost?
- Part 4 – One-way, Openjaws, Stopovers, & North American Gateway Cities
- Part 5 – American Airlines, Alaska Airlines & Hawaiian Airlines for North American awards
- Part 6 – International Award Routes
- Part 7 – Finding British Airways Award Availability
- Part 8 – Finding Cathay Pacific Award Availability using the British Airways website
- Part 8b – Finding Cathay Pacific Award Availability using Japan Airlines’ Website
- Part 9 – Finding Iberia (& European) Award Availability using the Qantas Website
- Part 10 – Finding LAN & South American Award Availability
- Part 11 – Finding Air Tahiti Nui Awards to France & French Polynesia with FlightStats
- Part 11b – Finding Air Tahiti Nui Awards to France & French Polynesia with ExpertFlyer
American Airlines has 5 different types of award rates, but most folks will use either the off-peak or the MileSAAver rate.
1. Off-Peak MileSAAver Awards. These awards let you travel for less than the regular (MileSAAver) number of miles to certain destinations. The catch is that you have to travel during “off” or low season.
Hawaii: January 12 to March 8 & August 22 to December 15
The Caribbean and Mexico: September 7 to November 14
Central America, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela: January 16 to June 14 & September 7 to November 14
Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay: March 1 to May 31 & August 16 to November 30
Europe: October 15 to May 15
Japan: October 1 to April 30
Key points about off-peak awards:
- Off peak awards are valid only in coach.
- You can use off-peak awards on partner airlines. This is great, because it opens up a lot more possibilities to get to your destination.
- Off peak awards can’t be used to fly within the US and Canada.
Off-peak awards are a terrific value because they save you a lot of miles when traveling to certain regions. Europe has 7 months of off-peak availability at 40,000 mile round trip!
However, if there is no off-peak award availability, the next level of awards in coach are not the regularly priced MileSAAver awards, but the more expensive AAnytime awards.
Before paying double price (AAnytime awards) for coach awards, you should always search for regularly priced business MileSAAver awards. These cost the same amount as the double-priced coach (AAnytime) awards, so you could fly in business class for the same amount of miles as a coach flight.
2. MileSAAver Awards. These are regular priced awards, but are capacity controlled. This means that it may be difficult to get awards during peak times and for more than 2 people.
However, if you’re flexible (can leave early or later, or stay overnight in a hub airport, or break up your large travel group), you should be able to find awards to your destination. Just remember to check partner airline availability as well (which I’ll cover in later posts in the series).
American Airlines also claims to have a list of destinations to which MileSAAver seats are more readily available. I haven’t tested this out to see how easily MileSAAver seats are available to these destinations, but keep in mind these are only destinations served by American Airlines.
If you are traveling on a Oneworld (British Airways etc.) or other partner airline (Ethiad), you have to book your award using either the off-peak or MileSAAver rate, and can’t use the AAnytime rate.
3. AAnytime Awards. These awards give you the most flexibility and if a seat is available on the flight, you can book it. AAnytime awards can be used with ONLY the American Airlines Travel Award Chart (for travel only on American Airlines).
However, they cost twice the amount of miles as a regular MileSAAver Award. For example, it costs 100,000 miles on a 1-way AAnytime award to London in business class instead of 50,000 miles if you used a regular MileSAAver award.
Tip: Before paying the AAnytime rate for a coach or business class award, check the MileSAAver availablity for the next highest class of service (business or first class).
For example, before paying 60,000 miles for an AAnytime (double priced) award to London in coach, check to see if there are MileSAAver (regular) awards for 50,000 miles in business class.
Often times, you will find a MileSAAver award in the next class of service which would cost the same (or less) amount of miles as the AAnytime award!
Note that AAnytime awards are ONLY for flights on American Airlines. You CAN’T book oneworld partner and other partner airlines at the AAnytime rate.
So if your flight involves partner airlines (say, British Airways from London to Dubai), you won’t be able to pay double the miles and get last seat availability.
4. Citi AA Reduced Mileage Awards. Citi AAdvantage card holders have access to reduced mileage awards (changes quarterly) which save you either 5,000 or 7,500 miles for flights within the US and Canada. The exact amount varies based on which type of Citi AA card you have.
- Citi Gold and the Citi card: 20,000 miles (instead of 25,000 miles) in coach and 45,000 miles (instead of 50,000 miles)
- Citi Platinum, Citi Business, Citi Executive, & Citi Select: 17,500 miles (instead of 25,000 miles) in coach and 42,500 miles (instead of 50,000 miles)
However, the catch is that you have to call AA reservations and pay a $25 phone booking fee (waived for Executive Platinum elite members). I don’t like it, but I’ll pay $25 to save 5,000 or 7,500 American Airline miles.
The list changes quarterly, and these awards must also be used on flights operated by American Airlines themselves. This means that you can search for availability online at AA.com (which will show you AA options) and then call to book the award.
These award are subject to the same capacity restrictions as MileSAAver awards. In other words, if you find a MileSAAver award online to a destination on the quarterly reduced mileage award list, you can call AA reservations, give them the award code from the Reduced Mile Award page, and book your award for fewer miles.
The reduced mile awards to Canada are an especially good deal since tickets to Canada can be quite expensive.
You have to book a return ticket. Technically, you can book a 1-way ticket, but it will still cost you the same amount of miles as a return ticket.
Tip: Some folks have had success getting reduced mile awards even if they originate from a city on the reduced mileage list. Technically, you should receive the discount only if your destination is a city on the reduced mileage list. As always, it doesn’t hurt to see if you can get the lower price if you originate (or leave) from a city on the reduced mileage list.
5. Dynamic Air Awards. These awards are available only to Gold, Platinum, and Executive Platinum elite members and are only for awards within the US & in economy class.
More importantly, you can’t make changes once the award is booked.
If you’re an American Airlines elite member, it doesn’t hurt to see if you’re offered a lower price than the regular award price. But I’ve seldom found the Dynamic Air award to be a good value.
1. Telephone Booking Fee. American Airlines charges a $25 telephone booking fee which is waived only for Executive Platinum members. Paying the fee is usually worth every cent because it is the only way to book awards with partner airlines (except Alaska Air which can be booked online).
2. Close-in ticketing fee. American Airlines charges a $75 fee if you book your ticket within 21 days. This fee is waived for Gold, Platinum, and Executive Platinum members.
You may be able to avoid paying this fee by booking an award outside of the 21 day window and then calling to change the award to a date within 21 days.
However, there are no guarantees that there will be seats available in the time it takes to book your award and call back to change it since award availability changes rapidly. Or that you won’t be charged the $75 close-in ticketing fee.
3. Cancellation/Redeposit Fee. There is no fee to cancel your award, but you have to pay a $150 fee to have the miles redeposited into your account (waived only for Executive Platinum elites). However, the fee is only $25 for additional awards after the 1st. Therefore, it may be worth it (if possible) to book award travel from the same account so that you pay lower fees if you cancel and redeposit the award.
4. Taxes and Fees. You will have to pay taxes and fees on your award ticket. These fees are usually pretty reasonable, except if you travel on British Airways or travel to/from countries (think UK & France) with higher than usual fees.
American Airlines collects fuel surcharges on British Airways flights (~$350 per long haul flight segment), so stay away from redeeming for British Airways awards in coach. However, award availability in British Airways is very good and there are often 4 seats in first or business class available!
Next in the series will be: Stopover, Openjaws , routing rules, & booking domestic and international awards.