Book American Airlines Award Flights Like a Pro: Part 3 – How Much Will My Award Cost?

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Book American Airlines Award Flights Like a Pro: Part 3 – How Much Will My Award Cost?

Million Mile SecretsBook American Airlines Award Flights Like a Pro: Part 3 – How Much Will My Award Cost?Million Mile Secrets Team

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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:

2016-03-25_16-30-06
Find Out How Many American Airlines Miles You’ll Need for Your Award Ticket!

American Airlines has 4 different types of award rates, but most folks will use either the off-peak or the MileSAAver rate.

Types of Awards

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.

Off-peak awards can be used with both the American Airlines Travel Award Chart (for travel only on American Airlines and American Eagle) and with the oneworld and Other Airline Award Chart.

Here are the off-peak award costs for all flights booked after March 22, 2016. 

DestinationTo Destination Off Peak Period1-Way Off Peak Award (Miles Required in Coach)1-Way MileSAAver Award (Miles Required in Coach)1-Way Off Peak Savings (in Coach)
HawaiiTo Hawaii: 12/29 - 3/12, 8/11 - 11/18, 11/24 - 12/10
From Hawaii: 1/7 - 3/19, 8/18 - 11/27, 12/3 - 12/25
20,00022,5002,500
Caribbean, Mexico and Central America 9/7 - 11/14, 4/27 - 5/2012,50015,0002,500
Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Manaus (Brazil)1/16 - 6/14, 9/7 - 11/1417,50020,0002,500
Argentina, Brazil (excluding Manaus), Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela1/10 - 3/14, 11/1 - 12/1422,50030,0007,500
Europe1/10 - 3/14, 11/1 - 12/14 22,50030,0007,500
Japan and South KoreaTo Japan/Korea: 1/1 - 4/30, 7/1 - 11/30
From Japan: 1/16 - 4/19, 5/2 - 5/31, 9/1 - 12/31
From Korea: 1/16 - 5/31, 9/1 - 12/31
To Korea: January 1 to April 30, July 1 to November 30
32,50035,0002,500
China and Hong KongAsia Region 2 To China/Hong Kong: 1/1 - 4/30, 7/1 - 9/30, 10/11 - 11/30
From China/Hong Kong: 2/1 - 5/31, 9/1 - 9/19, 10/2 - 12/31
32,50035,0002,500

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 (except Hawaii).

Off-peak awards are still a good value because you’ll save miles when traveling to certain regions.  Europe has 3 and a half months of off-peak awards at 45,000 miles round trip! 

However, if there are no available off-peak award seats, 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 Business Class MileSAAver awards because they may be cheaper than a AAnytime award in coach.

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.

MileSAAver awards can be used with both the American Airlines Travel Award Chart (for travel only on American Airlines and American Eagle) and with the oneworld and Other Airline Award Chart. 

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 for available partner airline award seats as well (which I’ll cover in later posts in the series).

If you are traveling on a oneworld (like British Airways) or other partner airline (like Etihad), you have to book your award using either the off-peak or MileSAAver rate, and can’t use the AAnytime rate.  This means that there must be low-level award seats available on the partner airline in order to book it. 

Every airline has a different name for these low-level seats.  Etihad calls these low-level awards “GuestSeats”, while British Airways would show up as the MileSAAver price on AA.com. 

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 or American Eagle).

However, they cost significantly more than a regular MileSAAver Award. There are 2 types of AAnytime awards – Level 1 and Level 2.

The rules aren’t specific to show which award goes in which level, but generally awards booked in advance and during non-peak travel times (not during major holidays like Christmas and New Years) are Level 1, while seats that aren’t will be Level 2 awards.

For example, it costs 110,000 miles on a Level 1, 1-way AAnytime award to London in Business Class instead of 57,500 miles if you used a regular MileSAAver award.  If you book too close to departure or around a holiday and have to book the Level 2 rate, it’s even more expensive at 135,000 miles 1-way!

Talk About a Big Difference Between MileSAAver Awards and AAnytime Awards!
Talk About a Big Difference Between MileSAAver Awards and AAnytime Awards

Tip:  Before paying the AAnytime rate for a coach or Business Class award, check the MileSAAver availability for the next highest class of service (Business or First Class).

For example, before paying 65,000 miles for an AAnytime award to London in coach, check to see if there are MileSAAver (regular) awards for 57,500 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 NOT book oneworld 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 more miles and get last seat availability.

4.   American Airlines Reduced Mileage Awards.  American Airlines AAdvantage credit card holders have access to reduced mileage awards (changes quarterly) which save you either 5,000 or 7,500 miles for round-trip flights within the US and Canada.  The exact amount varies based on which type of American Airlines card you have. 

  • Citi AAdvantage Gold Visa, Mastercard, & American Express and the Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Blue:  20,000 miles (instead of 25,000 miles) in coach and 45,000 miles in Business Class (instead of 50,000 miles)
  • Citi Select Visa & MasterCard, Citi Platinum Select Visa, Mastercard, and American Express, CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®, Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®, Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite, AAdvantage Aviator Red & AAdvantage Aviator Business 17,500 miles (instead of 25,000 miles) in coach and 42,500 miles in Business Class (instead of 50,000 miles)

However, the catch is that you have to call American Airlines Reservations (800-882-8880) to book this deal.  

The list changes monthly, and these awards must also be used on flights operated by American Airlines themselves.  This means that you can search for available award seats online at AA.com (which will show you American Airlines options) and then call to book the award.

January and February Sounds Like a Great Time to Get Away to Somewhere Warm, Like Austin, TX!
January and February Sounds Like a Great Time to Get Away to Somewhere Warmer, Like Austin, TX!

These awards 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 American Airlines 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.

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.  However, some of our readers have said this may not work anymore.  

Award Fees

1.   Telephone Booking Fee.   American Airlines charges a $30 telephone booking fee for domestic award flights which includes the US, Canada, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, and Hawaii, and a $40 telephone booking fee for international flights, which are waived only for Executive Platinum members.  This fee does not apply to awards that can’t be booked online, such as oneworld partners Cathay Pacific and Qatar Airways.

However, if a flight can be booked online and you choose to book over the phone, such as a seat on British Airways, you will have to pay the $40 fee.  

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. 

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 if you redeposit the miles at the same time.  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.

Talk About a High Fuel Surcharge for a Flight in Coach!
Talk About a High Fuel Surcharge for a Flight in Coach!

American Airlines collects fuel surcharges when you use your American Airlines miles on British Airways flights (up to $900 per long haul flight segment), so stay away from redeeming for British Airways awards in coach.  However, there are often lots of award seats available on British Airways and there are often 4 seats in First or Business Class!

Next in the series will be:  Stopover, Openjaws, routing rules, & booking domestic and international awards.

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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Hello Darius,

Thank you for all the tips. The Citi AAdvantage cards have a 24-month waiting period to receive the sign up bonus. Any tips on getting around it? Are business cards grouped together?

Thanks

Thanks for the updated, convenient charts, particularly for off-peak pricing, which to me is one of the more significant of the changes that were made. I did pick up a Caribbean flight at the new lower level, so though the changes are mostly bad, there are some silver linings.

Greetings!

My wife has an AA Advantage account, presently at 147,700 miles.

We would like to fly LAX to Milan sometime in September-early October, round trip.

You explain things thoroughly, I know. Still, artist that I am, all the acronyms and data defeat me.

Any OneWorld airlines we can choose??

thanks for any light you can shed here…

Author
Million Mile Secrets

@J Michael – It is 60K for a return trip in coach. You can try searching on the American Airlines website or use an award booking service for help.

Thank you Daraius!

I currently live in Charlotte, but expect to be moving to Chicago by the end of the summer. I have a wedding to attend in Honolulu in September. If I book my flight now using AA miles, will I have the ability to change departure location in case my move to Chicago does not work out? I have about 115k AA Miles, with 100,000 being from my Citi Executive / AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard

Author
Million Mile Secrets

@Drew – You can change the departure city, but will have to pay a change fee.

I have been looking at booking a trip from COS to SJO. For the lowest # of miles each way (17500) there are always two stops when there is a one stop route through DFW. How is it to American’s advantage to have me take three flights when I get there one two?

Is it just to force me to spend more miles?

Author
Million Mile Secrets

@tdubb – You have enough miles for a return trip on Cathay Pacific which costs ~110K miles.

@Lee Milner – You pay the same amount of miles whether your flight is non-stop or has 3 legs!

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