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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:
- 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 Awards
Booking travel within North America using American Airlines miles is very easy to do (if there are award seats available) and can be completed on AA.com
According to American Airlines, North America refers to the US (including Hawaii and Alaska), Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean. That said, award prices are different depending on where in North America you’re traveling!
For flights within North America, you can use your American Airlines miles for award flights on:
- American Airlines (including American Eagle)
- Alaska Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines (EXCEPT between Hawaii and US Mainland)
- Cathay Pacific from New York (JFK) to Vancouver, and LAN & TAM from New York (JFK) to Toronto
You can search for award seats on American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines on AA.com as well as put the tickets on hold.
You can hold your award for 5 days if booked between 330 and 15 days prior to departure, 1 day if booked within 14 days of departure, and for 2 hours if booked within 24 hours of departure. There is NO charge for holding an award.
- You can book a maximum of 4 one-way awards on a single ticket
- The award booking window opens 330 days prior to the flight’s departure
- Changes to award tickets (both MileSAAver & AAnytime) are free as long as the origin and destination remain the same
- $150 fee to cancel and redeposit the miles into your account ($25 for additional tickets from the same account) waived only for top tier Executive Platinum members
- All travel must be completed within 1 year (365 days) of making the booking
- No stopovers are allowed
- You have to connect to another flight within 4 hours (regardless of available award seats) unless the next scheduled flight is more than 4 hours away (but less than 24 hours)
- Even though you can no longer book award seats between Hawaii and the mainland US on Hawaiian Airlines, you can still book inter-island flights on Hawaiian Airlines on AA.com. We will go into more details later.
Booking Awards on American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines
Booking awards on American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines within North America is extremely easy to do online at AA.com.
That’s because American Airlines has the best online booking tool for domestic awards which will let you:
- See available award seats for both low level (MileSAAver) and high-level (AAnytime) awards
- Show you a 30-day calendar view of available award seats at a time
- Sort availability by class of service
You don’t even need to be an AAdvantage member to see available award seats!
Award Booking Tips for Domestic Awards
1. Book Early. I’ve noticed that there are the most available award seats once the schedule is loaded 330 days from the day of departure. Of course, airlines continually add or remove award seats, but if you know that you visit Florida every year during the 3rd week of August, it is probably best to book your seats earlier rather than later.
This is especially the case for those wanting to travel between the US and Hawaii, both in coach and First Class.
Note: These screenshots were taken before the changes in American Airlines’ award chart took effect March 22, 2016, so award prices may be different.
There does however seem to be a trend of more award seats being available from the West Coast, especially from Seattle and Los Angeles.
2. Be Flexible. It will be very hard to get your family of 4 on the same flight unless you are flexible or book early. And even then it may not be possible.
Try to break up your family of 4 into say, 1 adult & 1 child and look for separate flights to and from your destination. Or look for flexibility around your travel dates. Or try to get 2 First Class and 2 coach seats on the same flight. Or choose a destination based on available award seats.
3. Consider Business Class SAAver awards. Before spending nearly twice the amount of miles for a coach AAnytime seat (which guarantees you can have any seat available for sale), look for Business Class SAAver awards. Very often there are Business Class seats available for the same price or less than coach awards!
4. Dummy Searches. Do dummy searches using the American Airlines award tool to see available award seats. It is just like searching for a flight and you’ll see what your options are. You’ll also get more familiar with the tool which will help you as you book more awards.
5. Be Patient. Booking awards can be very frustrating. But if you’re patient and flexible, you’ll usually get the award you’re looking for.
6. One Seat at a Time. Instead of searching for 4 seats, start by searching for 1 seat and increase the number of seats with each search. You’ll get a better sense of how many tickets are available.
Using American Airlines Award Booking Tool for American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines
Here are a few screenshots to help get started with searches on AA.com. Remember, you can follow these same steps for booking awards on American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines (except flights from Hawaii to Mainland US).
Go to AA.com.
Enter in your flight information and select “Redeem Miles.”
You can see available award seats in 30 day blocks and can search for award seats based on MileSAAver (regular) or AAnytime (double-priced) awards.
Hawaiian Airlines Award Bookings
You can use your American Airlines miles for flights to Hawaii, which can include an American Airlines flight to a main island followed by a Hawaiian Airlines flight to a neighbor island that American Airlines doesn’t serve.
Search for inter-island flights on AA.com as you would any other North American route. These could include:
- Hilo (Big Island)
- Kahului (Maui)
- Kailua-Kona (Big Island)
- Lihue (Kauai)
Flights between the mainland US and Hawaii are priced at 40,000 miles round-trip during off-peak times, and 45,000 miles round-trip at the MileSAAver level. However, flights that include 1 of the destinations above that only Hawaiian Airlines serves cost an additional 7,500 American Airlines miles each way, for a total of 55,000 miles for a round-trip, off-peak flight.
For example, a round-trip award flight booked between Los Angeles and Lanai would include:
- American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu
- Hawaiian Airlines flight from Honolulu to Lanai
- Hawaiian Airlines flight from Lanai to Honolulu
- American Airlines flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles
Hawaiian Airlines Flights to Asia
While you can no longer use American Airlines miles to fly Hawaiian Airlines between Hawaii and the mainland US, you can use American Airlines miles to fly between Hawaii and Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific.
You can redeem AAdvantage miles for travel on Hawaiian Airlines flights between Hawaii and:
Note: If your trip begins in the mainland US, this award booking would require 2 one-way flights (not a 1-way with a free stopover). I would NOT recommend this as it is much more expensive booking this way. However, if you live in Hawaii, this would be a round-trip flight from Honolulu to your destination.
Currently, Hawaiian Airlines serves the following destinations in Asia, the South Pacific, Australia, and New Zealand:
- Auckland, New Zealand
- Brisbane, Australia
- Beijing, China
- Osaka, Japan
- Papeete, Tahiti
- Pago Pago, American Samoa
- Sapporo, Japan
- Seoul, South Korea
- Sydney, Australia
- Tokyo, Japan (HND)
This is great news for American Airlines travelers in Hawaii. Because you can take a flight directly from Hawaii to these destinations. This would be the same price as if you connected through a city in the mainland US such as Los Angeles.
By using AA.com, you can book award flights using American Airlines miles on American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines to many locations in North America, the South Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia.
However, you can NOT use American Airlines miles to book Hawaiian Airlines award flights between the mainland US and Hawaii.
Hawaii, here I come!
Next in the series will be: booking international awards.