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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
Award Types & Charts
American Airlines has 2 different award types for redeeming miles and 2 award charts for upgrades.
While all of American Airlines’ flights can be booked with miles on AA.com, many of their other partners can NOT be seen online.
For example, if you search for flights from Chicago to Rome on AA.com, you’ll only see options for American Airlines, and some partners, like British Airways and Finnair. But you can also fly on Iberia (oneworld partner airline) to Spain, or Air Berlin to Berlin and then connect to Rome.
In some cases, you may have to do some digging to find out which oneworld airlines fly between cities. An easy way to do so is using the oneworld Interactive Network Map.
Awards can be booked with the following airlines:
a) American Airlines
b) oneworld partner airlines including:
- Air Berlin
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific
- Japan Airlines
- LAN Airlines
- Malaysia Airlines
- Qatar Airways
- Royal Jordanian
- SriLankan Airlines
- TAM Airlines (soon to be merged with LAN)
c) Other American Airline partner airlines which include:
- Air Tahiti Nui
- Alaska Airlines/Horizon AIr
- Cape Air
- Fiji Airways
- Gulf Air
- Hawaiian Airlines (except flights between the US mainland and Hawaii)
- Jet Airways
- Seaborne Airlines
Some oneworld and partner award flights can be booked on AA.com, including:
- Air Berlin
- Alaska Airlines
- British Airways
- Hawaiian Airlines (except flights between Mainland US and Hawaii)
- Royal Jordanian
However, other airline awards can only be booked by calling 800-882-8880. This may seem like extra work, but it’s totally worth it because of the vastly increased flight options.
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 coach to First Class, but you can upgrade from coach 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 coach ticket.
For example, it costs 25,000 miles PLUS a $350 co-pay to upgrade a 1-way discount coach ticket to Europe from coach to Business Class.
So if I were to book a discounted coach ticket to Europe for $750 and wanted to upgrade to Business Class, this would cost an additional 25,000 American Airlines miles and a co-pay of $350!
However, it costs only 57,500 American Airlines miles for a Business Class ticket to Europe.
That said, using miles to upgrade could make sense if your company has purchased your ticket for you, you regularly purchase Business Class tickets, or if you just want to save your American Airlines 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 coach, Premium Economy or Business Class. More often than not, coach tickets are at the discounted rate.
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.
American Airlines awards may take a bit of work, but doing the research and understanding the award charts can make a big difference in the options available for your next big trip.
The key is being able to go the extra-mile to look at American Airlines’ oneworld partners and other airlines to find more available seats to more destinations.
Next in the series will be: how many miles does my award cost, fees, rules, & booking domestic and international awards.