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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, through its oneworld and other partner airlines, offers a lot of choices when booking international awards.
Unfortunately, you can’t book all of American Airlines’ partners online. Currently, you can only book partner seats online for Air Berlin, Alaska Air, British Airways, Finnair, Hawaiian Airlines, Qantas, and Royal Jordanian.
To book other partner award flights, like Cathay Pacific or Etihad, you must call American Airlines at 800-433-7300. While this may seem like an extra step in the process, it is more than worth the effort because it opens up many more possibilities for booking award tickets!
But instead of calling and relying on the agent to find you available award seats from, say, Kansas City to Rome, it is much better to know which partner airlines could get you to your destination.
And even better if you have already found available award seats on those partner airlines so that you can feed the flights to the agent to book. We’ll cover this in future posts.
Some of American Airlines’ partner airlines often have lots of First Class award seats available. I’ve almost always been able to find 2 or more award seats on British Airways and Etihad flights.
American Airlines partner airlines each have different trends for how often their First Class, Business Class and coach award seats become available. Typically, small groups will have an easier time finding coach award seats.
Business Class and First Class award seats can be a little tricky to find, depending on the airline. For example, Cathay Pacific usually opens up several Business Class award seats on a flight, but will only add 1 or 2 First Class seats right at the schedule opening (~1 year before your flight) or within a week of departure.
On the other hand, airlines like Etihad release award seats in spurts! Sometimes they open up a lots of seats in all classes of service, and other times none at all! The key is to be flexible and willing to check for openings on a frequent basis. Again, it seems like more work, but the payoff is more than worth it to fly with a top-notch international airline.
Piecing Awards Together
Finding an award to a destination is not always easy, and you may have to be flexible. The airlines don’t want to make it easy for you to redeem your miles. But with a little patience and planning you’ll be able to redeem your miles for First and Business Class seats which costs thousands of dollars!
1. Plan Your 1st Segment
The most important rule is to start piecing your award together segment by segment, starting with the international segments first.
For example, if you want to fly to Rome from the US, you should work on finding award flights from a US city to a city in Europe (say, Chicago to London on American Airlines or British Airways).
2. Determine Your 2nd Segment
Then find an award from London to Rome (on, say, British Airways) and from your home town to Chicago (on, say, American Airlines or Alaska Airlines).
3. Booking Time
Once you’ve pieced together the itinerary, write down the segments and call American Airlines to book the trip. We’ll cover this in more detail in future posts.
Routes to Popular Destinations
In the next section, I’ve listed popular destinations and the different airline combinations which will get you there.
This is not a comprehensive list, but rather a list of potential routes and airlines to different destinations and will change. Please let me know in the comments of any changes and I will update the list.
Keep in mind, to redeem an award ticket, American Airlines requires that the “overwater carrier” (the airline that flies you across the ocean) must publish a fare between your origin and destination city. This means you have to be able to buy a ticket on the airline for that route.
If you want to see which partner airlines fly out of which North American airports, please see post 4 in the Book American Airlines Awards Like a Pro series.
1. American Airlines, British Airways & other partners to London then connect on British Airways to many different destinations in Africa.
You’ll pay fuel surcharges of ~$250 to $400 for each British Airways segment, so this does not make sense for many coach award redemptions.
2. American Airlines, British Airways, or Iberia to Spain and then Iberia to numerous destinations in Africa such as:
- Accra, Ghana
- Casablanca, Morocco
- Dakar, Senegal
- Lagos, Nigeria
- Luanda, Angola
- Marrakech, Morocco
- Nouakchott, Mauritania
- Oran, Algeria
- Tangier, Morocco
You should expect to pay fuel surcharges again with British Airways or Iberia, usually at least $250 for each segment.
3. American Airlines, Air Berlin, British Airways, or Iberia to Germany and then Air Berlin to destinations in Africa.
Awards to Australia are usually hard to get.
1. Qantas to Sydney from Dallas, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. Or to Brisbane and Melbourne from Honolulu and Los Angeles.
Fiji Airways from Los Angeles to Nadi connecting to Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne. Or connect to Auckland or Christchurch and then take Qantas to Australia.
4. Air Tahiti Nui to Papeete connecting to Auckland and then to Sydney (very hard to find seats).
5. American Airlines to Sydney from Los Angeles.
If you really want to use American Airlines miles to Australia and are willing to pay for 2 awards, you could route from the US to Japan or Hong Kong, then from Japan or Hong Kong to Australia.
1. American Airlines to select cities in Europe, or American Airlines to London and then connect to British Airways, Iberia, or Air Berlin flights to many destinations in Europe.
It’s generally difficult to find saver level award seats on American Airlines operated flights (there are still plenty available at the standard level).
However, there are still lots of seats available for those wanting to travel in coach at the saver level.
2. British Airways has lots of available award seats in First and Business Class to London. British Airways has non-stop flights to London from more North American cities than American Airlines or any other US airline:
- Las Vegas
- Los Angeles
- New York (JFK & Newark)
- San Diego
- San Fransisco
- Washington, DC
Expect to pay ~$200 to ~$400 in fuel surcharges each way (so it may not make sense to redeem miles for coach award tickets), but you will almost always find award seats available. And from London you can connect to British Airways, Iberia, or Air Berlin flights to the rest of Europe.
3. Iberia from the US to Spain and then connect on Iberia, British Airways, or Air Berlin to the rest of Europe. You’ll also pay fuel surcharges. Key Iberia routes from the US are:
- Boston to Barcelona & Madrid
- Chicago to Barcelona & Madrid
- Los Angeles to Madrid
- Miami to Barcelona & Madrid
- New York to Barcelona & Madrid
4. Air Tahiti Nui from Los Angeles to Paris (Usually lots of available award seats).
5. Finnair from Chicago, New York (JFK), Miami, or Toronto to Helsinki.
6. Air Berlin from Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Fort Myers, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and San Francisco to Dusseldorf, & Chicago, New York, or Miami to Berlin.
1. American Airlines or British Airways from the US to London, and then either Jet Airways or British Airways from London to India non-stop. Jet Airways flies to Mumbai and Delhi from London, and British Airways flies from London to Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Bangalore & Chennai.
2. Etihad from Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York (JFK), Washington DC (Dulles) & Toronto to Abu Dhabi, and then connecting to an Etihad, Gulf Air, or Jet Airways flight to India.
3. Gulf Air from Europe or the Middle East to India. Use American Airlines or partner airlines to get from the US to Europe or the Middle East.
4. Royal Jordanian from Chicago, Detroit, Montreal, or New York to Amman and then connecting to Royal Jordanian, Etihad, Gulf Air, & Jet Airways flights to India. Or use American Airlines or partner airlines to select cities in Europe and then connect on Royal Jordanian to India.
1. Royal Jordanian from Chicago, Detroit, Montreal, or New York to Amman and then connecting to Royal Jordanian flights to Israel.
2. American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia to London (and select other European cities) and then British Airways to Israel.
3. Air Berlin from Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Fort Myers, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and San Francisco to Berlin, and then on to Israel.
Japan / Southeast Asia / China
1. Cathay Pacific from Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Fransisco, Toronto, and Vancouver to Hong Kong and from Hong Kong connect on Cathay Pacific to China or Southeast Asia (not Japan).
2. Japan Airlines from Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, San Fransisco, or Vancouver to Japan and then connect on either Japan Airlines to other destinations in Asia, or Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong and onto other destinations in Asia.
3. American Airlines from Dallas, Chicago, and Los Angeles to Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai and Tokyo.
American Airlines miles are a terrific way to get to the Maldives. Keep in mind that once you get to the Maldives major airport in Male, you will need to have a boat or seaplane transfer coordinated with your resort!
1. Etihad from Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York (JFK), Toronto, and Washington, DC (Dulles) to Abu Dhabi and then connecting to an Etihad flight to the Maldives.
2. British Airways, Gulf Air, Royal Jordanian to Abu Dhabi and then Etihad to Maldives.
3. American Airlines or partners to London or select cities in Europe and then from London or select cities to the Maldives via Abu Dhabi on Etihad or Berlin or Dusseldorf on Air Berlin.
4. Air Berlin from Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and San Francisco to Berlin or Dusseldorf, and then connecting to an Air Berlin flight to the Maldives.
5. American Airlines or British Airways to London Heathrow and then a British Airways flight to the Maldives from London Gatwick.
6. American Airlines, British Airways, or Air Berlin to London, Paris, or Frankfurt, and then on to Sri Lankan Airlines with quick layover in Colombo.
1. American Airlines or partners to London and then connect via British Airways, Royal Jordanian, & Gulf Air to the Middle East.
2. Etihad from Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York (JFK), Toronto, or Washington DC (Dulles) to Abu Dhabi and then connecting to Etihad, Gulf Air, or Royal Jordanian.
3. Gulf Air from Europe. Use American Airlines or partner airlines to get from the US to Europe.
4. Royal Jordanian from Chicago, Detroit, Montreal, or New York to Amman and then connecting to Royal Jordanian, Etihad, Gulf Air, & Jet Airways flights to the Middle East.
5. Air Berlin or Finnair from Berlin / Dusseldorf or Helsinki to the Middle East.
American Airlines and partners have great availability to South America.
1. American Airlines to many destinations in South America including numerous cities in Brazil such as:
- Belo Horizonte (CNF)
- Brasilia (BSB)
- Campinas (VCP)
- Curitiba (CWB)
- Manaus (MAO)
- Porto Alegre (POA)
- Recife (REC)
- Rio de Janeiro (GIG)
- Salvador (SSA)
- Sao Paulo (GRU)
American Airlines also provides service to other cities in South America including Quito, Ecuador, Caracas, Venezuela, Buenos Aires, Argentina and more.
2. LAN from Los Angeles, Miami, New York to Lima and Santiago, and from San Fransisco to Lima. With LAN being in oneworld, you can also travel from any city that American flies to in the US before connecting to a LAN flight. Link to LAN route map.
Central America / Caribbean
1. American Airlines offers one of the best networks in the world to Latin America and the Caribbean, and boasts service to many cities including:
- Montego Bay, Jamaica
- Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
- San Jose, Costa Rica
Perhaps most impressive is American Airlines’ list of destinations to Mexico.
Using American Airlines’ partner airlines opens up a lot more ways to get to your destination, but you’ve got to do the research before and call to book some of these award tickets.
Next in the series will be: Finding British Airways award availability.