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American Airlines miles review: Your guide on how to use them

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American Airlines miles review: Your guide on how to use them

Joseph HostetlerAmerican Airlines miles review: Your guide on how to use themMillion Mile Secrets Team

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American Airlines miles are one of the best mileage currencies to earn because there are a large number of great ways to use them. American Airlines is part of the oneworld alliance, which means that you can redeem American Airlines miles for flights on any other oneworld alliance member and American Airlines’ other partners that aren’t part of oneworld.

American Airlines miles can be easy to redeem and offer incredible value for flights on fancy airlines like Cathay Pacific or Etihad first class. Of course, you can also redeem for reasonable award prices in other classes of service when there are available award seats.

In this American Airlines miles review, we’ll show you how to use American Airlines miles for nearly free flights and travel all over the world.

In our American Airlines miles review, you’ll learn how to use American Airlines miles for travel just about anywhere. (Photo by Galyna Andrushko/Shutterstock)

American Airlines Miles review: How to use American Airlines miles

With American Airlines miles, you can book one-way awards which gives you terrific flexibility. Once you’ve set up an American Airlines account you can fly to Europe with American Airlines and on American Airlines’ partner airlines using American miles.

Redeeming miles for flights with American Airlines’ partners is one of the best ways to access ultra-premium first-class seats. American Airlines serves some of the best domestic and international destinations, at least when you consider partner flight options. Lately, it’s been a bit tough to find low-level SAAver award seats for travel on American Airlines planes, as it moves away from the old AA award chart and into full-blown dynamic pricing. But if you’re flexible with your travel dates and/or destination you shouldn’t have too much trouble.

Oneworld and other airline partners

As mentioned above, you can redeem your American Airlines miles for travel not only on American Airlines (this is very important), but also on oneworld partner airlines and other (non-oneworld) partner airlines which have partnered with American Airlines.

The oneworld alliance is a group of 13 full member airlines (American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LATAM(leaving May 1, 2020), Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, S7 and Sri Lankan Airlines) which together fly to over 1,000 destinations in over 150 countries. American Airlines has also partnered with other airlines (outside of the oneworld alliance) including Air Tahiti Nui, Alaska Airlines (which will soon join oneworld), Etihad Airways, Fiji Airways and Hawaiian Airlines. You can also redeem your American Airlines miles for travel on these other partner airlines.

This is a big deal (no, it is a huge deal!), because between oneworld and other partner airlines you can use your American Airlines miles to fly to places where American Airlines doesn’t fly themselves.

Some airline award tickets can be booked on AA.com including:

  • Air Tahiti Nui
  • Alaska Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cape Air
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Etihad
  • Fiji Airways
  • Finnair
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Iberia
  • Japan Airlines
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas Airways
  • Qatar Airways
  • Royal Jordanian
  • S7
  • Seaborne Airlines
  • SriLankan Airlines

Unfortunately, to book all other partners you have to call American Airlines (not the partner airline) to book the award. We’ll cover how to find award seats on partner airlines later on so you don’t have to rely on the phone agent to find the seats you want.

Where can American Airlines miles take you?

Short answer: Almost anywhere in the world!

There are a lot of places you can fly with American Airlines miles.

Your American Airlines miles can take you to places where:

  • American Airlines fly themselves
  • American Airlines’ oneworld partners fly
  • American Airlines’ other partner airlines fly

The easiest way to see where American Airlines and their oneworld partners fly to is to use the oneworld online tool.

A more time consuming, but more thorough way, is to individually visit the oneworld partner and other partner airlines’ websites and see where they fly.

Use miles to fly where American Airlines doesn’t

Let’s take two out of many possible examples of how to use American Airlines miles. First, to get to Bangkok, Thailand you can redeem American Airlines miles for travel on Cathay Pacific from the U.S. to Hong Kong and from Hong Kong to Bangkok.

American Airlines doesn’t fly its own planes (sometimes referred to as “AA metal”) from the U.S. to Thailand, but you can redeem American Airlines miles to fly on Cathay Pacific (a oneworld partner) from the U.S. to Hong Kong, and then connect to another Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok. And this is a fairly easy to book flight because Cathay Pacific award flights will appear when you search the American Airlines site.

For a visit to Anchorage, Alaska, American Airlines has limited service on its own flights. But, because Alaska Airlines is an American Airlines partner airline, you can use your American Airlines miles to fly on Alaska Airlines routes to Alaska.

For example, American Airlines doesn’t fly from Seattle to Anchorage directly. You would normally have to fly from Seattle to Dallas and then from Dallas to Anchorage during the months when American Airlines flies from Dallas to Anchorage. And that’s a lot of extra flying, but Alaska Airlines (an American Airlines partner) flies from Seattle to Anchorage and you can redeem your American Airlines miles to fly on an Alaska Airlines plane from Seattle to Anchorage.

As an added bonus, you can easily book Alaska Airlines flights online with American Airlines miles. There’s no need to call in.

American Airlines oneworld award chart

Again, American has rid themselves of an award chart for their own flights and moved to dynamic pricing. However, you can find the same prices as before, generally. They do still have a partner airlines award chart, which shows prices using American Airlines miles for award travel on oneworld and partner airlines.

You can book awards with the following oneworld partners:

  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Finnair
  • Iberia
  • Japan Airlines
  • LATAM Airlines
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airways
  • Royal Jordanian
  • S7
  • SriLankan Airlines

c)  Other American Airlines partner airlines which include:

  • Air Tahiti Nui
  • Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air
  • Cape Air
  • China Southern Airlines
  • Etihad
  • Fiji Airways
  • Hawaiian Airlines (except flights between the U.S. mainland and Hawaii)
  • Seaborne Airlines

You can book any American Airlines’ flight with miles on AA.com, but for three partners (China Southern Airlines, Interjet and LATAM Airlines) you’ll need to call to book. You can reach the AA reservations department at 800-882-8880.

Upgrading with American Airlines miles

Upgrades on American Airlines

This chart lists the co-pay and miles required to upgrade flights operated by American Airlines and American Eagle. 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. Upgrading from coach to premium economy isn’t currently possible (but will be at some point), but you can upgrade from premium economy to business class. You may not want to do so, however, because upgrading from premium economy to business class costs the same as upgrading from coach to business class. Also, you can’t upgrade from an award ticket or a basic economy ticket.

We’re not big fans 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 one-way discount coach ticket to Europe from coach to business class.

So if you 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.

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, 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. Now we’ll go into more depth about the different types of awards American Airlines has and how much you can expect to spend on your award redemption.

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

Types of awards

MileSAAver awards

These are capacity-controlled awards, meaning that it may be extremely challenging to book awards during peak times and for more than two people, and may even be somewhat difficult at non-peak times. For more details, check out our post on AA award charts.

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 we’ll cover later on in this post).

If you are traveling on a oneworld partner (like British Airways) or other partner airline (like Etihad), you have to book your award using either the MileSAAver rate (unless you’re booking an off-peak flight to Europe). You can’t book partner flights with the more expensive and also more available 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.

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 only for travel on American Airlines or American Eagle.

However, they cost significantly more than a regular MileSAAver Award. There are two 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 generally costs 110,000 miles on a Level 1, one-way AAnytime award to London in business class instead of 57,500 miles if you used a regular MileSAAver award (again, AA has moved away from award charts but these prices can still be found). 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 one-way!

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.

Sometimes, 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, so you’ll get to save miles and fly in a higher class of service. Note that AAnytime awards are only for flights on American Airlines. You cannot 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.

Economy Web Specials

American publishes random discounts on certain coach routes, both domestic and international — and oftentimes the prices are a steal. We’ve even seen 6,000 mile one-way flights to international locations. Keep an eye on these deals by bookmarking our American Airlines Economy Web Specials page. You can also use the extremely handy AA award map to find Economy Web Specials from your home airport.

American Airlines Reduced Mileage Awards

Certain airline miles credit card holders have access to reduced mileage awards which save you either 5,000 or 7,500 miles for round-trip flights within the U.S. The exact amount varies based on which type of American Airlines card you have.

On round-trip flights, you’ll receive a 7,500-mile discount if you have one of the cards below and your flight is more than 500 miles. If you book a short flight 500 miles or less, you’ll receive only a 2,000-mile discount:

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum, CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum card, Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Business, Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Red card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

If you’re booking a one-way flight, you’ll get half the discount. 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.

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 Mileage Awards page, and book your award for fewer miles.

The American Airlines website states that reduced mileage awards are only eligible if you are traveling to the listed destination cities. There were reports in the past from people who were able to have the discount applied on flights both to and from the listed airports, but that may no longer be possible as the most recent report we could find of this happening was in 2017. Your mileage my vary if you are trying to fly from one of the cities listed on the reduced mileage awards list.

You can find out more details through our post on AA Reduced Mileage Awards.

Award fees

Telephone booking fee — American Airlines charges a $30 telephone booking fee for domestic award flights which includes the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, U.S. 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.

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, unless you are an Executive Platinum member.

Close-in ticketing fee — American Airlines charges a $75 fee if you book your ticket within 21 days of travel. This fee is waived for Gold, Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Executive Platinum members.

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 U.K. and France) with higher than usual fees. These fees will be even higher if you choose to fly in business class or first class. That’s why it’s often best to consider flying other partners instead.

For a one-way flight from New York (JFK) to Paris on British Airways in coach, you’ll pay 22,500 American Airlines miles (off-peak) plus ~$208 in taxes and fees. That’s pretty steep for a one-way flight.

American Airlines collects fuel surcharges when you use your American Airlines miles on British Airways flights, so it’s best to stay away from redeeming miles on British Airways when you can. However, there are often lots of award seats available on British Airways and there are often even four seats in first or business class. If flying business or first class is the way you want to go and you aren’t flexible with your dates or destination, British Airways may be your best bet, even with the fuel surcharges.

One-way awards, open jaws, and stopovers

One-way awards, open jaws, and stopovers, if used the right way, can help you stretch your American Airlines miles. First, let’s go into more detail about what each one of these are and whether or not American Airlines allows them when booking award travel.

One-way awards

American Airlines lets you book one-way award tickets. This is great because it gives you a lot of options. For example, you can book a one-way ticket to Rome using American Airlines miles, but book a return one-way ticket using United Airlines miles. One-way awards are great for when there are available award seats you want to book in one direction, but not in the other (and for when you only want to fly one-way, of course).

Open jaws

Open jaw a nerdy way of saying that you fly from your origin (City A) to your destination (City B), but then fly back from another city (City C) to your origin (City A). An open jaw is basically kind of like booking two one-way awards.

For example, you could fly from Chicago (City A) to London (City B), but then fly back from Paris (City C) back to your origin in Chicago (City A).

In this example, you have an open jaw between London and Paris.

This scenario can be valuable if you are traveling to a lot of different destinations, such as a backpacking trip in Europe, and don’t want the hassle of having to get back to the city you first flew into. Because American Airlines lets you book one-way awards, you can create open jaw itineraries very easily. For example, it would be easy to book Chicago to London on one award. Then book Paris back to Chicago as a second award.

Stopovers

A stopover is when you intentionally take a break in your journey while traveling from your origin to your destination for more than a specific amount of time. A stopover is defined as any stop over four hours on a domestic trip or any stop over 24 hours on an international trip.

For example, say you were to fly from Chicago (origin) to Barcelona (destination) but stopped in London for three days. In this case, London would be your stopover. Likewise, if you are flying from Kansas City (origin) to London (destination) but make a five-day stop in New York City, New York City would be your stopover. Note that this still counts as an international trip because your origin and destination are in different countries.

Unfortunately, as of April 2014, American Airlines no longer allows stopovers on an award ticket. So, if you fly from Dallas to Hong Kong to Singapore all on American Airlines’ oneworld partner Cathay Pacific, you would not be able to stop in Hong Kong for more than 24 hours unless you wanted to book two separate award tickets (which would cost quite a few more miles).

However, if you wanted to spend a day in Hong Kong, you could still stop for up to 24 hours. For example, you could land in the morning and depart in the evening and spend a full day in Hong Kong. This does not provide much time to explore cities, but can be taken advantage of if you hurry.

There are, however, several tricks that would still let you stopover in another country.

Tricks to still kind of stopover

There are two general ways that you can still book what is effectively a stopover:

Book three one-way awards. Say you want to go from San Francisco to London, stop for a few days in London, and then fly back to San Francisco from Berlin. You’ll have to book three separate one-way awards:

  • One award from your origin to your stopover city (San Francisco to London)
  • Another from your stopover city to your destination (London to Berlin)
  • And the third from your destination city back to your origin, assuming you want to return to your origin (Berlin to San Francisco)

This will cost many more miles than it used to cost to book a one-way award with a stopover. However, if you don’t mind spending the miles and don’t want to pay more cash, this method could still be a good option.

Or you could book an award ticket, and then buy a one-way ticket. You can always book an award ticket from your origin to your stopover city and then buy a cheap plane or train ticket from your stopover city to your destination. Say you want to go from Dallas to London, stop for a few days in London, and then fly back to Dallas from Barcelona.

You would book a one-way award ticket from the Dallas to London. Next you would buy a cheap plane or train ticket from London to Barcelona. And finally you would book a one-way award ticket from Barcelona back to Dallas. This option is my personal favorite, especially because flights in Asia and Europe can be very cheap if you’re willing to fly budget airlines.

Cash prices can be incredibly cheap, even after you consider extra fees required to fly with low cost carriers. Not including extra fees, a flight from London to Barcelona could cost only $35.

American Airlines North American 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. You won’t even have to get on the phone.

According to American Airlines, North America refers to the U.S. (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 U.S. Mainland)

You can search for award seats on American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines on AA.com.

You can hold your award for five days if booked between 331 and 15 days prior to departure, one day if booked within 14 days of departure, and for two hours if booked within 24 hours of departure. There is no charge for holding an award.

General rules

  • You can book a maximum of four one-way awards on a single ticket
  • The award booking window opens 331 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. If you’re changing your origin or destination, a $150 fee applies (waived for Executive Platinum members only)
  • $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 one year (365 days) of making the booking
  • No stopovers are allowed
  • You have to connect to another flight within four hours (regardless of available award seats) unless the next scheduled flight is more than four hours away (but less than 24 hours)
  • Even though you can no longer book award seats between Hawaii and the mainland U.S. 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 a great 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

Book early

We’ve noticed that there are the most available award seats once the schedule is loaded 331 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 third 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 U.S. and Hawaii in any class of service.

Be flexible

It will be very hard to get your family of four on the same flight unless you are flexible and/or book early and even then it may not be possible.

Try to break up your family of four into say, one adult and one child and look for separate flights to and from your destination if you are having trouble. Or look for flexibility around your travel dates. Or try to get two business-class and two coach seats on the same flight. Or choose a destination based on available award seats.

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.

Dummy searches

Do test 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.

Be patient

Booking awards can sometimes be frustrating. But if you’re patient and flexible, you’ll usually get the award you’re looking for.

One seat at a time

Instead of searching for four seats, start by searching for one 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 search

Here are a few screenshots to help get started with searches on AA.com. Remember, you can follow these same steps for booking partner awards.

Go to the American Airlines website

Navigate to AA.com. You do not have to sign into your account to do an award search.

Enter your flight details

Enter in your flight information and select “Redeem Miles.”

Make sure to select that you want to “redeem miles” before you click search.

You can see available award seats in month-long blocks by selecting the calendar option and can search for award seats based on booking class.

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.

Hawaiian Airlines serves several destinations that American Airlines doesn’t.

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)
  • Lanai
  • Lihue (Kauai)
  • Molokai

Flights between the mainland U.S. and Hawaii are priced at 40,000 American Airlines miles round-trip during off-peak times (available on American Airlines flights only) and 45,000 miles round-trip at the MileSAAver level. However, if you need to add an inter-island flight on Hawaiian Airlines, you’ll pay an additional 7,500 American Airlines miles each way.

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 U.S., you can use American Airlines miles to fly between Hawaii and Asia, Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.

You can redeem American Airlines miles for travel on Hawaiian Airlines flights between Hawaii and:

If your trip begins in the mainland U.S., this award booking would require two one-way flights. We would not recommend this as it is much more expensive booking this way compared with using other airlines that allow a single booking. 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
  • Fokuoka, Japan
  • Osaka, Japan
  • Papeete, Tahiti
  • Pago Pago, American Samoa
  • Sapporo, Japan
  • Seoul, South Korea
  • Sydney, Australia
  • Tokyo, Japan

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 U.S. such as Los Angeles.

American Airlines international awards

American Airlines, through its oneworld and other partner airlines, offers a lot of choices when booking international awards. It used to be that you couldn’t book some of the best American Airlines’ partners online. But currently, you can book seats online for any partner except for Interjet, LATAM Airline and China Southern Airlines. For these partners you need to call American Airlines at 800-433-7300.

But instead of calling and relying on the agent to find you available award seats it is better to know which partner airlines could get you to your destination. And even better if you have already found award seats on those partner airlines so you can feed the flights to the agent. We’ll cover this later on.

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!

Plan your first segment

The most important rule is to start piecing your award together segment by segment, starting with the international segments first.

Search for the “overwater” segment first, like from a U.S. city to London, U.K.

For example, if you want to fly to Venice from the U.S., you should work on finding award flights from a U.S. city to a city in Europe (say, Chicago to London on American Airlines or British Airways).

Determine your second segment

Then find an award from London to Venice (on, say, British Airways) and from your home town to Chicago (on, say, American Airlines or Alaska Airlines).

Booking time

Once you’ve pieced together the itinerary, write down the segments and call American Airlines to book the trip, if you can’t book it online.

Routes to popular destinations

In the next section, we’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 may change. Please let us know in the comments of any changes and we 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.

Africa

You can fly American Airlines, British Airways and other partners to London then connect on British Airways to many different destinations in Africa. You’ll pay substantial fuel surcharges on each British Airways segment, so this does not make sense for many coach award redemptions.

You could also fly American Airlines, British Airways or Iberia to Spain and then Iberia to numerous destinations in Africa such as:

  • Algiers, Algeria
  • Casablanca, Morocco
  • Dakar, Senegal
  • Marrakech, Morocco
  • Oran, Algeria
  • Rabat, Morocco
  • Tangier, Morocco

You should expect to pay fuel surcharges again with British Airways or Iberia, although Iberia’s fuel surcharges are typically less.

Australia

Awards to Australia can be tricky to find, so you’ll have to be flexible. You could fly:

  • Qantas to Sydney from Dallas, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. Or to Brisbane from Honolulu, Chicago and Los Angeles. Or to Melbourne from Honolulu, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
  • Hawaiian Air from Honolulu to Sydney and Brisbane.
  • 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.
  • Air Tahiti Nui to Papeete connecting to Auckland and then to Sydney, but note that it’s very hard to find award seats.
  • American Airlines to Sydney from Los Angeles.

If you really want to use American Airlines miles to Australia and are willing to pay for two awards, you could route from the U.S. to Japan or Hong Kong, then from Japan or Hong Kong to Australia, but this will cost many more miles so we wouldn’t recommend it.

Europe

American Airlines flies to select cities in Europe, or you could take American Airlines to London and then connect to British Airways or Iberia flights to many destinations in Europe.

It can be difficult to find business class 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.

British Airways has lots of award seats in first and business class to London. British Airways has nonstop flights to London from more North American cities than American Airlines or any other U.S. airline:

  • Atlanta
  • Austin
  • Baltimore
  • Boston
  • Calgary (seasonal)
  • Charleston, South Carolina (seasonal)
  • Chicago
  • Dallas
  • Denver
  • Houston
  • Las Vegas
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • Montreal
  • Nashville
  • New Orleans
  • New York (JFK & Newark)
  • Orlando
  • Pittsburgh
  • Philadelphia
  • Phoenix
  • Portland, Oregon (from June 1, 2020)
  • San Diego
  • San Fransisco
  • San Jose
  • Seattle
  • Toronto
  • Vancouver
  • 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 or Iberia flights to the rest of Europe.

Iberia flies from the U.S. to Spain, and then connect on Iberia or British Airways to the rest of Europe. You’ll also pay fuel surcharges. Key Iberia routes from the U.S. are:

  • Boston to Madrid
  • Chicago to Madrid
  • Los Angeles to Madrid
  • Miami to Madrid
  • New York to Madrid
  • San Francisco to Madrid (seasonal)
  • Washington D.C. to Madrid (from May 1st 2020)

Air Tahiti Nui flies from Los Angeles to Paris (usually lots of available award seats). Finnair flies from Chicago, New York (JFK), Los Angeles, Miami or San Francisco to Helsinki, the LA and NYC routes are year round and the others are seasonal.

India

You could fly:

  • American Airlines or British Airways from the U.S. to London, and then British Airways from London to India nonstop. British Airways flies from London to Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai.
  • Etihad from Chicago, Los Angeles, New York (JFK), Washington, DC (Dulles) and Toronto to Abu Dhabi, and then connecting on Etihad to India.
  • Royal Jordanian from Chicago, Detroit, New York or Montreal to Amman, and then connecting to Royal Jordanian or Etihad flights to India. Or use American Airlines or partner airlines to select cities in Europe and then connect on Royal Jordanian to India.

Israel

To visit Israel you can fly with:

  • Royal Jordanian from Chicago, Detroit, New York or Montreal to Amman, and then connecting to Royal Jordanian flights to Israel.
  • American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia to London (and select other European cities), and then British Airways to Israel.

Japan / Southeast Asia / China

Some of the best American Airlines partners fly to Asia, including:

  • Cathay Pacific from Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Fransisco, Toronto, Washington, DC (Dulles) and Vancouver to Hong Kong, and from Hong Kong connect on Cathay Pacific to China or Southeast Asia (not Japan).
  • 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.
  • American Airlines from Dallas, Chicago and Los Angeles to Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai and Tokyo.

Maldives

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.

Etihad flies 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. You could also take British Airways, Royal Jordanian to Abu Dhabi and then Etihad to Maldives.

You could transit through London with American Airlines or partners and then from London or select cities to the Maldives via Abu Dhabi on Etihad. Or take a British Airways flight to the Maldives from London Gatwick. Also, from London you could take Sri Lankan Airlines with quick layover in Colombo.

Middle East

Use AA miles to visit the Middle East with:

  • American Airlines or partners to London, and then connect via British Airways or Royal Jordanian to the Middle East.
  • Etihad from Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York (JFK), Toronto or Washington DC (Dulles) to Abu Dhabi, and then connecting to Etihad or Royal Jordanian.
  • Royal Jordanian from Chicago, Detroit, Montreal or New York to Amman and then connecting to Royal Jordanian or Etihad flights to the Middle East.

South America

American Airlines and partners have great availability to South America.

You could take American Airlines to many destinations in South America including numerous cities in Brazil such as:

  • Brasilia (BSB)
  • Curitiba (CWB)
  • Manaus (MAO)
  • Rio de Janeiro (GIG)
  • Sao Paulo (GRU)

American Airlines also provides service to other cities in South America including Quito, Lima, Buenos Aires and more.

LATAM from Los Angeles, Miami or New York to Lima and Santiago, and from San Fransisco to Lima. With LATAM being in oneworld, you can also travel from any city that American Airlines flies to in the U.S. before connecting to a LATAM flight. Here’s the LATAM route map.

Central America / Caribbean

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 the American Airlines Website to find award seats

The American Airlines website is a good option for finding available award seats on most oneworld airlines. The website is intuitive, typically shows valid flights with connections and doesn’t even require you to login in order to search.

You can search the American Airlines website for award seats if your flights are on any of the following airlines:

  • Air Tahiti Nui
  • Alaska Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cape Air
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Etihad
  • Fiji Airways
  • Finnair
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Iberia
  • Japan Airlines
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas Airways
  • Qatar Airways
  • Royal Jordanian
  • S7
  • Seaborne Airlines
  • SriLankan Airlines

You can easily fly British Airways to get to and around Europe, or to go to Africa, India and the Middle East using your American Airlines miles. It’s best to fly American Airlines long haul when possible, because you won’t pay the high fuel surcharges associated with British Airways flights. However, also remember that British Airways typically has lots of available award seats from many U.S. cities to London.

You’ll pay higher surcharges (about $250 in coach, $400 in business class or first class per segment), but you’ll typically even be able to find seats even when looking for more than two at a time. If you can find award seats on American Airlines for your flight from the U.S., you can still use British Airways to connect on to other destinations in Europe, without having to worry about huge fees.

Even if you’re flying an airline not on the list above, the American Airlines site will still come in handy if you need to fly an American Airlines segment to connect to or from your flight on a partner airline.

Let’s take a look at an example. Let’s say we want to find award seats from Chicago to Rome in first class.

Navigate to AA.com

The first thing we’ll do is head over to AA.com and enter in the details for our flight search. Make sure to tick the “Redeem Miles” box so you don’t see a bunch of cash prices. When all of your details are correct, click “Search“.

Choose your class of service

American Airlines will come back to you with a bunch of different flight options in coach (Main Cabin), premium economy, business class and first class (if available). You’ll now want to select which class of service you want to fly to see options available in that class. In this case, we want to look at first-class award options. You can also see what nearby dates have available award seats in different classes of service, in case there aren’t seats on your initially chosen day. This is great if your travel dates are flexible. You can also select “Calendar” to see the prices for a specific class for the entire month.

Browse your flight options and select your favorite

Now you’ll be able to see all of the flights available in your chosen class of service and on your ideal travel date. You can choose the option that works best for your travel plans.

Login to your American Airlines account

You’ll have to login to your American Airlines account to book your flight.

In order to find out the total cost of your flight and book it, you’ll need to login to your American Airlines account. After you enter your login details, click “Log In“.

Review your flight options and book

American Airlines will now show you the total cost for your flights. If you’re happy with your flight option, go ahead and enter the passenger details, credit card information and book your flight.

This process is the same regardless of which oneworld alliance partner you want to fly, as long as they’re on the list at the top of this section. If you aren’t having luck with available seats on American Airlines’ site, or know that you want to fly a different partner (like LATAM), you’ll have to complete your award search somewhere else and then call American Airlines in order to book your flight.

Using the British Airways website to search for available award seats

As a general rule, the British Airways website is a great place to start when looking for award seats on oneworld airlines. While not all airlines will show and British Airways’ award search does have some quirks, we still consider it to be a great starting point.

The British Airways website is good for checking award availability for LATAM and other oneworld partners. The British Airways website is a bit clunky to use initially and will occasionally crash, but is easy to navigate once you get the hang of it. The best way to search for award seats on British Airways site is to search segment by segment starting with the international segments first and then you can spoon feed the flights you want to the AA phone agent. For more details, read our guide to searching for awards with British Airways.

Calling American Airlines to make the booking

Because you can’t search for LATAM or China Southern flights online at AA.com, you also can’t book these flights online. That means you’ll have to call American Airlines (800-433-7300) to make the booking.

When you call, you can tell the agent that you’ve already found flights that are ideal for your trip, and give them the flight information that you’ve already written down. The agents should be able to see the same available flights that you’ve found, though this isn’t the case 100% of the time. If they can’t you may want to try calling again to speak with a different agent and then go back to the drawing board if you’re still not having any luck.

The agent may try to charge you a $25 telephone booking fee, but if you mention that it’s not possible to book certain flights online the agent will usually be willing to waive the telephone booking fee.

If you’re not quite ready to lock in your flights, you can still call and put your award on hold. American Airlines offers free award holds of up to five days. The amount of time you are able to put an itinerary on hold depends on how far out from departure you are.

  • Up to five days when you are 15 – 331 days before departure
  • Up to one day when you are 1 – 14 days before departure
  • Up to two hours when you book within 24 hours of departure

Sometimes itineraries that involve partner airlines are not eligible for the same hold times.

Practice makes perfect

It may seem like it takes a long time to run through all of these steps, and that may not be far from the truth the first couple of times you try. This is another case where practice makes perfect and the more familiar you are with the award search, the faster it will go. It’s much better to practice ahead of time rather than when it is time to make your first award booking.

Using the Qantas website to search for award seats

The Qantas website is easier to use than the British Airways website and lets you see a month at a time of award flights for American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia and others. This makes it a bit easier when searching for awards to Europe.

But it is quirky and it sometimes shows award seats for Cathay Pacific and other airlines, which can’t actually be booked by American Airlines (also known as phantom availability). It also might not let you search for all cities, and the results sometimes show mixed class of service (for example, a business-class flight could actually have only one segment in business class and the rest in coach – that wouldn’t be a great way to spend your miles).

If your departure city is not listed as an option on the Qantas website, you can search from a different gateway city and then use AA.com to find out how to get to that city, just like we did at the end of the British Airways award search example.

But we do like the Qantas website to search for awards on Iberia and for awards to Europe. That’s because the British Airways website tries to route you via London on a British Airways flight, whereas Qantas shows you the American Airlines, British Airways and Iberia options without favoring one over any of the others.

However, Iberia availability from the Qantas website doesn’t always 100% match up with what American Airlines agents can see. But you can always double check via the British Airways site once you have found something that you like, but before you call in to book your award. And sometimes you just have to hang up and call back until the agent can book the Iberia flight.

The Qantas website is also great because it shows more dates than British Airways. So while you won’t see as many partners, you can use Qantas’ website to quickly get an idea of available award seats for some flights and then move on to the British Airways site for more fine-tuned searching.

Iberia departure cities

Iberia flies to Madrid from the following North American cities:

  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • New York (JFK)
  • San Francisco (seasonal)
  • San Juan, Puerto Rico (seasonal)

After you get to Madrid, you can use Iberia flights to connect onward to destinations in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, South America and Asia. Check out Iberia’s destination guides to see (and read about!) everywhere they fly.

Using Iberia gives you another option to get to Europe from the U.S. For example, you could:

  • Fly Iberia or American Airlines from your U.S. departure city to Madrid and then connect to other cities in Europe on Iberia
  • Fly from the U.S. to London on American Airlines (without fuel surcharges) or British Airways (with fuel surcharges) and then connect to a British Airways flight to other destinations in Europe, or to Spain and then to other destinations in Europe
  • Fly from the U.S. to Spain and then connect to a British Airways or Iberia flight to London and then take another British Airways flight to other parts of Europe

And using Iberia to travel to Africa could save you the fuel surcharges you would pay if you flew on British Airways. Keep in mind, however, that Iberia has no first class – only coach and business class.

The Qantas website is useful for finding available award seats on the following airlines:

  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Fiji Airways
  • Iberia
  • Japan Airlines
  • LATAM
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airways

Example – Nashville to Madrid

Let’s say I want to find one seat from Nashville to Madrid in business class. I can search on AA.com or British Airways.com, or we can use the Qantas website.

When using Qantas’ website, we always first try to run a search without breaking up flights into segments, just to see what we come up with. If that doesn’t work or we don’t find anything, then we can break our flights up into segments to see if that changes anything. If we need to break the flights up into segments, we would use the following segments:

  • The U.S. to Madrid on Iberia using the Qantas website
  • Then the award from Nashville to the U.S. departure city of the Iberia flight on AA.com

Sign-up for a Qantas account

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to search for award seats on the Qantas website without an account. Luckily, this is easy to do. Head over to the Qantas website for a free Qantas Frequent Flyer account. For some reason, Australia and New Zealand residents have to pay to sign up.

Log into your Qantas account

Now that you have a Qantas account, log into your account so you can begin searching.

Navigate to the award search on Qantas’ website

Use the drop-down menu in the top right of your screen to select “Make a Reward booking.”

Enter your flight details

Enter your flight details and select “Classic Flight Rewards Only” to see available award seats.

First, you’ll want to select “Use points – Classic Flight Rewards only” so that we are just getting the results we want. Remember, you’ll want to try to search for our whole award at once. So enter Nashville (BNA) and Madrid (MAD) as our origin and destination and indicate our travel date. In this case, we are just looking for a one-way flight.

Consider your flight options

Since we are searching from Nashville, we don’t expect to see any direct flights available (because there aren’t any). Our search does come back with quite a few options that are available, but unfortunately many of them involve flying British Airways and therefore have high fuel surcharges.

You can fly from Miami to Madrid in business class as long as you’re fine with flying from Nashville to Miami in coach.

Luckily, if we scroll down far enough, there is an option available flying Iberia across the Atlantic from Miami to Madrid in business class, as long as we are okay with flying from Nashville to Miami in coach.

Decide how hard you want to look or write down your flight numbers

If you’re not thrilled with the options you found in step 5, you can keep looking. You can try searching for your award segment-by-segment like we discussed earlier, you can look at other dates or you can look at other airports.

If you are happy with the option you have found, or find something better through further searching, now is the time to write down the details of the flights so that you’re ready when it comes time to call American Airlines to book your flights if you can’t find them online.

For example, if you want to book the flights you found above, here’s what you should write down:

  • AA 4430 from Nashville (BNA) to Miami (MIA) departing at 5:25pm on April 2 and arriving in Miami on April 2 at 8:46pm in coach
  • IB 6118 from Miami (MIA) to Madrid (MAD) departing at 10:55pm on April 2 and arriving in Madrid on April 3 at 1:30pm in business class

Taxes and fees

Booking an Iberia award using American Airlines miles is fairly cheap. For example, a flight from Boston to Madrid in coach on Iberia would cost about $50 in taxes and fees. The return flight from Madrid to Boston in coach would cost about $75.

Making the booking

In this case above, you should be able to book your flights directly on AA.com because the flights are only on Iberia and American Airlines. But, if your flights are on LATAM, China Southern or Interjet, you’ll need to call American Airlines (800-433-7300) to book your flights.

If you call in to book your flights, American Airlines may try to charge you a telephone booking fee of $25. If it’s not possible to book your flights online, you can nicely ask if they will waive the telephone booking fee. If you can book the flights online, you should do that instead of paying the telephone booking fee.

Bottom line

The American Airlines AAdvantage program has numerous opportunities to score great award tickets around the world. Whether it is flying Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong, or British Airways to London, or any other partner destination, you have the chance to take great trips for a mere fraction of the cost of a normal ticket.

Let us know if you have any questions about how to redeem American Airlines miles.

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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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“We’ll show you in detail how to find available award seats on many of American Airlines’ partners before you call later on in this post”

Looks like you got too busy trying to sell the AAdvantage card that you forgot to do this. 3/6 of the posts on the front page are selling this AA card. MMS has become unreadable because 9/10 articles have a referral link every sentence. Keep up the good work

Hi Alex – We’re updating this post weekly so those sections are coming soon.

Very nice post, this article is very informative for american airlines lovers, i would like to suggest cheap united airline at tourexo.com

American Airlines makes using their mileage system unnecessarily confusing. This article is clearly just running advertisement for AA as any sane person would at least mention how non user-friendly their website is in an ‘independently’ derived opinion.

Great arrival. Very informative.

Glad you found it useful 🙂

How about some info on the Business Extra program by American?

Steve
http://www.travelingprofessor.com

Help!

Trying to book flights from chicago to Edinburgh and then from Dublin to chicago with aa miles. There are no options without 10 hour layovers or 110k miles

Any suggestions?

You could fly from Chicago to Philadelphia. There’s a straight flight from Philadelphia to Edinburgh with no stops!!

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