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It’s time for a refresh! We’re updating our old series on American Airlines and making one guide with everything you’ll need to know! Check back often as we add new sections to this post!
American Airlines 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 your 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 aren’t always the easiest to redeem anymore, but do offer incredible value especially for fancy flights 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 guide, we’ll show you how to use American Airlines miles for nearly free flights and travel all over the world!
Introduction: How to Use American Airlines Miles
You can book one-way awards which gives you terrific flexibility. For example, you can fly to Europe using American Airlines miles and fly back using United Airlines miles. And you can redeem American Airlines miles, but fly on American Airlines’ partner airlines.
Redeeming miles for flights with American Airlines’ partners is one of the best ways to access ultra-premium First Class seats with airlines like Etihad and Japan Airlines.
In our experience, American Airlines has some of the best telephone booking agents and some of the most available award seats for both 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, 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, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, S7, and Sri Lankan Airlines) which together fly to over 1,000 destinations in 150+ countries.
American Airlines has also partnered with other airlines (outside of the oneworld alliance) including Air Tahiti Nui, Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air, 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:
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines (including American Eagle)
- British Airways
- Royal Jordanian
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 available award seats on partner airlines later on so that you don’t have to rely on the phone agent to find the seats you want.
Where Can American Airlines Miles Take Me?
Short answer: Almost anywhere in the world!
Your American Airlines miles can take you to places where:
1) American Airlines fly themselves
2) American Airlines’ oneworld partners fly
3) 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 3 out of many possible examples of how to use American Airlines miles:
1. Bangkok, Thailand. You can redeem American Airlines miles for travel on Cathay Pacific from the US 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 US to Thailand, but you CAN redeem American Airline miles to fly on Cathay Pacific (a oneworld partner) from the US to Hong Kong, and then connect to another Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok.
You won’t be able to search for Cathay Pacific award seats online at AA.com, because you can only search for flights on American Airlines and the partners listed earlier in this post online.
Currently, you have to call American Airlines (NOT the partner airline) to book awards on partner airlines such as Cathay Pacific. Alternatively, you can look for Cathay Pacific award seats online at BritishAirways.com. You will need a British Airways account in order to search for flights, but it’s free and easy to sign-up!
Just remember, if you find award seats for flights that you want, you will still need to call American Airlines to book (NOT British Airways OR the partner airline).
This might sound a little complicated, but don’t worry! 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 and we’ll walk through how to call American Airlines and get the agent to book your $15,000 First Class seat using miles and only a few hundred dollars in taxes & fees.
2. Anchorage, Alaska. American Airlines has limited service on its own flights to Alaska. 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 because Alaska Airlines (an American Airlines partner) flies from Seattle to Anchorage, you can redeem your American Airlines miles, but 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!
3. Cairo, Egypt. American Airlines not only doesn’t offer any service to Cairo, but does not offer a single flight to any country in the Middle East. But since Qatar Airways is a member of the oneworld alliance, you can use your American Airlines miles to fly Qatar to Cairo, with a quick layover in Doha. (Note: This routing isn’t currently possible due to issues in the Middle East between Qatar and other nations – thanks Million Mile Secrets reader Dennybob for pointing that out!)
Another option would be to use American Airlines partner (that is NOT in oneworld), Etihad. With a quick layover in Abu Dhabi, you can also redeem miles to travel to Cairo.
You have to book both airlines over the phone and not on AA.com. But
these are still great options for booking travel to the Middle East.
Award Types & Charts
American Airlines Travel Award Chart
The American Airlines travel award chart is for travel only on American Airlines and American Eagle.
You’ll be able to find rates as low as 7,500 miles each way plus taxes and carrier imposed fees for flights within the US. If you’re traveling internationally on American Airlines only, this award chart also applies.
If you’re traveling on airlines other than American Airlines, you’ll have to check out their other award chart.
oneworld and Other Airline Award Chart
Thw oneworld and other airlines award chart shows prices using American Airlines miles for award travel on oneworld and partner airlines.
You can book awards with the following airlines:
a) American Airlines
b) oneworld partner airlines including:
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific
- Japan Airlines
- LATAM Airlines
- Malaysia Airlines
- Qatar Airways
- Royal Jordanian
- SriLankan Airlines
c) Other American Airline partner airlines which include:
- Air Tahiti Nui
- Alaska Airlines / Horizon Air
- Cape Air
- Fiji Airways
- Hawaiian Airlines (except flights between the US mainland and Hawaii)
- Seaborne Airlines
While you can book all of American Airlines’ flights 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 Bangkok on AA.com, you’ll only see options for American Airlines (and maybe some partners like Royal Jordanian’s unusual flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok). But you can also fly on Cathay Pacific (oneworld partner airline) to Hong Kong and then connect to Bangkok.
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.
You can book some oneworld and partner award flights on AA.com, including:
- 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.
If you want to try to check for available partner awards before you call into American Airlines, you can check sites like British Airways or Qantas. If you can find your desired flights, you can simply provide that to the American Airlines booking agent who answers your phone call at the number listed above.
American Airlines Upgrades
This chart lists the co-pay and miles required to upgrade flights on 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 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.
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 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 only apply to coach bookings.
Here are the off-peak award costs.
|Destination||To Destination Off Peak Period||1-Way Off Peak Award (Miles Required in Coach)||1-Way MileSAAver Award (Miles Required in Coach)||1-Way Off Peak Savings (in Coach)|
|Hawaii||To 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
|Caribbean, Mexico and Central America||9/7 - 11/14, 4/27 - 5/20||12,500||15,000||2,500|
|Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Manaus (Brazil)||1/16 - 6/14, 9/7 - 11/14||17,500||20,000||2,500|
|Argentina, Brazil (excluding Manaus), Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela||1/10 - 3/14, 11/1 - 12/14||22,500||30,000||7,500|
|Europe||1/10 - 3/14, 11/1 - 12/14||22,500||30,000||7,500|
|Japan and South Korea||To 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
|China and Hong Kong||Asia 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
Key points about off-peak awards:
- Off-peak awards are valid only in coach
- You can’t use off-peak awards on partner airlines with the exception of flights to Europe. If you have a partner flight, you’ll automatically be subject to the higher award price, except on flights to Europe
- 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 American Airlines miles round-trip, and you’re still allowed to fly on partner airlines!
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. Before we get into that, let’s talk about MileSAAver awards a little more.
2. MileSAAver Awards
These are regular priced awards, but are capacity controlled. This means that it may be extremely challenging to get awards during peak times and for more than 2 people, and may even be somewhat difficult at non-peak times.
You can book MileSAAver awards 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. For more details, check out our post on American Airlines’ different 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.
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, one-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 one-way!
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.
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 flight a higher class of service!
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 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.
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:
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Visa
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® American Express
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
- CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®
- Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator™ Silver World Elite Mastercard
- Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator™ Red World Elite Mastercard
- Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator™ Business Mastercard
If you don’t have any of the cards above, you can still receive a 5,000 mile discount with one of the cards below (but if your flight is 500 miles or less, you’ll receive only a 1,000 mile discount):
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Gold World Elite Mastercard
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Gold World Elite Visa
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Gold World Elite American Express
- Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator™ Blue Mastercard
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 Mile Award page, and book your award for fewer miles.
The reduced mile awards to Canada are an especially good deal because tickets to Canada can be quite expensive.
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 folks 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 American’s Reduced Mileage Awards.
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, unless you are an Executive Platinum member.
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, Platinum Pro, 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 have to 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. 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.
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 4 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 better earn Big Travel with Small Money. 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.
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 return 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 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 2 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 you origin in Chicago (City A).
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.
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 4 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 3 days. In this case, London would be your stopover.
Likewise, if you are flying from Kansas City (origin) to London (destination) but make a 5-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 2 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 2 general ways that you can still book what is effectively a stopover:
1. Book 3 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 3 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.
2. 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.
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 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 between New York (JFK) and Vancouver – team member Jasmin booked this flight earlier this year in Business Class
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 331 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 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 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 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
1. 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 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 in any class of service.
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 and / 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 if you are having trouble. Or look for flexibility around your travel dates. Or try to get 2 Business 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 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.
5. 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.
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).
Step 1. Go to the American Airlines Website
Navigate to AA.com. You do NOT have to sign into your account to do an award search.
Step 2. Enter Your Flight Details
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 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 US, 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:
Note: If your trip begins in the mainland US, this award booking would require 2 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
- Beijing, China
- 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 US 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.
Unfortunately, you can’t book all of American Airlines’ partners online. Currently, you can only book partner seats online for Alaska Airlines, British Airways, Finnair, Hawaiian Airlines, Qantas, and Royal Jordanian.
To book other partner award flights, like Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, 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 Venice, 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 later on.
Some of American Airlines’ partner airlines often have lots of First Class award seats available. We’ve often 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. This can be fantastic if you have the ability to plan your trips at the last minute.
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 First 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 Venice 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 Venice (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 post updates.
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.
1. American Airlines, British Airways & 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.
2. 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.
Awards to Australia can be tricky to find, so you’ll have to be flexible.
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, but note that it’s very hard to find award 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, but this will cost many more miles so we wouldn’t recommend it.
1. American Airlines to select cities in Europe, or 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.
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 Orleans
- New York (JFK & Newark)
- San Diego
- San Fransisco
- San Jose
- 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.
3. Iberia from the US 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 US are:
- Boston to Madrid
- Chicago to Madrid
- Los Angeles to Madrid
- Miami to Madrid
- New York to Madrid
- Oakland to Barcelona
- San Francisco to 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 San Francisco to Helsinki.
1. American Airlines or British Airways from the US to London, and then British Airways from London to India non-stop. British Airways flies from London to Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Chennai.
2. Etihad from Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York (JFK), Washington, DC (Dulles), and Toronto to Abu Dhabi, and then connecting on Etihad to India.
3. Royal Jordanian from Chicago, Detroit, Montreal, or New York 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.
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.
Japan / Southeast Asia / China
1. 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).
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, 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.
4. American Airlines or British Airways to London Heathrow, and then a British Airways flight to the Maldives from London Gatwick.
5. American Airlines or British Airways 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 or Royal Jordanian 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 or Royal Jordanian.
3. Royal Jordanian from Chicago, Detroit, Montreal, or New York to Amman and then connecting to Royal Jordanian or Etihad flights 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, Caracas, Buenos Aires, and more.
2. 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 US before connecting to a LATAM flight. Here’s the LATAM 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.
Finding Available Award Seats
One big downside to using American Airlines miles is that there isn’t one great place to look for available award seats. Rather, the best place to search for award seats will depend on which partners fly to your intended destination. Below we’ll go into detail about the different places you can find available award seats on oneworld alliance partners.
Using the American Airlines Website to Find Available Award Seats
The American Airlines website isn’t the best option for finding available award seats on all oneworld airlines, but it’s a great place to start, especially if you know that the airlines that you are looking at flying show up on American Airlines’ site. Their website is intuitive, typically shows valid flights with connections, and doesn’t even require you to login in order to search!
The American Airlines website is the best place to search for award seats if your flights are on any of the following airlines:
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- British Airways
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Royal Jordanian
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 US cities to London.
You’ll pay higher surcharges (~$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 2 at a time! If you can find award seats on American Airlines for your flight from the US, 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.
Example – Chicago to Rome
Let’s say we want to find award seats from Chicago to Rome in First Class.
Step 1. 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“.
Step 2. Choose Your Class of Service
American Airlines will come back to you with a bunch of different flight options in coach, Business Class, and First Class. 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!
Step 3. 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. In this case, there is only one flight option available that has 2 seats, and it’s on British Airways, which means higher surcharges. If a flight was available with American Airlines, it would display the same way but with an American Airlines flight number.
Step 4. Login to Your American Airlines Account
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“.
Step 5. Review Your Flight Options and Book!
American Airlines will now show you the total cost for your flights. In this case, American Airlines requires 170,000 American Airlines miles and ~$1,110 for both tickets in First Class. The fuel surcharges are high for this flight option because the long flight is on British Airways.
If you had been able to find available award seats on an American Airlines flight in First Class, it would have cost the same number of miles but much less cash. 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, you’ll have to complete your award search somewhere else and then call American Airlines in order to book your flight.
Using the Alaska Airlines Website to Search for Available Award Seats
The Alaska Airlines website is useful for searching for award seats on specific airlines that are partners with American Airlines, namely, Japan Airlines. You will also be able to view award seats on Qantas and Finnair. While Alaska Airlines is one of American Airlines’ partners and partners with Japan Airlines, Qantas, and Finnair, they are not part of the oneworld alliance. So, you won’t see any other oneworld partners showing up in the award search on Alaska Airlines’ site.
While Alaska Airlines’ site has limited use when it comes to thinking about how you want to use your American Airlines miles, it is very good at what it does. You’ll be able to easily find long-haul flights with connections onto your final destination (as long as they’re on an airline that Alaska Airlines will show you).
This might sound overly complicated, so let’s just go through an example!
How to Use the Alaska Airlines Website to Find Award Seats
Let’s assume that we are looking for one seat in Business Class or First Class from Denver to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on Japan Airlines. The date of travel is also flexible, but let’s try to find something in September 2018.
We could use the British Airways website to search for our Japan Airlines segments and the American Airlines website to search for flights to our international departure city, but that would take a pretty long time. Instead, we can just try plugging everything in together on Alaska Airlines’ site because we know that Japan Airlines can fly us all the way to Ho Chi Minh City.
Step 1. Navigate to the Alaska Airlines Website and Enter Your Flight Details
First, you’ll need to head over to AlaskaAir.com. It is not necessary to have an account with Alaska Airlines in order to run an award search, so you can enter in your flight details. In this case, we will enter “Denver, CO (DEN)“ as our “From” city, “Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (SGN)” (also known as Saigon) as our “To” city, and we’ll start with a travel date of September 1, 2018. We also need to indicate that we are looking for a one-way flight and that we want to use miles.
After you have verified that all of your flight information is correct, you can click “Find Flights.”
Step 2. Look At Flight Options and Check Other Dates
If flights are available on the day that we search, we would see them now. Unfortunately, at the time we ran this search, there were no flights available on September 1, 2018, between Denver and Ho Chi Minh City.
If we have flexible travel dates, we can click to nearby dates that show available seats like September 2, 2018, or we can look at a calendar view to see a whole month’s worth of availability at one time! The monthly calendar view also allows us to select whether we are interested in seeing the lowest available prices, Business Class, or First Class.
Remember that these are not the prices you will be paying, though. These prices just show you that there are available seats and that you can use your American Airlines miles to book the same flights on eligible airlines!
For our example, let’s assume that Business Class is preferable. Looks like September 2 might be a good choice, so let’s select that and look at our flight options.
Step 3. Ignore Airlines That Aren’t American Airlines Partners
When we’re using Alaska Airlines’ website to search for award space so we can use our American Airlines miles, we have to be careful to ignore airlines that you can’t book with American Airlines miles. This includes any airlines that haven’t been discussed so far in this article, like Korean Air!
When we get our search results back, the first couple of options all include Korean Air flights. Luckily, it is easy to filter these flights out. We simply need to uncheck the box next to any airline we don’t want to see in our search results.
Step 4. Be Careful About Mixed Cabin Awards
One great and not-so-great thing about Alaska Airlines’ site is that it shows mixed cabin award availability. Mixed cabin is when you fly part of your trip in Business Class and another part of it in coach. Of course, this may be fine if you are flying the long segment of your flight in Business Class and a short flight at the end in coach, but you definitely don’t want it to be the other way around!
If you see the reclining seat symbol near your award price, that means it is a mixed cabin itinerary. To find out the details, click on it.
In this case, you probably would not want to book this mixed cabin itinerary because you would be flying from San Francisco to Japan in coach, but still paying the Business Class price! That’s not a very good deal.
Assuming you have further flexibility, you can keep looking for flight options. We were able to find a First Class mixed itinerary on September 21.
If you are happy with the flight options, you should write down the details so you are ready when you call in to American Airlines to book your tickets.
Step 5. Look for Different Flights to Your International Gateway
You also have the option to fly American Airlines to your international gateway, from Denver to San Francisco in this case. You can look online at AA.com to see if more desirable flights are available for your itinerary.
Step 6. Make the Booking
When you’re ready to book your flights, you’ll have to call into American Airlines (800-433-7300) because you want to book partner flights that don’t show up on AA.com.
When 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.
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.
Here’s what you need to know about using the British Airways website to find available award seats.
The British Airways website is the absolute best for checking award availability for the following airlines:
- Cathay Pacific
- Japan Airlines
- Malaysia Airlines
- Qatar Airways
- S7 Airlines
- Sri Lankan Airlines
Cathay Pacific flies from the US to Hong Kong with connections onward to other destinations in Asia. It’s one of the best airlines to fly, especially if you’re planning to redeem for Business Class or First Class. You can also use your American Airlines miles to connect onward on Cathay Dragon, a subsidiary of Cathay Pacific.
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.
Example – US to Malaysia
Let’s say we want to find 1 seat from Nashville to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in First Class.
If we search for that flight on AA.com, we’re not going to come up with much (if anything!) because Cathay Pacific doesn’t show up on American Airlines’ award search. Instead, we will want to break our flight up into segments and search on BA.com so we can call American Airlines with the flight information we know will work.
We’ll break our flight search into the following segments:
- US to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific using the British Airways website
- Then Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur on Cathay Pacific using the British Airways website
- Finally, the flight from Nashville to our US city of departure for the Cathay Pacific flight on AA.com.
All of these flights will cost 110,000 American Airlines miles in First Class.
The above will cost the same amount of miles using the American Airlines all partner chart if you fly from Nashville to Malaysia on a non-stop flight (assuming it was possible) or if your journey has a few segments.
That’s because American Airlines doesn’t charge you by segment (like British Airways does when you redeem British Airways Avios points), but charges you based on their region-based award chart.
Segment 1 – US to Hong Kong Award
We will want to focus on the most difficult award segment first. In this case, the long flight to Hong Kong from any city in the US that Cathay Pacific flies.
Cathay Pacific flies from the US to Hong Kong from the following US cities:
- Los Angeles
- New York (JFK)
- San Francisco
- Washington, DC (Dulles) (Begins September 15, 2018)
Step 1. Log Into Your British Airways Account
Unfortunately, you can’t search on British Airways without having a British Airways account. If you don’t yet have one, the first thing you’ll need to do is create an account. Assuming you do already have an account, you’ll have to enter your membership number and password at the top right of the page and then click “Log in.“
Step 2. Navigate to Spending Avios
Hover over “Executive Club” and click on “Spending Avios.” Avios is what British Airways calls their miles.
Step 3. Get To The Award Search
Scroll down on the page and click “Book a reward flight.“
Step 4. Run Your First Award Search
Now is when the trial and error part of your searching begins. You’ll want to start looking for available award seats for the long haul, international portion of your flight from the US to Hong Kong. Because there are a number of different cities that Cathay Pacific flies to Hong Kong from, you can start your search based on which city is the most convenient.
Because we’re planning to depart from Nashville, it’s probably best to start looking at Cathay Pacific flights from Chicago, Newark, or New York (JFK). If we can’t find award seats from any of those cities, we can move on to the other cities that Cathay Pacific serves. Once you have entered in the flight information for your first search, click Get flights.
Step 5. Consider Your Flight Options
After you start running your searches, you can consider your flight options. In this case, we found award seats in First Class on Cathay Pacific flight 841 from New York JFK to Hong Kong. It may take you a few (or many!) searches before you come up with options that work, especially if you are looking for more than one seat or to travel during busy times of the year.
You’ll want to write down these flight details for later. For example:
CX 841 from New York JFK to Hong Kong (HKG) departing at 10:00 am on May 4 and arriving at 2:00 pm on May 5 in First Class.
Depending on what we find for our connecting flights, we may have to come back to this step to revisit other options, but at least we have a starting point!
If you select this flight and click through on British Airways’ site, you’ll be shown the number of miles, taxes, and fees that British Airways charges. Because we’re not planning to book this ticket with British Airways Avios, it doesn’t really matter what they charge, but if you’re curious you can still click through!
British Airways charges 140,000 Avios points and ~$112 for this flight. Compare this with the price that American Airlines charges only 110,000 Miles for this long haul flight AND your connecting flights. British Airways would charge additional miles for your additional flights.
Segment 2 – Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur Award
Now that we’ve found a good contender for a flight from the US to Hong Kong, we can start looking at flight options from Hong Kong onward to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Because we’re looking at Cathay Pacific, Cathay Dragon, or Malaysia Airlines flights for this segment, you’ll want to keep searching on British Airways’ site. Repeat steps 4 and 5 above to continue running searches for this new flight. Be careful to consider date changes, too! Your flight from the US to Hong Kong departs the US on May 4 and arrives in Hong Kong on May 5.
There are 3 different flight options available May 5 from Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur, but not all of them will work! If you book the flight from New York to Hong Kong, you won’t land in Hong Kong until 2:00 pm (14:00) on May 5. That means your only flight option from Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur will be the last flight of the day, MH433. There’s no First Class cabin on this flight, so you’ll have to fly Business Class instead. If there weren’t Business Class award seats on that flight but coach was available, that would be another option.
You’ll want to write down these flight details for later. For example:
MH 433 from Hong Kong (HKG) to Kuala Lumpur (KUL) departing at 6:35 pm on May 5 and arriving at 10:35 pm on May 5 in Business Class.
You could have searched for the entire trip from New York (or another departure city) to Kuala Lumpur at once, but British Airways’ site doesn’t always do the best job of pulling up all of the options, so we recommend searching for one segment at a time.
Segment 3 – US City to New York JFK Segment
Because we found our Cathay Pacific long haul flight from New York (JFK), we still need to figure out a way to get there from Nashville. Luckily, there’s no need to search for these flights on British Airways! These flights within the US will be on American Airlines (or sometimes Alaska Airlines) and you can search for them on AA.com!
It can sometimes be difficult to find available seats on properly timed domestic flights, so it pays to be flexible. You may have to go back to the drawing board and find a different international flight, drive to a nearby airport, purchase a ticket on a different airline, or fly the night before to catch an early flight.
If you do find flights that work, write down the flight details. If you don’t find flights that work, consider your alternatives or see if you can find a better international flight.
Remember, even though the above example involved Malaysia Airlines and Cathay Pacific flights, this is a great method to use for booking flights on any of the following airlines:
- Cathay Pacific
- Japan Airlines
- Malaysia Airlines
- Qatar Airways
- S7 Airlines
- Sri Lankan Airlines
It will take some leg work to figure out which departure cities are an option for your long haul flight, but it will be so worth it!
Calling American Airlines to Make the Booking
Because you can’t search for partners like Cathay Pacific 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 5 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 5 days when you are 15 – 331 days before departure
- Up to 1 day when you are 1 – 14 days before departure
- Up to 2 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 Available Award Seats
The Qantas website is easier to use than the British Airways website and lets you see a 30-day calendar of available award flights for American Airlines, British Airways, and Iberia. This makes it a bit easier when searching for awards to Europe.
But it is quirky in that it doesn’t show Japan Airlines award seats (use the British Airways website for that) and that 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 doesn’t let you search for all cities (Kansas City is a grave omission), and the results sometimes show mixed class of service (for example, a Business Class flight could actually have only 1 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:
- Los Angeles
- 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 US. For example, you could:
- Fly Iberia or American Airlines from your US departure city to Madrid and then connect to other cities in Europe on Iberia
- Fly from the US 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 US 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
- Japan Airlines
- Qatar Airways
Example – Nashville to Madrid
Let’s say I want to find one seat from Nashville to Madrid on April 2 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 US to Madrid on Iberia using the Qantas website
- Then the award from Nashville to the US departure city of the Iberia flight on AA.com
Step 1. 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!
Step 2. Log Into Your Qantas account
Now that you have a Qantas account, log into your account so you can begin searching.
Step 3. 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.”
Step 4. Enter Your Flight Details
First, you’ll want to select “Use points – Classic Flight Rewards only” so that we are just getting the results we want.
Remember, first we want to try to search for our whole award at once. So, we will enter Nashville (BNA) and Madrid (MAD) as our origin and destination and indicate our travel date of April 2. In this case, we are just looking for a one-way flight.
Step 5. 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.
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.
Step 6. 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 that have found, or find something better through further searching, now is the time to write down the details of the flights you found 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 5:25 pm on April 2 and arriving in Miami on April 2 at 8:46 pm in coach
- IB 6118 from Miami (MIA) to Madrid (MAD) departing at 10:55 pm on April 2 and arriving in Madrid on April 3 at 1:30 pm 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 ~$50 in taxes and fees. The return flight from Madrid to Boston in coach would cost ~$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 other partners that don’t show up on AA.com, 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!
Air Tahiti Nui Routes
Air Tahiti Nui might not be an airline you’re very familiar with, but they do fly a couple of routes from the US that might be of interest.
- Los Angeles to Paris
- Los Angeles to Papeete (capital of French Polynesia)
The Los Angeles to Paris route usually has lots of available award seats, particularly in coach, so it is a great way to get to Europe using American Airlines miles.
The flights from Los Angeles to Papeete (the capital of French Polynesia) are a lot harder to get, particularly in Business Class. However, coach availability isn’t that bad and it is a night flight so you will hopefully be asleep through most of the flight.
Papeete is the furthest you can go from the US using miles to get to Bora Bora and other islands in French Polynesia.
Air Tahiti Nui has coach, Business Class, and First Class seats, but you can only book coach and Business Class seats on Air Tahiti Nui when you use American Airlines miles. You can’t use American Airlines miles to fly First Class on Air Tahiti Nui.
Searching for Air Tahiti Nui awards
Unfortunately, there isn’t a free website you can use to find award seats on Air Tahiti Nui. So, your choices are to call American Airlines and have them try to find Air Tahiti Nui award seats (but sometimes they’re not very good at it) or to use ExpertFlyer (a paid service) to search for award space, set seat alerts, receive an email when award availability opens up, and more.
The Basic version of ExpertFlyer costs ~$5 per month and only offers some of the features mentioned above, but it may be sufficient depending on what your needs are. The Premium version of ExpertFlyer costs ~$10 per month or ~$100 per year when paid in full. There’s also a 5-day free trial if you want to give the service a try before you commit.
Note: Theoretically it is possible to view Air Tahiti Nui awards on the Qantas website, but we have seen so many glitches when trying to search for award space that we don’t recommend it. Your best bet is to either use ExpertFlyer or call American Airlines.
When we search on ExpertFlyer, we’ll be looking for “F” (Business Class awards) and “U” (coach awards) on Air Tahiti Nui.
How to Find Air Tahiti Nui Award Availability
Let’s say we are looking for 1 seat from New York to Papeete, French Polynesia on June 25, 2019 in coach.
We can search on AA.com, but it won’t show Air Tahiti Nui award seats and will prompt you to call the reservation department.
So we break up this flight into segments. We will first look for award availability from:
- Los Angeles to Papeete on Air Tahiti Nui using ExpertFlyer
- Then New York to Los Angeles using AA.com
All these segments will cost 40,000 American Airlines miles for a one-way coach award (or 80,000 miles for a one-way Business Class award) using American Airlines miles.
It will still cost 40,000 miles even if your itinerary has up to 4 segments or a direct flight with only 1 segment because American Airlines has a zone-based award chart.
After finding flights that work, you should write down their details (flight number, departing city, destination, departure time, and date) just like in previous examples. Then you can call American Airlines and feed the agent the flight numbers, segment by segment, to book the flights.
Using ExpertFlyer for Air Tahiti Nui Awards
Segment 1 – Los Angeles to Papeete
Step 1. Log-In
Log into your ExpertFlyer account and click on “Awards & Upgrades” in the blue column on the left.
Step 2. Enter Search Details
Let’s say I want to check availability from Los Angeles to Papeete on June 25, 2019.
- “Los Angeles” in the “Departing Airport” box
- “Papeete” in the “Arriving Airport” box
- “06/25/2019” in the “Depart Date” box
Be sure to:
- Click on the box which says “Exact Date” and
- Select “+- 3 days” to see award availability for 7 days or 1 week at a time if you are flexible with your travel dates
Then select “Air Tahiti Nui – TN” from the “Airline” drop-down menu and click:
- Business – Award (F) and/or
- Economy – Award (U)
You can book one-way awards on American Airlines, so it doesn’t hurt to see award availability for both Business Class and coach.
And finally, click on “Search” at the bottom of the screen.
Step 3. Results
We then see options for the 2 Air Tahiti Nui flights from Los Angeles (LAX) to Papeete (PPT). Because we selected the “+/- 3 Days” option, we will see award availability for 7 days – from June 22 to 28, 2019.
If we assume that June 25 is our ideal date, we will see that there are zero Business Class seats available for both flight options because the results say “F 0.” However, because we are looking for a coach seat anyway, we’re in luck because the results say “U 9,” which means there are 9 seats available in coach on flight TN101. Flight TN7 does not have any coach seats available because the results say “U 0.”
If you changed our mind about flying in coach, you’re not totally out of luck. Flight TN111 on June 22 has 3 seats available in Business Class.
Step 4. Write Down Flights
Just like in previous examples, we need to write down our flight details so that we will be ready when it comes time to call American Airlines. If we are going with the coach option on June 25, we would write down:
TN101 from Los Angeles (LAX) to Papeete (PPT) departing at 11:40 pm on June 25 and arriving in Papeete on June 26 at 5:05 am in coach.
If, instead, the Business Class flight is preferable, we would write down:
TN111 from Los Angeles (LAX) to Papeete (PPT) departing at 11:40 pm on June 22 and arriving in Papeete on June 23 at 5:05 am in Business Class.
Step 5. Set Seat Alerts if Needed
If you weren’t able to find the award seats you needed, you can set an alert so that ExpertFlyer will email you when an award seat opens up. This is one of the greatest features of ExpertFlyer because you don’t need to check back and re-run your search every day! So you’ll save a ton of time.
Let’s say that you actually wanted to fly in coach on June 25 on flight TN7.
Click on the small exclamation sign (!) on the right side of the search results you are interested in – in this case TN7 on June 25.
A pop-up box will appear so you can enter details for your flight alert:
- Assign a name to your alert
- Select which class you want to fly in – in our example “Economy – Award (U)“
- We are just looking for 1 award seat, so we need Availability Quantity to be “At least 1.” If you are looking for 2 seats, you would change this to be “At least 2.“
- Click the box that says “Send Test Email” if you want to make 100% sure your alert is going to work
- Click “Verify and Create“
Note: If you would like to have an alert set for Business Class and coach, you will just need to set 2 alerts – one for coach like we just did, and a second for Business Class by following the same sets and selecting “Business Class – Award (F).”
Segment 2 – New York to Los Angeles
Go to AA.com and search for MileSAAver (low-level) awards from New York to Los Angeles.
If you’re not sure how to do this, scroll up to the portion of the guide that discusses how to find award availability on AA.com.
You should still write down the flight information so you know all of the flights you want when you call American Airlines to book your itinerary.
Taxes and Fees
Booking an Air Tahiti Nui award using American Airlines miles is very cheap.
For example, it costs only ~$3 in taxes and fees for a coach award ticket from Los Angeles to Papeete on Air Tahiti Nui.
And ~$49 for the return flight from Papeete to Los Angeles on Air Tahiti Nui.
When you call in to book, you may be quoted a $25 telephone booking fee, but since these awards are not bookable online, you can ask to have the fee waived.
Calling American Airlines to Make the Booking
Next, it’s time to call American Airlines (800-433-7300) and ask them to put your itinerary on hold or book your flight if you are ready to do so!
Note: The fare codes have only recently been updated for Air Tahiti Nui flights, so when you call to book your flights the American Airlines agent may not initially find the same award availability. If they don’t, kindly remind the agent that F is the code for Business Class and U is the code for coach to see if that solves your issues.
If the agent is still having issues, let them know to leave the Promo Box empty, change the Carrier Code Box to TN, and the Inventory Box to ADV. If you’re still not having luck, make up an excuse to get off the phone and call back to speak with another agent. 😉
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!
Over the coming weeks, we will be adding to this post to give you even more details about how to use American Airlines miles, where to find available award seats, and more!
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