7 Reasons American Airlines AAdvantage Miles Have Huge Value

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7 Reasons American Airlines AAdvantage Miles Have Huge Value

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I’m a loyal Delta flyer but I’m always thinking of new ways to collect more American Airlines miles. Yes, you read that correctly.

Between a shoddy on-time record and increasingly cramped planes without seatback screens, flying with AA isn’t always the first choice for for many travelers who favor other airlines.

Yet compared to the likes of even Delta and United, American and its AAdvantage program have some serious advantages over other airline programs that make these miles far too valuable to ignore – especially since they’re not just good for booking flights on American airlines.

Here’s why…

 

Premium Partners

Don’t want to fly American? No problem.

One of the best parts about AAdvantage miles – and all airline miles – is that they’re not just good for booking flights on American Airlines itself. Airline alliances and partnerships open up the world of using your miles, making them far more valuable and versatile. And if you ask us, American has some of the best partners out there.

From far more spacious seats in economy at the back of the plane to the incomparable service in first class at the front, Japan Airlines is one of the best ways to fly from the U.S. to Asia. You can book these flights from 35,000 miles each way in economy, 60,000 in business class, and 80,000 miles for first class.

 

American airlines aadvantage

 

Cathay Pacific is another great AA partner on which you can redeem AA miles. You can also use AA miles to fly Qantas to Australia, Finnair to Scandinavia, and Etihad to the Middle East, and more.

But if you want to fly the best airline in the world, your best bet is … you guessed it, AAdvantage miles. Booking flights on Qatar Airways is one of our favorite ways to use AA miles – especially if you’re flying in their Qsuite business class.

 

qatar qsuite

 

Read our full Qatar Qsuites review from Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) to Doha (DOH)!

Better yet, it’s gotten much easier to book many of these partner airlines. Many previously required a phone call to American. In the last few years alone American has added Japan Airlines, Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific, and Etihad to its online booking engine at AA.com.

And you can generally book these awards as far out as 11 months. So while a trip to Tokyo or the Middle East may seem tough in the near-term, you could start planning something as far out as January or February 2023!

 

Great Award Chart

Great partner airlines don’t mean much if they cost a boatload of miles to book. Luckily, that’s not the case with American.

American uses a regional award chart, which means that award rates depend on where your origin and destination fall on the map – not on the cash price of a flight or how many miles you’re flying. And overall, American’s award rates are on par or better than what you’ll find using other airline mileage programs. Here’s what it looks like:

 

American airlines aadvantage award chart

 

Follow the award chart, and you’ll see that a flight on a Oneworld partner airline from the U.S. to the South Pacific costs 40,000 one-way in economy. A business class flight from the U.S. to Europe will run you 57,500 AAdvantage miles on British Airways, Finnair, Iberia, and other partner airlines. It’s easy enough to follow along – though finding award availability can be another matter.

But there are some sweet spots in this award chart worth highlighting:

  • Flying from the U.S. to Japan (Asia Region 1) in business class for just 60,000 AAdvantage miles is a steal, as many airlines charge far more.
  • Flying American to Mexico or the Caribbean? Doing it in the off-peak season can get you there and back for just 25,000 miles.
  • The cost to fly from the U.S. to Africa in Qatar Airways economy is 40,000 miles – the exact same amount as the nonstop flight to the Middle East. And American’s definition of Africa includes South Africa, so you could make the. Or do it in business class, adding in the extra, 10-hour flight from the Middle East to Cape Town (CPT) or Johannesburg (JNB) for 75,000 miles – just another 5,000 miles over the nonstop rate to the Middle East.
  • If you’re making your way around the world, the ability to get on a long flight from the Middle East to China, Hong Kong, or Southeast Asia for just 40,000 AAdvantage miles is a steal. Or do it in Etihad Apartments for just 50,000 miles!

 

And keep in mind that this award chart doesn’t just apply to nonstop flights.

 

…With Free Connecting Flights

Behold! Here’s the true beauty of a region-based award chart.

While you might be accustomed to forking over big bucks for a flight that starts from smaller airports, that’s not the case with American miles. All that matters is that your origin is part of the same region. Even with several connections, it won’t change the price in miles.

In the eyes of American, flying business class from tiny Peoria (PIA) to Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to Hong Kong (HKG) is the same as the nonstop flight to Southeast Asia – both cost 70,000 AAdvantage miles because your journey is still from the continental U.S. to Asia Region 2. Even with a longer flight – say, starting from Duluth (DLH), Minnesota to Chicago or even San Francisco (SFO) to Chicago – it will price out the same. All that matters is the region. 

And the same principle holds true for your final destination. So long as the regions remain the same, the price doesn’t change. So you could fly from Peoria to Chicago to Hong Kong and onward to Hanoi (HAN) for the same 70,000-mile rate because your award is still from the U.S. to Asia Region 2 – even with all those connections. 

Thrifty Tip: With more complicated itineraries like these, search for each segment of your trip individually at AA.com to confirm each flight is bookable with miles. Once you’ve done that, search for the entire itinerary, with your initial starting point in “From” and final destination in “To.”

That’s true whether you’re using AA miles to fly American itself, one of its partner airlines, or a mix of the two. They’re AAdvantage miles, so American sets the rules for how many you need.

Unfortunately, pricing for American flights has become far more unpredictable as it has moved toward dynamic pricing – which means booking the domestic connection on AA you need as part of a larger itinerary has gotten more challenging.

This ability to book itineraries with connections isn’t unique to American – it’s true of almost every airline with a region-based award chart. But in our experience, American makes it easier than most to get the flights you need.

 

A Powerful Award Search

Some airlines make it difficult to find the flights you want with clunky search engines that only show one day at a time. But that’s not the case with American.

American’s old award search platform was one of our absolute favorites. It allowed you to filter for only nonstop flights, which makes it much easier to zero in on the exact flight you want. And it had an easy-to-use calendar view, making it easy to scroll through a month’s worth of award availability at once.

 

earn american airlines miles
Other search engines don’t make it half this easy to locate Cathay Pacific business class award flights

 

Unfortunately, American finally killed off this powerful tool. And while the replacement is certainly inferior, American’s current search engine is still easier to use and more versatile than many other airline sites. It allows you to filter for nonstops, narrow your search down to specific cabins, and get a monthlong view of award availability.

For example, you can easily see just how wide-open award availability is to fly Qatar Qsuites from Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) to Doha (DOH) in January 2023.

 

qatar qsuites availability aa site

 

Deals on Domestic (and Some International) Flights

American used to have two great ways you could score cheap domestic flights using your miles.

First up was the airline’s Reduced Mileage Awards, available only to AAdvantage Platinum Select cardholders. This novel offering allowed you to reduce the cost of a domestic trip from 25,000 miles round trip down to 17,500.

 

American airlines aadvantage

 

Unfortunately, American Airlines killed off Reduced Mileage last year. But now there’s an easier way.

Over the last few years, American has started selling select domestic flights for as low as 5,000 AAdvantage miles each way. They’re called Web Special fares.

Unfortunately, AA doesn’t publish a list of which routes are eligible for this lower pricing. They’re unpredictable. And while they were originally most prevalent on shorthaul domestic hops, these discounted fares are becoming more and more widespread. Increasingly, these economy web special fares have become the “new norm” when booking flights.

One important note: This cheaper, web special pricing is only available on American flights. You won’t find these discounted deals on partner airlines like Cathay Pacific, JAL, and others.

 

American web special fares

 

And it’s not just domestic flights. Over the last year, we’ve seen these discounted awards spread to international flights with dirt-cheap pricing to Europe, Australia, South America, and beyond. One of the best award alerts we’ve sent our Thrifty Traveler Premium members was an economy web special: Round-trip flights to New Zealand for just 10,000 AAdvantage miles!

 

thrifty traveler premium deal

 

There are even some web special fares for first and business class cabins on American – although it’s more likely you’ll find exorbitantly high pricing than a good deal.

 

Free Award Cancellation

Now more than ever, you need flexibility. American has you covered there.

For years, American had one of the best policies for award tickets, giving you unlimited date, time, and routing changes for free. That meant you could push up (or push back) your flights. Or lock in flights with one airline, then swap to another when award space opens. You could even change which cities you connect through, so long as your origin and destination didn’t change.

Those days are gone. But American has replaced that policy with something even better: Every ticket booked with American AAdvantage miles can now be canceled for free. In November 2020, American ditched its usual $150 redeposit fee to cancel an award ticket and get your miles back.

That’s massive. Prior to the pandemic, that perk was reserved only for American’s top elite flyers. Now, anyone can cancel an award ticket and get their miles back to their account for free. Canceling online at AA.com (or via social media) is simple.

It means you can lock in a flight for 2022 or 2023 using your American miles today, then cancel it if necessary if your trip doesn’t pan out in time.

 

Cheap Mexico and Caribbean Getaways

If you want to escape to Mexico or the Caribbean, AAdvantage miles can be invaluable.

No U.S. airline has a better network throughout Central America and the Caribbean islands. And we’re not just talking Cancún (CUN) or the Bahamas (NAS), with more than 170 daily flights into 37 destinations in the Caribbean alone. American has flights to even smaller cities like Oaxaca (OAX) or Huatulco (HUX) and smaller Caribbean spots like St. Martin (SXM) and St. Lucia (UVF).

 

earn american airlines miles

 

And if you time it right and find the right award availability, you can get there for as low as 12,500 AAdvantage miles each way. 

American’s award chart carves out this low pricing during the off-peak season: from April 21 to May 20 and Sept. 9 through Nov. 18. Other times of the year, a low-priced saver level award will run you 15,000 AAdvantage miles each way.

Keep in mind that these rates may be less relevant these days as American leans on web special awards, which don’t play by the same rules. But no matter how you approach it, it’s one of the cheapest ways to get the Caribbean, Mexico or elsewhere in Central America.

 

The Bad News

It’s not all sunshine and roses with American miles. There are some definite downsides.

Finding award tickets – especially business class to Europe – can sometimes feel like pulling teeth. American rarely releases award space on these flights, so you’re probably better off focusing on economy seats – or settling for British Airways to Europe. Other times, you may have to settle for something more expensive than the low-priced MileSAAver award.

And then there’s the flight itself on American. Service can be hit or miss, though that’s true of every airline. Seats are increasingly shrinking on AA planes, as the airline also pulls out seatback entertainment. And while every airline has struggled with schedules and mass cancellations throughout the pandemic, American seems to be the worst among the bunch.

 

How to Earn AAdvantage Miles

You know why AAdvantage miles are worth collecting. And now’s a great time to start piling them up for your 2021 travels. 

For starters, there’s the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Card, which is currently offering 50,000 AAdvantage Miles after spending $2,500 within the first three months. The card’s $99 annual fee is waived in the first year. 

 

citi card

 

Click Here to learn more about the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard.

 

But American Airlines is unique in the fact that they have co-branded credit card relationships with both Citi and Barclays thanks to the merger of American and U.S. Airways a few years ago. For the time being, American has made the decision to continue the relationship with both banks.

So that means you’ve got another option. And few credit cards offer a better, more lucrative welcome offer bonus than the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard. Just for opening the card and making a single purchase, you can earn 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage milesThese are some of the easiest miles you will ever earn. Best of all, the card’s $99 annual fee is currently waived for the first year!

 

barclay card

 

Click Here to apply for the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard (this is not an affiliate link)

 

This is significant because you can earn the welcome offer bonus on each card, netting you 110,000 American Airlines miles after spending $2,500 on the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Card in the first three months of card membership and making just one purchase on the Barclay’s card.

 

Bottom Line

If you’ll excuse the pun, AAdvantage miles have some serious AAdvantages.

Between easy-to-earn-miles, sweet spots in the award chart, extra flexibility, and some amazing partners, collecting AAdvantage miles is worth your time. And that’s true regardless of whether you consider yourself an AA flyer.

 

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

11 Responses

  • Clearly you are not flying economy. Haven’t been able to book a 12.5k one way award flight in years. Finding those tickets is like ‘pulling teeth’. Also, as a Gold member, I haven’t been able to secure an upgrade, again, in years even though I request one on every flight. The article is representative for what AA used to be before the merger. Only thing keeping me with AA is that I don’t have status elsewhere.

    • Agree. AA showing “potential ” redeemability is one thing, but it’s more of a fraud and scam and actually redeeming is often impossible. Despicable airline.

  • I clicked on this article thinking I must be the only one who has horrible flight experiences EVERY TIME with American Airlines. Every flight is delayed (missing my connections) or just plain canceled (while I’m sitting in the airport). I have their credit card, and understand the value of points but AA does NOT value me in the least!

  • Here’s where the value of ‘complaining’ comes into play. Every time I get delayed (for whatever reason) I send a complaint to AA. I detail the flight number and, to the best of my knowledge, the reason why. Even on award flights! Plus I add that I was severely inconvenienced (missed connection perhaps) and was late for a meeting or something similar. My ‘success rate’ is probably 75%. AA doesn’t want an upset customer, especially if you have some ‘status’ and the CS people don’t want the ‘hassle’. 5000 free miles seems to be the norm.

  • You article on Award Milage was very informative and interesting , however , I recently tried to book A flight from LAX to Hamburg Germany in business class when I was informed that the tax alone would be around $1,300. A friend of mine used different Airline miles, same itinerary , also business class and only paid roughly $150 taxes. Why is American Airlines tax system so high as well as so different from other airlines? Thank you for your response

    • Elke, I’d guess that your ticket involved flights on British Airways, which is notorious for passing on a lot of taxes and fees when booking with American miles (among other airline miles). The amount of taxes can vary by the airline you fly, the airline whose miles you use, and the airports you fly in and out of. In general, booking flights with AA miles results in low to mild cash fees. British Airways flights are an outlier.

  • I also am a delta fan and perennial platinum. Yet my wife has gone on home on biz class to Japan for five years on miles, impossible with skymiles. With politeness and patience the excellent AA international desk always finds us a route since we are flexible

  • I used to save Skymiles, but since AA comes in and offered some crazy deals to compete here at MSP, we have gone full AA. After flying to Barbados twice for $217 rt each time and Saint Thomas for $227 a few times, we could help but switch over our loyalty to AA. Before they introduced dynamic pricing it was almost guaranteed we could get to most Caribbean islands for 25,000 miles any time of the year. While those award tickets still do exist, it’s mostly for off peak, which were okay with. Taking an annual beach trip at the end of August has become a family tradition at this point. I also use Bask Bank which gives me AA Mike’s just for saving money. We earn that 25k in a year of saving and not spending. With me also having a business, I was able to get all three AA credit cards and their bonuses. My husband has two. If you love the Caribbean and Mexico AA awards are for you.. especially if you live in Seattle or far away since the award redemption is going to run the same whether you’re departing from Miami or the northwest.

  • I just searched LAX to ATH in July (7/12-26) and it came back with 700,000 miles EACH for business, so for the two of us 1,400,000 miles. That seems a bit hefty by any standard.

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