CardMatch™


Hacking American Airlines’ Strict Routing Rules

aaAmerican Airlines now has strict routing rules that don’t let you transit through other regions, plus they now don’t allow stopovers. I’ve tried to come up with solutions to this.

Also, I hate paying for things, and I love geeking out about routing rules. With AA, this is kind of a problem, as traditionally you needed a paid service to figure out AA’s rules.

AA largely determines its routing rules by limiting the number of miles flown. But each route has a different limit of miles to be flown. It’s called the Maximum Permitted Mileage (MPM) and it’s a number you can usually go over by 25%.

Basically, you need to pay for ExpertFlyer to get the MPM that you would be allowed to fly. Then go to GCMap.com and try to figure out a route that’s within that number of miles (+25%). The process sounds complicated, but that’s not my beef. I’m fine with complicated, but I’ve decided that I don’t want to imply that you need to be paying $10/month with this and that service to be a good miles and points nerd.

The truth of the matter is AA limits route in other ways, similar to United would – by zone. And these zone limits usually are a given if you know the MPM anyways. Doing Europe via the Pacific or East Asia via the Atlantic, while very possible with many other programs is not even close to possible with AA’s MPM limits.

Some basics

  • AA no longer allows stopovers
  • Oneways are half price of roundtrips
  • … therefore you can open-jaw the destination and/or the return
  • A route’s MPM can be found on ExpertFlyer.com and you can add 25% to that “maximum” limit

For the longest time, MPM + a percentage has been the only thing I’ve used for AA’s routing rules. However, more and more they’ve added routing restrictions based on zones. What I’m finding is that these rules are so strict that it almost negates the need for the MPM process.

While restrictions are almost always a bad thing for us, it hopefully will make routing rules simpler than ever. This is a big deal because there’s a rule that’s more important than MPM:

You are not allowed to transit through a different region on the way to your destination.

This is a big deal, that makes AA incredibly less valuable. However, I still think for most people it’s the best program for simply not having fuel surcharges (except on BA) and for having probably the cheapest award chart across the board. And after all, most people only have two weeks of vacation a year. In a short vacation, most people want to go there and back.

Which is to say, I still love AA for all the good things, but this rule is pretty terrible.

Thankfully, they’ve made a few logical decision. Which is why this next part is the most important part – the exceptions.

 

AA Routing Rules by Regions (the most important part)

The other way AA has routing rules, which really could go unsaid if you knew the MPM, is how they limit by region. Again, this is a similar concept to the United Routing Rules. Here are the basics…

When starting/ending in North America, the following regions can be combined:

  • Europe on the way to Indian Sub-Continent / Middle East
  • Europe on the way to Africa
  • Asia 1 on the way to Asia 2

 

Think about it. In flying OneWorld, how else does one get to Africa or Central Asia / Middle East if not via Europe? Specifically, getting to Africa via London on BA.

How else does one get to SE Asia if not via Japan or Hong Kong (which is technically zone 2 anyways)?

 

My frustrations with this:

  • You can not get to Australia via Hong Kong. This is incredibly limiting.
  • You can not get to Fiji via Australia. This is also incredibly limiting.
  • You can not get to India via Hong Kong in Cathay. What sense does this make? In many cases getting to India via Hong Kong is way shorter than via Europe.

I could go on and on about the absurdity of some of these rules. If they went through and added a few more exceptions I would go ahead and call the rules logical. Now logical is not the same as beneficial, I don’t prefer any restrictions, but I can understand why they wouldn’t allow you to do absurd routes.

 

Pre-hack clarification

Defining Asia 2:

Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Guam, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Saipan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam 

Defining Central Asia (Indian Sub-Continent / Middle East):

Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Maldives, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan

 

Hacks to get around the routing rules?

Look at this (prices will be econ/business/first):

  • NA to Central Asia = 45k/67.5k/90k
    or
  • NA to Asia 1 = 25k-32.5k/50k/62.5k
  • Asia 1 to Central Asia = 22.5k/30k/45k
    or
  • NA to Asia 2 = 35k/55k/67.5k
  • Asia 2 to Central Asia = 22.5k/30k/45k

Therefore a diy stopover in Asia 1 on the way to Central Asia would be 47.5k – 55k/80k/107k

You would essentially be paying 2.5k – 10k/12.5k/17.5k more to stop in Asia 1 (Japan, Korea, Mongolia). Or it’s paying that much more to route to Asia 1 via Central Asia.

Does all that make sense?

What I’m saying is that you can pay 2.5k – 10k more (depending on off peak or not) to essentially get a stopover in Asia and be able to route in such a way that combines Asia 1 and Central Asia. How? By booking two seperate tickets instead of one directly to Central Asia which wouldn’t have a stopover and would otherwise have to be routed via the Atlantic. And remember BA is the only AA redemption that passes on fuel surcharges. This is a win in many ways.

Doing the same math for Asia 2

If you were to stop in Asia 2 on the way to Central Asia it would be a total of 57.k/85k/112.5k.

It’s essentially paying 12.5k/17.5k/22.5k more to be able to stop in Asia 2 on the way to Central Asia, by booking two separate tickets. This could totally be worth it.

 

 

Finally, I’ve shared this one before, but here’s a route that could be a mini round-the-world trip:

  • US to Europe = 30,000 miles
  • Europe to Central Asia = 20,000 miles
  • Central Asia to Asia 2 = 22,500 miles
  • Asia 2 to US = 35,000 miles

Total price = 107,500 miles. As good as the old/dead Explorer Awards.

 

Conclusion

Rules are meant to be broken, however, restrictions are tight enough now that getting around them gets harder and harder. MPMs are almost entirely irrelevant as the regions are so strict and limits are so restrictive that I can’t do anything fun based on MPM + 25%.

 

Related Posts:

28 Comments

  1. I suggest you put the zone definitions BEFORE the routing hacks! Even I got confused for a second trying to remember which countries I can apply this to, then I scrolled down and it made sense again.

    Reply
    • Thanks I switched it around.

      Reply
  2. Also, some cities, particularly on the Pacific Rim are essentially on or very near the same great circle route (You’ll notice the SQ and TG flights that transit Japan and Korea don’t need to deviate AT ALL). Pretty useful if you want <24 hour layover. Can also do this in the US

    Reply
    • Thanks for the tip. Hopefully some peeps can add a nice layover.

      Reply
  3. Are you sure you can not get to Fiji via Australia? They’re both South Pacific region so I thought it would be ok – is it to do with the mpm+25 or something?

    Reply
    • They are probably forcing people to do the more efficient thing from LAX to NAN. Just trying to reduce partner costs I guess.

      Reply
  4. the best round the world is to use different mileage for different part of the journey…
    asia/south pacific is ua.
    asia/indian sub is AA, etc,
    and theh use intra region award..

    Reply
    • Funny, I started a post with a similar concept.

      Reply
  5. how about hacking your way to Africa via Asia?

    Reply
    • Sure it’s almost the same concept but a little more expensive.

      You could to:
      US to Asia = 25k-35k
      Asia to Africa = 30k
      Africa to US = 37.5k

      Reply
    • Can you please elaborate on Asia to Africa for 30k? Somehow I thought I also saw a post you wrote about OneWorld having no flights to Africa.

      Reply
  6. Thanks for clarifying what I was starting to suspect: AA has veryyy boring routing rules. Just switched from UA to AA because i’m in sxm now, not nearly as much fun to play with. Though, the 100% bonus on flown miles does help for those of us who earn them the old fashioned way :p

    Reply
    • You live in SXM? Need company?

      I mean, AA is a great program in that their prices are reasonable, their status is generous, etc… Just their routing rules are more strict.

      Reply
    • The more the merrier. Let me know if you’re ever in town!

      Reply
  7. Pretty awesome! The RTW can be hacked further by incorporating AA off-peak to Europe: 97,500 miles from 10.15 to 05.15. I wonder how long till they kill it too (sigh)!

    Reply
    • Yea it’s a very large offpeak too, so not hard to fit that in.

      Reply
  8. Do you guys still send a monthly newsletter?

    Reply
    • Yep, it will be out in a 3 days.

      Reply
  9. Any chance that you can route to Asia 2 via the Middle East? Was hoping to fly something like IAH-DOH-SGN, then BKK-LHR-IAH to come home (same distance as flying BKK-NRT-LAX-IAH). Thanks for any advice you can offer!

    Reply
    • Nope, not on open ticket. You would have to do what I did above and book separate tickets.

      Reply
  10. Drew–didn’t they add a Middle East exception to Central Asia when they started the Qatar partnership?

    Reply
    • Sorry, I kind of renamed some things. But yes. Middle East and Indian sub-continent is what I’m calling Central Asia.

      Reply
    • That’s quite a route. Did you fly it?

      Reply
  11. Can’t you also do NA to Africa via M. East? I think it’s got to be on one of the M. East carriers…can’t remember which one. This could be helpful in avoiding BA fuel surcharges.

    Reply
    • I’m not sure, are they allowing Qatar now to serve Africa? They have a number of routes.

      Reply
  12. Hey Drew – you mentioned “NA to Asia 2 = 35k/55k/67.5k”, which I saw on the AA Oneworld award chart as well. However, when I tried to look for NA to Asia 2 (specifically JFK to HKG) tickets, on the AA website, I couldn’t find any that priced at 35k/55k/67.5k. Everything I’m seeing is double the price during the May period. Am I doing something wrong here?

    Reply
  13. Drew big fan of yours, although I’ really have a hard time understanding the world of miles and points, but anyway I’m learning, I’m planning to take a trip to Europe via Asia 2 or however possible. Would this Itenerary work with AA off peak
    TXK FCO ,NRT MNL,MNL TXK need some suggestion . Thank you

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

We have spent the majority of our marriage traveling full time, living out of hotels.   All the while, we list our expenses publicly, budgeting $25,000 a year for our nomadic life while still staying in mostly 4 or 5 star hotels across ~20 countries a year.
Go to About Me to learn more.
CardMatch™
SIGN UP: RSS

SIGN UP: NEWSLETTER