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8 Best Uses of AA [American AAdvantage] Miles

I’ve never done a number of “Best Use” posts, but somehow haven’t done a general Best Use for AA Miles. Yet, AA has a number of the best prices of any mileage program around.

The previously listed “Best Use of AA” post was one that focused on the AA Explorer award chart, which was a round-the-world award chart with stopovers. While stopovers are no longer around, I will talk about a new way of doing a round-the-world trip.

I’ll talk about my best uses for the RTW trip, my favorite off-peak discount awards, and other non-alliance partners that can get you across the Pacific. Here are my top 8 uses of AA miles.

Earning side note: There are a few AA cards typically with bonuses above 50,000 AA miles. Also, the AA Executive card has a 75,000 bonus that may be ending/changing after tomorrow.

1) American Airlines Off-Peak to Europe = 20,000 AA miles

One my favorite uses of AA miles are the absurdly low prices during the off-peak time to Europe. And “off-peak” is literally half the year; from Oct 15 – May 15. This includes Thanksgiving break and Christmas break, as well as a good part of fall and spring.

20,000 miles for a oneway is way cheaper than most other mileage options to Europe, but it only applies to economy class.

A few details you need to know…

Fuel surcharges are insane on British Airways, which is one of the biggest airlines for serving Europe. However, you can fly AA, Air Berlin, and Iberia to get almost anywhere you need to go in Europe. Most commonly I fly AA across the Atlantic, but the point is that you need to not redeem your AA miles on British Airways flights, unless you feel like paying $600 for no reason.

 

1b) “Europe” includes Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan

These aren’t the hot-topic destinations like  “Paris” and Disney… but it’s certainly interesting travel, and it’s certainly not Europe.

Another interesting use is that flights within Europe are only 10,000 miles. So a flight from the Canary Islands or Iceland, all the way over to Georgia or Armenia is 10,000 miles.

But even without off-peak or economy, flying to these destinations for the “Europe” price is a good deal.

 

2) Cathay Pacific First Class from SE Asia = 67,500 AA miles

The SE Asia flights are killer and Cathay Pacific is an amazing First Class experience often with great availability. AA is probably the best option for booking those flights. No fuel surcharges get passed on, and AA miles are one of the easiest to earn.

Considering how long the flight is and how similar first class tickets are, it’s the time where I’m most likely to shell out the extra miles.

Also, consider that economy is 35,000 each way, and business class is above 50% more, and this First class price is less than double the economy price. In other words, it’s not that much more relatively speaking.

 

3) Off-peak to “Asia 1″ = 25,000 AA miles

Similar to Europe, Japan/”Asia 1″ has a winter off-peak price that takes up half the year.

Asia 1 is “Japan, Korea, and Mongolia”, and the off-peak dates are Oct 1 – Apr 30.

This is probably the best way to get to Japan or Korea, assuming you’re not going for the snorkeling. But it would include all of October; the leaves are starting to change colors, it’s not too hot, and there are less tourists. Seems like a good time to me. We went to Tokyo in April and it was perfect.

 

4) Piecing together a round-the-world trip = 107,500 AA miles

In my post on why you don’t need the AA explorer award chart, I point out how you could put together a trip with multiple stopovers (otherwise not allowed) to get to India for a similar price.

See, a roundtrip to India is normally 90k/135k/180k roundtrip, which is a lot of miles, and no stopovers are allowed.

But what if you got to India a different way?

Like US to Europe is 20k to 30k, and Europe to India is 20k. You could potentially save miles by stopping in Europe… well by booking two tickets. One from the US to Europe, one from Europe to India.

But even without any off-peaks to Japan or Europe, the price would still be competitive with doing a round the world ticket via booking multiple tickets (like in the picture below). 107.5k/165k/215k:

Again, you could potentially do it for less, with off-peak prices, and get multiple stops.

 

5) “Fiji Airways” and “Air Tahiti Nui” to South Pacific

AA miles are better than you think for getting across the Pacific.

Well, the obvious would be their Australian partner Qantas, which has direct flights across the Pacific.  Here are the Qantas examples…

Sydney to:

  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco
  • Vancouver
  • Dallas

Melbourne to:

  • Los Angeles

Brisbane to:

  • Los Angeles

 

But there are other non-OneWorld alliance partners that are based in the Pacific; Fiji Airways and Air Tahiti Nui. You can probably guess where they are based…

One interesting rule that AA has for non-alliance partners, is that the ticket must be sold as the over seas carrier. In other words, if I fly Fiji Airways to Fiji, it has to be marked as Fiji Airways. Even though you connected on AA to get to LA, or wherever, it has to be sold as Fiji.

This is rarely an issue, but it prevents you from stringing together really odd combinations of non-alliance partners. So when I look for a oneway on Kayak for New York to Fiji (a route that Fiji Airways doesn’t fly), I end up seeing Fiji Airways under the airlines list. And the ticket details says that the first flight is actually AA. Sold/marked as Fiji, just as required.

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 3.46.20 PM

That being said, Fiji and Air Tahiti Nui might have the best award space for getting across the Pacific to the Pacific islands and to Australia and New Zealand. With AA miles, you’ll have both of these options and Qantas.

The down side is that you won’t be able to book a long stopover in these beautiful islands.

Air Tahiti Nui goes from LAX to PPT. And they go to Auckland (AKL). From AKL, you can pretty much get a Qantas flight anywhere, but it’s especially easy to connect to a place that has direct AKL flights, like to SYD.

 

Fiji Airways connects LAX to Fiji, and then you can connect to a number of places, including a lot of New Zealand and Australia. Here’s Fiji Airways’ route map:

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 3.52.31 PM

One quick note, about spending time in these places. It’s only 20,000 AA miles to go from one place in the Pacific to another. So Tahiti to Sydney would be 20,000 miles. To book them as two tickets, it would be 60,000 total instead of 40,000… not a great deal, but could be worth it to see these places.

Also, Fiji Airways is a cool partner if only to get to the cool Fiji islands… no offense to the chain hotels (Hilton, Radisson, etc…) built on a man made island… in Fiji! Don’t waste your time. Go to Cancun if you want man made beaches.

 

6) Middle East to Asia = 22.5k/30k/45k

I first mentioned this back in my post on Oddly Priced Routes, because I noticed that Egypt to Japan was 13.5 hours of flying in business class for only 30,000 AA miles. Anywhere in East Asia really, which apparently includes “Guam”, but my example was Egypt to Japan.

It’s kind of an odd route, but where else can you get 13.5 hours of business class for 30,000 miles? Great for connecting a homemade round the world trip, like example 4.

 

7) Off-Peak to “South America Zone 2″ (the bottom half) = 20,000 AA miles

This is another example of the off-peak economy price being 20k instead of 30k, a big difference. The reason it’s lower on the list (besides the fact that everyone wants to go to Europe), is that the off peak window is shorter.

South America “Zone 2″ is Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile (excluding Easter Island), Paraguay, and Uruguay.

Off-peak dates are Mar 1 – May 31, and Aug 16 – Nov 30.

Luckily this does include our Thanksgiving break, but it’s late Spring down in Argentina. And the OneWorld alliance has become the best option for South America with AA flights, as well as LAN, and TAM.

 

8) The other off-peaks (Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, & Hawaii)

All the off-peak awards mentioned above apply to all OneWorld flights. But for a long time people mostly didn’t know about the other off-peak awards that are only for AA flights and therefore didn’t show up on the [then] common AA OneWorld award chart.

I have a post on all the details of the lesser known AA Off-Peak Award Charts.

 

In short, off-peak also exists for the following routes (with prices), only on AA flights:

  • Hawaii – 17.5k
  • Caribbean – 12.5k
  • Mexico – 12.5k
  • Central America – 15k
  • South America Zone 1 – 15k

Off-peak dates are here.

 

Conclusion

Of course, the “best use” of AA miles, or any miles is subjective. The best use for me could be for super long haul flights, and the best use for you could be a domestic flight to see your family. At the end of the day, it’s about what your priorities are. Don’t be afraid to use your miles for examples not listed here. Not just because we might have different priorities, but because I’m sure there are tons of great examples left off.

That being said, I think the above 8 examples are award prices where the AA award prices are significantly lower than the competitors’ prices. Especially with off-peak awards, which are often a third lower than the other best prices.

But even without off-peak awards, AA has one of the best award charts around. Coming up with a good use is probably as simple as redeeming your miles.

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30 Comments

  1. I search for Cathay Pacific First class relatively often. It seems that the space is only released at the last minute. Do you have any suggestions for booking? I’ve reserved business and then called to change when the space opens up. But I was wondering if you had any other suggestions for it?

    Reply
  2. Thanks for doing this, Drew. However note that AA has been quietly scaling back some of the off-peak fares, especially around holidays. Some of them are being priced at the Anytime 1 and 2 levels.

    Reply
    • Luckily it’s for all OneWorld partners, so if you can force Air Berlin, or call in for Iberia you might see more.

      Reply
  3. Dude, Georgia is the bomb diggity…I call it “redneck Switzerland”. Unbelievable hospitality, great food and drinks (and tons of it), beautiful mountain scenery, trekking, caves, wine tasting, history, awesome folk music, the Black sea if you want beaches, crazy locals, drinking and toasting, did I mention drinking? Haha. All at really low prices and a post-soviet government that’s actually encouraging to tourism (no visa!). I’d definitely go back.

    Reply
    • I’ve never been to Georgia (the country), but I love their food. Would love to go. I wanted to go across Turkey, but it woulda been way too long, and Carrie’s dad was visiting.

      Glad to hear positive feedback. Def will be taking advantage of of the good pricing there… sometime.

      Reply
  4. AA is starting to get really tough to Europe. Maybe it’s because I’m from Dallas, but I only see BA for the most part on SAAVER with huge fees.

    Reply
    • Joe, I’m seeing the same thing. I have to select the “American Airlines and American Eagle” from the carrier preference section. Last year, I did notice that many of the seats open up around New Years day for March dates.

      Reply
    • Availability to Europe gets tougher and tougher. But it might not show all the connections to get to Air Berlin routes… and Iberia doesn’t show up at all online, you have to call for those.

      Reply
  5. I am thinking about booking a trans pacific flight using AA miles. Auckland to Tahiti to Easter Island to Santiago. Using IHG free night certificates (2) at the bora bora intercontinental. Any suggestion on how long I can wait to book this? In waiting on our certificates to come through, so I’m nervous to book the flights without securing the free nights.

    Reply
    • When to book the IHG free nights for Bora Bora? Things have been opening for me a month out or so. Plus, there are two options. So if one doesn’t work out, you can do the other. Also, you can wait to book the Bora Bora ticket until last minute with little change. So you could do Moorea if the Bora Bora IC doesn’t open up.
      Hard to say though.

      Reply
    • Thanks for taking the time to reply! It sounds like there’s hope! I never considered that we’d have to take the air tahiti non alliance flight to actually get to the island, as you mentioned in your other post. I’m going to have to reconsider this one! I’ll have to do more research let ya know what we decide. Thanks man!

      Reply
  6. 1, 2 and 8 :)

    I booked 3 off-peak Europe awards for Spring Break in April 2016. We are flying an ex-US Airways route via PHL on a US Airways A330-200 with in seat IFE, which is a heck of a lot better than the old AA 767 going from ORD with their circa 1980 drop down video monitors.

    I am flying Cathay Pacific business class home from Siem Reap via Hong Kong (with a stopover) on our way home from Australia next June. I was easily able to book 3 business class award seats on Cathay Pacific using AA miles. I don’t care about the difference between business and first class. It’s all the same to me as long as I can sleep comfortably. (I used DL miles to fly business class on Virgin Australia to Brisbane from CVG and used United miles to get from Australia to Thailand on Thai Airways)

    And finally for the past several years I have used AA off peak awards to go to Turks and Caicos for fall break. 25,000 each for RT and there is usually loads of availability during “hurricane season”

    I love AA awards. :) (and the 100k Executive card sign up bonuses from last year!)

    Reply
    • Sounds like you’ve gotten good use. I think I’m only 1 & 2!!!
      But I’ve done the off-peak to Europe a few times now. I didn’t know about the off-peak to the Caribbean for a long time actually. So prolly why I missed out early on.

      Reply
  7. Another great post. #4 is classic.

    Reply
    • Thanks much!

      Reply
  8. Nice write up! I just dumped a handful of AA miles for a honeymoon trip SFO-HNL-AKL,CHC-NAN,NAN-LQX

    Reply
  9. Nice write up! I just dumped a handful of AA miles for a honeymoon trip SFO-HNL-AKL,CHC-NAN,NAN-LAX-DCA. The only problem is since I booked the award the final leg (lax to dca) shifted by 30 mins forward which violated the MCT (2 hrs min, I’m at 1hr 55min now). As a result I got pushed to a redeye 11hrs later to IAD? Any thoughts around this??

    Reply
  10. Great list! Wasn’t aware of 4, 5, 6. Thanks for educating!

    Reply
  11. I can see using 20000 AA miles on AA flight paying just $5.60 to EU. But what about the way back to US? There’s usually a surcharge of $150-200.Anyway to avoid it? Thanks!

    Reply
  12. wow…. thanks for the reminders and tips Drew. Reminded me too of the AA partners…. air berlin, seems esp. fun, permitting me to skip taxes on re-entry to US as I fly from Central America spots to Duseldorf and beyond. And then there’s Armenia…. raising a curious potential angle on getting to Tehran.

    Ironic too your timing, as here we were all excited now that I also have the B/A Chase card (thanks to your last post)…. and was contemplating all the fun to be had with Avios points (on AA routes in the US….) that is, til BA lamely pulled the plug on the 4500 sweet spot. Look forward to your “all is not bleak” post on that subject….

    PS: Be curious to know how you routed to Egypt…. :-) Thinking to head there from CUN.

    Reply
  13. Thanks for the tips Drew. Question – for Air Berlin space do you have to call them or AA, how does it work? I don’t see any thing for them when trying aa awards…Thanks again.

    Reply
  14. Been looking at AA for award flight to Europe, (FCO or BCN) one-way and yes I see mostly British Airways but do not see a fuel surcharge. Does that show up at confirmation or does it only apply when flying Europe to US? Thanks, and great blog and YouTube channel!

    Reply
  15. Great tips! My favorite is Azerbaijan to Tenerife. Seems one needs to transit LON and use BA which means YQ…. So, GYD-LHR-ZRH-TFS is showing 20k in business, the fees are $275.50 with 158.40 in YQ- ouch. Still a very good value considering one stops over <24 hrs in LHR and ZRH, but not fabulous. Great thinking though!!!! (I'm also assuming these flights are with that European business seat that merely has the middle seat blocked)

    Reply
  16. Thanks for the useful information. Just finished planning all vacations for the next year (Egypt, Tanzania, Cape town, Paris, London, Venice, and Rome) Now looking for places to use my remaining 250K AA miles so this post helped.

    Reply
  17. Great post–AA really does have an awesome chart.

    Regarding #3, I just spent a week in Japan in early October, and the weather was absolutely perfect. Highs in the low 70s. Probably similar to what you saw in April. I can’t imagine a better time to go.

    Reply
  18. I am trying to get tickets to Bora Bora (PPT?) without luck. Checking up to a year in advance and nothing….any ideas?

    Thank you!

    Reply
  19. so if i understand, you cant use aa miles to fly air tahiti lax-ppt-akl with a stopover in ppt? i know aa doesnt allow stopovers, but is that just on aa flights or does it apply to award partners as well?

    Reply
    • AA doesn’t allow stopovers at all.

      Reply
  20. Hi Drew,

    Will you be updating this very soon to reflect the changes/devaluation on AA on 2016 previously? I’m sure it would tremendously helped a lot of us.

    Thanks.

    Reply

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