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…
- Los Angeles
- San Francisco
- Los Angeles
- 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.
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:
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.
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.