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.
- 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.
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
- NA to Asia 1 = 25k-32.5k/50k/62.5k
- Asia 1 to Central Asia = 22.5k/30k/45k
- 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.
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%.