Maximizing value from the AAdvantage program

American Airlines AAdvantage miles are some of the most commonly earned and used miles; but as with any program, they have their strengths and weaknesses. One disadvantage that AAdvantage miles have when compared to other airlines’ miles is that they allow some of their partner airlines such as British Airways to impose surcharges on routes operated by that airline. In some cases these surcharges can still be worth paying, but in others you could be caught paying hundreds of dollars on top of the award price of the ticket. That being said, there are still many excellent ways to get great value out of your American Airlines AAdvantage miles.

  • Qatar Airways Q-Suites Business Class from the US to the Middle East & Beyond

    While the highest value First class redemption with American Airlines miles is the Etihad Apartments, the highest value Business class redemption is undoubtedly flying on Qatar Airways’ flagship business class: Qsuites. Qsuites is nicer than most First class products on most airlines, but since it is classified as Business class, it provided an amazingly high value redemption value for American Airlines miles. Not all Qatar Airways planes are equipped with Qsuites, so you have to make sure that the flight you are booking is operated by a Qsuites fitted plane.

    How to book: Search and book on AA's website.

    Cost: 70,000 miles in business (Qsuites)


  • The Apartment on Etihad Airways A380 from the US to the Middle East and beyond

    The Etihad first class apartments are pretty much the pinnacle of luxury when it comes to commercial aviation. Anyone who has flown this product will tell you that it is unlike any other flying experience; and is definitely the most luxurious redemption on this list. Unfortunately, that does mean it is a little difficult to find award availability; but it does exist. Historically booking flights returning to the US has been much easier than booking flights from the US.

    How to book: Booking this award flight is a bit trickier than most, but since it is harder to find, fewer people will know about it which means availability should be better. To locate award space, you will have to check for “Guest First” award availability on Etihad’s website. Once you have found a flight, you will then have to call American Airlines to book the ticket.

    Cost: A one way flight from the US to Abu Dhabi should cost you 115,000 miles for First class in the Etihad apartments, 70,000 miles in Business class and 40,000 miles in Economy.

  • Off-peak economy class from the US to Europe

    If you are a more budget conscious traveler who cares more about stretching your miles than splurging for luxurious redemptions, then one of your best options will be flying to Europe using American Airlines miles during off-peak season. The off-peak dates vary slightly each year, but for 2019 they are January 10 - March 14 and November 1 - December 15. During these dates, the economy award prices from the US to Europe are substantially reduced. Be aware though that many European airlines do impose surcharges that can be exorbitant. One way to avoid this is to ensure that you are on American Airlines operated flights for each leg. Both Spain and Italy can be lovely to visit outside the peak summer season.

    How to book: search and book on AA's website.

    Cost: 22,500 miles in Economy during off-peak dates

  • Qantas First Class from the US to Australia or New Zealand

    If you’re flying out of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, or Dallas to get to Australia or New Zealand; then the most convenient and high value redemption option will almost certainly be to fly on Qantas’ A330 service to Sydney in Business or First class.

    How to Book: Search for award availability on BA's website and then call American Airlines to book.

    Cost: First class 110,000, Business class 80,000, Economy 40,000

  • JAL First Class from the US to Japan

    Japan Airlines is famous for their impeccable service and nowhere can this be experienced better than in their first class cabin from the US to Japan. American Airlines classifies East Asia as a different and cheaper region than the rest of Asia which provides a nice sweet spot for flights into Japan.

    How to book: search for award availability on BA's website and then call American Airlines to book.

    Cost: First class 80,000, Business class 60,000, Economy 35,000 (32,500 in off-peak seasons)

  • Cathay Pacific First Class from the US to Hong Kong and beyond

    Cathay Pacific is arguably the airline that pioneered the level of luxury that is expected in today’s First class cabins on international airlines. While their first class product is no longer the best in the world, it is still a fantastic redemption option if you are planning on flying from the US to Hong Kong or to further destinations like Thailand or Bali. Hong Kong falls under the same Sweet spot as Japan in American Airlines’ region qualifications and therefore the same mileage costs apply.

    How to book: search for award availability on BA's website or Asiamiles.com and then call American Airlines to book.

    Cost: First class 80,000, Business class 60,000, Economy 35,000

  • LATAM Business Class from the US to Northern or Southern South America

    LATAM business class from the US to Northern or Southern South America One of American Airlines’ biggest strength when it comes to award availability is in flights to South America. These awards can be fantastic to visit gems like Colombia, Peru, or Argentina.

    How to book: search for award availability on either LATAM’s LANPASS website or on BA's website and then call American Airlines to book.

    Northern South America Cost: Business class 30,000, Economy 20,000
    Southern South America Cost: Business class 57,500, Economy 30,000

  • Inter South America flights on any AA partner

    Cash flights within South America remain very expensive due to the limited competition among airlines. However, one way to get around paying these prices is using American Airlines miles to book travel either within a specific country or within a region (Northern South America or Southern South America). Both will give you outstanding value regardless of which partner airline you fly.

    How to book: Some airlines will show up on AA.com, others will only show up on BA.com or their respective website. The safest bet would be to search on BA.

    Cost: Economy within Argentina - 6,000,
    Economy within Brazil - 7,500,
    Economy within Chile - 6,000,
    Economy within Peru - 6,000,
    Economy within Ecuador - 5,000,
    Economy within Colombia - 6,000,
    Economy within Southern or Northern South America - 10,000,
    Business within Southern or Northern South America - 20,000

  • Reduced Mileage awards within the continental United States

    The catch with this redemption is that you have to have an American Airlines co-branded credit card issued either through Citibank or Barclays. Each month, American Airlines releases a list of airports (often over one hundred across the US) to which these reduced mileage awards apply. If you do have a co-branded credit card, you will receive either a 3,750 or 2,500 mile discount on the award flight depending on which card you have.

    How to book: These discounts are not visible through American Airlines’ award search tool. You will have to check for saver level award availability on a qualifying flight to or from one of the included monthly airports and then call American Airlines to book the ticket.

    Cost: 3,750 or 2,500 miles off the original cost of the award ticket

  • Very short flights within the US

    As we all know, a shorter flight doesn’t necessarily mean a cheaper flight. But luckily in the case of award flights on American Airlines that are less than 500 miles it does. If the cash price of a very short AA flight is relatively high, it can be a great value to book it with miles instead.

    How to book: search and book on AA.com.

    Cost: 7,500 in Economy, 15,000 in Business for flights under 500 miles