American Airlines Award Routing Rules

On Friday I wrote about American’s new routing rule exceptions. JonNYC of TravelingBetter was kind enough to post the full list of routing exceptions, and I figured it was a good time to just briefly recap American’s routing rules for award tickets.

American Airlines has a few restrictions when it comes to how you can route an award ticket, and it’s helpful to know these when using American AAdvantage miles.

American has a zone based award chart

This means that you pay a given amount of miles based on the regions you’re traveling within or between. If you need a refresher on which countries are in which zones I’ve listed them below (more are fairly intuitive):

AAdvantage Award Zone:Countries Included:
North America U.S. (including Hawaii and Alaska), Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, The Bahamas and the Caribbean
Central America or
South America Zone 1
Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Venezuela
South America Zone 2Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile (excluding Easter Island), Paraguay, Uruguay
EuropeAlbania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovinia, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Greenland, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Yugoslavia
Middle EastBahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates
Indian SubcontinentBangladesh, India, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
AfricaAlgeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Melilla, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Reunion, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Asia Zone 1Japan, Korea, Mongolia
Asia Zone 2Brunei, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam
South PacificAustralia, Easter Island, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Tonga, Republic of Vanuatu, American Samoa and Samoa

With few exceptions, you can’t route via a third region

When you’re traveling between two regions, you can’t transit a third region. This means that if you’re flying between North American and Australia, for example, you can’t route via Asia without paying for two awards.

However, there is an American AAdvantage award region exception table. I’ve recreated it below, and added all the regions, so that you know whether you can transit a third region when traveling between two regions:

Traveling Between:And:Third-Region Connection Allowed In:
North AmericaCentral America or
South America Zone 1
North AmericaSouth America Zone 2
North AmericaEurope
North AmericaMiddle EastEurope
North AmericaIndian Sub Continent Europe
Hong Kong*
Middle East
North AmericaAfricaEurope
Abu Dhabi*
North AmericaAsia Zone 1
North AmericaAsia Zone 2Asia Zone 1
North AmericaSouth Pacific
Central America or
South America Zone 1
South America Zone 2
Central America or
South America Zone 1
Central America or
South America Zone 1
Indian Sub Continent /
Middle East
Central America or
South America Zone 1
Central America or
South America Zone 1
Asia Zone 1
Central America or
South America Zone 1
Asia Zone 2
Central America or
South America Zone 1
South PacificSouth America Zone 2
South America Zone 2Europe
South America Zone 2Indian Sub Continent /
Middle East
South America Zone 2AfricaEurope
South America Zone 2Asia Zone 1
South America Zone 2Asia Zone 2
South America Zone 2South Pacific
EuropeIndian Sub Continent /
Middle East
Abu Dhabi*
EuropeAsia Zone 1Asia Zone 2
Abu Dhabi*
EuropeAsia Zone 2Doha*
Abu Dhabi*
EuropeSouth PacificAsia Zone 1
Asia Zone 2
Abu Dhabi*
Indian Sub Continent /
Middle East
Asia Zone 1Asia Zone 2
Indian Sub Continent /
Middle East
Asia Zone 2
Indian Sub Continent /
Middle East
South PacificAsia Zone 2
AfricaAsia Zone 1Asia Zone 2
Abu Dhabi*
AfricaAsia Zone 2Doha*
Abu Dhabi*
AfricaSouth PacificAbu Dhabi*
Asia Zone 1Asia Zone 2
Asia Zone 1South PacificAsia Zone 2
Asia Zone 2South Pacific

As you can see, in some cases I have “Doha*,” and this gets at the recent changes that American has made regarding connecting in Doha on Qatar Airways. Similarly, those marked with “Hong Kong*” are in reference to the recent changes that American has made regarding connecting in Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific. As of April 2019 you can connect in Abu Dhabi as well, provided you’re flying Etihad.


You can transit the above regions, and when listed can also transit via Doha, assuming it’s on Qatar Airways for both segments, or via Abu Dhabi, if both segments are on Etihad.

So both the inbound flight to Doha, and the outbound flight from Doha have to be on Qatar Airways. You can’t fly Paris>Doha on Qatar Airways and then Doha>Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific – that would price as two awards.

You can exceed the MPM by up to 25%

Airlines publish maximum permitted mileage (MPM) amounts between city pairs, meaning those are the most number of miles you can fly between those cities.

For those of you that have no clue what MPM is, for many international fares airlines publish the maximum permitted mileage between a city pair, which is often roughly 10% over the direct distance, accounting for the fact that connections are often necessary. On partner awards American lets you exceed that by an additional 25%, which is incredibly generous.

For example, using ExpertFlyer to look up the MPM between New York and Colombo on Cathay Pacific, it’s 10,484 miles. So theoretically, American will let you fly up to 13,105 miles between New York and Colombo, since that’s the “25M” (25% over the MPM).



You must fly the most direct routing

Wait, what the hell? This contradicts what was written above. You can exceed the MPM by up to 25%, but you have to take the most direct routing? How does that work?

Here’s what American’s award rules say about routings:

The number of awards assessed should be determined by the customer’s intentions. If the indirect routing is booked at the customer’s request, multiple awards should apply using Pricing Override Options – Force Fare Breakpoint. If the routing is booked based on lack of award availability on direct routes, then an exception may be made, allowing Sabre to price as one award.

So basically you can travel indirectly… as long as the agent doesn’t think it’s your intent to do so.

A fare must be published between your origin and destination

American will only let you fly between two cities if the overwater carrier that you’re flying publishes a fare in that market.

Put more simply, if the airline you’re flying on your longhaul segment wouldn’t sell you a paid ticket on the route as one fare basis, you can’t redeem miles for it either.

Fortunately in most cases airlines do publish fares for most cities pairs you’d want to fly. Airlines make money selling tickets, and if they don’t publish a fare in a market they can’t really sell you a ticket.

But let me give you an example of where this becomes a problem. Etihad is an American AAdvantage partner, yet they don’t publish a fare between Tampa and the Maldives.

How do I know? Because I tried to use ExpertFlyer to pull up Etihad fares between Tampa and the Maldives, and it returned “no entries.”


Meanwhile if I had searched Los Angeles to the Maldives instead, there would indeed be published fares.


Bottom line

American simultaneously has extremely generous and extremely stingy routing rules, which seem contradictory at times.

While American Airlines won’t let you transit a third region in many cases, there are some exceptions, and AAdvantage will let you exceed the maximum permitted mileage between a city pair by quite a bit… as long as it’s not your intention to do so.

Filed Under: American, Awards
  1. The table seems to be incomplete? For example, you can connect from Indian SC/Middle East to Asia 1 via Asia 2.

    So for example, DXB-HKG-ICN on one Cathay award.

  2. Lucky, thanks! Question: would you know the minimal amount of miles needed to route through Doha, from Addis Ababba to any city in North America? Realize this needs to be a Qatar airlines direct flight from Addis to Doha to North America city. I’m hoping 40,000 miles maybe? I have 40K miles on US Airlines. Can I use these somehow to do this? Thanks! Mike

  3. @ Mike — You can redeem US Airways miles for travel on Qatar Airways, though they charge the same number of miles for a roundtrip as a one-way (for roundtrip economy between Africa and the US it’s 70,000 miles).

    If you have American miles, they charge 37,500 miles for one-way travel between Africa and the US.

  4. although the current chart has great value, such as N Am. to SE Asia in CP 1st, it really is less valuable than it appears due to lack of stopovers and open jaws.

    it’s certainly a better value than the new UA chart, but, again, not as much as at first glance. imo, the difference in miles is mitigated by 1/2 by UA’s MUCH more favourable rules. that, and the really good deals (ie: CP 1st) are really only available to people who can fly/plan a trip with a few days notice- as that is when space opens up.

    i mention this because there is little doubt that in the dark of night some wednesday, US Air dba AA will gut the program effective immediately and, i would guess, the result will be much worse than the new UA chart factoring in stopovers/open jaws.

    tick tock, tick tock…

  5. Thanks for this, Lucky – Gary had a post on a similar theme. Do you think AA will consider adding any more exemptions? It’s just at present they don’t allow the special DOH connections when travelling Europe to South Pacific. This means that rather than EDI-DOH-MEL I’d have to go EDI-LHR-HKG-MEL or similar, which seems a much more circuitous routing! Do you think there’s any chance they’d allow the more direct one (it’s a published route FWIW)

  6. What’s the point of routing?
    I thought with recent AA changes that there no longer are stopovers allowed that are longer than 24 hours.
    Given that, I’d prefer the most direct flights possible.

  7. @ George — Well potentially because you want to fly a better product. For example, if you live in Toronto and want to fly Cathay Pacific first class, you’d have to route through somewhere else (Cathay Pacific doesn’t offer first class out of Toronto).

  8. Hey Lucky any chance you could add little old South Pacific into your chart under the “Travelling From” column so us down under can utilise it as we’ll?

  9. @ Aupointer — To keep it simple I tried to just do it from “one side.” If you look in the “And:” column you’ll see the two exceptions for the South Pacific. Hope that works for you!

  10. I’m not sure of the exact rules (just certain routes, all routes, etc.), but London Sydney does permit a connection in Dubai, as Qantas use DXB for all their kangaroo route flights now. I’ve booked QF first SYD-DXB-LHR early next year for two people and no problems at all booking that as one award.

  11. @ Lucky – surely there must be a connection allowed in flights South America – Asia, especially for Asia 2 as there are no airlines operating those routes without connections.

    @ John-Paul – but would the SYD-DXB-LHR be on the same flight? If so it isn’t really a ‘connection’ is it?

  12. Lucky, El-Al (LY) is also an AAdvantage partner from the middle East. It flies to LAX, JFK, EWR and YYZ, and also to JNB. But, as TLV is not really a connection-oriented airport I believe El-Al has no published fare from north America to South Africa anyway – not to say that it would be allowed as one award even if there was a published rate.

    Just a note, as you mentioned Etihad Airways, Gulfair, or Royal Jordanian.

  13. @ John-Paul — That’s correct, because it’s a “direct” flight. If a flight is “direct” it can transit anywhere, since the region it transits doesn’t count.

  14. For the award types that list multiple transit regions, is it possible to do a “double transit” and transit both of the regions on a single award? For example, from North America to Africa, could a single award transit both Europe and DOH? (so, could JFK-CDG-DOH-JNB) be a single award? Or as another example, for Africa to Asia 1, could you do JNB-DOH-HKG-NRT on a single award? Would such a double transit award be banned outright or would its validity depend on the routing rules/MPM25?

  15. @ tyo_flyer — Don’t hold me to this, but my guess is that this wouldn’t price. I could be wrong, though.

  16. Lucky, thanks for the input. I just did some playing around with ITA, and found some through fares from NYC to JNB with two transit stops (one in europe and one in DOH). The through fares are published by AA, BA, US, and QR. Available european transit stops that I’ve tried include CDG, LHR, and MAD. The choice of overwater carrier operating the transatlantic flight includes IB, BA, and AA. Does the fact that these trough fares are published change your opinion about whether transiting through both Europe and DOH would be allowed on a North America to Africa award? Flights from North America to DOH are quite long, and it might be nice to break up the flight with a < 24h layover in Europe if that's possible.

  17. @ tyo_flyer — Nope, there are tons of published fares with region crossings that American wouldn’t allow, so just because there’s a published fare doesn’t mean you can book redeem American miles on it.

  18. I have a question regarding the requirement that the fares be published by the “overwater carrier”… How do codeshares play into this? Consider the routing JFK-MAD-DOH-JNB with the JFK to MAD flight operated by IB and the other flights operated by QR. AA codeshares the IB JFK-MAD flight, and AA publishes a through fare for NYC-JNB for that routing that specifies the AA codeshare JFK-MAD (IB-operated but AA-numbered) flight and two QR-numbered flights. *However*, based on my ITA experiments, IB itself, the operating overwater carrier, does not publish any through fare from NYC to JNB, let alone one that would permit routing through DOH.

    So, in this case, the operating overwater carrier (IB) does not publish a fare from NYC-JNB, but another carrier (AA, in this example) that can serve as the overwater carrier through a codeshare does publish a fare from NYC-JNB flying the AA-numbered, IB-operated flight. For the purposes of whether a single AAdvantage award can be claimed, does the origin+destination fare need to be published by the operating carrier of the overwater flight, or can it be published by another airline partner that is codesharing the overwater flight.

    (Actually, it’s not just AA that codeshares the IB JFK-MAD flight and publishes a through fare NYC-JNB, but also QR, BA, and US).

  19. @ tyo_flyer — It’s a moot point in this case since I don’t think you can transit two regions. That being said, the actual overwater carrier has to publish the fare — it can’t be a codeshare. Iberia does publish a fare, though, so in theory you could book an award with them as the overwater carrier. I just don’t believe you can transit two regions.

  20. Lucky, I just learned that if I want to change an international “AA only” award to include partners, or vice versa, I must re-deposit the old award (paying the re-deposit fee) and book a new award.

    Does this also apply to domestic awards? (For example, if I’ve booked an AS/AA domestic connection, and space on an AA nonstop opens up, can I just change the existing award to the nonstop? Or am I SOL????)

    Also – if I book an award more than 21 days in advance of travel, then change it less than 21 days in advance, do I need to pay the close-in fee?

  21. Also, for purposes of the “AA/partner” award rules, is US considered “AA”? Or a partner??

  22. @ UAPhil — Hmmm, I could be mistaken, but I don’t think there should be a fee for changing an AS/AA award to just AA. I might be wrong, but fairly certain that’s correct.

    If you change to less than 21 days of the original date of issue you are charged the close-in ticketing fee for sure, though.

  23. Thanks, Lucky!!

    To clarify – if I book an AA award ticket today for travel on September 26, then, on Sept. 17, a better itinerary for Sept 26 travel opens up, am I charged the close-in fee? (The new itinerary is less than 21 days from date of change, but more than 21 days from date of original ticketing.)

  24. @ UAPhil — Whoops, sorry, in that case you’re not. It just can’t be within 21 days of the original date of issue.

  25. On most direct routing – so (ignoring MPM for now) if I want to go HKG-JFK-LAX but there is a HKG-LAX flight available, I can’t go via JFK to try out the A321? Or would it be agent’s discretion?

  26. So what happens when the only routing to a destination is prohibited? For example, if I want to go from AUH to GUM, I have no option but to go through NRT. However Middle-East to Asia 2 via Asia 1 is not permitted. I’m guessing that it would be two awards but that is incredibly harsh!

  27. Hi Lucky, Can I book CDG-DOH-MLE in one first class award for 40k so that CDG-DOH first, DOH-MLE business (because they don’t operate first)?

  28. Understanding that an award transiting Doha must be on Qatar for both the inbound and outbound segments, can the award also have segments on other partners? For instance CPT->DOH->KUL on Qatar, continuing to BKK on Malaysian?

  29. Hi Lucky,

    I am trying to book business class award ticket from DEL-DOH-CDG/LHR-DAY. Is this allowed on AA. I think this is allowed as India and Middle east count as one region and there is exception of connecting through Europe between India/Middle-east and North America. But Can you please confirm. thanks.

  30. If I want to use AA miles to fly from CDG to HKG (on BA or CX), how much miles would it be required for a round-trip in premium eco?

  31. Hi Lucky I am planning a trip using AA miles from LAX-ICN. I was wondering if the following was a legal routing:

    LAX-JFK (A321T Business) Stopover in JFK for 4 days JFK-NRT (JAL Business) – NRT-ICN (JAL Business)

    ICN-NRT (JAL Business) NRT-LAX (JAL Business) LAX Stopover (undecided time- few months) LAX-HNL (AA Domestic First)

    Trying to get a free trip to NYC and Hawaii from this. Award Chart says North America-Asia 1 is 50K o/w in Business.


  32. @lucky
    does AA consider this a valid connection (stopover) please?
    MCO-MIA(20 hour connection time)-MAD

  33. Ben,

    If you would – could you clarify your understanding on the ‘published fare’ rule for the long haul carrier. I’m planning on flying NGO-MUC. I see availability for awards for the following segments:
    FRA-MAD (IB:C)

    As it relates to published fares (via Expertflyer) I see the following – a ‘constructed’ fare:

    Routing Details
    Search: Departing NGO on 09/29/15 for MUC
    Fare basis code FXOWJL
    Flying JL
    Routing via Atlantic/Pacific
    Routing code 01
    1 FXOWJL F‡O 13918.00 —- – -/12M AP01



    You see this is a published fare (NRT-FRA) with 2 Add-ons. Do you think AA will treat this as 1 Award or 3? I’m looking to understand before calling AA and spending a bunch of time.


  34. @ Mike — NGO-FRA-MAD-MUC should be fine since it’s less than 25% over the MPM. So there’s no need to even look at routing rules.

  35. Hey, Ben.

    I know my question doesn’t regard routing but just a quick question: How many airline partners can we have at the same ticket in a award redemption with AAdvantage? Before used to be 2 (under the one world/other partners table), right?

    Anyways, Ive the following itinerary:

    DOH/AUH – EY
    AUH/LHR – EY
    LHR/YYZ – BA

    Can I switch the DOH/AUH leg to a QR flight?



  36. Hey Lucky,

    I’m still trying to understand these rules, so please bear with me.

    I want to do CGK-FRA and that will be Asia 2 to Europe. Based on the exception table, does that mean I can only use one award on QR ? Is EY allowed ? I mean Abu Dhabi and Doha is not that far anyway, so it’s basically the same route. How about CX and JL ?


  37. @ Ryan — The rules are silly, but you can transit via the Middle East on Qatar but not Etihad on such an award. Otherwise you can fly Cathay or JAL directly to Europe, availability permitting, and assuming it’s not too circuitous of a routing.

  38. Hey Lucky,

    So using JAL is permitted on one award, even though Japan is in Asia 1. Is Asia 1 considered the same region as Asia 2 ? Does that mean the award zones are not the same as region ?

    Thanks to you I’m beginning to understand now.

  39. @ Ryan — I stand corrected. There’s not an exception to transit Asia 1 between Asia 2 and Europe, so you couldn’t fly JAL via Tokyo.

  40. Lucky –

    I am aware of routes from US to India via Etihad, CP, Qatar. Are there any other airlines that I am missing that can be booked using AA miles? Thanks.

  41. Hi Lucky,

    I’m trying to book a trip from LAX to SYD FC. I know CX is best way to do it as QF FC is impossible. I’m wondering if I can book JAL FC via Tokyo for 72500 as miles? I’ve been to HK too many times. Thanks

  42. @ Sam — British Airways is another option, though there are hefty fuel surcharges involved.

  43. @ Zain — They wouldn’t, as they don’t let you route from Australia to Asia via the Middle East.

  44. They are breaking their own routing rules.
    AA have published fares on their award booking engine website that go from Europe to South Pacific via Asia 1.
    I can find FCO-LHR, LHR-NRT in BA F then HND or NRT to SYD/BNE on QF J
    It’s pricing at 80k miles 😉

    Do you think it is possible to book this over the phone and substitute QF for JAL first at 80k miles arguing that their own website allows it?

  45. Hi Lucky, just trying to do some award booking for my parents, and was wondering if the following routing is legal w/ AA?
    – Day 1: MIA – JFK (2:05 PM – 5:03 PM) – stopover?
    – Day 2: JFK – HKG (9AM – 2:05 PM)
    – Day 3: HKG – PVG (4PM – 6:15 PM)

    Thank you!

  46. Lucky, do you have any experience routing awards from Asia (NRT, HKG) to the US west coast (SFO, LAX) through DFW or ORD if none of the west coast direct routes are available? Would agents be likely to ticket that type of routing?

  47. Hello Lucky,
    Using AA miles, searching in BA, Is JFK to NRT, stop for few days, then NRT to KUL, is this routing allow? If so, is this consider one award or two?
    Thanks in advance for your help, Kham.

  48. Thanks for confirming that. Also, I am looking for an award from MEL to PPT. Can I combine QF and Air Tahiti Nui on the same AA award? I think a possible routing would be MEL-AKL on QF and AKL-PPT on Air Tahiti Nui. Can I do this in J for 30k as they are both within the South pacific zone? Guess I just want to know if AA will allow combining the two airlines…

    I want to get to the Intercon Bora Bora and I believe Bora Bora has it’s own airport so should I book the award straight through to there?


  49. Luckly,


    Can I book Del – Auh – Syd for end of November since that is available now and I know it would take two award tickets seperately (25 k + 45 k miles) because of the routing rules and then change it to DEL – HKG – SYD for 45 k miles when it opens up one week before travel for no change fee (as India to Australia allows routing via Asia 2) and get my 25 k miles refunded as I am not changing the origin and destination or would AA charge me a award cancellation fee of 150 and then charge an additional 75 for booking under 21 days (I hav no elite status with AA)


  50. Hi Lucky,
    I found there are a lot of public fares between a city pair(ORD-AKL), where the over-water carrier is QF. But none of those fares in have the same route as the one I want to fly. Does that mean I can’t redeem aa miles on that route, given MPM is not a limit? (ORD-LAX-BNE-AKL or ORD-ABQ-LAX-BNE-AKL).

  51. Need some guidance for honeymoon planning using AA miles!

    We are trying to leave NYC to South Africa on a safari during the holidays of 2016. As flights stand now we would not be able to arrive in JNB until Wens. 12/28 on a Qatar JFK-DOH-JNB routing in biz.

    I found 2 biz class flights on Qatar from CDG to DOH on 12/25/16 and DOH to JNB on 12/26/16, but not sure if I can add in a JFK to CDG route as we will origin from New York. We could pay cash to get to Paris possibly but would prefer to use the award miles and not sure this routing would even be permissible (JFK-CDG-DOH-JNB).

    Any help would be so greatly appreciated!!

    – Jeff

  52. Can I book an Aadvantage award ticket from DEL-DOH-DXB-JFK? Or would I have to route more directly leaving out the DOH and just fly DEL-DXB-JFK? I want to try both Qatar and Etihad on my flight home and try out both of their F lounges. Thanks!

  53. @ Carl — That routing is fine, though if you’re flying Etihad I assume you mean AUH (Abu Dhabi) instead of DXB (Dubai).

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *