American AAdvantage Miles Can Now Be Used To Africa Via Middle East

I’ve written in the past about some of the frustrating aspects of American’s AAdvantage award routing rules:

While American is generous in that they’ll let you exceed the maximum permitted mileage (MPM) for a city pair by up to 25%, the frustrating parts of their award routing rules boil down to the following:

  • The transoceanic airline has to publish a fare for the city pair you’re flying. For example, say you want to redeem AAdvantage miles to fly from Tampa to the Maldives, using Etihad Airways for the overwater segments. You can’t, because, Etihad doesn’t publish a fare between Tampa and the Maldives.
  • With few exceptions, you can’t transit a third region. With very few exceptions, American won’t let you transit a third region when traveling between two regions on an award ticket. This means you can’t route from the US to Asia via Europe, or from the US to Australia via Asia, for example. Heck, it means you can’t even route from the US to Southern South America via Lima, even though that’s the most direct routing.

One example of not being able to transit a third region involves travel from the US to Africa.


In the list of exceptions to transiting a third region, the only one listed for travel between the US and Africa is as follows:

Connection in Europe allowed when traveling between North America and Africa.

This sucks, since:

  • There’s no direct oneworld service between the US and Africa
  • A majority of the routing options through Europe involve fuel surcharges

However, it’s interesting to note that in practice American AAdvantage is now letting you route from the US to Africa via the Middle East. This should have been the rule all along, though when the rules were written American wasn’t partnering with any airlines in the Middle East, so I guess adding that exception didn’t cross their mind.

But I just put on hold an itinerary for travel from the US to Africa in Qatar Airways business class, and it priced at 75,000 AAdvantage miles.


So while this type of award has already been bookable using US Airways Dividend Miles, it’s nice to see American adopt a similar policy.

I assume the same will price for travel on Etihad Airways, though don’t have a way of checking since Etihad awards temporarily aren’t available using American AAdvantage miles.

I haven’t noticed any other changes in routing rules, though, so wouldn’t expect to be able to fly between the US and Africa via Asia, for example.

(Tip of the hat to Wandering Aramean)

Filed Under: American, Awards
  1. Do you know anything about the Africa Airpass through One world? I’m wondering if there is a value in purchasing it? Thanks for the post!

  2. Hi Lucky,

    I heard that AA was making exceptions with SEZ on EY). You just had to send it to the training desk. (I am about to do that itinerary.)

    One question: Can you route to Africa via the Middle East from Europe?

  3. Lucky,

    When travelling between Europe and Asia (1 or 2) on an AA-award, can one transit the Middle East? I’m thinking about trying out EY.


  4. @ Melissa — I believe you have to purchase a revenue ticket to Africa to be eligible, though I’m not entirely certain. oneworld has a pretty limited route network in Africa, but depending on where you’re hoping to travel it could make sense.

  5. @ Edward — I don’t believe so, but will try to test out more of these scenarios today.

  6. Slightly unrelated, but is a 50-minute connection legal in Doha? Plus, the incoming flight is 28 mins late on an average, tight squeeze for sure.

  7. @ John – SEZ is an airport code for Seychelles International Airport. If you don’t know what a certain airport code stands for, Google usually works – I do a search for “___ airport code” with blank being whatever code I forgot/don’t recognize.

    @ Lucky – since you didn’t black out the dates we know for sure you won’t be traveling on that ticket! 😉

  8. So this begs the question, if I want to go to the middle east, can I just book an award to Africa through say Doha and not take the second leg. Would there be any contract of Carriage or immigryproblems associated with that? Saves 7.5k miles in econ if I’m not mistaken.

  9. @ Karl — Interesting that they charge more for first and business class to Africa, but more for economy class to the Middle East.

    As long as you don’t check any bags (or at least can short check them) you should be fine with that. Onward travel will be canceled if you skip a segment, so you can’t do it on the return. But in one direction that shouldn’t be a problem.

  10. Will AA let you route via CX JFK-YVR and then back to the US again as part of an international award ticket? For example on your TAM first class trip, was your last segment YVR-SEA part of the same award or booked with cash or other miles.

  11. @ Jamie — Yep, it was part of the same award. That should be allowed as part of an international award.

  12. Does this mean that Etihad awards from USA to Africa will no longer cost the extra miles for two separate awards (USA–>AUH and AUH–>Africa)?
    I have an award ticket for 112,500 miles already booked for 2015 – would love to see if I can get some of the miles back!

  13. Any US to Australia (Perth) exceptions thru the middle east yet (using American miles)?
    Any US to Australia (Perth) exceptions thru SE Asia yet (using American miles)?

    (Qatar) Doha and (Etihad) Abu Dhabi are now one stop destinations for me.

    Are we able to use US Airways miles (instead of American miles) on Etihad and Qatar to circumvent the ridiculous AA routing rules?

  14. @ Cody — No, you can’t route US to Australia via Middle East or Asia yet using American miles. You can redeem US Airways miles for those routes, though (they don’t partner with Etihad).

  15. I’m currently posted to Africa, Nigeria specifically and am looking to use my AA miles for inter-Africa travel. I thought the Qatar angle would be a good one but keep running into trouble when trying to book routes to JNB, CAI etc etc. Is it possible to fly through DOH on QR for an Africa-Africa flight at the 10k one way award level?

  16. I would like to travel from jfk…ny to lun…zambia in may 2015. I have 64,000 aamiles…what is my best option…

  17. Lucky–do you think the Europe/Middle east routing can be combined? Could I do JFK-CDG-AUH-JNB?

  18. @ Gaurav — I don’t think so. And beyond that, you can only route to Africa via the Middle East when traveling on Qatar, and not when traveling on Etihad.

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